But Wendel and Geffon are more than likely exceptions to the rule. Many competitors enjoy only a few brief years in the spotlight and then, like most young men do, drift off to other pursuits, or, heaven forefend, get a real job. Case in point, Matt "Zyos" Leto, the Halo pro who, in his 2005 season, earned over $80,000 in prize money and endorsements, but has been inactive since 2006, when his team failed to reach the Major League Gaming finals. As of last fall, Leto was making a living as a consultant, traveling from convention to convention, showing off his skills and banking on his status as a legendary Halo warrior, but in gaming, the memory fades more quickly than your skills.
There's also the problem of feature creep. Like the gamers themselves, the games they play age quickly and are frequently replaced with newer models. Leto dropped out of Halo competitions when most leagues switched from Halo to Halo 2, claiming the differences in gameplay made it a completely different game - one he wasn't interested in playing. In the world of competitive fighting games, the arenas have changed a number of times; with Dead or Alive 4 as the current favorite. And Counter-Strike competitors are now playing Counter-Strike: Source, although this shift doesn't seem to have hindered longtime shooters like Miller.
"Hopefully I can remain competitive for as long as possible," he says. "It is a ridiculously fun career with opportunities you aren't likely to find in any other job. Realistically I would hope for at least another 5-10 fun years."
And in spite of the money (CGS athletes are paid a yearly salary plus prize money), the television coverage, the trophies and product endorsements, we're still, after all, talking about videogames. An adult walking into a videogame store in America still draws looks of suspicion, and those who confess to making their living off of the industry are well used to the baleful glances and half-hidden smirks. It may be a multi-billion dollar industry, but to many, games are still for kids, and the idea of competing professionally is patently absurd.
"It's always difficult to try to explain to someone what it is you do because it's so unique and the thought of making money while gaming just blows people's minds at times," says Geffon, although his friends and family "fully support" his career, as do Miller's.
"My friends are all jealous, and my family is very supportive," Geffon says. "Most people I meet that ask what I do are pretty surprised that it's even a possibility to make a living from gaming."
"Professional gaming has the stuff to be the first truly international past time," says Wagner. "Also, it is one of the few professional sports that men and women compete directly against each other instead of being separated."
"Videogames are a huge part of our culture," says Geffon, explaining why, in spite of the stigma and the difficulties of staying competitive in a young man's game, professional gaming is more than likely here to stay. "I think when more and more people learn you can play videogames competitively, they'll start being more willing to give it a try."
The Championship Gaming Series' World Series event is scheduled for December in Los Angeles.