AUGUSTA, Ga. -“It’s a dream job. I’m 23-years-old, and I was working a regular job before this and it sucked, so getting to play 2K is always nice,” says Conner Rodrigues, professional NBA 2K player.
“Now that I’m able to play it for money it’s a dream come true. I never thought this would even a possibility,” says Jonathan Jefferson, professional NBA 2K player.
Three years ago, teens would have never expected playing video games would become a career field.
Now the NBA 2K league, a professional E-Sports league that features the best 2K players in the world, is one of many competitive E-sports competitions that have beaten the norm.
“Once I started getting older I started realizing I’m actually good at 2K, so I started putting more time to it, but always through the whole process of making it to the league, and playing the game I always took care of my other priorities first, always went to school. When I got done with school I got a job right after high school,” says Conner Rodrigues, Hawks Talon GC player.
But then many lives were changed when players were drafted into an 18-week season that includes tournaments, playoffs, and finals for cash prize bonuses on top of their income.
The highest base salary for 2K players is $37,000 plus free housing, travel, and benefits like medical insurance and a retirement plan. They can also sign endorsement deals to earn more income.
The league is only in its second season and it’s continuously growing.
“Bringing in new expansion teams every year from the NBA until we get the 30 teams involved in the league, so it’s going to grow. Also, we’re now doing tournaments in other markets, so just instead of going to New York and practicing and playing every week, we’re now in Orlando, we’re now in Vegas, so we get to travel and get to generate fans all over,” says Wesley Acuff, Hawks Talon GC coach.
Hawks Talon GC is a local NBA 2K league affiliate of the Atlanta hawks. Only 2 hours from Augusta.
Not only can you be a player, the league offers opportunities for coaches, managers, social media, live production and more.
“Getting into this industry is just like anything else you want to do. You just have to do your research, learn the background about it, get your feet wet as much as possible in the industry,” says Wesley Acuff.
This is what a typical day looks like for a team. Each day they are perfecting their craft to compete.
“We practice for about 5 to 6 hours a day, and then we go to the gym after that,” says Jonathan Jefferson.
“Setting up schedules making sure these guys are on time, taking the game serious, practicing the game plan. Also, keeping the guys in the gym, so that they stay healthy and not spend the season just getting out of shape,” says Wesley Acuff.
And traveling to New York for games. Players say this opportunity has impacted their lives tremendously.
“We’ve been to a lot of places already, and I’ve probably only been to two places since before the league,” says Jonathan Jefferson.
Even if you’re not playing the game, there’s opportunities in Augusta to learn how to make them.
Augusta university will be adding an Animation program this upcoming Fall.
“We’re setting you up to learn the skills sets that you use to make cartoons, video games, the things that people are out there enjoying. A lot of people have to make that stuff, so we’re teach those skills to get you a job in the industry,” says A.B. Osborne, Asst. Professor of Animation at AU.
Some job opportunities include animation, programming, level design, and more.
“We’ll dive into things like 2D and 3D animation, pre-production so everything from like character design all the way up to story boarding. You learn how to do some more technical things like character rigging, special effects. There’s going to be classes in 3D modeling, 3D texturing,” says A.B. Osborne.
Georgia being a great market for animation, Augusta felt it was necessary to give students this avenue.
“A lot of Hollywood films are shot here, Cartoon Network is here, Adult Swim, the people that do Bob’s Burgers Bento Box is here..video game companies are here. There’s quite a bit going on in Georgia,” says A.B. Osborne.