A decade into his career, Walsh had been top-rated in five games. Still, he knew a competitive career wouldn't provide a living for much longer. The "Halo" trilogy and other shooting games that he specialized in were losing clout on the competitive circuit. Transitioning to another genre would mean starting at square one.
Even if "Halo' remained a top game, Walsh wasn't sure he had it in him to continue playing at the same level.
"A lot of it is drive and motivational," he said. "Being at the top for a long time, it's hard for me to practice as hard as this 16-year-old kid who wants to be better."
Fatigue is a very real aspect of gaming, say professionals. Gamers are not playing "Super Mario Brothers." They compete in complex games that require elaborate strategies and problem solving in real time during grueling hours-long tournaments. Walsh compared tournaments to taking a long, drawn-out test.
Georgallidis started playing "League of Legends" in 2011, a strategy and battle game developed by Riot Games, and quickly became one of its stars. He was one of the first players to attract tens of thousands of streaming viewers to his online channel. At the height of his career, he said, he could earn upwards of $2,000 in a day from ad revenue.
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To maintain his viewership and standing—and the income they generated—Georgallidis played "League of Legends" for about 14 hours per day. That allowed him to create Counter Logic Gaming and fund the team's travel and operating expenses, but he couldn't keep practicing so much while fostering his business and maintaining a personal life. Last year, he gave up his spot on the team to focus on coaching and managing the players.
Along with fatigue comes stress. Players in Riot's professional leagues scrimmage for about eight hours a day against teams they'll eventually face in high stakes competitions. For much of the rest of the day, they're running drills.
"It's a dream that everyone fights so hard for, and I only see it getting more and more competitive and more and more cut throat," Georgallidis said.
For these reasons, gamers need to think about other options by their mid-20s, said Tobias Sherman, co-founder of eSports Management Group, a sports agency for gamers. That's why he speaks candidly with players about how long they can reasonably compete and helps them plot out their post-gaming lives.