By Kier Junos – Contributor
When Austin Shatto decided to play video games professionally, his father was understandably puzzled. He didn’t realize the potential.
“Most people – our generation at least – don’t realize how big online gaming is getting,” wrote Shatto’s father, in an email.
Shatto landed home in Abbotsford on April 10 after competing in a World of Tanks world championship in Warsaw, Poland April 8 and 9. It’s a massive multiplayer online video game that attracts thousands of people globally to watch virtual tank scrimmages. The game has over 60 million registered players, and Shatto is currently ranked 552nd in the world.
Shatto is 19 and plays on a 10-person team called Eclipse, with an average age of 18. In March, they won $75,000 at the North American World of Tanks championship in Las Vegas, and they’re currently the North American champions.
The game is part of a relatively new movement in sporting, namely electronic sports or eSports. Despite the doubt that some cast towards the notion of equating gaming with sports, the reality is that huge leagues exist for professional video gaming. The U.S. government even provides work visas for gamers, as of 2013.
That means gamers can technically be called professional athletes, with the audiences and money that such competitors garner.
For example, the world championships that Shatto competed at featured a $150,000 grand prize, an audience of about 500,000 online viewers, and 4,000 people in actual attendance in a hockey rink fitted with an array of screens.
Eclipse didn’t pass the preliminary rounds. But even if they did win, Shatto acknowledges the unsustainable nature of playing video games professionally.
Games will get old, and its players’ skills will cease to be useful.
“Eventually, it will stop, and that’s fine with me,” he says.
Though there were points that the game felt like “a time-sink” for Shatto, he’s glad to have been able to play competitively.