In the world of video games, Call of Duty XP is to gamers what the Lions Tour is to rugby fans. It’s a celebration of a franchise that has earned over $11 billion in revenue since its creation. It’s also where they hold the Call of Duty World Championships, a sporting event where players can walk away with millions in prize money and sponsorship deals.
While the stereotypical idea of a video gamer being a kid in a basement is slowly dissipating, the notion of playing video games as a professional sport still remains baffling to many.
Call of Duty XP:
Can you be an athlete if you play Call of Duty competitively?
To try and answer these questions The Huffington Post UK spoke to pro-gamers, the developers who worked on Call of Duty and the experts who are pushing to turn the Call of Duty World Championships into a worldwide sporting event that’s as big as football or even rugby.
What makes an eSports athlete?
Tyler Polchow - Retired Veteran Call of Duty Player
I think the biggest thing is that it’s being able to predict things, at the highest level a lot of people will have a similar reaction time, I mean there might be a little bit of a difference. It’s more about expecting what in-game situations are going to happen. All the hours we put in, time and time again it becomes a combination of experience, teamwork and being able to stay composed.
Before a tournament you’ll go into ‘crunch time’ where teams will put in those 10-12 hour days, you’ll be watching replays, checking out your opponents’ gameplay looking for tendencies and then of course getting onto the game yourself.
Callum ‘Swanny’ Swan - Team Millennium Professional Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Player
I think aside from the copious amounts of hours that we put into it I think the easiest analogy would be that it’s like anything else at a professional level, and in order to do this at a professional level there are certain characteristics you need to have, so it’s like the equivalent of say someone who plays a bit of five-a-side on a Sunday and comparing them to a professional footballer.
I think one of the main things that differentiates the perspective of a casual player from an eSports athlete is they perceive it from a strategic point of view, from a casual perspective you’re still acknowledging the aesthetics of the game. I think we pay more attention to the mechanical aspects of the game.
Alan Brice - Professional Presenter and eSports Commentator
For some people “playing” games for 10 hours a day doesn’t seem like work but a lot of fun, the truth is that playing at that high a level against the best, and being fully focused for that length of time would tax anyone.
The reflexes and concentration these players must put into it can be incredibly stressful, every loss feels personal and they all push each other to do more and most rarely feel like they have done enough. You can see evidence of this on some of the player’s accounts on Twitter, many talking about how much they have played today or lambasting others for not playing enough.
Every single player...is a born competitor and are incredibly hungry for the win. It can be hard to watch even for me as a professional, who tries to distance themselves from being emotionally invested in teams, to see these players lose when it means so much to them.
Jay Puryear - Director of Brand Development at Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 developers Treyarch
I get asked quite a bit, are these guys athletes? And my thoughts are well, they’re training between 6-8 hours a day, a lot of them are living in houses where they train together, a lot of them have nutritionists, sports psychologists, a schedule. If you start to look at the structure of what they’re doing, and then you add in the skill level and all of those things together they start to look like athletes.
The other thing that I would say too is that we’re always going to be fighting the stereotype of a kid in mum’s basement. That’s something that I think over the course of time that will break down and I think this is an opportunity to say: “Hey look, these people have prize pools, sponsors, they’re going to elevate video games there’s definitely something too it.”
Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow - Team OpTic Gaming Professional Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Player
The 9 to 5 thing...it’s totally out of the window. Sometimes we’re up until 2am or it could be a 12 hour day, 14 hour day it all depends on what’s going on. You’re playing tournaments, practising and then if an event is coming up you’re going to be practising even more, I would assume an athlete would do that as well though.
You know it’s just like any other sport you had to work hard for it, play a lot, practise a lot. If you play football, or hockey or anything it’s pretty much the same setup except you’re sitting in a room in front of a computer talking to people over the internet.