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Video game champs share over $700,000 in prizes

Plugged In

Buzz's Words

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Number one

Whileprofessional video gamers may still struggle to be thought of as
athletes by the general public, they're starting to see paydays that are
on par with some of today's sports stars.

Major League Gaming, the largest of the so-called eSports gaming leagues,
wrapped up its 2010 season Sunday, handing out some $700,000 in prizes
to joystick jockeys.

With that kind of money at stake, this is more than a trash-talking
tournament among friends. Teams practice year-round to prepare - with
some players making this a full-time job.

Team Final Boss was the big winner in this year's finals, narrowly beating Team Instinct in "Halo 3" for a $100,000 purse and the title of MLG League Champions. (Both teams
were highly ranked and had already wracked up $80,000 in wins earlier
in the 2010 tour.) All totaled, teams playing "Halo 3" shared a purse
valued at almost $250,000.

Final Boss, a four-person squad, which was previously sponsored by Washington
Wizards basketball player Gilbert Arenas, is gaming's equivalent of the
New York Yankees. It has been winning "Halo" tournaments since 2004 and
previously boasted an unbeaten eight-event streak. Players have come
and gone through the years, but the strength of the team has rarely
wavered.

"Halo 3" is the main event of MLG these days, but it's hardly the only game
in town. The championship event also featured the first "Halo: Reach"
competition - a game that's likely to become the centerpiece of the
event in years to come. (This was the final year that "Halo 3" will be
played in MLG tournaments.)

For now, though, "Reach" is still in its infancy - competitively, at least -
and the winning pot demonstrates this. The winner of the exhibition
tournament - Team UoR SyA - took home just $5,000, despite going
undefeated through 11 rounds.

Players also competed for cash and bragging rights in "Tekken 6," "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" and most notably "Starcraft II".

"Starcraft II" is kind of a big deal in the competitive gaming world. The original
remains a national obsession in South Korea, with two television
stations regularly airing matches. The release of the sequel this year
could reinvigorate the game in domestic tournaments. "LiquidJinro," a
Swedish-born player who now lives in Korean, took home the first place
title and $6,250 in winnings.

Throughout the 2010 season, over 100,000 pro and amateur eSports athletes from
around the world have competed in challenges in Orlando; Columbus, Ohio;
Raleigh, NC; Washington, DC and Dallas.

In its eight-year history, Major League Gaming has attracted a significant
amount of attention, with tournaments being broadcast on cable's USA
Network and ESPN.com. Its goal is to elevate competitive video game
tournaments in the national consciousness to the same level as Poker and
Nascar.

"The incredible atmosphere and intense level of competition at our 2010
national championship event has been unprecedented", said Sundance
DiGiovanni, co-founder and CEO of Major League Gaming. "We look forward
to embracing even more formidable gaming talent in our 2011 season."

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