This weekend, Full Sail University will be the first stop of the 2012 Red Bull LAN, an invitation-only performance camp designed to provide leading and emerging e-Sports athletes with the tools, time, and training to prepare them for professional gaming competitions throughout the 2012 season.
We’re kicking things off today with a Meet & Greet/Q&A session with Red Bull players Mike “Flamesword” Chaves and Dave “Walshy” Walsh in the Entertainment Business Auditorium at 3:00 p.m. They’ll be on hand to answer questions, sign autographs, and connect with students about game play. Both Flamesword and Walshy will be playing in the Halo:Reach competition this weekend.
As a bonus, we were also able to talk to Sean “Day” Plott, another high-profile gamer who will be on campus this weekend. A former professional StarCraft: Brood War player, Plott has qualified for the World Cyber Games from 2004-2007, and was recognized as the PC Gamer gamer of the year in 2010. He currently can be heard as an e-sports commentator for StarCraft II through his daily webshow Day Daily. We recently were able to talk to Plott about his career as a professional gamer and get his thoughts on the current state of the industry:
What’s the biggest misconception people have about hardcore/professional gamers who play at your level?
That all gamers are antisocial losers, consuming Cheetos and hiding out in their parents’ basements. It is such a tired stereotype.
In fact, top gamers tend to be high achievers. A lot of us have backgrounds in IT, engineering, math, or physics. Quite a few of us are older and gainfully employed. The fact of the matter is that it takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and drive to succeed in eSports. Top players put in huge amounts of practice honing their skills and studying game strategy. Studies have suggested that to be skilled at StarCraft is to be a multitasking genius. StarCraft fans like to say that that their game is like chess on steroids.
Our top pros travel all over the world competing for prize pools – worth about $2.5 million last year. Many make significant salaries. They are utter professionals at what they do. Audiences have long admired stunt pilots, motocross riders and NASCAR drivers for their superb mastery over machines – gamers feel their mastery over their computers is every bit as compelling. Their skills represent a triumph of extreme human performance.
Big name sponsors like Red Bull are recognizing that this is an important subculture that defines its generation – that gaming is the future of competition – and they are stepping in to support gamers in much the same the way they have top athletes. It is all very cool.
If you had to boil down the secrets to becoming a better gamer to three simple tips, what would they be?
1) Figure out how to enjoy losing. Doing something new and challenging means you are going to lose a lot before you win. Look back at your game, see your mistakes and understand how to improve. Good players learn from their mistakes. It’s an important principle in gaming and an important principle in life.
2) Have a healthy combination of self-faith and self-doubt. Doubt allows you to let go of bad habits and embrace better ones. Doubt allows you to look at the pros and realize they must be doing something different, something that works – and that you can learn from them. At the same time, believe in yourself. You need to learn to have confidence in yourself and trust that you have the skills to pull through, to get better and better over time with practice. After all, when you enter a tournament booth, you have no one but yourself to rely upon.
3) Finally, don’t forget to have a lot of fun. Gaming is all about play. Gaming is social. It is not just about winning and losing. Play for the pure pleasure of it, and to discover your own limits and surpass them.
What’s the best way to maintain a balance between your career as a gamer and everything else in your life?
That is something that I am still working to establish. These are exciting times in eSports, and it is hard for me to say no to all these amazing opportunities that keep popping up. But you can only work 80 hour weeks for so long before you burn out. I am finding it very challenging to do a nightly show and still travel on weekends to events all over the country – as much as I love being a part of that.
At the end of the day, I think the key for both me and for the pros is to create firewalls between our public and private personas, to turn off the computer from time to time, to pursue other hobbies, and to keep friends and family close.
That said, I am very proud to be on the forefront of something that I love, to be a part of this eSports movement. I love recruiting people to competitive gaming and introducing them to the community and the game that means so much to me.
How did you get involved in podcasting?
I had been a competitive gamer for more than a decade, and I had been thinking a lot about advanced game strategy. I wanted to start a text blog to sort out my thoughts, but I didn’t think I had the time keep up with the writing during graduate school. So I turned to podcasting, and was really taken aback by the positive response from the community.
Then I almost immediately migrated from podcasting to video livestreaming – a brand new technology at the time – and I’ve stuck with that format ever since. (You can catch my show most nights at 7pm PST on www.twitch.tV/day9tv.) It’s like a TV broadcast but with the ability to interact live with the audience through a chat function. It is an amazing disruptive technology that is contributing hugely to the vitality of eSports.
What do you think makes for a good podcaster?
A lot of what we do is narrate play by play during live game competitions or “shoutcast.” Shoutcasting is a high wire act that is really draining! Your job as a caster is to tell the story behind the match and engage the audience in the unfolding drama. A good caster knows how to pace that story, how to pull the audience in and then whip it into a frenzy, and make a competition that much more fun to watch.
What’s it like to commentate at a professional tournament?
It’s fantastic. I cannot lie. I get a front row seat to the very best gaming competitions in the world, I get to travel to exotic locations, I get to meet and hang out with my personal gaming heroes. I get to work with hilarious shoutcasters.
But the best part is that I get to meet the fans in person. The fans at these tournaments are amazing – there isn’t a more engaged, proactive audience anywhere else. They hang right in there with me when I am commentating – gasping and cheering and groaning at the game play. It makes narrating the action so much more dynamic and fun. They are every bit as passionate as I am. I love that community!
Check out our Facebook event page to find out more about the Red Bull LAN, and stay tuned to the blog for additional coverage on this weekend’s events.