"When I try explain my job... people look at me like I've got three heads!"
JOE catches up with Rob Price, a commentator for one of the biggest eSports leagues in the world, about the future of competitive gaming.
"Go outside and get some sunshine. You'll get square eyes sitting in there playing that computer game."
These are words that just about every gamer has heard
once or twice thousands of times. Certainly in Ireland, gaming is seen as something to be enjoyed on top of "real" sports like football and hurling, and not really something that promises a lucrative future.
As the winners of The International 2019's $34 million cash pool will tell you, that really isn't the case. Despite most of us having used it simply as a way to relax after school or work, that little console under the telly could be an absolute gold mine.
One person who has seen first-hand just how colossal the world of eSports is at the moment is Rob Price, a Colour Caster (commentator/panelist) for the League of Legends Pro League (LPL).
Fresh from having to travel home from Shanghai due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Rob tells us about a fast-growing global sport that is still very much in its early stages of development:
"It's in its infancy, if not awkward teenage stage," Rob says.
"It's trying to get going, we're trying to get things up and running and now we're starting to turn heads.
"When I try to explain my job to people, if you're in a taxi or something and they say; 'oh, what do you do?' People just look at me like I've got three heads!"
This is a perfect summation of where eSports is in Ireland at the moment. The incredible opportunities that are (quite literally) at your finger tips don't seem to have made it into the mainstream, and the beauty of it all lies in how accessible it is.
As Rob says himself, what separates eSports from more conventional games is that the margins are so much smaller. While there are technical aspects of a video game that give certain players a bit of an edge, the gap between your average gamer and the pros is slightly more attainable.
"One of the coolest things is that if I watch someone do this really cool play in a computer game, there is the smallest sliver of a chance I can pull that off. I can kind of look at what they do, and if a similar situation arises, I can try and do it.
"If I want to try to do that with football, these guys are far more athletic than I ever am. I'm not going to be able to kick a ball or outplay someone in the same way these guys can because they're so much more athletic. With their skillset, I wouldn't be able to do it in a million years and they put years of practice into it.
"When you look at computer games, the difference that separates someone, and yes you've still got a bit of mechanical skill there with your hand-eye coordination and twitch reactions and stuff like that, but it's much more of a mental thing.
"This guy is just smarter in the game than me and he's figuring out these things that I couldn't see, but I can still try to do the mechanical aspect. You can kind of put yourself in the situation and dream you can do it, you're not that far off."
"Those couple of milliseconds you lose from being older... could be make or break"
The gap between amateur and professional players might only be small, but so too is the window of opportunity. With players tending to retire once hitting their mid-20s, reaction times are of huge importance.
According to Rob, dropping off by even the smallest of margins could be the ending of your career:
"For Starcraft, you had to be between the ages of 17 and 22/23. Once you got past that, your reactions just weren't fast enough to do what you had to do.
"Starcraft is a real-time strategy game where the pro players have broken it down to milliseconds. They were just about eking out just about every bit of efficiency they could in the game.
"You just wouldn't be fast enough once you got past that (age) to do what you needed to do. Therefore they were just losing game after game, because you just lose out on that slight millisecond.
"The reaction speeds you need are insane."
"There's a lot more going on in the background than people realise"
It's easy to think that all you really need to do is play the game to rise to the top. When the margins are this small, a serious amount of expertise and insight is needed to make sure you're performing to the best of your abilities.
As more people become involved in the sport and new ways to sharpen up players come into focus, Rob says aspects of traditional sports science start to creep in:
"Now, definitely, they put an emphasis on the physical health of players. People are realising that if you're a big guy, your reactions aren't going to be as quick as you need them to be. You're starting to see all these guys have fitness coaches and nutritionists looking after their diets as well."
From speaking to Rob, it's clear just how much potential there is for young people in eSports. Ireland has a long way to go before it catches up with the leaders in Asia and America, but for now we can take pride in people like Josh Juliano (@lolb0om) reaching the world stage.