On esports retirement

Today’s my last day at Luminosity; after noticing a sharp decline in my mental and physical health over the last month and a half, I decided that it was the right thing for me to step away.

While I was considering this, I also made the decision that it’s the right time for me to step away from esports, as well. If you’ve followed my journey through this industry, you’ll have noticed some posts similar to this one when I depart jobs: there’s a pattern of excitement, burnout, depression, and an attempt at healing.

However, cycles have gotten shorter and shorter, and as I grow older, I’m realizing that my priorities have changed. I feel I need structure, stability, and space to grow as a person, and I want to put more effort into things that I’ve neglected in order to get where I am.

I’ve always resisted leaving the industry when it’s come up, mostly because esports is a pretty cool thing to be a part of. It’s a new industry, involving feelings and connections that mean a lot to me; contributing to that built a part of my identity that’s scary to leave behind. No matter how the evidence mounted that staying here wasn’t what I needed as a human, it was always easier to blame myself: “you didn’t try hard enough” or “you haven’t tried this way of making it work.”

Now it feels like those excuses have quieted enough for me to accept what was probably true all along: I’ve made working in esports such a big part of my identity and self-value that feeling that desire to focus on other life things feels like a failure. It feels like my brain is finally putting a stop to forcing it; I hate the idea of coasting, and where I work doesn’t deserve that, either.

Leaving esports is accompanied by a fear — a fear that I won’t have this unique thing about me anymore. A fear that I’ll suddenly become boring. That people won’t have a reason to talk to me, or that they’ll move on, leaving me behind. I’ll see them succeeding at things that I failed at or being places I wished I could be, and then I’ll internalize that reminder: “you could’ve been there if you were better.”

Facing that fear and developing a healthier response to it isn’t their problem, though — it’s mine. It involves realizing that I’ve made a better choice for myself, and that in most cases, I don’t know what my better self will look like; we see ideals that we feel we can’t reach, and chastise ourselves for struggling.

I think that esports, creating, and streaming are great industries, but they have the potential to lure people in who are seeking personal validation and gratification.

The idea of being someone (or being part of something) because of what I create is something that I’ve carried with me since I started blogging seriously at 16. Being good at writing was a way I felt unique, and having that guide my life choices has been a poison that’s just starting to exit my system.

That’s why I left journalism — I didn’t have the fire to constantly hustle for interviews or develop relationships that would lead to content, pitch new stories, or chase, chase, chase. But I still wanted to be a journalist, because it was a place I felt useful and valuable. That isn’t the same thing.

It’s easy to see idealized versions of other successful people in the esports industry, partially because they’re incentivized to do so. The idea of struggling publicly risks throwing your workplace, coworkers or conditions under the metaphorical bus — they don’t always deserve that, and it can severely affect the morale of people continuing to try their best despite toxic conditions.

However, it also does newer or younger people a disservice to think that they can just start streaming, writing, or tweeting and they’ll have a ticket towards doing cool things, meeting their idols, traveling cool places, and making a ton of money.

There is an actual job and work to be done, and the forward-facing, public figure superstars you see working at esports companies are not the typical result. Esports is not a luxury resort. Esports is not a ticket to an easy life. You need to provide value as an employee to justify your spot.

For the most part, esports is not at the state of giving people the healthy structure or stability that many people take for granted. The people you see at the top got there by sacrificing a lot in the pursuit of that; whether you yourself are able to make these same sacrifices and achieve your goals is not guaranteed.

Notice how I said “are able” to make the sacrifices, not whether you want to make them: I think this distinction is really important, because despite the desire to get somewhere, it might not be where you actually need to be.

I’m learning that right now. I need to be at a job that ends at a point in the day. I need separation between work and life. I need to be able to not be as personally invested in a role as an indicator of whether I’m worth love, care, or empathy.

Coming to this conclusion doesn’t make you yourself a failure, even if you’ve spent a lot of time getting there. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving up without trying. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t fight hard enough. It doesn’t mean that you’re never going to find happiness, or “your place.” The time wasn’t wasted.

People need to know this. Just like you don’t just choose to be a millionaire, you also don’t just fail at one plan, and then your life is over.

Life has more in store for you. This isn’t the end of the ride.

I wish I could tell you where I was going next, because it isn’t quite set in stone. I’m applying for some jobs, and mostly going to take at least June to attempt to heal the burnout. I’m watching a lot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (and you should too, if you like sci-fi). As someone who’s struggled to watch or play anything without thinking about how I “should be writing about/streaming/vlogging this”, losing a Saturday and not caring is a remarkable sign of progress.

Still, I still have the hunger for creating, and that really excites me.

I’ve always been insecure about my motivations for wanting to stream, write, or make videos, and I figure that if this whole thing hasn’t killed the itch, that’s a good sign; even after a bunch of burnout and mental health issues, I’m still not saying “eff this, this isn’t worth it.”

While I’m not going to dive into trying to create full-time tomorrow (nope, not a good idea at all), there’s still a part of me that wants to try to make things I’m proud of. I like writing. I like streaming. I like vlogging. I just don’t like that my brain emphasizes the “being a blogger/streamer/YouTuber” priority, rather than the actual creating; the mental voice telling me to “make the time worth it” is one I need to quiet.

Fixing that is probably #20 on the list of important priorities right now, but I thought I’d mention it, mostly so that people won’t think I’m just disappearing from the Internet forever. If I do write about esports in the future, it’ll be on my own terms.

I’m going to still be tweeting about esports (Dota 2 Major is gonna be hype, go EG), pro wrestling (watch Dragon Gate), and other things. I’ve been taking more photos lately, and that’s been a nice experience. I guess you’ll know if things spin up again because my Discord has an announcements channel that’ll get pinged.

Otherwise, the focus is mental health, physical health, and seeing what kind of person Matt is apart from esports. It’s going to be terrifying, but at the end of the day, it’s necessary: we are not static human beings, and we’re allowed to take the adventure to push for happiness.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
— Carl Jung

Mutuals, feel free to DM me on Twitter or something for Discord or Signal.

Bye for now.

Writes about life, gaming and cups of tea.

Writes about life, gaming and cups of tea.