Kyle "Ksharp" Miller, 23, seems, at first glance, like an ordinary young man. He's had a steady job since he was "17 or 18" and he likes to play videogames. What's extraordinary about Miller is his job and his hobby the two are one in the same.
Miller is a member of the elite Team 3D.NY, the New York franchise of DirectTV's videogame league, Championship Gaming Series. He's played Counter-Strike for almost a decade, has won practically every championship in the sport and competes on live, national television.
"If you can't catch a sporting event live, then it's not a true professional sport," said Eric Shanks, Executive Vice President of DirecTV Entertainment. "We're giving the CGS the same star treatment as NFL Sunday Ticket and all of our innovative sports programming." And in the process, they're turning young videogame players into super heroes.
The CGS is organized like any professional sports league, with a regular season, a draft and a world championship tournament in which the top two franchises of each geographical region will compete for the title of World Champion. Players from around the world can register through the CGS website to participate in the draft and potentially represent their city and country in the international competition, and, yes, make money to play videogames.
But for veterans like Team 3D.NY, making money by playing games is nothing new. Founded in 2002, the Nvidia-sponsored organization has fielded competitors in almost every major gaming competition in the world, including the World Cyber Games, Major League Gaming, Cyber X Games, Cyberathlete Professional Games and the now defunct World Series of Videogames.
"As of late, the competitions have been a little different ... because [they're] being televised," says Miller. "We usually get to the studio early for a quick rundown of the day's events and then have some time to practice/warm up before the matches start. During actual events we play every day for a few hours just to stay on top of our game. When we are all at home we try to play four to five times a week during the night as we are competing in online leagues as well."
Hearing Miller speak about playing in the league, it becomes clear that, as fun and exciting as it may be, it's still a job, and although "work" in this case involves what most people would consider a leisure activity, Miller and the rest of the competitors are just as serious about their jobs - if not more serious - as anyone.
"It never truly feels like a nine-to-five, but it can get a bit repetitive at times," says Miller, who, according to his Wikipedia entry, has deferred college to continue competing. "I know you wouldn't think gaming could ever be hard work, but sometimes you just need a break!"
One wonders what a competitive videogamer would do when taking a break from work, which is playing games. How about managing the team?
"It's my love, my passion and most importantly my job," says Dave "moto" Geffon, General Manager of Team 3D.NY. "There's a lot of stuff that as a player you can get away with because your manager might not know better, but I've been there, experienced it all and know exactly what it's like to be a professional gamer.
"There [are] a lot of people who are amazing at videogames but don't view it as something very serious and will ultimately never become the best possible gamer they can be. There really is no place for people like this in professional gaming."