Wanna play a game? Ian ‘Enable’ Wyatt is at the head of a group of players earning points and money in the burgeoning discipline of professional video gaming. At a pro gaming event, The Red Bulletin pushes their buttons to find out what makes them tick (and click).
On a sunny Soho Saturday afternoon in New York, a group of young men have gathered in a loft to play video games. This in itself is not unusual. However, in one corner of the room, an Emmy-award winning television director is sitting at a mixing console, readying a five-camera set-up for live broadcast of the games to the internet. In another corner, a table of food laid out for the gamers is not creaking with pizza, but instead offers bison wraps from Energy Kitchen and eight different kinds of salad.
The ages of these young men range from 17 to 27, and almost all of them are wearing some combination of T-shirt, hoodie, baseball cap, jeans and trainers. But these are not the nerds you’re looking for. To a man they’re polite, well-spoken, intelligent and friendly. Some of them run their own businesses and, despite the recession, are planning to expand. Today, before they conquer the commercial world, they are going to show why they are among the very best video games players in the world.
Ian Wyatt might just be the number one among them. He was born in January in 1994, the same year that Sony introduced the PlayStation console and kick-started video games’ rise into mainstream entertainment. Wyatt, who is known by his in-game pseudonym, Enable, has been gaming competitively since 2007 and has hopes and dreams like anyone else his age. He wants to go to college, qualify as a certified public accountant and run his own clothing label, while continuing to excel as a pro video gamer. Up in the Soho loft, for the Red Bull LAN invitational event, he is the player all the others look to as being the current number one.
“When I first started, I had no idea about all this,” he says. “I got into competitive gaming because my brother played LAN, then I got better than everyone in my neighbourhood, then I found out about Major League Gaming. At my first three events there, I didn’t get out of the amateur brackets. So I put more time into it.”
(There won’t be another jargon-buster paragraph like this one, promise: LAN – pronounced ‘lan’, as in ‘land’, stands for ‘local area network’, a bunch of computers, or video games consoles,min close proximity, connected to one another directly, via cable or Wi-Fi, but not via the internet. The internet, an open network of millions of computers, is effectively the opposite of a LAN. The term is also used to describe gaming events at which computers and consoles are connected in this way. Major League Gaming is a leading provider of organised video game contests, aka pro video gaming, competitive video gaming and e-sports. In 2012 it will be running its ninth season circuit of pro video gaming. Prize money at its four major tournaments this year totals $300,000.)
“You have to be dedicated and put in the hours,” Enable continues. “Going to competitions is huge, because you go there to prove yourself, and then the other guys know who you are and find you online, to challenge you. If you don’t have the dedication, you have nothing.”
As anyone who has been in thrall to a video game will know, the dedication required, and the commitment a game draws from a fully engaged player, can lead to waking up on the sofa with a video games controller in your lap after falling asleep at the wheel – or wielding a sniper’s rifle, wearing a quarterback’s jersey or the blue overalls and red hat of an Italian plumber named Mario. For the leading gamers, sleepless nights and endless days at the controls are their equivalents of the extra laps and practice sessions that turn promising child athletes into professional sportsmen and women. (Apologies to the parents of teenagers reading this.)
Read the full story in March's issue of The Red Bulletin.