"What's it like to be a professional eSport player?", "What do you look for in eSports contracts?" These are some of the questions that we're going to answer today with Alex "Xpecial" Chu. Alex, welcome. Thank you. Alex is a professional League of Legends player. So, Alex, for staffing. When you're staffing a eSports team, you usually have a bare bones staff at the very beginning. So, tell us a little bit about bare bones staff for an eSports team. So, in League of Legends, you have the five players and then you have manager and the coach. Usually that's kind of the bare-bones of bare-bones. Right. No order really does the same work, but back in the days, it's like this is top tier actually. Oftentimes, you may have a player be a coach and a manager, but we've gone past that point. That's good. Yeah. So, if you have unlimited funding, as eSports continues to evolve, they're adding more positions for a lot of different things, barring that you didn't have to worry about the money aspect of it, what jobs would you add to your eSports organization that you, as a professional player, find interesting? I think that different players have different needs but in the end, there's a lot of same grounds, same common themes I see over the years. You need a coach, that's for sure. You need a main coach, head coach. This guy is going to be your main guy. But then under him, you're going to want some assistant coaches, position coaches as well for individual players. If you have the funds for it, oftentimes you don't, but ideally, you want a coach for each player just to focus on the individual player and they have the main coaches to work on their team play. Then, above those guys, you have the manager, and then the manager makes sure that everyone's taken care of, then you should have people like a chef, a sport psychiatrist and even maids, these are all things that people need. Especially ML players, a sport psychiatrist has been something that I think is extremely helpful to get people, the younger kids, people who haven't played on teams before, people who are the first time away from home, and oftentimes these guys are coming in from different states, countries even, and helping these guys get both adjusted and mentally focused is extremely important. Okay, so, switching to a slightly different topic. So, what are the different types of compensation that you look for when you're evaluating your contract? Obviously, you have your player salary, so besides the salary, what are some other factors that you consider when choosing a team and then we'll go further in doing the contract after that. A very big thing I can get to look at as a player is the brand of the team itself. Older teams that have large brands are very important for new players as it lets them grow their own brand and which in turn, means higher stream money, higher stream numbers, more salary, all of these things are extremely important. It's not always just the salary, you have to look at your teammates, are you going to work well with them, do you think they're going to be really, really good, can they help you succeed, can you learn from them, are these guys veterans or rookies, there's a lot of questions that they ask yourself to really understand is this the right fit for you. Sometimes, even the way they set up the house, maybe some teams have a team house, some teams have an office and home set up or an office and apartment set up, which one would you want? And these are all things to keep in mind. For younger players, often times being in a team house is better as you have someone who looks after you, takes care of you, make sure you don't burn down the house using the microwave for example, you know, these are important. Which is an actual example, by the way, that's something that actually happened in eSports before. First-hand experience, actually. It wasn't me but it was in my house. Sure. Okay, so, could you delve a little bit further into the contract part of everything? There's player salary but what about stuff like housing and food? Is there any examples that you can give for things that went bad because it wasn't in the contract? So, a lot of times with these contracts, a lot of things are promised that are not written on paper. It's a really big thing to keep in mind is that if it's on paper, generally, that's not going to really happen and people can promise you anything they want verbally, but until it's seen on paper, it's not actually going to happen. It might not be malicious on purpose, but sometimes these things don't work out, things fall through, planned sponsors just end up backing off and the people who suffer are the people who are promised these things and not the promiser. Food, especially, is a big one. Housing, generally, people will say and mean it because that's such a big deal, but for food, often times, you might not get food or you might have food some days, you might have food half the days or you might have to pay for half of it. All these different things you kind of have to figure out. Food gets pretty expensive. Oftentimes, a lot of these pros who are so young from different states, don't have car here and they have to just Postmates or just get delivered all the time, really, really adds up. Cooking is also an option, just a lot of times it takes a lot of time or effort. Nobody wants to do it. We're lazy, man, come on. So, we're talking a lot about the predicaments that come from not reading your contracts. So, as you, being a professional player, when you get a brand new contract, what do you do or what do you suggest? So, right now there's a really, really big turning point with both agents and lawyers being super prominent in these scene. In the last few years, it kind of really cropped up and solidified their kind of state, and a lot of players now have agents and lawyers to talk to and get their opinion and have those guys do the brunt of the negotiation. But before that, and for other eSports or even if just a bit younger, you might not have those resources available and not looking at contract, for example, is the single biggest mistake I see people do. They'll look at a contract and they "Oh gosh, that's a lot of pages." you see 15, you see 5, 10, 20 pages, and "All right, let me just sign this" and they just sign their life away and they had no idea and there's plenty of warning in the contract that if you're not careful, you can get screwed over. The biggest one is the one where I see is it's more of your contract. If you write to them in a handwritten letter to a specific place 60 days before the contract ends or else it extends for another year. I remember players just telling me, "I didn't want to pay for this org again but I apparently signed this long contract that extends every year, that if I don't send them a mail, it's crazy. It just doesn't make sense. It just happens all the time. Just make sure you read your contract, somebody read it, parents, uncle, relatives, a lawyer, agents, somebody. Okay, so, you mentioned lawyers. Is this the kind of thing where it can be any lawyer or there are lawyers that focus more on eSports now since eSports just became a little bit more prominent? Esports lawyers have definitely been a bigger thing the last few years. There are people on Twitter that kind of go by eSports attorney, eSports lawyer for example. These are the guys that have been there since the very beginning and [inaudible] and guys that you should definitely talk to. But there's plenty of other lawyers and people getting into the scene. But do be careful, not everyone is who they say they are, but the ones that people always talk about, the ones that are most prominent, are the most trustworthy ones, we have those. Feel free to have find your own. Okay. So, we're going to switch topics a little bit here, casual players, the students themselves, and just Esports fans might think of professional players as it's like a dream job, right? You're playing video games for a living, that's awesome, that's great. So, but the less talked about side I feel like is, what are some of the sacrifices that you have to give up for being a pro Esports player, to basically to succeed or to try and play at the top level? I think people will often forget that a lot of people play games. The people who are at the very best are the people who played a lot and are extremely good, and what I often see is when I talk to people, people who don't really understand Esports, I tell them, "Hey, I play video games for a living." But they, "Oh, wow. Is it like Minec raft?" I can get too is, "I play a few minutes each day." They don't really understand that it's also a grind, it's like how basketball or how any traditional sport. You can play basketball, you can play golf, all of that stuff, but the people who are the best, play for a lot of hours, and they're the best. There's plenty who will play a lot, but not everyone's is the best. There's is a very, very, very small portion of players who are actually are love them, and even those people there's a huge sheer difference between the players as well. In our time we spent, the amount of time we invest, the amount of sacrifice that we give. How little time you see our family, how oftentimes we give up education, give all of these things to be where we are is something that people often forget. Obviously, depending on the player, you might have to sacrifice different things. So you said there's a lot of different types of things depending on how far along your education, you are all those different things that you have to make a choice, right? So, that's pretty tough. Okay. So, we're going to change topics slightly again. Very few people have been playing League of Legends professionally for as long as you have. First of, what motivates you to stay in Esports? And then what advice would you give to aspiring pro players? I think I'm really lucky in that, I'm one of the few players that still enjoy the game. I think a lot of players at this point are like, Oh, man, to play more games. I still love the game so much and I don't even understand why? Then people tell me I'm crazy. They asked me how do I play for so long? I'm like, I don't know, man. I just enjoy the game. That's how it is for a lot of these Pros. A lot of the Esports people in general, they really love the game, and that's how they've been playing for so long. For a lot of players, the older players especially. There was a point where we played for very, very little. I remember tournaments that we would play every weekend for a 100 bucks, split into five people. I can't say that was the life that we had expected to turn into we have now, but hey, we love the game back then, and we still love the game now. So, what advice would you give to the students or anybody else that's aspiring to become a professional Esports player? I think the most important thing is to be in it for the love of the game, and to really, really understand yourself. Are you going to be able to do this not for a few months, but not for a year, but for years, and years, and years. That's often not the case with people, people often burn out. I've seen it happen to many people, and you have a passion for something like this if you want to do it for for even a year. The amount of time that the Pros that who play now were 17, 18. They didn't start when they're 16, they started when they were 12, 13. They've been playing for many, many years. If you start now, you have to be able to put it in a time that they put in all those years ago, and a year, two years might not be enough. For some it might be, but passion is extremely important. Don't just look at the spotlight and be like, I always do that you have to think about all the hard work they put in, all the many years they had put in before they even stepped on foot on stage. So, what would you say about people who already have like a day job or they're confuse as to where they want to go or transition? Definitely, don't quit at your job. Don't drop out of school. Don't do that day one, you want to do that day 800. But, day one you want to just try it out, play little bit, see if you actually enjoy it. As you get along, as you enter year two or whatever, once you reach a point where you feel like you're almost at the level, but you're missing the time needed, then you can consider putting all your energy into it. But too many times, I see people hit me up and like, hey, I'm in the middle of the pack, I'm gold three and I really want to go pro, I'm going to quit my day job. I'm like, bro, don't quit your day job. There's a long way to go. When I went to my pros level I was still in school. Back then it was a lot easier, but most of the players that play back then and people who are still playing nowadays, people who are really young, they're still in school. They do it part-time and then once they reached a point where they can reach next level then they drop everything, then they go full time, and that's super important. Right. You're competing against millions of people. People often forget that, and everyone wants, a lot of you want to do that and you can't expect just because I want to do it it's going to happen to me. You need to realize sometimes it's just not meant for you. That's sometimes a hard thing to tackle to [inaudible] It's extremely hard. It's so harsh too. It happens to pros too, after a while it's like if they lose the drive, you have to realize, I don't have the drive anymore, I can't be a pro, I can't be the very best, and it's a very realistic thing. It happens to even the best players. Right. So, one thing that we tackle a little bit earlier was the age of players, we imagined how a lot of players somewhere between the ages of 16 and 21 typically. Do you think that the future of Esports that we'll find players that are older? I mean right now and different Esports there might be players that are in their late 20's or even later, do you think that that could increase over time as Esports becomes a more prominent thing? I definitely think there will be increase in older players. I think the biggest thing that kept people back over the years was two things: drive and money. For a lot of the older players who've been playing for a very long time, there wasn't much money back in the day. For those guys, the only thing that kept them going was passion. Nowadays, there's money involved too, and you have money people who we're worrying about the rest of your life, don't have too as much. It's a real thing where as you get older you get to be, hey, I have to have family, I have to relationships, there's more things than just playing and doing Esports. When it was day where Esports wasn't lucrative, that was a huge problem. Nowadays, players can like, hey, I can do Esports for a very long time and make enough money where I don't have to look for a day job. It wasn't always the case. Well, Alex, I appreciate you taking the time to tell us what it's like to be a professional Esports player. I think there's a lot of valuable insight that you gave to us. You're welcome. Well, there you have it. This was Alex "Xpecial" Chu, giving you information on what it's like to be a professional Esports.