It’s a question we’ve been asked hundreds of times over the years… How exactly do you get involved in competitive gaming / esports? With the sport growing from a bedroom hobby to a multi-billion pound, global enterprise, people are, quite rightly, looking to see how they can become a part of one of fastest growing sports in decades…
I’m Bret Weber, General Manager of FMESPORTS and I’m going to run through some of the basics when it comes to esports involvement…
…So lets start at the beginning. First of all, you’ll need to think about what exactly you want to do. Do you want to be a player? Or do you want to take up another role such as management or commentating (also known as casting).
In this post, I’ll be focusing on becoming a player within the UK esports scene, as this is where I think 99% of people reading this will be starting out!
Finding the right team
As most esports titles at the moment are team-based games, you’re going to need to find the right people to play with (unless you play a 1v1 game like Hearthstone then, you’re good to go!).
Luckily, there are a few options that you can turn to. The one I’d recommend if you’re just starting out, is with any friends you may have that already play the game. As playing with friends and people you get along with is going to give you the perfect platform to build on.
If you’re the only one in your group that plays said game, don’t worry! There are Facebook groups and Reddit subs that you can utilise (such as /r/RecruitCS/ for CS:GO) where you can find like-minded and similarly skilled players to compete with.
Another option is to even play on matchmaking/PUG services and if you like playing with someone, add them to your friends list! Once you’ve got enough players for your team, you’re going to need somewhere to compete.
Where can we play?
If you’re just starting out, queuing on in-built ladders/matchmaking isn’t a completely terrible idea. Whilst you won’t be playing against many actual teams, you’ll be up against everything and anything in terms of team compositions and player styles (which as dumb as someone just running at you with no logical explanation sounds, there are high-end teams that use the same strategy!).
If you don’t want to bother with that though and get straight into team games, there are a wide range of Facebook groups that you can join and post in to find games (quick searches for something like CS:GO PCW or LoL Scrims will unearth hundreds). To do this though you’ll need to either rely on other teams having a server (for CS:GO that is, if you play LoL/Overwatch/Hearthstone you’re lucky, they’re provided for you), or you’ll need to get your own. These are relatively inexpensive though and will let you practice whenever you like. Every team should have one for this purpose alone!
Once you feel you or your team is at the point where you’re comfortable competing in tournaments, you have a whole bunch to choose from.
Multiplay (organisers of the Insomnia Gaming Festival at the NEC in Birmingham) have the UK Masters, which spans CS:GO, League of Legends and Hearthstone. It has multiple open qualifiers throughout the year which let you compete for large sums of money and the chance to play in LAN finals.
You also have ESL UK’s UK Premiership series which runs across CS:GO, League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone. It employs a similar style, in that you sign up and play in open qualifiers which pit you against a wide range of teams. During these
During these qualifiers you’ll have the chance to play against teams of all skill levels. You may get unlucky and draw one of the top seeds in the first rounds but it’s all good practise and you’ll learn a lot, even though it doesn’t seem like it when you’re getting bashed around! If you and/or your team have got the skills though, you could be making it to the later stages of these tournaments, showing the big names what you’ve got and being featured on the live streams. Don’t worry if you don’t get there straight away, it’s going to take time for you to develop your skills and get to the top (unless you’re just naturally gifted, then fair play. Or if you’re cheating, which is bad so don’t do that).
What’s the final step?
Once you’ve got your team (if you’re playing a non 1v1 title) you’re going to be thinking what’s next? You’ve been playing for a while, you’re getting decent results and you want to take it to the next level? In CS:GO you’ll be wanting to look towards European leagues such as ESEA or CEVO. Both offer “open” ladders where anyone can sign up (although there are signup fees and for ESEA, monthly premium fees) and compete in seasons that last a month or so with multiple games each. It’s the perfect step for teams wanting to play against some new faces! If it’s League of Legends you’re into then open tournaments are a little more scarce, though ESL’s Go4LoL cups are something to look into. Weekly cups finish with a monthly finals where you can win cash, in-game and hardware prizes. ESL also run the Go4Overwatch cups along the same premise so there’s an abundance of events out there to get playing in!
If you really want to step it up and move away from playing from home, you can make the journey to one of the offline events (known as LANs, albeit not much happens on the local network these days..) such as Multiplay’s Insomnia Gaming Festival or epic.LAN .
Both of these events involve driving to a large convention centre with your PC, monitor and peripherals and setting up to play with and against all of the people that you’ve met online during your journey from public server nobody to tournament hero! Some people reading this will be thinking “Hah, why would you bother doing that when you can play from home over the internet?!” and in most cases, sure, they’d be right. That is until you experience it for yourself. You’re at an event with hundreds, if not thousands of like-minded people that are all playing the same games as you, for the same reasons as you. Putting names to faces and making new friends is a massive part of it and once your games are done for the day, you get to relax and chill out with food and drinks with people you don’t get to see very often which is often the best part (apart from winning of course..)
Ultimately, getting into esports can look like an overwhelming task with endless hurdles to overcome but with hard work and dedication with the right people, the opportunities are there. You don’t have to be world beaters from the get go and with the UK esports scene growing year on year, there’s never been a better time to get involved at any level, so grab your friends, sign up for some tournaments and show your enemies what you’re made of!