Plenty of kids love playing video games, but Noah Solis is in an entirely different league.
Noah Solis (Kara Leung | karaface.com)Earlier this month, the pint-sized powerhouse (who goes by the alias "The Prodigy") attended the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) gaming tournament in Las Vegas, decimating opponents in fighting game Marvel vs. Capcom 3 en route to placing in the top 48.
He didn't win -- but he did manage to land a job as a professional gamer at the ripe old age of eight.
The Traveling Circus, a sponsored pro gaming clan, has signed Solis, meaning he'll get paid to play games and compete in tournaments around the world. He'll also get his own clothing line -- which he's designing himself.
While it was Marvel vs. Capcom that brought Solis into the spotlight, he says that's not his favorite game. He actually prefers Super Street Fighter IV.
Solis honed his skills against his two brothers, aged 15 and 18. The family rule was if you lost a game, you had to pass the controller to your sibling. But Solis didn't have to hand it over very often.
By 2010, the idea of bringing him to a tournament came up, but with father Moises Solis out of work, it wasn't an easy decision. Ultimately Moises, a single parent, sold the rims on his car to pay for the trip and took the then 7-year-old Noah to the Level Up SoCal regionals, where he performed impressively. Afterwards, he started making appearances at other local events, building a name for himself. And his father decided to support him.
"If you look out your window," he told game site Giant Bomb earlier this year, "the things kids are doing nowadays...I have options here in my home. There's reading, there's math, there's gaming. I can either let him go outside, smoke pot, run around with gang members -- if this is what he wants to do, this is what I'll support him in."
Some might worry that the pro gaming circuit might be a little hard on a child. His father acknowledges that Noah does sometimes take losing hard, but believes that comes from his enthusiasm and passion for what he's doing.
"I've seen Noah cry," says Moises. "When he wins, he kind of cheers up, but I see the passion he has for it as a sport. He would cry just like any pee wee division would cry if they lost the Super Bowl."
Amazingly, Noah Solis isn't the youngest professional gamer to ever hit the circuit. Victor "Lil Poison" De Leon was recruited by Major League Gaming in 2004 at the ripe old age of six. His story was so unique that it spawned a movie that screened on HBO last year.