Bart plays League of Legends at high level

Bart Wessels is a Windesheim student who makes a couple of hundred euros a month by gaming from his room. He regularly gets flown abroad for large tournaments. He plays League of Legends at a very high level.I can see the mistakes my opponents make.”

The average student stocks shelves as a part-time job or works in a warehouse. Third-year Accountancy student Bart earns money through gaming. He plays League of Legends and is one of the best players in the Netherlands. “However, I am also high up in the ranks in Europe. I am only just below the professionals.”

Strategic thinking
Every time he steps in front of his screen, he takes on the role of a ‘champion’, a specific character that each player can choose. “Every champion is skilled at something else. For instance, I prefer to play with Thresh (a ghost of some sort) or Rakan (a mixture between a human and a chicken) or Braum (an insanely strong person).” These champions are allocated before the start of each game. “There are 140 of them in total but only ten get chosen. That is why you barely ever play with the same character.” The game is played by working together with five teammates to defend a piece of land. You have to destroy the ‘Nexus’ of the opponents. Bart: “That’s a building that every team has. Destroying it is the ultimate goal of the game. The champions I play with always play a supporting role so that I can help my teammates. I keep things under control, observe the mistakes the opponents make and use those to our advantage.” 

“I always have to think tactically and that suits me well. A lot of people consider my role to be useless but it is very important. If I don’t make sure that we work together and communicate from early on in the game, we lose. I used to play a different role but I was less good at that. When I switched to support, I went from place thirty thousand in Europe to place two thousand. My best placement ever was number five hundred. 

Fans and influencers
Because Bart is one of the best players in Europe, he is often abroad for tournaments and competitions. “Those events usually take an entire weekend and everything is arranged for me.” The plane tickets, housing, food and drinks and everything else. “If my team does well, I get prize money on top of that. If we lose, I get nothing.” Sponsors visit tournaments where games are streamed live online and the influencers and fans are also there. “At tournaments and competitions, I am recognised by opponents, managers, coaches and organizers. I haven’t gone that far that the average League of Legends-fan will know me but I do interviews with my team with media sources that focus on video gaming. People from that world follow me on Twitter and I used to live stream through a platform called Twitch. A while back, I was flown in for a press day. I had to go up and down to London to get photos and videos taken for sponsorships. Everything was paid for.”

A lot of competition
To become a League of Legends-star, you have to be willing to do a lot. “The pressure is a lot; there is a lot of competition. If you play badly for a while, your team will replace you with someone else. Every season, I go looking for a new and better team. I apply to them for a position. I practice for two months because I have to improve my personal ranking. That is how you can show you’re good at it. Then there is a selection round in which you play against someone else. If your team admits you, you get a contract. “Thanks to my studies, I am aware that these contracts are often not legal. For example, you have a sworn oath of silence about internal business and they cannot make you do that. The salary, above all, is far below the minimum wage. I make about two to three hundred a month on salary, but if you look at the hours I put in and the massive pressure to perform that I feel, it feels like too little. But you still do it, because you’re glad to be on a team.”

Two worlds
Even though Bart spends a lot of time in his room, he is definitely not a hermit. “I am in contact with other people a lot. I am not a stereotypical gamer, sitting in my room with my computer without human interaction. I am barely ever alone, I play in teams and often have voice calls with other players. Thanks to League of Legends, I now have friend groups in England, Germany and Denmark.”

“After my studies, I want to play professionally for a year. It would be great if I could manage that. Now that I am playing at quite a high level already, I can see what it is like. Everything at the tournament is streamed live. When you hear the players shout your name and encourage what you’re doing… it feels incredible.”

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