Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
This weekend I had the privilege of attending the Major League Gaming (MLG) event held in Orlando, FL, at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Hotel. The Major League Gaming event is a tournament event that brings hardcore gamers together to compete in tournaments against each other.
MLG was founded in 2002 by Sundance DiGiovann and Mike Sepso, who wanted to bring computer and console game tournaments to a competitive and spectator market. They have partnered with PlayStation and have many sponsors such as Sony Ericsson and Alienware who provide the computers and monitors, and Dr. Pepper and Stride gum who not only sponsor the organization but also provide free samples at the events.
The event it’s self is very well organized, allowing for amateur players to play against already established professional players after competing against each other. The games are displayed on large screens above the players so the audience can watch from a “spectator” perspective. There was a section for “Halo: Reach” for the Xbox 360, “Call of Duty: Black Ops” on PlayStation 3, and “StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty” on the PC. The excitement of the audience was so intense as the competitors get into watching the players competed, clapping and shouting with as much enthusiasm as a rock concert.
Audience members are even allowed the option, for a minimal increase to their attendance fee, to play the games in separate areas on individual computers and console. This allows the opportunity for gamers who have not played the games before to experience them.
I made several attempts to try getting an interview with any of the professional gamers and since they were so busy most of the time playing games I was extremely fortunate to catch a few minutes with each Michael Cavanaugh and Cody “Wethy” Wetherald, who are both on teams sponsored by “QuanTic”.
Pro Gamer: Michael Cavanaugh, age 23
Desiree Yates: So Michael, how long have you been with your current team?
Michael Cavanaugh: About 6 years.
DY: When did you first start playing video games as a career?
MC: I started when I was in High School on “Halo 2” then “Halo: Reach”.
DY: From experience I understand there were a lot of major changes from “Halo 2” to “Halo: Reach”, such as the major increase in weapon choices. Do you think maybe the weapon choices has gone a little overboard?
MC: No, I don’t think they went overboard at all. In fact I think they were perfect. I like the new sprint feature and jet pack the most.
DY: So when did you sign on with MLG and can you tell us roughly how much you make playing console games professionally?
MC: I’ve been with MLG since July 2005 and contracted for $250,000 a year.
DY: Wow, impressive! Do you have your own sponsers?
MC: Yeah, RedBull, Apex Esports, partnered with Twitch.tv, and a few others. (National Guard)
DY: So you are here in Orlando, FL right now for this tournament. How do you like Orlando?
MC: I like Orlando because of the sights and activities and I am staying four more days after the competition with my girlfriend.
Pro Gamer: Cody “Wethy” Wetherald
Desiree Yates: So Cody, what team are you on and how long have you played on that team?
Cody “Wethy” Wetherald: I’ve been on “QuanTic LeveraGe” team since “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Modern Warfare II” and I’ve also been playing “Modern Warfare III”.
DY: So can you tell me a bit about your experience as a professional gamer?
CW: I travel with MLG and love these events. There has been a major increase in sponsorship and turnout (from spectators). This is an industry that is still growing and will never go away, it will keep getting bigger and bigger.
Both Michael Cavanaugh and Cody Wetherald only had so much time before they had to get into another game, but it was obvious by their big smiles and energy they absolutely loved what they do for a living. And who wouldn’t? There are kids and adults of all ages out there that would love a chance to play video games and get paid for it. I know I sure would!
While the games themselves were terrific and the competitions were, well, competitive, I found the announcers though to be rather amateur. They gave off the impression they were probably related to someone to get the position as an announcer. After speaking to a few of the spectators, there seemed to be a somewhat general consensus agreeing with my observation that everyone would appreciate a little more swag, other then the free “Dr. Pepper” drinks and samples of “Warheads” candy and “STRIDE” gum.
Overall I found the event to be a terrific opportunity to experience what the hardcore gamer can do when put to the test. Their reaction times are phenomenal and they clearly know every inch of every map on their specialized games. Having been addicted to “Halo 2” myself, I can definitely understand their drive to want to know everything they can to exploit their opportunity to get just one more win. The sense of achievement even with something as simple as winning a video game is one that gamers have experienced since the early arcade games…where kids would burn through quarter after quarter.
Games today are much easier then they were originally. Just play a game of “Zelda” and you will notice it. But in a sense gamers have not really changed much…we all love the games…we play the ones we love the most several times working out several angles and scenarios on the “RPG” games and continue to strive to kick the heck out of our friends and others. This industry may still be in it’s beginning stages in some ways, but from the location of the event, the increasing sponsors and attendance from spectators…it is obvious this industry will just keep getting bigger and bigger.