Most athletes in professional sport tend to end their playing careers in their thirties, but does this apply in the virtual world as well?
Often in traditional sports, you will see your favourite players/pros come and go, from their early beginnings as a young gun, all the way to a seasoned veteran when their days are numbered. In physical sports however, this decline is caused by age, and the eventual decline in physical condition, although some anomalies apply in sports such as Golf and Darts. So, it got me wondering, in Esports, where physical condition is not as important, if there was even a ‘cliff’ at all, and whether we have even got to the point where pros officially retire.
Spoiler Alert: There have been pros who for whatever reason, have retired in Esports. However, their reasons are not usually what you would expect.
The first example I found comes from Call of Duty, and is in my opinion, the biggest name to have ever come out of the game. Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag was a player on the OpTic organisation for many years and had finally found success when himself and his team won the inaugural CoD X-Games gold medal in 2014. Later successes in the year brought him 3 more championships and hopes were high running into the annual Call of Duty World Championships. However, the team dramatically disappointed and finished 7th, prompting Haag to ‘hang up the sticks for good’ in early 2015. Aged just 22 at the time, he has since formed 100 thieves a now thriving Esports organisation with a top team in League of Legends.
Next, we have Chad ‘SpunJ’ Burchill, who was an In-Game Leader for top Australian team Renegades until his retirement in 2016 on the game Counter Strike Global Offensive. Known for his stint on the most successful Australian line up in CS history, SpunJ felt the pressure of a downslide in results that lead to his retirement aged 26. While important was the lack of performance both individually and collectively as part of his team, pressure from an increasingly volatile fanbase also played a part in his departure. Despite this, SpunJ remains highly involved in the CSGO community, acting as a commentator and panellist at events.
While it seems that under-performance plays a role in retirements, some pros do play long enough to break the twenties, with by far the best example being TaZ, formally of Virtus Pro in CSGO. Aged 31 years of age, he currently plays for Kinguin, a fully Polish team. However, his legacy remains with the Virtus Pro line-up, which to this day is the longest consistent line-up in Esports history, lasting over four years. TaZ remains proof that E-Athletes can continue at the highest level into their thirties, but the sample size remains small, considering how Esports are only a recent phenomenon.