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We’ve all seen pictures or heard stories of Korean professional gamers raking in cash by playing Starcraft for crowds of adoring fans. We’ve also seen similar success here in the States, albeit on a smaller scale, with gamers like Fatal1ty marketing his own brand of gaming hardware. I’m sure many of you have asked yourselves, “How does one get involved in competitive gaming?”

Hopefully, I can help put you on the right path. A few years ago I was heavily involved in competitive Counter-Strike: Source. My team, GameBangers, and I had a pretty successful run winning several tournaments, and although I may not have been rolling in money like Fatal1ty, I did manage to get through high-school without a job. In hopes of opening up the rewarding world of competitive gaming, I decided to write up a very basic guide.

The first place to start is deciding what game is right for you. The three main categories of competitive games are: First-person shooters, Real time strategy games, and fighting games. The most popular titles include: Counter-strike, Counter-strike: Source, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Quake Live, Warcraft III (Dota), World of Warcraft, Halo 3 and Street Fighter IV.

I would recommend sticking to one of these titles because there is a strong competitive gaming community already established, which means less work for you when it comes to finding teams and tournaments. I would also make sure that you really enjoy playing whatever game you choose because you’ll be playing the hell out of it.

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The next step is to start making friends. With the exception of Quake Live duels and Street Fighter IV, almost every competitive game requires a team. This is where things can get tricky. Because most competitive gaming is done online, you are bound to run into plenty of immature jerks who think they are God’s gift to gaming. Your best bet at avoiding these kids is to make friends inside the game of your choice.

Most gamers do this by playing in one public server for a long time. You will soon become a regular there and start making friends. Once you have a solid crew of five or more gamers, you’ll want to bring up the idea of competitive gaming. You should be careful when discussing this though; I’ve seen plenty of teams fall apart because the members have different ideas of what the team should be doing.

You should have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your team. When I was on GameBangers, we all decided that we wanted to have fun rather than play for money. This way if someone screwed up, we would just shrug it off rather than scream at them and potentially ruin our friendship.

Once you’ve decided on a game to play and established a team, you’ll need to figure out what league is right for you. There are plenty of leagues out there and each of them is designed for a specific demographic.  If you’re a hardcore gamer who wants to be the best and start making a little money, I would recommend CEVO. CEVO is a league much like the NFL or NHL.

Players register for teams before the season starts. Your team will be given a schedule where you have to play X team by X date and submit the results. It is important to note that there is a small fee for playing, but you also have to realize the money goes into a prize pack for whoever wins the season. For more info on CEVO click here.

WCG 2007

If you are more of a casual gamer looking to make some friends rather than money, you might want to check out the Global Gaming League. The GGL offers ladder style gaming, as opposed to CEVO’s league play. What I mean by this is, you register for a specific game’s ladder and you will start at the bottom. You then have to challenge people who are ranked above you. If you take someone down, you climb up the ladder. Whoever is on top when the ladder ends wins. The GGL offers all sorts of prize packs for gamers who finish on top. For more information on the GGL, click here.

While both of the previously mentioned leagues offer console gamers a chance to play, the most competitive titles tend to be PC based. If you are a console gamer who thinks they have enough skill to compete with the big names, you might want to check out Major League Gaming. This is where you will find professional Halo 3 players who are raking in cash from tournaments around the globe. Much like the GGL, MLG offers ladder based play for anyone who wants. Rising stars are snatched up by pro teams to play for the big bucks. To see if you have what it takes, head on over to the MLG’s “Gamebattles” site.

It is important to note that these are just three popular leagues. If none of these sound right to you, just search competitive gaming league and look for the right fit. There are plenty of leagues out there for every type of gamer. It is also important to remember that each league has its own set of rules and rituals that need to be followed exactly. If you don’t follow them, there is a good chance the league will forfeit the match for you. This may sound a little extreme, but the leagues have to make sure nobody is cheating.

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Now that the basic road map to competitive gaming has been laid out, I have a few tips on what you’ll need. The first thing you’ll want to do is download an IRC client. IRC is a chat program that almost all leagues and teams use to help set up and schedule matches. IRC is a pretty complex program and rather than explaining it all here, I’d suggest heading over to the official website and reading up on it. Once you get it figured out, head on over to your league’s website and see what network and channels you need to be in to schedule matches.

Another program that you’ll probably need is Ventrilo or Teamspeak. These two programs are used as an out-of-game voice chat program. Most games that have built-in voice chat only allow you to talk to players who are currently alive in-game. Ventrilo allows you and your team to stay in contact even if you’re dead. This is an invaluable resource because it allows you to let your team know what happened when you died. You have to be careful though, spamming the mic not only gets on your team’s nerves, but also doesn’t allow them to hear where the other team is and what they are doing. All in all, programs like Ventrilo can be a game saver, however it is best used with caution.

Hopefully you guys found this rudimentary guide helpful and I hope it inspires you to explore the world of competitive gaming. There is a lot of fun to be had here if you are willing to work hard and be friendly. I can honestly say that even though it has been a few years since I’ve played with GameBangers, I still talk to the guys frequently and consider all of them to be some of my best friends. I can only hope that you guys will have a similar experience to mine.

  1. Great guide! My friends and I used to be big on the Halo scene, and we won a few local tournies. In fact, I won Halo 2 off of a Halo 1 partners tourney!

  2. It’s hard to believe that some of the above mentioned games are still going as strong as the day they were released. Oh the CS days.

  3. avatar Faiz Aizad

    This article remind me of the days “WCG is everything” to me. :)

  4. Oh man. I can’t remember how many times I was up until sometimes 4, 5, and 6 in the morning play CS with the dream of one day becoming a professional gamer. Now I dream about finding a job. What has my life turned into?

  5. avatar mattP

    Also check out the XPL – Xtreme Professional Gaming League.

    http://www.xpleague.com/

    They just revamped their site, and offer a ton of PC games.

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