Game to take on the world
Mack Smith plans to quit high school for a sports career that could immediately score him up to $100,000 a year.
But the 17-year-old isn’t a future All Black or Warrior – he’s set to become a professional video-game player.
Mack spends up to 10 hours a day playing the sci-fi action game Starcraft 2.
And rather than continuing on to year 13 in 2014, he intends to leave Western Springs College at the end of the year and move to Australia to join a professional team.
His friend and schoolmate, Cameron Jones, 16, a leading player in another popular game, League of Legends, plans to follow in his footsteps in a year.
Professional video-games – known as e-sport – are big business, particularly in the US, Korea, Sweden and Russia.
Winners’ cheques US$1 million ($1.19m) not uncommon.
Tickets for this year’s League of Legends final at the Los Angeles Lakers basketball stadium sold out within the hour and 8.2 million watched last year’s final online.
In May, the US granted its first P-1 ‘‘professional athlete’’ visa to a Canadian gamer, Danny ‘‘Shipthur’’ Le, so he could join a professional team in LA who play in an eight-team televised series
1.7 million watched viewers.
Kiwi e-sport expert Byron McLean, a former semi- professional gamer, suggests Mack could earn $60,000 to $100,000 in his first year.
‘‘If anyone can do it in New Zealand, you’ve got the right guy,’’ Mr McLean says.
‘‘For most people, I wouldn’t support them leav- ing school, but in Mack’s case he is particularly smart and he’s got a unique opportunity to pursue what most people never had. He’ll be able to make a career of this.’’
Mack and Cameron would live in team-owned houses in Australia and sponsors would fly them around the world to compete.
‘‘It is kind of an unstable career path,’’ Mack says.
‘‘It’s a gamble. But it’s something I am interested in, and the more time I spend on it, the less interested I find myself in spending more time in school and two years on a uni course after that. I’d rather do something I am passionate about.’’
Both spend as much of their leisure time playing or studying opponents – called ‘‘theorycrafting’’.
‘‘Some days I hate the game,’’ Mack says. ‘‘But the will to improve is so strong.’’
Cameron says: ‘‘The amount of time I’ve played League of Legends ... I wouldn’t even like to think about it.’’
In November, both plan to combine year-end exams with flights to overseas e-sport tournaments.
Their parents support their unusual career plans.
Mack’s father, Nick Smith, says: ‘‘He’s in the lucky position of being good at something, and passionate about it. He wants to give it a good lash.’’
And Cameron’s father, Ernie Jones, says: ‘‘We thought he would just go to varsity and do something normal . . . we’re blown away by the attention.’’
Professional gamers: Cameron Jones, left, and Mack Smith, and want to be the first fulltime professional Kiwi gamers performing to stadiums packed with tens of thousands of fans.