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Checking the Competition: Experiences from Playing in a Tournament and How it Changes the Game

I am in love with Heroes of the Storm. Considering the fact that I had never played a Blizzard title before in my life, this should be a testament to just how fun and enticing this game can be. I also love learning new things, which is why college is so important to me despite the daunting price tag that comes with it. So when Blizzard announced the TeSPA hosted Heroes of the Dorm tournament, I thought it would be a marvelous idea to try my skills in the “big” leagues.

The tournament, while serving as a means to generate hype for the final and official release of HotS, also came with a promise of tuition bought and paid for by Blizzard for every member of the first place team. This sounds like a dream come true for aspiring gamers who find themselves on a college campus: playing games and paying for school while convincing friends and family alike that professional gaming is in fact a relevant and valid way to pay the bills sounds like a sure reason to sign up.

While my team and I were in the tournament though, I noticed something about playing that I found strange. We weren’t playing the same game anymore. The heroes were there, the maps were the same, but there was something in how we played it that totally altered the game for me. Everything seemed faster and more monumental. Little choices that we would compliment each other on were now met with screams of victory into the microphone as we turned a fight around, and little mistakes that we’d laugh about later were now met with dismay or silence. Things were much more stressful, the stakes were much higher, and we found our gameplay and our demeanour much more different than when we usually played together.

The thing about competition is that everything seems heightened. With adrenaline pumping through your system and such a large prize pool on the line, the attitude toward the game becomes totally altered. Even the littlest decisions can affect the game in a big way, and because of that realization the reactions of individuals playing the game are heightened as well. This may have been an amateur tournament, but it has definitely given me new perspective on the professional scene in gaming. Imagine the stress of playing in an attempt to pay for your college tuition. Now imagine being an aspiring professional player giving up school, family, and his entire future in order for a chance to win a pro-league tournament. In some gaming scenes, this is a common story. HyHy, for example, was a prestigious member of Team Scythe in the first DotA International tournament. He abandoned his school and left against his family’s will in order to play, and while his team ended up placing third, he decided to continue pursuing his professional career.

Gaming is an incredible hobby. There is nothing else like being able to sit down and lose yourself in a competition with your friends. Some people, however, make the choice to take it a step further and make a career out of it. While others would argue that this sort of life decision isn’t legitimate, I would disagree. I’ve experienced a small taste of the stress involved, as well as the dedication necessary for this sort of life, and the decision to become a professional gamer is just as incredible as the decision to become a professional athlete. It may be ludicrous, and it requires a lot of work, but it’s a valid way of living.

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