A career in gaming? How gamers rule

Gaming has jumped from fringe to forefront. Remember all that telling off about how ‘bad’ gaming is? Today’s trends point the other way.

When we think of gaming, what might come to mind are frazzled teenagers eating Cheetos in their basements, furiously thumbing a PS4 remote and staring at a screen for hours on end.

This was, once, a pretty realistic vision of gamers. In the early 2000s, gaming culture existed almost exclusively on the fringes of the entertainment industry; a playground for (mostly) male youths.

But this is now an outdated view of gaming. It’s all changing, rather rapidly, as gaming is evolving at the same pace as technology, almost more so than any other entertainment form. Gaming has transformed from prehistoric-seeming Ninendo DS gadgets and old Microsoft computer screens (with glitching games like PacMan) to the sleek VR headsets and ultra-sophisticated gaming software that exist today. And gaming means business. BIG business.

The technology that governs gaming is cutting edge. But that’s not even the most exciting development. The gaming industry is becoming professional and competitive. There are now hundreds - if not thousands- of gamers worldwide who are on contracts and salaries and who compete in tournaments all over the world. The highest-paid gamer in the world is Lee 'Jaedong' Jae Dong, who has won nearly $520,000 from 52 tournaments and whose journey in gaming began, guess what, in a basement in Korea.

Today, you might watch an online “Esports” (electronic sports) competition as you do a football game, with a commentator and an ever-growing swathe of fans and wealthy sponsorships.

The two worlds (of online gaming and real sports) are starting to run along parallel lines. The Olympics Committee has even announced that they will begin incorporating online games in their repertoire. The Olympics Virtual Series will “mobilise virtual sports, esports and gaming enthusiasts all around the world in order to reach new Olympics audiences.” The move shows that the future of sports is completely inextricable from online games. To put it simply, there is no future for sports that doesn’t involve some kind of online presence.

The rise in gaming as a digital trend has, of course, its negatives: many experts believe that the rise in violent games, such as Call of Duty, have had a knock-on effect on violence in the real world, an extreme case being the 2019 mass shooting in New Zealand. But there have also been more recent reports which suggest that these links are actually quite tenuous. And the growth in professional gamers has meant that there are more safety nets; contracted gamers usually get physical and mental guidance and support.

So, if you are an enthusiastic and gifted gamer, what is the road to success? It used to be that you’d start a YouTube channel or join the infamous site Twitch, where gamers watch and learn from each other. But now there are actually university courses you can enrol in to improve your gaming skills, such as at the University of Roehampton in London, who have just introduced an esports scholarship. There are even more in America, with over 10 universities offering courses in gaming, including Miami University in Ohio, the University of California at Irvine and the University of Utah.

And, according to the London esports association, it may not be long before gaming becomes a part of the school curriculum, just like football games or compulsory hockey. Your ‘away’ game might be a fiercely competitive virtual match with your friends all watching and cheering online from screens in other rooms.

Lastly, what is positive about gaming is that it is totally inclusive, making the gaming industry a mecca for advertisers and branding, propelling its fortunes further.

Gaming is getting serious. A university degree and a career in gaming? It may seem a bit far-fetched- except it’s actually not.

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