Matthew Potthoff’s father used to question how much time the avid gamer devoted to practicing games, like the Halo and Call of Duty series.
“He wanted me to do other things with my time,” said the 20-year-old Entertainment Business student.
Potthoff was involved in other activities as a teen, like soccer and tennis. But his real passion was in competitive gaming, and, despite his concerns, Potthoff’s father drove him to tournaments beginning at around age 14.
Since then, Potthoff has competed in about 30 LAN competitions and estimates that he has finished in first place in 25 of them. The games were Halo 2, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops.
In February, Potthoff pulled off his biggest win yet: He is Play N Trade’s 2012 Modern Warfare 3 Tournament winner, which earned him a $25,000 prize package.
It turns out, the MW3 tournament was the biggest competition Play N Trade has ever put together. His prizes included a 2012 Call of Duty edition Jeep Patriot, tickets to an Airsoft event (including airfare), an assortment of Airsoft products, and a Subsonic gaming accessory package. Even sweeter, Potthoff won the tournament on his birthday.
As a result of the tournament, Potthoff has picked up a sponsor: Scuf Gaming, a professional controller company. He competes both as an individual – under the gamer tag WisH BURNS (or simply, BURNS) – and on a team that goes by the name, DeathwisH, which is sponsored by Green Door Geeks, UMad Gear, and iFREAKNiK.
“We’re one of the top amateur teams in the Call of Duty community,” said Potthoff.
To win the Play N Trade tournament, Potthoff had to compete in three playoff rounds, followed by a competition with finalists from Georgia, Illinois and New Jersey.
“The final four had to play four total games, and whoever accumulated the most kills or points after those games, won the tournament,” said Potthoff.
Potthoff said one of his biggest strategies when it comes to competitive gaming is to block out noise and distractions.
“I sometimes play with my hood up because when there’s a lot of people watching you, when you’re messing up, you’ll hear people talk trash to you,” said Potthoff. He also wears a headset. “It just lets you focus on what you need to focus on.”
Potthoff said he also doesn’t let intimidating ‘celebrity’ names faze him.
“There’s a lot of big names out there, and when people show up to these big events, the players think they have no chance of winning,” said Potthoff. “But just blocking them out and not really caring about the big names will help in the long run because you can focus on yourself and not really focus on others.”
Regarding Potthoff’s demeanor during the tournament, Play N Trade Vice President of Franchise Operations Michael Peterson said, “He showed great sportsmanship and had a great attitude throughout, including after the tournament ended. He and all of the players congratulated each other on a great match.”
Potthoff said he hopes to design his career around the game industry, and he is working on the development of a website that caters to the gaming community. Since his business is still in the planning stage, he wants to keep it under wraps for now. In the meantime, he’ll continue competing.
His father is pretty much a believer now.
“He thinks it’s perfect for me, my team and my business. He thinks everything worked out for the best, and he thinks it’s fate that I won that tournament on my birthday,” said Potthoff. “He feels that it’s worth it.”