How should a pro gamer reach the next level?

The contents of this article are not meant to be taken as serious medical advice!

Mankind has always been competitive; first for food, then women, then territory, and finally just for fun. Games have codified competition into ritual, but whether it’s pick-up basketball or the Olympics, man’s desire to cheat has never waned. In the modern age, thanks to advances in technology and medicine, sports all over the world have seen an influx of less-than-honorable methods of getting ahead.

Gamers are taught that the best way to improve is to put in the time and effort, slowly refining and improving. But the best way isn’t the only way. Grinding levels is fun for some, but others would rather just turn on God mode and breeze through the game without a challenge. To each their own, but power-ups are often game mechanics, a reward for effort. Consider that gamers could start to apply the same frame of mind to the real world and take things a step too far.

So what is the next step for this generation’s professional athlete? Thanks to StarCraft II, e-sports have seriously risen into international awareness. Korea, where the real-time strategy game is most popular, holds national tournaments as well as having multiple dedicated TV networks. But in America, professional gaming extends past StarCraft, including some more familiar names. Every few months Major League Gaming holds tournaments for games like League of LegendsCall of Duty, and Halo. Though they’re often not taken as seriously as professional athletes, pro gamers have risen to the height of their sport, a field that requires hyperactive decision-making and split-second reflexes.

Just as professional athletes began using performance-enhancing drugs, we asked experts what you would take to improve as a pro gamer. Here are a few ways besides practice that you can get better:


Why: Increases focus and reaction times

Dosage: Available in immediate- and extended-release capsules

Side Effects: Uneven heartbeats, fainting, increased blood pressure, severe headaches, blurred vision, chest pain, numbness, seizure, tremor, restlessness, hallucinations, etc.

Notes: Adderall was first introduced in 1996 as a treatment for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), but has also seen popular abuse among students as a study tool. It effectively keeps the user awake and focused for extremely long periods of time.

Go Pro: Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I, for one, am still convinced no one knows what’s happening in that game.

Go Home: FarmVille. Must … check … on crops…


Why: Calms your nerves

Dosage: As prescribed

Side Effects: Depression, changes in appetite, decreased sexual desire, light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, thoughts of suicide

Notes: Xanax was released in 1981 as a treatment for panic and anxiety disorders. It has also been popularly abused among teens as one of many benzodiazepines, a class of depressant drugs whose high is often similar to alcohol intoxication.

Go Pro: Modern Warfare 2. Having to focus so intently on each individual pixel for extended periods of time is likely to make any of us jittery.

Go Home: Flower. If you’re not calm enough just playing this game, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Vitamin A

Why: Improves night vision for long play sessions.

Dosage: Between 900 and 3,000 micrograms per day; available in many fruits and vegetables, including carrots

Side Effects: Long-term overdosing may result in fatigue, irritability, stomach discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.

Notes: There are no effective ways to increase peripheral vision or visual sensitivity/reactions, but Vitamin A does help improve ability to see in low light, a useful attribute to have for those night-long practice sessions.

Go Pro: World of Warcraft. Everyone knows that the best time to have hours-long raids and play competitive games of the massively multiplayer online game WoW is in the middle of the night!

Go Home: Mario Party. You could kill vampires with the light and color these games emit.


Why: Analyze and respond creatively to situations.

Dosage: As needed

Side Effects: You may convince yourself you are a golden god and jump out a window.

Notes: LSD was made by Albert Hoffman in 1938 and has been used recreationally and in laboratory tests (which has resulted in some pretty hilarious YouTube videos. One of the biggest reason pros are so successful is their ability to do things differently, to adapt to situations and do the unexpected. These mind games are present in nearly every major competitive game; baseball has it in the choice of pitch, football in the choice of play, StarCraft in the choice of build. This comes with understanding the game, but is also due to the player’s natural creative impulses. And for those who don’t quite have the creative spark: LSD. One of the reasons German StarCraft II pro The Little One (TLO) grew to be a fan favorite was due to using unconventional strategies like defensive nukes.

Go Pro: StarCraft II. With an unbelievable potential for combinations of units and unique strategies, the game lends itself to innovative play. Strategies are constantly evolving and responding to each other, a fact that the most creative players always exploit.

Go Home: Tic-Tac-Toe. I could show you every possible move on a piece of printer paper.


Why: Helps one get over constantly failing.

Dosage: As needed

Side Effects: Decreased appetite, decreased sex drive, restlessness, anxiety, tremors

Notes: Antidepressants originated in the 1950s as Swiss scientists sought a cure for schizophrenia. They have been incredibly popular in recent years, with one in 10 Americans on some kind of antidepressant. No one starts out the best: you’ve got to play a lot and you’ve got to lose a lot. So get ready for some really depressing nights of constant failure and just not being good enough.

Go Pro: Street Fighter IV. Fighting games have become one of the world’s most competitive genres; and EVO, the largest annual fighting games tournament is no joke. If you can’t hang with the kids online, you shouldn’t even bother showing up. But if you do decide to start on the road to improvement, get ready to lose. A lot.

Go Home: Prince of Persia (2008). It’s all about just having a good time. Sit back, relax and let the good times swing, jump, and slide.

A hard-working father

Why: Instills a strong work ethic.

Dosage: Daily with occasional lectures

Side Effects: May cause resentment and show that you’re really not cut out for this in the first place.

Notes: The high percentage of MLG pros who also have fathers goes to show that parenting is rampant throughout players’ lives. At this point, MLG assumes players have fathers and thus does not even test for them.

Go Pro: Life. I keep hearing that this “hard work” stuff pays off in the long run. Who are they to tell me? Oh. Right. My dad.

Go Home: Freemium business models. “But I could just pay for it now.” Shut up. You’re ruining everything.


Illustration by Trip Carroll