By lordgort, June 4, 2019
Like any dream, improving in Gwent and making a name for yourself among the Gwent community comes filled with a host of challenges, whether personal, professional or emotional. Team Aretuza's lordgort provides some interesting food for thought to help pursue that ambition.
Are You Ready To Chase Your Gwent Dream?
Maybe you've watched the action at Gwent Opens and Gwent Challengers, imagining yourself in the competitors' chairs. Maybe you've been playing Gwent casually, but you've found yourself in Pro Rank and you're wondering how far you can go. Maybe you've been streaming Gwent, having a good time and gaining an audience, and the tips have begun trickling in. Whatever the reason, you're thinking of chasing your Gwent dream. But are you ready?
Only you can know that, but this article can help you with three essentials of the decision-making process: defining the dream for yourself, weighing potential losses and gains, and creating a plan.
Step 1: Define Your Dream
There are many possible Gwent dreams. On the Gwent Masters side, all of these are valid:
- Reaching Pro Rank
- Staying in Pro Rank (Top 500 each month)
- Earning Crown Points (Top 200 each month)
- Competing in Open Qualifiers (Top 100 over two months)
- Competing in Challenger Qualifiers (Top 50 over four months)
- Competing regularly in Opens (Top 6 over two months)
- Competing regularly in Challengers (Open finalist / high Crown Point earner)
- World Champion contender (Challenger winner / high Crown Point earner)
Here's a partial list of streaming-based dreams:
And there are dreams that don't involve playing on camera:
- Broadcast personality (announcer, commentator, play-by-play)
- Behind-the-scenes (video production, player liaison)
- Creative (game designer, artist, writer)
It's entirely possible to have multiple or combination dreams, such as "competing in Open Qualifiers as a sponsored streamer." It's also natural, though by no means obligatory, to change your dream as you achieve certain milestones (shifting to "staying in Pro Rank" after reaching it, for example).
Once you have defined your dream, it's time to see how it fits into your life.
Step 2: Know What You Stand to Lose (and Gain)
From out-of-work actors waiting tables in Los Angeles to football academy washouts in France and former idols whose careers never took off in Japan, the world does not lack for examples of people who committed their lives to a dream, only to see it never come true.
Even for those who live the dream at the highest levels, it often doesn't last. Early Magic: The Gathering superstar Jon Finkel found greater rewards in finance. Top streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, in an ESPN profile from 2018, revealed the pressure he feels to make all the money he can while he has a mass audience. And the dream itself can disappear on the dreamers: just ask those who competed in Heroes of the Storm or Artifact.
Pursuing your dream will demand sacrifice, and it's up to you what you're willing to give up. From the trivial to the serious:
- Television/Netflix/other video game time. The average American spends around four to five hours every day watching television. Turning a television marathon or Netflix binge into a Gwent session is a substitution you've likely made already.
- Gwent as a hobby. Going after your dream means taking Gwent as seriously as you would a freelance job. I've written before about turning a hobby into a career. To keep it short, if playing Gwent is your escape, what keeps you going, don't mess it up by turning it into work.
- Education, work, relationships. Here's my baseline: unless any of these is actively harming you, do not give it up to chase your dream. I've seen lots of dreamers in other games fall short or discover the truth of their dream didn't match what they imagined, only to be stuck working minimum-wage jobs they hate because they lack a degree and have long gaps in their regular employment. I've also seen relationships ruined: parent-child, dating, marriages with kids. Don't do that to the people around you.
I will note that I am writing from an American lower-middle-class perspective. My perceived costs of dropping out of university (student loans) or full-time work (health insurance) are steeper than they may be for you, and prices in the USA are higher than in, for example, Poland, so the prize money from a tournament goes further for Adzikov than it would for me.
And once you've achieved your dream, taking a step like dropping out of university or leaving your employer might make sense. Freddybabes made more in one tournament than I ever have in a year, and while tournament earnings are not stable income, between his team sponsorship, streaming, and family situation, it likely was the right choice for him, even though I winced when I heard about it.
Until then, though, make sure you know what you're willing to give up and what you aren't. An esports career is a fickle thing, and nobody is more than a year of bad results from everything falling to dust.
Step 3: Create a Realistic Plan
One of the surest ways to make a dream never come true is to assume everything will work itself out. In truth, the players who reach the highest levels and stay there inevitably have strong inner discipline and excellent planning skills. As Damorquis wrote to me, "Discipline is what most folk lack to go pro, and even the pros have to fight their inner demons every day."
The most critical pre-decision step, then, is making a realistic plan for your dream. Your plan must answer several key questions, among them:
- How much time will your dream take up? Is it a part-time commitment, or is it truly incompatible with things like education or a full-time career?
- If part-time, how will you fit your dream around education, work, and family commitments? It is possible to be a serious contender in Gwent even while attending university (graduate school attendee and Challenger champion Damorquis) or working full-time (computer programmer and Open semifinalist Radu Andrada), but it takes an extraordinary mix of hard work and talent.
- If full-time, how will you support yourself? Gwent is particularly hard to make a living at due to the lack of big-money tournaments outside Gwent Masters. As multiple Open participant Molegion wrote to me, "While I think Gwent is a great passion of mine, I can't call myself a pro because of never attending one of the bigger tournaments that could award me [enough prize money] to have a backup in case I will miss out on an Open...if you can't utilize the snowball effect that the [Open - Challenger - World Masters] system has, you don't really have reliable income."
- Have you really thought of everything? Every newbie makes mistakes, and you will be no different. Many existing Gwent pros are great ambassadors and happy to answer one or two polite, respectful questions. Mentorships, such as through the Lodge of Sorceresses, are another potential resource. Looking for something more in-depth? Invest in your dream by hiring a pro through their coaching service. I've hired Freddybabes in the past, and his advice was always worth the time and money.
Step 4: Make Your Decision
"Play games, make money" is a powerful lure that many more pursue than could ever succeed. Whatever your dream, once you've done your research, understood the odds, and drawn up your best plan, it's time to make your choice.If you're unsure, this is the best time to release your dream or scale it back. It's far too easy to feel obligated or even trapped by the relentless grind of Pro Rank, of chasing the next qualification, of pushing the stream another hour.
Speaking from my own experience, after the rules for staying in Pro Rank changed at the end of 2018, I realized that while I love being a content creator for Gwent, staying in Pro Rank under the stress of the Top 500 cut no longer fit in my dream. Yet I misguidedly kept at it, even as I was trying to chase a different dream in Artifact. I survived the brutal Season 7 cut and played out the games in Season 8. Season 9's improved path to Pro Rank qualification let better, more dedicated players reach Pro Rank and knock me out of the Top 500 … and set me free of an obligation I was meeting without knowing why.
And yet, among all the players like me with small part-time dreams, and the players like Molegion whose achievements are the envy of the vast majority of competitors yet still fall short of their own ambitions, there are those like Damorquis who have reached the pinnacle. As I wish you good luck with or without your dream, whatever you decide, I'll let him have the last word:
"Once you get there, once you make it through qualifiers, through a top ladder finish, it is all worth it. Financially, maybe, if you bring your top performance and a good lineup, but personally you feel insanely rewarded. The excitement of travel to the tournament venue, meeting the people behind the screen, getting to know your opponents from the game screen in real life and eventually becoming friends with some – the feeling is truly amazing. Especially when you can make a name for yourself, channel your energy, find the focus to bring your best to the Gwent table and win."
"Professional hobbyist" lordgort makes his money helping others enjoy their leisure, whether as an auction catalog writer, copy editor for a Magic: The Gathering strategy site, or game show contestant (lifetime winnings: $5000). A Magic columnist for seven years, in 2018 he turned to Gwent, swiftly reaching the Pro ranks. Off the clock, he relaxes by writing and editing Gwent articles and contributing to Aretuza Academy. A longtime game show fanatic, he appeared on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2018.