Not all fun and games for pro e-sports players

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Professional e-sports player PIPONEER

Becoming a professional e-sports player has become a dream job for many children today.

The Yomiuri Shimbun sat down with PIPONEER, a professional player of the popular puzzle video game “Puyo Puyo,” to delve into the life of a professional gamer.

PIPONEER, 26, wakes up at 8 a.m. and spends the day rewatching his “Puyo Puyo” matches, studying various strategies and editing his videos before posting them on video-sharing sites. After dinner, he will usually play “Puyo Puyo” online for about four hours starting at 7 p.m., broken up with some physical exercise in between.

He used to work as a systems engineer, but in 2020, he decided to quit his job and focus solely on being a gamer. Even after turning pro, he said he still loves “Puyo Puyo” as much as he did when he was just playing it for fun.

“When I feel stressed, I relax by playing Puyo Puyo and zoning out,” he said.

For those who love gaming, it sounds like the good life, but can a person make a living off of it?

“Fifty to 60% of my income is from prize money, and 20% to 30% is from streaming and gaming events,” he said.

After winning a competition last autumn, he received ¥1 million in prize money. But it is extremely difficult to make a living as a professional e-sports player.

“I can do what I want and get by for now, but when I think about the future, I’m not sure I can keep doing this,” he said.

Mental strength

“I’m the type of person who enjoys the pressure, so maybe I have a screw loose,” PIPONEER said, referring to how he feels when the prize money is almost within his grasp.

Mental strength is vital for those who make their living as professional gamers.

The e-sports player said: “You can’t get stronger unless you know your weaknesses. If you have too much pride, you end up avoiding stronger opponents because you don’t want to lose. I realized that when I was in high school.”

“Puyo Puyo” is famous in Japan but is not as well-known overseas.

“I can become even better,” he said. “Of course, I want to be the best, but I also want to actively take part in helping to spread the word about this fascinating game all over the world.”

Using his experience as a systems engineer, he also visits schools or goes to events to give talks about programming “Puyo Puyo.”

What advice can he give to young people interested in becoming professional e-sports players?

“Don’t just play video games all day and only aim to [become a professional gamer],” he said. “You should also study in school and make sure you have other options, then make your decision. I think it’s better that way.”