Sadly we have all seen the posts where Robert 'PandaTank' Botha has stated his resignation from gaming.
Who will ever forget PandaTank's stellar performances as part of the MSSA's official Protea eSports Team at the 2011 and 2012 IeSF World Championships as well as at the Test match between Silviu 'NightEnd' Lazar and himself in March 2013 in Johannesburg? PandaTank did much to inspire many gamers, but his star did seem to wane a little in 2013.
Seemingly the main reason given on his page is “being a professional gamer in South Africa isn't a sustainable career.” (https://www.facebook.com/PandaTank/posts/480048018761882?stream_ref=10).
But let us look at this statement, how true is it?
Is it that South African gamers have expectations that do not meet reality?
Is it that South African gamers are not prepared to put in the work that makes a professional gamer?
Certainly to be a professional gamer you need to be absolutely dedicated to the game, practice every single day, and play in as many LAN championships as possible.
Yes, you read right, you have to play as many LAN championships as possible.
With the major international competitions being LAN's gamers have to leave the confort of playing online in their comfortable bedrooms to play in the busy, noisy, hectic LANs where schedules of play override the gamer, and every gamer is just another competitor.
But more than that, the professional has to learn time management. The professional becomes a spokesperson for the company sponsoring him/her, and has to be available at all times to promote the company and to further enhance the face of gaming. Thus being a professional means that the gamer becomes a mini celebrity, signs autographs, does public appearances and must be available to the masses when in public.
In other words, a professional gamer is no different toa professional in any other sport!
So then, is professional gaming really not a sustainable career?
The answer is simply that it can be sustainable, but with conditions.
The most important condition is that gaming is NOT a long term career. The gaming career is very short, and must be used as a stepping-stone to other careers that are more long-term.
Many gamers in Europe go from being players through to team managers and may even end up as team owners.
Not only that, but sponsorships are vital.
The only way that a company is going to sponsor is if they are getting a return. All companies are looking for increased sales. If the sponsorship will not lead to greater brand awareness, there will be no sponsorship.
But, this all needs to be properly managed.
And how is this done?
Simply, there are many professional sports agents – go to them. The sports agents understand the marketplace and the value of cold, hard cash. Although the sports agent will take a cut, the agent will help the gamer get the best possible deal.
So, in conclusion, professional gaming can be sustainable.
It must be remembered that PandaTank was a trailblazer. He was the first true professional gamer in South Africa. Because he did not maintain a long sustainable professional gaming career in South Africa does not mean that other will not!
We should all learn from PandaTank's experiences to see what should be done, what can be done, and what must be done....
Maybe PandaTank should arrange some lectures on the ins-and-outs of professional gaming.
I know that I would pay to hear him speak!