AP NEWS

South Carolina teen wins $70K at esports tournament

November 5, 2018
In this Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 photo, Dylan Wright plays a video game on his computer at his home in Greenwood, S.C. Wright and a partner won $70,000 in a video game tournament this past weekend in Calif. (Damian Dominguez/The Index-Journal via AP)

GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) — Dylan Wright always knew he would end up making money playing video games though his parents might have had their doubts.

Over the course of a recent weekend, the 16-year-old, Greenwood High School student and a teammate won a total of $70,000 at a California gaming tournament. His nearly 8,500 matches played in the game Fortnite paid off at the game’s official Fall Skirmish tournament.

The tournament spanned a recent weekend in San Jose, California, at a convention for the online streaming service Twitch, called TwitchCon 2018. Wright qualified for the tournament after spending many hours a day — some days spending nearly all day — playing Fortnite, a game that pits up to 100 players in a battle royale to be the last person standing.

When he walked into the convention center that Saturday, he said his nerves were getting the better of him. He was suddenly in the same room, getting ready to compete with world-class players he’s been a fan of online.

“It was crazy. I mean, everyone wishes they could play in a tournament,” he said. “I was shaking, but the first game hit and that adrenaline hit me. After that, everything was fine.”

About 400 players showed up to test their gaming skills at the tournament, but once the matches began, Wright had only one thing on his mind: Victory.

Wright, who goes by “Hero JDW” in the game, was playing duos with a competitive partner he met through the game. Together, the two landed a third-place finish in the first heat of matches, securing themselves a place in Sunday’s grand finals, where they placed 11th overall out of 50 teams.

“By grand finals I was a little nervous, but when the game started I totally forgot about it,” he said.

For their performance in the matches, Wright and his partner earned a total of $70,000, which he said he imagines they’ll split evenly once they receive it With the money, he plans to improve his at-home gaming set up and start vying for future tournaments and possible sponsorship.

“Three months ago, he was out playing in a shed with nothing, and now he’s here,” said Wright’s dad, Alan.

At their old house, Dylan’s gaming setup was in an outbuilding — a shed in the backyard that he ran cables to from the house. He would spend long nights out there playing to his heart’s content, keeping himself warm with a space heater in the winter.

Nowadays his gaming happens indoors, on a plastic folding table that he refuses to give up despite his mom’s pleas to let her buy a better table.

“Me as mama, I would always tell him you need to focus in school, get off the game and study,” Jennifer Wright said. “But he’s an A and B student. He’s a good kid, so that’s where I’m OK. I know at nights he’s in here playing his game, he’s not out getting in trouble.”

She admitted that when Dylan would spend all night playing the game during the summer, often still playing when his parents woke up, that she fussed at him. On Sunday, she was crying — what she had seen as aimless playing had been practicing all along.

“I’ve seen how hard he’s worked over the past year and a half to accomplish this,” she said. “I’m so proud of him.”

Alan said he’s always told his son to follow his dreams, even if they seem like a long shot. Of course, beside Dylan’s three monitors on his table was his statistics textbook, and his parents said they’re still pushing him to pursue higher education and always have a backup plan.

For now though, mom is acting as a surrogate coach, carefully watching the offers that come in to sign Dylan to professional gaming teams and fully embrace him into the world of esports.