Is Major League Gaming your ticket to financial freedom?

xbox 360 controllerDuring my lifetime video games have transformed from simple games mastered with a single joystick to a graphically intense activity for men and women of all ages, bordering national past-time status. It should come as no surprise that during this rise popularity and growth an organization would emerge to catalog competitions and showcase battles of epic proportion waged solely with controllers and trash talk. Major League Gaming (MLG) started in 2003 and has grown into the main purveyor of video game exhibitions, offering fame and fortune to those with enough hand-eye coordination and swagger to brave an arena filled with competitors named, "FaTaLitY" and "godsmurfrmc".

Amateurs can compete in "GameBattles," which are essentially the farm leagues of Major League Gaming, for the chance to be called up and compete for over $100,000 in prizes at national competitions. Some of the famous players in the MLG also net lucrative sponsorships for their aptitude at destroying opponents in HD on demand. Can it get any better? I know I'm not alone when I say that I would love to make playing video games my main job, especially at a six-figure level, but for most of us it isn't realistic. The leaders of the MLG circuit can rip us newbs to shreds as easily as you or I can make a PB & J sandwich.

Before you decide to quite school or resign from your job you need to remember that it is called Major League Gaming. I'd be willing to bet that the number of gamers who can turn pro and make a living off of gaming is lower than the 3% of college athletes who play professional sports. MLG focuses on shoot'em up games, but there is also a very competitive arena for rhythm video game stars who kick out killer jams in Guitar Hero. Recently Chris Chike, a 17-year-old from Minnesota, attained the highest rating on Guitar Hero leaderboards and a place in the Guinness World Records book for his gaming skills. Chike also became the spokesperson for Ant Commandos, a video game hardware company, letting him cash in on his gaming prowess.

Unfortunately, for every Chris Chike, there are untold numbers of gamers who don't make it to the pros, including those who give up on academics before they make it big. A 16 year old gamer in Raleigh, NC recently dropped out of school to hone his Guitar Hero skills, a decision which will have dire consequences if he doesn't complete his home schooling. As a 8-year veteran of competitive gaming notes, to make it as a professional you need to be in the "top 1%," because "third or fourth doesn't mean much."

As excited as I am about this opportunity for a few people to get paid for doing something they love, and that video gaming is making inroads into mainstream areas of society, I think many of us should remember that it may not be that we are that good, but that our friends are that bad. Just as you wouldn't attempt to try out for the Jets after a great weekend of flag football, going professional in gaming is best left to those with true skill. Play it safe and keep showing up for class or work until you at least make it out of the farm leagues. A faint chance of making it in Major League Gaming isn't worth dropping out of school or going on unemployment!
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