Shanghai (AFP)

While the first generation of professional players is already reaching retirement age, the esport faces a new challenge: after years of killing rivals in a virtual world, what can one do with one's life once hitched joysticks?

And this dilemma arises much earlier than for most sports. In the most frenetic games, players can indeed be pushed to the exit at their 23 years, age from which reflexes are supposed to decrease.

Because on an online battlefield, every millisecond counts. And in the esport, where 33 million dollars (a record) will be distributed this week in China for the ninth edition of The International, the time ... it's money.

Practitioners of the game Dota 2, on which face the best "gamers" of the world from August 20 to 25 in Shanghai, evoke them a "limit" age that can barely reach 30 years, a rare case in the esport.

Jingjun "Sneyking" Nu, 24, of the Newbee team, refuses to feel constrained by the weight of years: "People think that from a certain age, we are too slow and not good enough, but I think it does not matter. "

Michael "Ninjaboogie" Ross, Dota 2 expert, also hopes to challenge the age barrier. At 27, when reality catches up with him, he sweeps the issue aside.

"Retirement is the only thing I have ever really thought about," says the one who spent half of his life playing.

- Burnout -

Yet, the question of "What next?" is a hot topic for professional players.

In the manner of "traditional" sport, becoming a coach or an analyst is an option for esport players after putting their keyboard in the closet.

But according to some, many professionals would have a hurry after spending 12 hours a day in front of their screen for years: to finish, once and for all, with this sport.

For Duncan "Thorin" Shields, who presents himself as an esport historian, burnout, beyond the simple question of reflexes, is indeed one of the main reasons that forces players to retire if early.

Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling, however, wants to believe that the exponential increase in revenue generated by the esport has cleared the horizon of professional players.

"Five or ten years ago, we were forced to retire because the esport did not allow us to provide for our needs, and now we can very clearly live from this activity," says the 26-year-old retiree. since an injury, which has raised nearly $ 2 million during his career according to

- Social abilities -

"As esport grows and incomes rise, there will be more and more opportunities for new retirees in business, management and the media," said Roman Dvoryankin, managing director. of the team.

Dvoryankin also wants to employ a sports director, but he assures that there is no candidate on the market, a proof, for him, that many heads of the first generation still play.

The boss of rejects accusations that many esport players do not have the social skills to thrive after they stop playing pro.

"They are quite capable of communicating with others, but not face to face, but this is not specific to esport, it is a question of generation," he says.

"People think they're just sitting in front of their computers, but the fact is they talk a lot ... even if it's only online."

© 2019 AFP