How Gabriel Perkins became an esports professional

Playing video games can mean different things to different people, and for Gabriel Perkins, “Super Smash Bros Ultimate” is not just a game, it’s a sport. Esports (electronic sports) is competitive playing of video games. Perkins competes in online and local tournaments, and has come to describe himself as “the best young link player in South Carolina,” one of the many playable characters in SSBU. So, how did he get to where he is today?


Perkins practicing in-game
Gabriel Perkins practices on his favorite character: young link

Practice is essential to improvement, and the importance of practice becomes clear from the pure volume of practice time, averaging at over 30 hours per week. These 30 hours aren’t spent messing around either. That time is spent tactically for maximum improvement. Around 30% of his practice is spent by himself.

“For fighting games, there is this term called ‘labbing’ which means you practice on your own… you practice with your character and you practice combos”

The other 70% of his practice involves playing in scrimmages against his friends, and participating in online tournaments. The combination of specialized practice and more general practice led to rapid improvement for Perkins.

On a good day, I can practice for about 5 hours a day, and with marching band… I would have maybe 3 hours a day on those days, but on the weekend I can go up to 8 hours a day

— Gabriel Perkins



Just playing a game for a high number of hours doesn’t necessarily make a player good, let alone good enough to be a pro player. There are people who have spent thousands of hours in a game, and still aren’t great at that game. the difference-maker between someone who plays a game a lot and a professional player is their mindset. Perkins thinks that a winner’s mindset is the best mindset to have.

I think the best mentality to have is like ‘I’m going to win’, but you also wanna learn from it.

— Gabriel Perkins

In order to win, Perkins chose to focus on improving his skills at playing one character, rather than being a jack of all trades.

“I like learning my character a lot and I mainly only play one character, so I want to just be the best with that character”



Gabriel Perkins competes in local tournament

Tournament experience is also essential to success, and finding local tournaments might be harder than it seems at first.

“If you’re trying to get into it you need to know your scene a lot. I thought there weren’t any tournaments in South Carolina, and it turns out the place they were posted was a Facebook group, and that was the last place I was going to look.”

Not all tournaments are created equal either. Playing local, in-person, tournaments instead of online ones make a large difference in improvement. Perkins stated that “Local tournaments are always better than online tournaments.”

The other thing about in-person tournaments is that the experience is different, which may lead to increased nerves when playing in-person.

Being next to your opponent feels different. It’s a different type of stress… because of school I haven’t been able to go out locally as much any more, so I’m more comfortable online, so I’d say its more stressful for me, but that’s my own fault.

— Gabriel Perkins


If you want to become an esports professional, you have to go all in. You can’t expect to be better than people that spend exponentially more time than you do.

“You can’t just be casual about it because if you’re trying to make it into a job, you have to really put in a lot of time for it.”


Becoming a good professional is far from easy, but if you put in the practice, have the right mindset, get enough experience, and have the drive, you could become a professional, regardless of external factors.

I think anybody can be a professional player, you just have to put in the time

— Gabriel Perkins