Gabriel Parra was happy to be hailed as the “Venezuelan star” after setting the fastest time in an international F1 eSports competition in May.
“Truly, when I saw the result (…) it was something like magic, surprising, that dream I always had as a child I could make it come true,” said Parra, 23, who lives in the central state of Aragua and began to play video games at the age of four.
Parra is one of almost 3,000 young Venezuelans who compete in the multimillion-dollar “eSports” industry.
The lucrative business of electronic sports, with international signings, prizes and millions of spectators, has been making its way in the South American country despite economic chaos, a poor internet connection, electrical failures and the limitations of a law that restricts games warlike.
The dream of earning a living as a professional gamer is particularly important to many young people in Venezuela, given the few opportunities available in a country with a minimum wage of about $22 a month.
Venezuela has long suffered from hyperinflation under the government of Nicolás Maduro. Although it has slowed down a bit this year, its annualized inflation rate of 167% in May is still among the highest in the world.
Professional gamers who aspire to become international cracks train an average of 40 hours a week.
Globally, most players who sign with eSports teams can earn salaries ranging from $200 to $10,000 per month, plus prize money, according to data from the Venezuelan Electronic Sports Federation.
Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, one of the leading private universities in Venezuela, recently opened the first eSports academy to train players for international competitions.
A Beginner Gamers course has a cost of 150 dollars a month, and the caster (narrator, commentator) course costs 80 dollars, while the hourly rate from the recreational point of view is 5 dollars, said the academic coordinator Carlos De Open.
Yeickens Orozco, 27, was recently signed by Caracas Fútbol Club Esports, the first digital soccer club in the country, after he qualified for the eTrophy Champions 2022 event in April organized by the Venezuelan Football Federation (FVF).
“Both for the brands and for the players, all this growth in Venezuela is convenient,” Orozco said. “It is convenient for the gamer to professionalize himself, to live from it, and not just take it as a hobby. And the brands are seeing that at an international level this generates a lot of income.”