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How to be a pro gamer: A glimpse down the esports talent pipeline

James B. Cutchin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

High school team. College program. Development league. Pro draft.

It's a system familiar to sports fans. But if you want to make your living in esports, the path isn't nearly so defined.

Aspiring professional gamers are left to hustle and self-promote their way onto any platform they can find -- and hope the right person happens to be looking. Success in the industry can hinge as much on gamers' social media following as their skills.

As esports grow more established, some see benefits for gamers and the industry in establishing a more structured talent pipeline.

Blaze Elmore, a 17-year-old Thousand Oaks native, is one of the first gamers through it.

Elmore has played games since he was little, and became obsessed with the mobile game "Clash Royale" when it was released in 2016. He was soon haranguing his mother to drive him to tournaments in Los Angeles.

 

"At first I told him, 'No, absolutely not. I've got work and you've got school,'" his mother, Tammy Elmore, said. "But he was just so persistent. I finally gave in."

Elmore won his seventh live competition in April 2018 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and took home a flat-screen TV and $200. The tournament, hosted by Super League Gaming -- a Santa Monica start-up that organizes community-focused contests -- kicked off Elmore's rise to the esports big leagues.

The teen spent the next year winning match after match at Super League's club league tournaments. A scout for Dignitas -- an international esports organization owned by the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team -- took notice and, at a Super League event this March, recruited him.

Founded in 2014, Super League Gaming got its start hosting amateur multiplayer events for the hit game "Minecraft" in local movie theaters. It has spread to hundreds of U.S. cities. The company now organizes 16 city-based club teams for "Minecraft," "Clash Royale" and esports titan "League of Legends."

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