Brandon “Claire” Nguyen on giving up a ‘normal life’ for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play eSports full-time. By Richard Cooke.


Gaming machine: Brandon ‘Claire’ Nguyen, 20, eSports player

I think most people in eSports accept its terms: “I’m not going to live a normal life, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” How many people actually get to compete in this and live the game full-time? They see the trade-off as worth it. And, to be honest, myself, as a pro player, I do think the trade-off is worth it. I love being a pro player.

Whenever you go into a losing streak you’ll start to build up a lot of stress. You’ll become very anxious with practice. If something goes bad, you’ll get annoyed more easily. The fact that you’re missing out on all these things that young adults have is a big negative.

When players start reaching their late 20s, a lot of them end up retiring. The infancy of eSports has meant that, up until now, pro players never really had a chance to continue their careers. Also, as you become older, you don’t physically become unable to perform – I think more things build up in your life that lead to you thinking about other stuff outside of the game.

A lot of the professional gamers don’t compete because they enjoy playing the game. They don’t find the game fun. Because you’re just playing it at such a high level where you’re min-maxing – this is a term I’m going to use – they’re min-maxing everything they can do in the game. So they eliminate every small mistake. In that sense it’s fun to win when you’re competing, but it’s not fun to play the game per se as a pro player.

Min-maxing is the name for minimising the paths that don’t need to be there while maximising the efficiency side. The side that helps you perform better and ultimately achieve victory. Pro players don’t go for high-risk, high-reward plays. Instead they would go for more neutral plays that will give them a lot less, but it’s almost guaranteed to net them something small.

APM stands for actions per minute. In a 60-second time frame, the amount of inputs you put into your mouse or keyboard adds one point of APM. It can definitely fluctuate a lot: a low APM could be down to 80, and then a high APM can be as high as 1800.

Korea are able to perform so well because it’s in their culture. In their infrastructure. Players will start crying because they’re just getting drilled so hard after a training session. You make one mistake and the coaches make sure that you know you screwed up. They’ll tell you, “This is the ultimate way to play the game.” They have the best strategies and they know exactly how everything should play out.

Their teams always live together. They always live in the same house with the coaches, with chefs and managers. They have several coaches and they’ll all live together and they’ll practise every day.

Pro players who are in their prime literally live the game. They spend all their days thinking about the game, how to become better. They watch replays of themselves and other players. They compare and they improve from that. Whereas if you’re an older player, you have to think about life outside of eSports.

What eSports players have in common is the drive to compete. A lot of the time you’re grinding a lot for just a chance at victory. Only one person can win at the end of the day, and everyone’s putting in so many hours. I think a big thing for eSports athletes is that they all commit so many hours.

Real athletes probably train a couple of hours a day, because that’s how much their body allows them to train every day. Whereas for an eSports player, you’re just sitting at the computer processing all this information. I would say a lot of it is mental power, mental fortitude.

You’ve got to process so much information in blocks of, like, 40-minute games, and you play up to 10 of those each day and it’s so fast paced. I would say that they’re just able to put in so many hours and just not have their brain completely fried at the end of the day. Ready for tomorrow, where they’re just going to do the same thing again.

The Adelaide Crows have gotten involved. They took ownership of Legacy. They didn’t change Legacy’s branding. A lot of the Crows execs and stuff, they know how eSports works now. And a lot of them are able to put in good input for the growth of Legacy. It’s definitely been a very good partnership. I think both sides have gained a lot out of this. And as a player, I’ve experienced it. We’ve moved houses; we’ve come to a better house. We’ve got more sponsors to give us tools to work with. They’ve helped a lot.

This week’s highlights…

• Rugby union: Super Rugby – NSW Waratahs v ACT Brumbies

Saturday, 7.45pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Tennis: Wimbledon – women’s and men’s singles finals

Saturday and Sunday, 11pm (AEST), All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

Netball: Queensland Firebirds v Giants Netball

Sunday, 1pm (AEST), Brisbane Entertainment Centre

• AFL: Collingwood v West Coast Eagles

Sunday, 1.10pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• NRL: St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers

Sunday, 4.10pm (AEST), Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, NSW

Soccer: FIFA World Cup final – France v Croatia

Monday, 1am (AEST), Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 14, 2018 as "Gaming machine".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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