In memoriam: James Kim, CNET senior editor, 1971 - 2006

Professional video gamer says it's not all fun

Published on ZDNet News: November 9, 2006, 7:31 AM PT

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Professional video gamer Tom Taylor, aka Tsquared, is the envy of every young video game player but he wants to debunk the myth that wielding a joystick for a living is all fun and games.

The self-taught player, who has been playing competitively since aged 14 and turned pro at 16, dropped out of school to concentrate on building a career in gaming.

Taylor, 19, now earns $120,000 to $150,000 a year between prize money reaped playing "Halo 2" and, an online site he founded last year to teach people gaming skills--and he is about to almost double the hourly tutoring rate he charges.

But he says he has had to be disciplined to succeed, sometimes playing games for up to 12 hours a day ahead of competitions and sticking to an exercise regime and good diet to keep a mental and physical edge.

"A lot of people think playing video games isn't a lot of work. It doesn't leave a lot of time for vacation. In five years I've never had any personal downtime for myself," Taylor, told Reuters.

Putting in the hours has paid off for Taylor.

The payoff
In June 2004 he signed a $250,000 contract with professional league Major League Gaming and as team leader of Str8 Rippin, he is one of the league's top-ranked players.

He appears on Stuff Magazine's list of the 20 most influential people under the age of 30 and after the MLG National Championships in Las Vegas later this month, he's raising his video game tutoring rate to $115 an hour from $65.

Taylor is also shifting to a different screen soon with USA Networks, which will start airing coverage of the MLG 2006 Pro Circuit on November 11. The TV series chronicles the eight-month competition that culminates in Nevada's "Sin City," where gamers will battle for the title and a $234,000 purse.

Jupiter, Florida-based Taylor, whose handle started out as T and evolved to T2--Tsquared--says he now finds himself at home just seven to 10 days a month between traveling for competitions, training, media appearances or personal reasons.

But while his work schedule has decimated his personal time, he admits the publicity has its benefits.

"I guess it works to your advantage," he said when asked if his profile with women has been enhanced by his rising fame.

On an average day, Taylor plays two to three hours of video games--a session that usually starts after 11 p.m. That time investment jumps to 10 to 12 hours ahead of tournaments.

If he's not training, he puts in a couple hours teaching game lessons, blogging and returning fan e-mail.

Taylor works to keep a mental and physical edge with running, weight lifting and eating well. He also limits energy drinks like Red Bull to competitions.

While Taylor says no age is too old to be a pro gamer, he admits the average competitor is college-aged.

"You'll notice that there are not too many people over 30 placing well at the tournaments," said Taylor, who isn't spending much time worrying about his life post pro gaming.

"I try to focus on what's ahead of me when I'm in tournaments instead of daydreaming about what's going to happen 15 years down the road," he said.

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