They have heard the common misconceptions associated with the sport.
But they’ll tell you, yes, they only play one game -- Overwatch -- and like other sports, esports take a mental and physical toll on the body.
“It’s kind of strange because when you tell someone you’re a professional athlete, they’ll think you play one sport, but when you tell someone you’re a professional gamer, they’ll think you play all the games,” said Daniel Hathaway, a 19-year-old Brit known as FunnyAstro.
The Philadelphia Fusion, owned by Comcast Spectacor, will begin their 2020 Overwatch League season with home matches Saturday and Sunday at The Met in what is being billed as the Battle of Brotherly Love. The team returns to The Met on May 23-24 and concludes its “home” schedule June 6-7 in Atlantic City.
This weekend’s cards start with the Houston Outlaws facing the Florida Mayhem at 4 p.m. and the Fusion taking on the Washington Justice at 6 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, Houston faces Washington at 4, followed by the Fusion against Florida at 6.
Other teams that will be involved in the Fusion’s later home cards are the Atlanta Reign, the Seoul Dynasty, the Chengdu Hunters, the Hangzhou Spark, the Guangzhou Charge, and the Shanghai Dragons.
The Fusion is making its debut as a Philadelphia-based team after the franchise was in Burbank, Calif., for the league’s first two seasons.
Fans won’t see the work that goes into becoming a good esports team when they crowd into The Met to see the Fusion team in action. A day in the life of an esports athlete is long. It requires mental and physical toughness, good communication skills, focus, and good reflexes.
“It’s pretty tiring at the end of the day,” said Gael Gouzerch, a 23-year-old Frenchman known as Poko. “You don’t want to do anything but sleep.”
The workday typically starts around 10 a.m. and finishes at 9 p.m., six days a week. The players practice on the game, review video of the practice from the day before, play other teams, and eat lunch and dinner together during this time.
Nutrition is a big factor, too. Focus is critical. Eyes can’t be lazy. Reaction times have to be swift. So eating too much can negatively affect a player.
“It’s very important to have a good and healthy life,” Gouzerch said. “Fusion provides food and a very good apartment so we can sleep well. If you sleep well and eat healthy, you’re going to feel way better and you’re going to be able to be better at the game.”
The biggest challenge is remaining focused. Most people can just find something else to do when they are tired of playing a game, or even play another game. The players are tuned into Overwatch all day.
“When you’re having fun, it’s so much easier to focus,” Hathaway said. “If you’re treating it like 12 hours of work a day, it gets really hard to pay attention.”
Team bonding is crucial. Most of the players live together, so that helps. But it’s not easy. They have to do it because communication is an important trait. The players come from France, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and elsewhere.
Think of a sport like baseball. A bunch of players of different nationalities and backgrounds come together with the goal of winning. The Fusion are no different. Through different languages, cultures, and personalities, the players try to find common ground.
“You have to know how to work well with other people and give constructive criticism in a useful way,” Hathaway said.