Retirement in esports is a subject that’s slowly starting to gain more steam as more competitors enter the field. Even the best athletes are embracing retirement in their mid to late twenties as they move into more content-oriented roles, but why? There is no “ideal” retirement age in esports, even as critics claim that age brings issues of things such as slower reaction times.
Major influencers in the industry, including Shroud, are claiming that early retirement shouldn’t be an issue. When asked what age esports players can still play competitively, Shroud answered: “Maybe 50 is your max. I truly believe that. If you were starting early, say 16 [or] 17 playing competitively and you played professionally until you were 50, you’re still going to be playing at a high level.”
When issues like reaction time inevitably came up, Shroud continued: “Yeah sure, you could lose some reaction time. But I’m telling you, you will still be at that high level if you have that same passion, drive, and motivation to improve. You’ll still get there, you’ll still have it.”
Maintaining a competitive drive as a more mature gamer could potentially come with some major benefits. Older esports pros could naturally retain a better wealth of game knowledge and experience, something that younger competitors have yet to obtain.
So why are esports players still facing early retirement? For athletes in traditional sports, issues like injuries and physical detriments due to aging have a heavy influence. For gamers, it might be more of a mental issue. Perhaps it’s less about reaction time and more about burnout. For some, playing the same game at a competitive level is draining, and a lot of players lose their love for it.
This was an issue 3-time Call of Duty Champion Damon “Karma” Barlow faced last year when he announced his retirement.
“I think I can play new CoDs for about a month before I get over playing the game,” he stated during the Modern Warfare season. Others are also starting to hint at hanging up the controller.
Seth “Scump” Abner, one of the best Call of Duty players of all time, has expressed reservations about continuing into the next title. While playing Cold War on stream, Scump responded to a fan who stated that he’ll be “nasty” at next year’s title: “Dude, I’m gonna have to see – listen my contract’s up at the end of this year. I’m gonna have to see what that sh*t looks like before I sign another one… I’m gonna have to see that. I’m gonna need a gameplay trailer. Because I don’t know about all that. I gotta see that. I’ve heard a whole bunch of different things – I don’t know what to think ”
As more top competitors hit their late twenties, we’ll inevitably see more announce their retirement as they move into areas like content, commentary, and coaching. Until we can pinpoint the specific areas causing this burnout, or find concrete evidence of decline due to age in studies, the early turnover could remain severe. Or maybe it’s simple: Playing the same game every day for decades just isn’t the way to maintain a long and healthy career.