Russia’s Gaming Landscape

Russia has proven to be one of Europe’s most fertile cybersport markets, topped only by Sweden. The Russian Ministry of Sport officially recognized gaming as a sport in 2016, making top cyber-athletes eligible for state sporting awards.

Tournaments are already filling Moscow’s largest stadiums, with fans paying out as much as 9,900 rubles ($175) for three-day passes. These events draw Russia’s professional teams, each backed by major Russian sponsors.

Dmitry Belyaev, a27-year-old corporate lawyer, jumped inonthe action in2007 when hefounded Elements Pro Gaming—today amainstay ofthe Russian professional gaming scene.

Belyaev says that Russia’s love of pro-gaming is akin to the nation’s love of chess. “Chess is very similar to eSport disciplines such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends,” he says. “Players have to build their teams by combining different video game characters with different strengths and weaknesses.”

Just like chess grandmasters, Belyaev expects his cyber athletes to show real dedication to their craft. “In any sport, if you want to achieve high results, then you need to train forward and compete in professional tournaments,” he says.

To help foster high performance from their cyber athletes, teams try their cyber athletes, teams try to provide all the trappings of a professional sports team. Instead of football stadiums, teams like Elements Pro and Virtus.Pro use bootcamps and “game-houses,” where their team comes together to practice and play.

Sukhanov, head coach for the Vitrus.Pro League of Legends team, keeps
his players on a tight training schedule. Lunch is served at 2 p.m.,
followed by a light warm-up. Training begins two hours later and can
last until 2 a.m.

Sukhanov, who previously worked as a chemist,
says that an analytical mindset helps him coach the very best from his
players. “We play together, but we also watch replays of individual
matches and analyze them,” he says. “We make sure that every team member
understands our tactics.”