Anthony Sostre, a 22-year-old Florida resident, married his high school sweetheart and went to college for Classical Piano Performance. Now he’s a husband, father of an active toddler, and the chief marketing officer for Singular Sound, a music equipment startup.
And he’s a VR esports player.
Sostre became interested in virtual reality when his brother purchased an HTC Vive a couple of years ago. He played when they were together and enjoyed it so much that he decided to purchase a Windows Mixed Reality headset in 2018.
Initially, when he tried multiplayer games using WMR, Sostre says he “somewhat regularly lost tracking,” so he and his teammates “would just shout ‘Windows’,” giving rise to his gamer tag, windows.
Finally Sostre purchased an Oculus Rift earlier this year and now he competes in Ready At Dawn’s Echo Combat in the VR League with his team, Tunnel Vision.
Like many professional VR esports players – or those aspiring to receive monetary prizes for playing virtual reality games – Sostre has a full-time job, a family, and a dream.
“I’ve always been competitive,” he says, “and really need a competitive outlet to stay happy in day to day life. It gives me something to work toward.”
Others will relate to that competitive outlet being fulfilled through gaming. Sostre says he used to play Starcraft tournaments with his parents. Later his gaming progressed to first-person-shooters and strategy games.
“When I saw VR esports was a thing, I just knew I had to jump in,” he states, adding that he felt like there would be more opportunity by starting from the ground up rather than trying to enter something like the well-established Overwatch League.
There was another factor that influenced his decision to start playing VR games competitively.
“I sit for work eight hours a day,” states Sostre. He explains that VR esports seemed a lot more physical and healthy than traditional gaming. VR games provide an outlet for his energy.
Now, like many other VR esports players aspiring to be among the best, Sostre plays at least 20 hours per week. He says he’s only able to do that with the support of his wife because “if you’ve got a kid and a wife and a full-time job, time is stacked against you.”
It’s not easy to balance life's demands and any esport at a competitive level, but there are rewards for those who can do it. The total prize pool for VR League Season 3 is $250,000. That’s broken up across four games throughout the season, but the bulk of money will be awarded at grand finals in Leicester, UK on June 8-9.
Pro teams in traditional esports such as League of Legends practice upwards of 50 hours per week and that can earn them six-figure incomes. VR esports hasn’t quite reached that level, but it’s growing rapidly.
“At the end of the day,” Sostre says of himself and his teammates, “it doesn’t matter what hardships we’re balancing time wise. All of us have the odds stacked up against us in terms of life and time commitments, but we each find time to play and practice.”
After all, he adds, “we have a crazy awesome chance to compete in what we believe to be the future of esports! We can’t imagine not taking that.”