Most gamers have some idea about the lavish trips and the big cash prizes of televised competitions. Unfortunately, they don't always make for captivating television. It's still the individual communities for each game that keep the events afloat, because they're the ones who want to watch it the most. Like any proper sport, for every person that makes it there are thousands more who come tantalizingly close. They receive no prizes, no all-expenses-paid trips, no free products and no grand trophy to triumphantly hold aloft.
Matthew Burton is one of those players. After attending tournament after tournament in Brisbane and flying interstate several times for major competitions without a qualifying result, why does he keep playing?
"I've had six holidays in Melbourne in the last two and a half years," Burton says. "I've seen Luna Park and Sydney, which I hadn't seen since Grade 5 when I went on a trip with my parents on Australia Day. I was able to live in Melbourne for a couple of weeks courtesy of friends I'd met through gaming, which was refreshing and allowed me to live a different lifestyle. It also helped me to focus on what was waiting for me when I got home."
I wasn't satisfied with that. After all, if a person wants to travel, they can work, save the money and go on a normal holiday, right? Why put yourself through the stresses of tournament gaming when you can simply play for fun?
"If you want to play seriously, then you need to study yourself, your team and your opponents." If it sounds a bit like Sun Tzu, that's because it is: Burton read The Art of War with the intention of applying it to gaming. "Taking games seriously has improved my capacity for critical thinking. Analyzing teams, understanding strategies and their motivations, formulating positions and combining all that knowledge to make the correct decision in the heat of a tournament are all skills that are invaluable in the real world." He's not joking, either. One of the members of Sydney Underground, Scott Bednarski, leveraged his experience in professional gaming for a managerial position at Bunnings, one of the largest hardware chains in Australia.
Whether you win or lose, the real reward is learning from your experiences. When I first joined the competitive scene in Australia, I did so as a writer, thinking the recognition would help my prospects later down the road. Little did I know that it would send my life in a completely different direction.
I couldn't be more grateful.