Compared to most other occupations, esports players generally have very short careers, usually somewhere around five to seven years in length. The defacto retirement age has long been around the age range of 18 to 25-years-old partially due to the minimums set by tournament officials and the idea that reaction times start degrading the older you get.
As players age, there are also increasing pressures from responsibilities one has to take up in life. These include things such as balancing time with a significant other and for some having to attend mandatory military service among other motivations for a player to retire in their mid-2os. This means age is something that is very important when it comes to esports. Older players bring a wealth of experience to the table that the brand new players don't always have, much of it in life experiences. When it comes to working in a team as closely as they do in the Overwatch League, those skills can be invaluable.
For this interview, I reached out to 28-year-old Philadelphia Fusion player, Joona "Fragi" Laine to talk about age in esports since he's one of the older players in the Overwatch League and has a wealth of experience under his belt when it comes to competitive gaming.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
JY: You’re one of the older players in the Overwatch League and esports in general. Do you feel this gives you a different perspective on things?Fragi: For sure. I’ve been around for a long time, so I’ve seen esports come and go. I’ve got a lot of experience of how to function in a team.
JY: You think your experience helps you when working with younger teammates who lack the same experience you do?Fragi: Most of my experience with team play is from Overwatch, to be honest. Earlier on I played some DOTA and World of Warcraft, but it never truly dealt with competition. For the last few years, I’ve been playing Overwatch and gotten a lot of experience in how to improve as a team, how to behave as a teammate, and how to be productive
JY: Does your age ever come up when interacting with your teammates?Fragi: Not really. It’s mostly in a joking fashion. Gael "Poko" Gouzerch always calls me an old man, but the age doesn’t really come up much otherwise.
JY: What about younger players coming to you for life advice? Has that ever happened?Fragi: Not really. I talk to them from time to time, but they never really ask for it.
JY: There are a lot of new young players coming into the Overwatch League: Is there any advice you would give them? Things to look out for?Fragi: It’s hard to say. It’s mostly about basic human interaction skills that young players may lack. Just think about how other players may feel and how you would like yourself to be treated.
JY: There have been a lot of studies about reaction times and age regarding esports. The consensus is that around 25-years-old reaction times for players start diminishing. How do you feel about your own skills?Fragi: I don’t feel like my reaction has dropped. We did some tests for fun, and I did pretty well. I feel like it’s not really an issue at my age. Also, the experience you get compensates as well: having more experience on stage, knowing how to handle your emotions better, and stuff like that helps out.
JY: With the newer generation of players coming in, do you think they’ll be able to continue to compete at the same level you do when they reach your age?Fragi: Really hard to say how the competition will look in eight years. Maybe if esports is a lot bigger, the competition will be fiercer, but I feel that if players commit full-time into playing Overwatch or something similar now, it will be an advantage for them.
A lot of sports players play for a lot of years, and it really helps them. Just keep up the practice and the passion for the game and the players will keep getting better.
JY: We had one season of OWL, and we saw a few players burn out. Do you have any advice to players who are just entering the scene so they don’t burn out so quickly?Fragi: I think it’s just up to each person; you have to pace yourself. Don’t go too hard all the time throughout the whole year. You need to learn how to relax sometimes so you’re in good condition to play with your teammates.
JY: We also see younger players make mistakes on social media that can affect their careers. Is there anything you could advise them to do?Fragi: It’s mostly about life experiences. A lot of players just haven’t come across some situations. I think Overwatch League is pretty good at advising their players on how to behave on social media, so I think most of the players in OWL should be in a good spot.
JY: What are your thoughts on creative stable futures for older players in esports?Fragi: There was some talk about it a few years ago, I think it’s just about seeing how the whole esports landscape pans out. If esports becomes more mainstream, player careers will grow longer. I don’t think the reaction time is a big issue so a player's job can go on for a lot longer. So it’s mostly about esports becoming a viable career choice.
JY: Have you given any thoughts to what you would do when you retire?Fragi: I have my university on hold right now. I need to finish my Masters at some point.
JY: For what, if you don’t mind me asking?Fragi: I’m not sure what it is in English, but Data Communications and Electrical Engineering. Ideally, I want to work in esports as a coach/manager after my playing career, but I always have my university degree to fall back on.
JY: Now for some general Overwatch stuff; how do you feel about where the Fusion will end up for the season?Fragi: I think we have a lot of good experience, practice habits, and organizational experience that we have figured out that will help us do quite well. I think we’ll make playoffs minimum.
JY: Any thoughts or trash talk on for your first match of the season versus the Spitfire?Fragi: (Laughs) Choi "Bdosin" Seung-tae had some pretty mean words after the Grand Finals, so we definitely want to make him eat his words.
JY: One of our readers wanted to know how you bait Shatters and any other advice you have for lower tier competitive players.Fragi: It’s mostly about—it’s hard to explain. You have to see the pressure the enemy team has on you and you on their team. You have to force the enemy Reinhardt into a corner. Read the situation and force him to shatter. You need to tell your teammates to be ready for it, and then you don’t even need to shield it. They can just sidestep it.
For the lower tier, it’s mostly about practice. Really focus on yourself. Don’t worry too much about winning or bullshitting.
JY: And any advice for those players out there who are looking to earn a spot in OWL?Fragi: A really good first step is getting visibility in ranked and streaming. A lot of teams do look for marketability so get yourself out there and be active streaming and on Twitter. I think a lot of players overlook that part. If you’re marketable, teams may take more time looking at you even if you’re not the number one player.
JY: Finally, anything you want to say to your fans?Fragi: I appreciate all of the support the fans gave us from all around the world. We kind of came into the season as underdogs so I’m really happy just having all the fans. I hope we can give you a good Season 2.
Photo Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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