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Burnout in League of Legends and other eSports

November 3, 2016 - Esports, News

Various competitive video game players seemingly lead a charmed life, playing video games for money. Many fans don’t consider what they do as work and then scoff when the players talk about burnout. Let’s consider the pro player’s schedule, the sacrifices they have to make in order to try and be the best at what they do, and the reward they get for it. Hopefully, after reading this article, your attitude towards pro player burnout is going to change.

In an interview with his longtime friend, Travis Gafford from Yahoo Esports, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng talked about the schedule of a LoL pro. According to the NA Superstar, pro players scrimmage other teams for 10-12 hours every day, for 10 or 11 months, all to be at their best when the time for World Championship comes. That’s assuming that the team even manages to qualify for Worlds, which is in no way guaranteed, only three teams out of each region receive the honor.

Now, sceptics might say, “So they play LoL for 10 hours every day. Big deal, I wish I could do that.” The problem with that kind of thinking is that scrims aren’t like the Solo Queue games you and I play and enjoy. Most League players play the game to have fun, while the pros scrim to get better, often at specific little things. The concept of fun doesn’t enter the equation. As a result, some scrims can be nothing more than boring and repetitive drills, designed to improve some part of the player’s or team’s game. Drawing a comparison to traditional sports, where solo queue is a pickup basketball game for money, scrims are passing drills, which last 10 to 12 hours. Not so fun now, huh?

Now, depending on the team, players might actually keep working, doing stuff like VoD review to get better strategically. While supremely useful, this eats up free time and usually isn’t very interesting, not when you played through the game yourself and coaches and teammates are pointing out where you failed and telling you what you must do better.

Depending on how serious the team takes their game, some orgs might overload their players’ schedule so much that they won’t even have time to stream or have a semblance of a life outside the practice room. If all players on the team agree that they want to get as good as possible and go deep in a tournament, it’s fine, but the decision has its consequences. In the case of Team SoloMid, the team’s Mid and ADC, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Doublelift are some of the most popular players in the West. Their Twitch streams are routinely watched by 20k people or more. The income from such a popular stream could be way more than they earn as pro players, so, the decision to take extra practice instead of streaming and making bank is way harder to make. And then, when you make it to the World Championship and fail to get out of the group despite all that time you put in… It’s crushing.

With the mental fatigue and paycut you have to take to put everything you have into getting ready for a single tournament and then failing, you have to decompress before you completely burn out and end up quitting the game. Especially if you’re one of the last pros who’ve been there from the beginning. Younger players like Bjergsen might still have some gas left in the tank, but Doublelift has been playing professionally for much longer. Can we blame him for having to refuel?

Given a choice between streaming as if it was your day job and training for a single tournament for 11 months, 10-12 (if not more) hours per day, with barely any breaks, all for significantly less money than you could earn streaming and leading a healthier and less stressful lifestyle, would YOU try to be a pro? I don’t think so. I certainly wouldn’t.

As Doublelift said in the interview with Travis Gafford, the season is way too long and the rewards for going through with it way too small at the moment. With the situation as it is ow, players rarely have very long careers, often electing to stream full time due to burnout or loss of motivation. It would be great if this could be fixed. How? Hell knows. Let us know what you would do in the comments below.