Gaming: the next level

Providence will be the center of the video game universe this weekend when it hosts Major League gaming's national chamionships
By DANIEL MCGOWAN  |  November 16, 2011

CAREER OPPORTUNITY “Gaming could be a full-time job,” says Jordan “Proofy” Cannon.

Remember the days when being a video game champion meant having the high score on Pac-Man at your local arcade?

Neither does Jordan "Proofy" Cannon.

The 18-year-old whiz kid is a rock star among the Generation 2.0 gamers redefining the image of gaming — transforming it from a hobby for awkward Yoo-hoo-drinking teenagers to a serious profession complete with sponsors, endorsement contracts, and fanboys who follow the top players as though they were Dustin Pedroia.

No longer are players locking themselves in dark rooms and staying up all night to play games while their parents sleep. Now they're sporting sponsored jerseys and taking money from some of the largest brands in the world.

Cannon and his gaming cohorts — nearly 20,000 players and fans — will descend on Providence this weekend for the annual Major League Gaming (MLG) national championship, a sort of Rose Bowl for people who live for the digital slaughter of PlayStation.

The players — more than 1200 from as far away as Korea, Ukraine, Sweden, and Australia — will compete in a series of intense two-loss elimination tournaments as they battle for the crown of world's best player.

To accommodate these gaming gurus, the city will declare Friday Major League Gaming Day and the Convention Center will transform into a fantasy land of sorts, complete with a fanfest area where amateurs can test out unreleased games and compete in their own tournaments.

SERIOUS FUN MLG events are a sort of Rose Bowl for people who live for digital slaughter.

For the biggest event — the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty championship — stadium-style seating will be provided for hundreds of fans to watch live on three 20-by-20 screens with live commentators calling the match. That doesn't include the live stream, which could reach 100,000 viewers. To keep the focus, the players will be locked in a soundproof booth.

The winners will earn more than just bragging rights; more than $1 million in prizes have been doled out over the course of the season, with some of the top players raking in over $100,000 in award money and endorsement dollars.

The games included as part of the national championship are not for the faint of heart. StarCraft, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Halo: Reach are bloody, high-octane, and high-definition. And given their popularity — the $65 billion video game industry is more profitable than movies now — the league has been able to draw its share of attractive brands.

According to Adam Apicella, MLG's senior vice president of league Operations & Production, the league now has partnerships with Dr Pepper, NOS Energy Drink, Sony Ericsson, and Sony PlayStation.

It's all part of the global strategy to become a spectator sport that rivals any of the top sports leagues in the world. The idea is that kids are spending more time glued to a television or computer screen playing games than they spend playing outside. If the MLG can convince them that becoming a professional gamer is actually realistic, it might be on to something.

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  Topics: Videogames , Video Games, Halo, gaming,  More more >
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