I used to be a professional video gamer.
No, seriously. I was raised around computers since birth, and vividly remember buying first generation CD-ROM drives, 14.4baud modems - Kid Pix. From the moment I could stand, I was playing games with computers; my mother was a neurological researcher and did extensive study on the inner-ear and balance, and I can still remember balancing on this diagnostic pad to measure equilibrium, trying to keep an animated arrow in a box using my feet. Sort of like a Wii fit, except in the fuckin’ eighties. From asteroids in black and white, the rise and fall of Maxis, into my teens, for a myriad of reasons I was always playing something.
Then Half-Life came out and rocked everybody’s world. The subsequent mods that developed (namely Counter-Strike) were undeniably some of the best competitive online games available and spawned (aside from an entire generation of furious, shit-talking bastards) multiple online leagues and global tournaments. I played Day of Defeat, primarily - through the beta and subsequent patches. For a while, during the game’s brief stint as a low- to mid- priority competitive game, I ran a six-man team that would regularly beat the entrenched, well-sponsored “big name” squads.
Don’t get me wrong, I snort and snicker when I hear the term “e-sport” and “cyberathlete” too. Originally it was all for fun and we just happened to kick ass at it. Basically as a real team you play online leagues and try to find sponsors. Sponsors will provide anything from Ventrilo (voice chat) or game servers to full rides to international events where prizes regularly climb into six figures for the larger games. Ultimately we attended perhaps ten or twelve “real life” events, most of which required travel - although they were all in the continental US. Made a few thousand dollars which covered the travel expenses for our journey into ultimate nerd-dom, earned a few free plane tickets as well. Eventually the community tore itself apart and the team grew up enough to no longer have the time for competitive gaming. We’re still all on good terms with each other, and still talk now and again.