My meeting with one of the most well-known and established professional video game teams was set earlier this month inside a typical, nondescript suburban home in Aurora.
When I walked into the house with my photographer, I immediately got the sense this place was all about focus and work.
Every room I saw in the home was bare. Nothing on the walls. No furniture at all. It looked like a home that was just cleaned out and ready for a move-in.
It was in the basement where I met members of the famous compLexity Counter Strike team (yup, it has a big “L” in the middle of the name). Five powerful computers lined the wall, along with with monitors and large mouse pads.
This was their practice room and two team members took an hour with me to talk about their lives in the eSports industry.
Here’s part of my interview with professional gamers Derek “desi” Branchen and Rory “dephh” Jackson who make a full time living playing Counter Strike for big money tournaments.
Jackson and Branchen have been practicing for a $1.5 million tournament prize pool
How often do you guys practice?
Branchen: We wake up, we eat, and we get right on the computer for about 8-12 hours. So you miss a lot of that person family time.
Jackson: We just want to play all day. We can play for five hours straight. Even if we’re fatigued, we’ll still play.
What’s it like playing in a big tournament and what’s the largest prize you’ve won?
Jackson: They pay for your flights, they pay for your hotels. Like when we went to China, it’s luxury. We had a room to ourselves.
Branchen: I’ve won a couple of events. 20-thousand dollars. Something for like a weekend tournament. Split that five ways.
When you have that money hanging over your head, it’s got to increase the intensity.
Branchen: It definitely does. The intensity goes up when you know money’s on the line. At the same time, we’re all playing a game that we love and at the end of the day we’d probably be playing this game even if there isn’t money on the line.
There is a level of fame, within your industry……
Jackson: It’s kind of insane. Meeting fans at events. It really is strange, because you meet these people, and they come up to you and want your signature.
Does it ever feel like a job though? That sometimes you just get tired of gaming?
Branchen: Oh yes. Definitely. Sometimes, you go four, five days straight playing 12 hours a day. You’re gonna get sick of it. But you take a break for a day, and you feel great playing again.
Jackson: We have arguments in this house, they’re not always constructive. But sometimes they are. But sometimes we have to have these kind of things.
What do your folks think about this?
Branchen: Growing up, parents definitely didn’t support it. There have been times where my parents have taken my headset and ripped it out of the wall and threw it out the window. But once they saw there was opportunity in it, they saw that I went to college. They were happy about that I got my degree. At that point they didn’t really care.”
What do they say now?
Branchen: They love it….they follow every minute of it.
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