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  • Carrington Walker

Why gamers in the South West are turning to esports to reach their dreams

We’ve all had dreams taken from us, be it due to factors we can or cannot control. A career path we grew up with, a footballer, an astronaut, a racing driver.

Though, not many of us are able to salvage anything from those dreams. We grow up and move on, develop new passions and interests. Those few, however, the few that can achieve some aspects of those dreams, they’re the lucky ones.

“It’s been mad” Tobin Leigh admitted to me over the phone.

Leigh, 19, lives in Bath and as a child always dreamed of a career in Motorsports.

“I really wanted to get involved with racing cars. But getting into the Motorsport industry is just far too expensive, as is quite well known. Even carting is super expensive.”

“My dream was knocked off immediately. As an alternative, I was shown by one of my friends, who is in Motorsports, that you could play racing games and that the physics were so similar it was basically the same thing.”

This would turn out to be the moment that led to the birth of ‘Racerz’, Tobin’s pro gaming persona and professional Forza Motorsports e-racer for Team Lazarus.

Leigh racing for Team Lazarus in Forza. Image Credit: Tobin Leigh

“When I was 13 or 14, I properly started to play racing games, trying to get good at them. - You could sign up to online racing leagues, which were groups of people who basically couldn’t afford to do it in real life.” He explained.

“So I would race in those - and I ended up rising through the ranks until suddenly, it has become a career.”

Until recently, gaming has been lumbered with a stigma that has attached itself since the start of the millennium. Various games, such as Fortnite, have begun to demonstrate to the unsuspecting public just how popular, and lucrative, esports is in the UK.

Many misconceptions are being swatted aside as the media latches onto the meteoric rise of esports, but a few older demographics are yet to be budged on some dated views.

“People have the stereotype that as a professional at this, you would be on it 24/7, constantly practising with no social life. But, for me anyway, it’s as far from that as possible.” The 19-year-old told me.

“It depends on the demographic you look at, from kids up to the age of 30 I would say it’s become well respected in the last three years. I’ve noticed such a big change in how it’s depicted by people. But once you get over the age of 30, like when my parents found out, you don’t really know much about esports. I think there’s just a lot of misinformation over what it actually is.”

So how exactly does Racerz prepare for competition time as a professional gamer?

“Now I’ve done the practising over the past few years, I know what it takes to perform at a high level and deal with pressure, so I just get a message or a phone call saying I need to compete on a certain day then I need to prepare for a couple of weeks using spread out practise sessions so I don’t burn out.”

Tobin 'Racerz' Leigh in competition. Image Credit: Tobin Leigh

Perhaps the best indication of how easy Leigh finds it to separate Tobin from Racerz is that he’s on course to graduate this year from an accelerated course at Plymouth University.

“The prize money (from gaming) makes it so worth it because I’ve already paid off university!”

Another sign of how switched on the Plymouth student is can be found in his career plan following gaming.

Currently studying business management, the Bath-based racer plans on entering the esports management realm following his graduation.

“Obviously with esports being a growing industry, I’m taking this degree so that I can look at the business end of esports (as a career).”

Tobin ‘Racerz’ Leigh is just one example of the forward-thinking esports scene currently residing in the South West of England. It’s a growing community full of people hoping to get a taste of dreams they once deemed out of their reach and now it’s time to put down the guard and pick up the controller.

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