MLG and OpTic Gaming

Major League Gaming or (MLG) was founded in 2002 by Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso, is a North American professional Electric sports organization, headquartered in New York City, New York. MLG has grown tremendously the past few years as Call of Duty is now one of the most popular games that are played on the pro circuit. Gamers can now turn their hobby into a profession, and their dream into a reality. Not only are there tournaments played on LAN (local area network), for money, but there is also tournaments gamers can compete in online for cash prizes. MLG is played on the Xbox 360, and soon will be played on the Xbox One, as well as PC. The current games in the 2014 pro circuit are League of Legends, Dota 2, and Call of Duty Ghosts. Call of Duty, which is played 4vs.4, (4 players on each team) has grown to be a fan favorite amongst MLG fans, and it is now being played professionally in six different continents.

This year will mark the 3rd annual Call of Duty world Championship for MLG, with a prize poll of $1 million, while the 1st place team will take home $400,000. The first, which took place in 2012, was Modern Warfare 3. The second which was held in 2013 was Black Ops: 2. this year’s will be Ghosts, on March 28-30, the venue once again will be in Los Angeles, Ca.

Along with making money off of tournaments, a majority of popular Call of Duty players make money making videos on YouTube, as well as live streaming while they play on One player in particular, a member of the OpTic Gaming franchise, who was coined as “America’s favorite gamer” Matt “Nadeshot” Hagg made over $100,000 in 2013. “What is it about me that people gravitate toward? I wish I knew,” Hagg said between rounds of a recent online tournament. “I don’t consider myself to be over-the-top entertaining or someone that would be a joy to be around 24-7, but it’s working for me.” The money and attention are signs that after decades of hype, “eSports” are finally putting a digital foot in the mainstream. Fans are packing sports arenas to watch top gamers battle for prize money. Major League Gaming, an organization that broadcasts matches online, saw consumption of its video more than triple last year, reaching 54 million hours. That amount of viewers was more than NCAA Basketballs March Madness in 2013.

The team/organization that seemed to have started it all, that helped grow MLG was OpTic Gaming. One of those caught up in the fledgling culture was Hector Rodriguez, a 20-something gamer from Wheeling. He joined a few friends in online matches and got hooked on the strategy and teamwork demanded by the game. Under the name of his team, OpTic Gaming, he put videos onto YouTube showing everything from “Call of Duty” strategies to tournament highlights to equipment reviews. Rodriguez decided to extend awareness of the OpTic Gaming brand — whose icon is an interlocking black “O” and neon green “G” — by forming a new competitive team. After asking around, he offered a spot to Haag, then a student at Stagg High School in Palos Hills. Along with Nadeshot, the first ever consistent OpTic Gaming competitive team also consisted of Will “BigTymer” Johnson, Raymond “Rambo” Lussier, and Joey “Merk” Deluca. With the OpTic brand not only growing on YouTube with sniping videos, but also their competitive team prospering, OpTic grew a huge fan base, which brought even more fans to the competitive scene. At OpTic’s 3rd ever tournament, they placed 2nd, which started a streak of ten consecutive top 4 placings, including winning 400,000 dollars at the first ever Call of Duty Championships.

Call of Duty Black Ops 2, which many considered the most supporting Call of Duty game to the e-sports community to date, was a struggle for OpTic. While the game itself was great, and vastly helped grow the competitive scene, OpTic was only able to muster one 1st place finish, and placed 9th, which was a career worst for all the players on OpTic. OpTic also made their first roster change in a very long time during Black Ops 2, when they released Merk, and picked up Jordan “JKap” Kaplan who used to be on the team during Call of Duty Black Ops. This roster which now consisted of Nadeshot, Seth “Scumpii” Abner, Merk, and BigTymer stayed the same until after the first Ghosts tournament in Which OpTic had their worst ever placing of 13th. OpTic dropped JKap, and picked up Richard “Ricky” Stacy. This roster only stayed together for one tournament, and after UMG Philadelphia, OpTic’s roster was in disarray, and had to endure catastrophes. It all started when BigTymer announced that he would be retiring, and would coach OpTic. Soon thereafter Scumpii, who had been on the team for over a year left because him and Nadeshot were having a personality clash. Nadeshot and Ricky were the only ones left, and were looking for two players. They decided to pick up James “Clayster” Eubanks, one of the best players in Call of Duty, and Chris “Parasite” Duarte. After only three days, both Ricky and Parasite departed, and OpTic was left once again looking for two players. Many speculated whether or not Clayster would leave as well, or if OpTic would end the team all together, but they endured. The team picked up two more new players, Marcus “Mboze” Blanks, and Renato “Saints” Forza. After less than a week with OpTic, Saints also left, and OpTic once again was left a man short. On January 20th, 2014, two days after Saints left, the recent string of dramatic roster changes on the OpTic team continued with perhaps the biggest yet: the return of Scumpii, who departed from EnVyUs after less than two weeks with the team. Scump expressed that he never should have left, and that OpTic was his “home”. All of these changes happened in less than a month. The brand new and improved roster now consists of Nadeshot, Scumpii, Clayster, and Mboze. The new roster looks to bring not only consistency, but also a championship to the “GreenWall” which is what OpTic’s fan base is called.

While many might find the idea of playing a video game professionally stupid, e-sports are actually very similar to sports in general. Similarities include teams, rosters, competition, standings, money, and drama. Hitting balls with sticks and putting balls in nets may have also seemed unconventional at one point.