Passion or practicality? Numerous esports careers hinge on this one simple question. Although it is amazing to imagine this picture-perfect movie-like scenario where the protagonist overcomes the odds to triumph, esports careers don’t always work out this way, and the odds are even greater the older you get.
For someone past the age of 21, very rarely do you ever even think about professional gaming as a possible career path. With young talent entering the scene constantly, that path to pro can seem nearly impossible.
And for Version1’s 29-year old VALORANT player, the practical path was a necessity early on. Throughout his early-to-mid 20s Loic "effys" Sauvageau had worked as a software engineer 25 to 30 hours a week.
“I always wanted to play games for a living, but realistically I knew that my age held me back from making that a reality,” effys said. “It is really hard to make it as a professional gamer even at a younger age. So at the time, it just felt out of reach.”
He remembers the moments where he would be the best performer on his team in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Mountain Dew League, only to be met with zero opportunities to capitalize on hard work and preparation.
“It sucked knowing that my age was a deterring factor,” effys said. “At that point, I had just come to the acceptance that gaming would be a side hobby and software engineering was my career.”
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
When VALORANT was released in June 2020, effys made the transition from CS:GO to VALORANT. His first ventures in the game were centered around having fun before he joined the FRENCH CANADIANS.
As he got more involved in esports, he began to reduce his hours at his previous software engineering job and placed a priority on esports for the first time in his life.
“I saw an opportunity that was not present before,” effys shared. “I just had this feeling VALORANT would work out.”
And soon after, he was picked up by his first major organization when Gen.G entered VALORANT and signed the FRENCH CANADIANS in May 2020.
He remembers the moment he got signed by Gen.G and how surreal the moment was for him. For years, esports had been a pipe dream, and now it was a reality.
Effys went on to win his very first event under the Gen.G banner at the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational as Gen.G established themselves early on as a top VALORANT team in North America.
For the next few months, effys lived out the esports dream playing tournaments where he could spend hours preparing for an event and not worry about how that would affect his work.
By being signed by a major organization, Effys, by esports standards, had finally made it after years of trying.
But after a honeymoon period, Gen.G began to struggle and effys was made inactive in October 2020 and ultimately dropped in November. At this time, worry began to enter effys’ mind as he wondered if this esports dream would be short-lived.
“Getting dropped by Gen.G was a low period for me,” effys said. “At my age, if you get removed from a team, it is easy for that to just be the end. The part that sucked was that it felt like my career had just started.”
Only 28 years old at the time, his worries were justified. With an influx of young talent entering a new game like VALORANT, it can be hard to not think about something that had affected him throughout his entire career in CS:GO.
He spent the rest of 2020 without a team, but in February 2021, his worries were put at ease when Version1 decided to bring him on as an inaugural member of their roster.
Effys took that opportunity to do some self-reflection on how he could become a better player for Version1. The biggest challenge? Realizing that even at 28 years old, he was a student to peers younger than him.
“I was so inexperienced in professional play compared to my teammates,” effys said. “Even though I was the oldest member on the team, I had to put my ego aside and take in this experience to learn as much as I could.”
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
Effys found even greater success with his new team and even made an underdog run with Version1 all the way to the VALORANT Champions Tour’s Masters: Reykjavík, the first international event in VALORANT esports history. And the experience was something he will never forget.
“Reykjavík was the highlight of my career and validation that this dream of being in esports was a reality and that just because I was old by esports standards does not mean that this is my ceiling,” effys said.
Version1 finished 5th-6th out of 12 teams at Reykjavík and would later round out the year unable to qualify for VCT Champions 2021. Yet, through this entire roller coaster of a career, Effys has finally found a home with Version1. And for him, 2022 is his opportunity to once again tower over adversity and create something great.
Not many 29-year old esports players can say that they are still playing at a professional level, but for effys, this is just the beginning of a newfound career in esports.
“Players that have not experienced what it is like to lose hope of your dream and have previous work experience do not realize how lucky they are,” effys said. “My drive and work ethic to be great in VALORANT stems from these past experiences. I do not plan on wasting this second chance to do what I love.”
One of VALORANT’s older players, effys is living proof that age is just a number and that your capabilities to continue improvement in esports is always possible. And it is something that effys has immense gratitude to Version1 for realizing.
“Version1 took a chance on me despite my age. They helped me become a better player and saw potential in me when others didn’t,” effys said. “I want to repay that back and help this team become something special.”
In 2022, Version1 has looked sharp and has already qualified for the NA VCT Stage 1 playoffs. The next step is making a return to the international stage as one of North America’s representatives at the first Masters event of 2022.
Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games