How Hard Is It To Be a Professional Gamer?

Becoming a pro gamer is a big dream, but money and fame aside, what is it really like?

To the uninitiated, playing video games professionally might seem like a crazy dream. With so many kids playing games, how could you ever stand out? The truth is, with a career in professional sport, luck plays a role. So does timing. But ultimately, it’s about hard graft.

Kids who make it can join pro leagues, compete in big tournaments – and earn millions. The grind to the top is a long hard journey, but if you get there the rewards are worth it. Top players draw massive audiences and are treated like superstars – who wouldn’t dream of a life like that?

Meet Diego Palma, aka Arkhram, a 17 year old who started gaming professionally at just 14 years old! For context, some professional players hit their peak at 16, so it’s not as young as it seems! Diego is only one in a long line of successful gamer teens, a 16 year old named Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million playing Fortnite in 2019.

Diego’s journey started in a Fortnite tournament where he won $500 worth of prizes, which was a good start! He’s now two years into the professional gaming circuit, with prize money totaling $646,000 – so it’s safe to say that things are going pretty well.  

With commitments that see him travelling to different states and countries, managing his new career at such a young age is no easy feat. It’s a lot of responsibility on young shoulders – certainly enough to make you rethink how hard it is to be a pro gamer.

Diego Palma smiling at the camera.
credit: esports arena youtube

Gotta spend money to make money!

In an interview with Business Insider, Diego explains how surgery for a nasty football injury led him towards gaming. Stuck resting at home, video games provided some much-needed entertainment. Diego wanted to get into PC gaming but realised that he would need a top-notch operating system in order to do it right.

Instead of asking for money from his parents, he got a part-time job in order to pay for PC parts and built his own operating system with his step-father. At first, his goal was simple: be better at Fortnite than his friends.

In 2018, he decided to take it up a notch and entered the Fortnite Royale tournament at the Oakland Esports Arena. Diego won second place at just 13 years old – impressive considering that he wasn’t allowed to play professionally for another year. However, the second he turned 14, Diego signed on with 100 Thieves – a pro-gaming association – and began his new career.

A gamer playing Fortnite
Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

Can you imagine grinding for 10 hours a day?

Diego says that he games on average around 10 hours a day – unsurprisingly, he believes that daily practice is the best way to hone his skills. Focus and concentration are key, so you need to push yourself to the limit to beat your competition. Training his brain like a muscle, Diego has cultivated a mental toughness that makes him a fearsome opponent in the digital arena.

After being made an unofficial captain for 100 Thieves, Diego feels that his extra level of focus contributes to his skill as a captain. He has learned how to remain calm in clutch moments, which makes him the perfect cool head to lead a team to victory.

Diego Palma posing for the camera next to a Fortnite logo.
credit: arkhram youtube

Is eSports a ‘real’ sport? We think so!

Athletes have been celebrated for a long time, and rightly so. eSports has only gained recognition as a ‘sport’ over the last decade or so. Despite a surprisingly rich history and massive viewing figures – some streamers have much bigger profiles than most sports stars – something about eSports just hasn’t caught on with a wider audience. 

We celebrate and respect athletes when they spend all day training, but eSports stars don’t seem to get the same credit. High level pro gamers need incredible dexterity in their fingers, insanely quick reaction times and serious mental sharpness to succeed. It’s just a different type of competition. 

Two gamers playing each other.
Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

How do friends and family react?

When Diego initially told his family about his career choices, his parents were hesitant. Not only were they tasked with taking him to these events, but they were also trying to understand this new career their child wanted to follow.

This generation of parents may struggle to understand this – but keep in mind that when they were kids, gaming was considered a waste of time! Professional gaming still isn’t widely seen as ‘real sport’, so it can be difficult for parents of aspiring children to accept it as a career path.

But, the industry is only going to grow. The same way older generations grew up playing football at all hours of the day, lots of kids now prefer to play games like FIFA, Call of Duty or Rocket League. 

Some kids are born to play football, or maybe chess, but for Diego it’s Fortnite – and that’s pretty cool. Over time, Diego’s family came to accept and celebrate his talents and career path – but they still expect him to do his homework on time!

Diego Palma posing with three other 100 Thieves members.
nadeshot on twitter

It’s not easy being famous (at school)

One of the biggest challenges Diego has faced since becoming a pro gamer is the fact that his fame would interfere with his normal, everyday life. A career in eSports can’t be kept secret from teenagers for long – the news spread around his school like wildfire. Fellow students followed him around, asking him questions and demanding his attention.

It became too much, so Diego decided to transition to online schooling. Imagine dropping out of school at 13 to focus on gaming – a dream come true for many kids! His parents were concerned about how this might affect his future, but he managed to begin studying remotely and has plans to graduate high school.

Diego Palma with his family and DrDisrespect
rhanee on twitter

It’s as hard as it sounds.

No time feels wasted when Diego is training for 10 hours a day, or when he’s flying from country to country to compete. It’s a grind that brings him new experiences, joy and (a lot of) money. Following his passions and working hard brought him into this career, and as difficult as it sounds, Diego doesn’t regret it. 

All in all, Diego is still a teenager – he likes to kick back and relax with a horror movie and play football with his friends. He’s earning more money than he knows what to do with it, and is currently investing his money as well as having an administrator for a retirement plan (so soon)! His future is as secure as it can be, and Diego already has his crazy life figured out – that’s something a lot of kids can look up to.

A group of gamers gaming at their own computers.
Photo by Fredrick Tendong on Unsplash

Suddenly in the mood for some competition? Download the Stakester app today, and connect with real players who want to test their skills, by playing games like FIFA 21 and Call of Duty: Warzone for money and prizes.