Video games. Just a worthless pursuit enjoyed by serial underachievers often still living at home, right? Absolutely not. Over the past decade, gaming has become the fastest-growing facet of the entertainment industry, and one of the few communities that has seen continual growth over the past decade, even against pandemics, cost of living crises etc. In Canada alone, the video game industry contributed $5.5 billion to the nation’s GDP across 2021 (a 23% rise compared to 2019), and the global gaming market is now estimated to be worth more than music and television put together. One of the biggest contributors to this exceptional growth has been the emergence of professional gaming – and the commitments of some of the players in the most popular games is nothing short of staggering.
The Growth Of Professional Gaming
Before going into the latest demonstration of a gamer’s total commitment to the title they play, it’s perhaps worth sparing a few words explaining what we mean by ‘professional gaming’. For as long as games have existed, the competitiveness of the people playing them has been beyond doubt. Gaming taps into that primal urge to be the best more than most forms of entertainment, it really is more like a traditional sport in that regard.
Because of this, events and tournaments have always been hosted to see which players truly are the top dogs in their respective games. As gaming has grown in popularity, so have these events and the industry built around organising them. ‘Esports’ is the industry term used to describe the professional world of gaming at competitions, and has grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry in its own right on the back of lucrative sponsorship deals with companies ranging from Coca-Cola, DHL, Intel, Monster and even the US Air Force.
It’s the ultimate dream job for millions of gamers around the world, but one that comes with far more commitments than most may think. As well as the strict training schedules, gruelling travel demands and often ruthless roster changes, the sheer amount of time needed to be put into the server can be quite staggering. To demonstrate, let’s take a look at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, arguably Esports’ biggest game, which has just seen its record for the most amount of professional matches played broken.
CS:GO’s Most Played Pro
On August 23, 2023, Kamen “bubble” Kostadinov, a 32-year-old professional Counter-Strike player plying his trade with Team Zigzag, played his 2,389th competitive map in the game. According to HLTV.org, the leading platform for all stats and records from the game, the Bulgarian overtook retired Polish legend Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas for the most amount of maps played in Global Offensive history.
TaZ still holds the record for the most amount of rounds played in the server, however, with 62,886 played during his career spanning from 2012 to 2023. At the time of writing, Bubble is 109 rounds short of that total on 62,777 rounds, though the gruelling schedule put on CS:GO pros means it’s more than likely he will beat that figure by the end of September.
An Unexpected Name
For those outside the competitive CS:GO scene, this might sound like a serious record produced by one of the all-time greats of the game. But, that couldn’t be much further from the truth. Bubble is hardly a well-known name in the community, boasting a career playing for EU-based teams such as Windigo, 359 and SKADE that all regularly sit as heavy outsiders when it comes to the CS:GO odds for their matches.
However, what a record such as this does show is the incredible amount of dedication even those at the lowest steps of the professional ladder maintain in order to pursue their dreams of fastening a life together and playing their favourite games. Whilst casual gamers have the luxury of being able to pick up and put down whatever game they fancy whenever they get bored or frustrated, there’s no such luck when you are attempting to become the best in the business.
In and out of the server, it’s a competitive world in Esports. Teams and organisers, on the back of pressure from their financial backers, now demand instant and sustained success akin to real-world sports, and failure to keep up with the competition often sees a player booted out, their dreams of playing video games like CS:GO for a living along with them.