Normally, when we hear the word “gamer”, we picture a nerdy, antisocial kid who sits in front of a screen, playing video games all day. Their parents wish that these kids spent more time studying so they could secure a job in the future. In most cases they are right, because no one ever made A living playing video games, right? Nope, not anymore. Nowadays people who are really good at gaming can make it a viable career option, earning monthly salaries and with tournament winnings exceeding several hundred thousand dollars, it may actually be a better source of income than most “standard” jobs we are used to. Even though gaming is still far away from being recognized as a real sport, it is catching up, and it’s catching up faster than any other sport ever. With exponentially increasing prize pools, celebrity players who do endorsements and have fan clubs of their own, gaming is not to be taken lightly, it is a huge market with millions of players (There are more league of Legend players than people in France) and many opportunities to go big. Let’s take a look at ten individuals who defied common belief and went on to make a fortune by pursuing their passion. Here are 10 people who made fortune playing video games.
10. Damon “Karma” Barlow
Damon goes by the gamer alias “Karma” and is a Canadian competitive Call of Duty player and is one of those people who made fortune playing video games. He originally started off playing Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare. Even though he was a talented young player, he went unnoticed for quite some time, until MLG Columbus where he placed 10th with team yunGunZ, during the Call of Duty Black Ops season.
His success story started during the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 season when he joined team Fariko Impact. Going into the MLG Winter Championship in Dallas Karma and his team demolished all competition to win the prize of $20,000.This success streak continued for the next three events, including the 2013 Call of Duty Championship where Karma’s team won the grand prize of $400,000.Next year, Karma’s new team Complexity Gaming won the 2014 Call of Duty Championship and thus he happens to be the only Call of Duty pro to have won back to back Call of Duty Championships.
During the period of 2011-2015 he managed to amass over $306,182.27 in prize money from 62 different tournaments making him one of the most recognized and one of the best Call of Duty pros out there.
9. Moon “MMA” Sung Woon
This 29 year old goes by the gamer name “MMA” and hails from South Korea, a country that is well known as the gaming centre of the world. Here Starcraft is not a game, it’s a religion and professional Starcraft players are worshiped by their loyal fans as gods. People actually consider moving to South Korea to start a gaming career as one would consider moving to Hollywood to start as an actor. It’s gotten to the point where the Korean Air force has a Starcraft team so the young cadets don’t have to stop playing their favorite game after joining the armed forces. All this sounds crazy but wait till you hear how much these guys make in tournament winnings. Moon has made approximately $395,456 playing Starcraft over a period of a few years, not to forget the countless Korean girls who probably fell in love with him during his run as a pro gamer.
8. Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel
This man from USA is widely recognized as the first ever, true esports celebrity and professional gamer. He’s also among those very lucky people who made fortune playing video games. What sets him apart from every other entry on this list is the fact that he did not amass his fortune from expertise in any single game, rather from a multitude of games. He started off in 1999 playing Quake 3 Arena and over the years as a professional earned over $456,000 from 37 tournaments.
He has been featured in newsprint publications such as The New York Times, Forbes, Times and BBC World Service. He has competed in tournaments for various FPS titles such as Quake 3 ARENA, Unreal Tournament 2003, Painkiller, Quake 4, QuakeWorld, Alien vs Predator and Painkiller. He has competed in the most prestigious of esports tournaments including the Cyberathelete Professional League and the World Cyber Games.
During his career as a professional gamer he won a total of twelve world championship titles, and four player of the year awards. He is currently an entrepreneur, owner of a company called Fatal1ty Inc. through which he sells his own brand of gaming gear in partnership with OCZ Technology, Creative Labs and ASRock. In honor of his contributions to professional gaming he was awarded the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award by eSports. He was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame in 2010 and also holds a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
7. Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok
Lee Sang Hyeok or Faker, as he is known in the game League of Legends is a Korean national talent whose rapid rise to fame began with his results in team SK Telecom in the OnGameNet 2013 tournament. Although his team was one of the underdogs, with the help of Faker’s aggressive playstyle his team effortlessly defeated the more established ones and eventually placed a convincing 3rd in the tournament. Not at all bad for a debut in the professional scene right?
Known to play the characters Ahri, Fizz, LeBlanc, Orianna and Zed, Faker is widely considered as one of the best League players of all time, and we believe the guy has room for improvement, considering he is only 21 years old and already has so much experience under his belt. In terms of money earned versus number of tournaments participated in, he has made approximately $479,762 from only 26 tournaments. That puts him at an average of $18452 per tournament he participates in.
6. Jang “MC” Min Chul
This particular Starcraft veteran from Korea is renowned as one of the greatest Protoss players of all time, with quite a few titles to his name. If you knew this fantastic player, you’d not be surprised to know that he’s among those people who made fortune playing video games. He is the first ever to win two GSL tournaments, and as of May 2014, had earned the most money from tournament winnings of any Starcraft player, at $454,746.Since then however he has made even more, crossing the 0.5 million dollar net worth mark and is currently sitting on $504,011.49 from 108 tournaments, which makes him a veteran in the Starcraft world.
Apart from his skill in game, he is also renowned for his cocky attitude prior to the game and his ritualistic ceremonies after winning matches. Once he even dressed as the Undertaker, the legendary WWE wrestler for the 16th round of the group nomination ceremony at the 2012 OnGamenet Starleague Season 1, complete with smoke, coffin and similar lighting. Now that is some serious showbizz!
5. Lee “JaeDong” Jae Dong – People Who Made Fortune Playing Video Games
Now we are back in Korea (again),this time with another Starcraft professional who’s widely considered as the greatest Zerg players of all time. For all you non-gamers reading this list and wondering what in the world that means, “Zerg” is one of the playable races or factions in the real time strategy game Starcraft, which happens to be wildly popular in South Korea. Not surprising is the fact that the best Starcraft players are Korean too.
Lee started as a professional at the young age of 16(16 in video games is like 24 in real sports) in the year 2006 playing for team Lecaf Oz. He was awarded the Rookie of the year Award in 2006 at the 2nd Annual Korea e-Sports Awards. His achievements include multiple first place finishes in tournaments such as the Seoul International Esports Festival 2007, WEC 2014,OSL and many others. He is the third ever to win the prestigious Golden Mouse Award and the second ever after SlayerS_’BoxeR to win two consecutive OSL titles. As of now, he is THE highest earning professional Starcraft player of all time, with over $611,000 won from over 98 tournaments. Lee came at number 5 in our list of 10 people who made fortune playing video games.
4. Danil “Dendi” Ishutin
We are all tired of watching Koreans take all the money in by now right? So lets change the region and the game. Enter Dendi, a professional gamer who has more followers on social media than the Ukrainian national soccer team is one of the top 10 people who made fortune playing video games. At first glance, he may seem all goofy and simple minded but make no mistake-his in game appearance is that of an extremely cunning player who capitalizes on every mistake his opponent makes to achieve an insurmountable lead his foes can never recover from. He started off playing Defense of the Ancients, a popular mod for the RPG, World of Warcraft.
He was playing for team WC back in 2006, then for team DTS. But his rise to fame began the same year a new competitive game that would surprise the whole gaming world was announced-Defense of the Ancients 2 or Dota 2.In the year 2011,Valve Corporation announced a tournament for Dota 2 with a $1.6 million dollar prize pool- the biggest ever prize pool any game had offered in the history of electronic sports up until then. Just three weeks before the big tournament the Ukrainian squad of Na’Vi received the key to the beta version of the game. Going into the tournament Na’Vi looked unbeatable, defeating all competition with their unorthodox and aggressive playstyle. Their first and only loss came in the first game of the best of three finals to the top Chinese team EHOME. Na’Vi beat EHOME 2-1 and took home a million dollars in prize money.
Dendi has been playing for Na’Vi since then and has attended all the Internationals up until now. He has earned $627,883 from 71 Dota 2 tournaments. Also there is a documentary on YouTube called Free to Play which shows a great deal about him as a player.
3. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov
A former member of the Na’Vi Dota 2 team, and the first professional gamer on the list to have crossed a million dollars in prize money earnings, this young Estonian is a talented support player who always put his team before anything else. Renowned for his unorthodox drafting, selfless support plays and history as the captain of Na’Vi Puppey is one of the most respected players in the scene of professional Dota 2.Currently a member of Team Secret and continuing to amaze us all with his superb plays and decision making, Puppey has earned over $1,062,905 in tournament prize money. Clement came at number 3 in our list of 10 people who made fortune playing video games.
2. Sumail “Sumail” Hassan
This 16 year old millionaire started making headlines last year January when the renowned north American Dota 2 team Evil Geniuses picked him up as their midlaner, and then he played a pivotal role in them winning over a million dollars in the 2015 DAC Championships. Today Hassan is one of those people who made fortune playing video games.
Hailing from Pakistan, a country where gaming is the last thing that comes to one’s mind as a profession, Sumail moved to the US with his family when he was only 15, and one the members of EG noticed him playing online and instantly recognized the immense talent in the kid. The manager of Evil Geniuses approached Sumail’s family and convinced them to put the kid in the organization’s care, Sumail had finally found the door to his dreams, he just had to open it. He did so in the best way possible, netting the team more podium finishes throughout the year and then eventually winning the most prestigious DOTA tournament of all, a tournament whose prize pool rivals that of tournaments held for tennis and golf.
He and his team, Evil Geniuses won the international 2015, which had a prize pool of over $18 million out of which Evil Geniuses received more than $6 million. His mom and dad must be really proud of their 16 year old son’s career choice now.
1. Peter “Ppd” Dagger
Captain of DOTA 2 team Evil Geniuses, former Heroes of Newerth player ppd switched to Dota 2 in late 2013,a time when HoN was dying and Dota 2 was rising in popularity. Coming from a MOBA background, ppd instantly established himself as an excellent player, and a better captain. His perspective of the game and analytical skills make him an excellent captain and a respected leader. Under his captaincy Evil Geniuses have retained their place as the best American Dota 2 team and one of the top 3 teams in the world since more than a year. He is also one of the few professional Dota 2 players to have won an International, and currently is the highest paid professional gamer in the world based on tournament winnings, at $2,081,844.36 from 44 tournaments. Esports has still got a long way to go before someone starts making money like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, but at this rate it’s gonna catch up real fast. With prize pools increasing from $1.6 million to over $18 million in just 5 years, who knows what’s next.
10 People Who Made Fortune Playing Video Games
- Peter “Ppd” Dagger
- Sumail Hassan
- Clement “Puppey” Ivanov
- Danil “Dendi” Ishutin
- Lee “JaeDong” Jae Dong
- Jang “MC” Min Chul
- Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok
- Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel
- Moon “MMA” Sung Woon
- Damon “Karma” Barlow
Written by: Saurav Rath