Amongst gamers, it’s a standing joke that we’ll “git gud” and “go professional,” win tournaments and make a ton of cash as a competitor in the Esports scene.
I had that opportunity. I took it. I made it.
But it also cost me my girlfriend.
This is my story.
Rewind a decade and a bit to set the scene in 2008 – I was a fresh graduate looking for a job, and an offer for a dream job came.
I knew I was good, but I had no idea that I was actually that good at gaming. I was talent scouted and headhunted.
To me, this was better than corporate recruitment.
I mulled over the offer. It was an incredible one-year contract. I did the smart (or retrospectively, dumb) thing. I talked it over with my girlfriend.
The conversation lasted one minute. The fight lasted six months.
It was the first major fight in our relationship, and our last too.
She was against the whole thing because she already resented the hour or two of gaming I did each day after she went to bed. To her, it was time I could have spent with her.
In her mind, “Professional Gaming” as a career in 2008 was on par with being a 2019 “Instagram Model” (A professional model on Instagram is an entirely different thing).
In her words, pursuing gaming as a career would be a “purely childish, foolish and selfish decision.”
We went back and forth for a few days. Then I told her point blank – it’s one year. It pays well. It’s a chance to make my childhood dream come true.
In the end she said, “Do what you want.”
Every man knows this danger sign, this warning, this trap.
She got angry and stopped talking to me. My first day at the new job began with a snarky, passive aggressive, have fun at “work.”
She actually made air quotes. Beyond that she didn’t talk to me.
Too bad for us, I had fun that first day, and every day thereafter.
The Signs Of Danger
I won’t bore you with too much detail. It was fun, but still hard work.
Six hours of gameplay a day, five days a week. A lot of teamwork and communication. A lot of memorization of gameplay strategies and tactics.
I came home mentally fried every day for the first two weeks. I think that mental fatigue is why I missed a lot of the warning signs that things weren’t going well.
We became taciturn strangers living in the same apartment. As the love and warmth vanished, her anger grew.
There were shouting sprees, that in my mental fugue was incapable of handling. I started sleeping on the couch. She spent time with friends and complained to them, and I don’t know what she said to them.
I missed the signs. All of them.
Six weeks in, and I had sort of adjusted to the demands on my brain. My social life had suffered a lot during this period.
I’d skipped a lot of socials, drinks, and dinners and things because of the mental drain. There were some days where coherent conversation was beyond me.
I’d go to sleep mulling strategy, and play the game in my sleep, wake up and then play some more. Sleep was not restful.
Another six weeks, and it was the first true hurdle: A small scale, local tournament. I made the cut for first team.
My girlfriend? She came to the event, but her support was token at best.
She left somewhere between the start of my first match and the end of the first five-minute round. I think she was hoping I’d lose here, and that would be the end of the whole thing. I could get a normal job, and life would go back to normal.
The First Tournament
My team went in as the unknowns, below underdog status. We played our hearts and souls to near death over nine hours.
We fought and clawed our way through the first round, then scratched and slashed through the Top 16.
We hacked the opposition down and dragged ourselves through to the Top 8.
We got to the Final 4 (Semi Finals) before we bit off more than we could chew.
When the gun smoke cleared and the bodies were bagged and tagged in the dust, we had taken second place and secured a spot in the Regionals, three months away.
It would be fair to say that this led to more time at work, which in turn caused my personal and social life to suffer.
I did miss a lot of things, but I was there for the important ones. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and New Year and all that.
I made it a point to spend time with my girlfriend every few days. She on the other hand, never wanted to spend time with me.
The team had gained D-List like celebrity status in our home city.
People recognized us, and there were some small-time sponsorship deals in the low thousands signed. I was making good money, but it wasn’t enough.
Ironically, she was between jobs – had been for a few months – and it was I, the self-centered gamer who was paying all the bills, managing the finances, and keeping things going at home.
I think between the heavy responsibilities of managing home and my job, I became too fatigued to notice – she was slipping away from me.
Spending more time with her friends, or a friend. Some nights she didn’t come home. I was too tired and stupid to put it all together the way a normal man might have done.
I don’t know who was whispering what poison in her ear, but somebody was. I look back at my personal life and it still feels like one long, unending six-month fight.
She wanted me to quit and get a regular, “respectable job.” I countered that I would not be able to find a job with matching pay. She said “less pay and less hours” would be fine.
I didn’t understand this one at all – my work hours were a lot less than hers at this point – about six hours a day, five days a week.
I also had a team depending on me. I wasn’t going to let them down. Things reached the point where everything I said or did was suddenly grounds for a “talk” or “a discussion.”
I hate both words to this day.
The proverbial “it” moment, the straw which broke the camel’s back happened during the Regional.
The morning of the tournament dawned. I geared up. I was ready as I was going to be. The team were chomping and foaming at the mouth. I was too. I almost pitied whoever we faced in the first round.
That was when she started another “talk,” and I fell for it. She hooked me when she made the claim that I was more in love with gaming than I was her.
All this happened thirty minutes before the tournament.
She does this, and in a ball of queasy nerves, I snapped out, “If you don’t approve, then what is the point of you coming here?”
Maybe I’m being overdramatic here, but I swear I saw the glint of victory and the hint of a feral smile, as she dropped the sinker,
“Either quit the team, or we’re done.”
With less than 20 minutes to registration, she drops this bomb on me. In the heat of the moment, frustration, anger, and disgust won out. I made my decision.
She nodded and accepted my decision mutely.
The team went into that tournament and I’m arrogant enough to say we were magnificent. We stood shoulder to shoulder and went toe to toe against the most hardened elite gamers I had ever encountered. For me, the gaming had turned to hell.
It wasn’t exhilarating. The passion, the fury, didn’t ignite. It was a long, inglorious bloody butchering slog.
It was gaming at its darkest and most tenacious, and most painful. Team after team came at us, but our gameplay was tight, coordinated and focused. Opposing teams came on, and we mowed them down.
In every match we swung and struck them down, ruthlessly shattering their hopes and dreams.
I was beyond angry. I was somewhere past furious and beyond bitter. Every opponent had her face. I was running on autopilot, a mantra in running through my mind.
I forced myself to stay in the game trance. I was in the zone. Nothing beyond my screen mattered. I knew if I stopped, if I let myself feel, or think, I’d not just screw myself, I’d screw the team. I refused to be that weakest link.
But we met our match and faced our Waterloo in the Final 4. Our opponents were simply superior in skill.
There were pictures and prizes. A second-place win saw each player take home about RM5,000 – one month’s pay – as a bonus. Needless to say, this called for quick showers and celebrations.
I got back to my hotel room, and she was there. She tried to hug me. I pushed her away. She tried to kiss me. I turned away.
Everybody loves a winner, right? Or rather, everyone loves someone with money to burn.
I had a short, one-sided talk with her. I packed my gear, left it with Concierge and went out to celebrate, long into the night.
Starting A New Game
Was it all worth it? I think it was. I got to chase and live my dream, albeit for just a short while. I got to make the kind of money that people dream of for that short while too.
A decade ago, professional gaming used to be a small, elite community. And outside that community, the mental and physical stresses were not well understood.
Today, it’s better. Malaysia today has a thriving Esports scene and could grow into a gaming hub. Today it’s better understood and accepted as a career.
But like all careers, you have to balance the needs of your career versus those of family and friends. I did a piss poor job of finding that balance, otherwise things would have been different for me and her.
But I think I got off light. She liked spending my money, but she sure as hell was not supportive of the honest, hard work I did to make that money.
Already under pressure, feeling nervous, having performance anxiety and stage fright, she tried emotional blackmail. That was what made me chose gaming over her.
Professional gaming cost me my girlfriend, but it helped me get rid of a gold digger.
Guess she needs to up her game, and “git gud.”
For more articles like this, read Malaysian Girls, Here’s 5 Reasons Why Dating a Gamer Isn’t so Bad, and Why Did You Break Up? Malaysians Tell Us the Reasons Their Relationships Didn’t Work Out.