Major League Gaming hosted their 2014 Call of Duty U.S. Championships on campus this month, attracting a number of the country’s best players to compete in a three-day Call of Duty: Ghosts tournament. Among them was Matthew Potthoff, a 2013 Entertainment Business graduate and member of Team Curse. Matthew got into e-sports at 14 years old, starting in Halo 2 competitions, and has since become a major force in the Call of Duty circuit.
“Back when I was younger I really enjoyed playing games for fun, but now it’s all serious, it’s down to straight business and competing,” he says. “Coming to Full Sail, I wasn’t interested in developing video games, I was more interested in marketing for eSports. I thought it would be a good fit for me because it let me play video games professionally and learn the business side at the same time.”
The fact that you can build a career in competitive gaming is a testament to how far video games have come since the early days of Atari and Nintendo, as well as the legitimate talent and popularity of these players. MLG events attract millions of viewers online, not only for Call of Duty, but there are also huge numbers for other popular titles like League of Legends and Starcraft, all of which generate large revenue from advertisers.
“For the viewer I think it’s complimentary to sports,” Matthew says. “People watch sports all the time, and with video games on TV and websites, I think it’s a good substitution. League of Legends is three times as big as Call of Duty, and the numbers that come from people watching it is more than some television shows and movies. The impressions that they’re able to hit on Twitter and Facebook when they’re streaming is pretty incredible.”
More people are playing games now than ever before, but Matthew stresses that it takes a unique dedication to even get to the competitive level, let alone maintain your skills. It also keeps him limited to what he allows himself to play. As he explained, he tends to isolate himself to Call of Duty since switching to another game with a different control scheme can derail his focus.
“I would say I practice at least five hours a day during the week, and then the weekend at least eight,” he says. “Some players like to play other games, but I would only play a game that doesn’t throw off my muscle memory, if that makes sense. If I play Halo for two days it takes me awhile three or four days to get back to where I normally was on Call of Duty.”
“It’s a lot of hard work and you really have to be passionate and motivated. When a new Call of Duty comes out I go right into multiplayer and start playing it with other professional players to learn the spawn points, spawn traps, and the best guns for different situations. It comes down to overplaying the game and breaking it down so you know it 100%.”
There’s obviously a clear difference between your casual gamer and those like Matthew who have dedicated themselves so intensely to competition. While video games were once viewed as just a hobby, the physical and mental challenges for eSport players are comparable to the discipline required by other athletes, and as the popularity of gaming culture continues the opportunities are only going to grow for current and future competitors.
“As far as making it a career out of this, it’s dependent on how well you play in tournaments, and then having a brand you can advertise yourself with,” Matthew says. “There’s only ten or so players who can really make a serious living in our community right now, but I think you’ll see that get larger. I’m kind of one step beneath that point, and hopefully if I keep building my brand and place better in tournaments I can get there. In ten years I feel like managers and coaches are going to play a really big role in eSports too, so as I get older I also hope to get more involved in that end – building my own team and sponsorship deals.”