“I can’t see myself doing anything else, until I can’t do this anymore.”
Today’s world of professional gaming is probably not how fans of the 1989 film “The Wizard” (starring Fred Savage and the Nintendo Power Glove) would envision it. Neither is professional e-athlete and Team Beardbrand member Michael Chaves, also known as Flamesword (which comes from the YU-GI-Oh! card Flame Swordsman), the first image that comes to mind when you think of a “gamer”. His incredible beard and hard earned, athletic physique is more reminiscent of an MMA fighter. The truth is that professional gaming, the athletes competing and the atmosphere created have mixed to form something akin to the X-games, the NCAA tournament and a high stakes poker championship.
Michael Chaves has been a professional gamer since 2008, when he was just 19. Much of his life is similar to that of a professional athlete. He and his teammates have numerous sponsors, including Red Bull, which they attribute to their large and faithful audience of online followers. The environment surrounding him and his teammates at OpTic Gaming is similar to that of any professional sports team. His training facility in Chicago, also happens to be the house he shares with six other members of his team. The typical day consists of eight to ten hour days of gaming, which is not much different than two-a-day practices in football. While that may sound like a perfect life to the average gamer, nothing could prepare an amateur for the pressure that comes at the pro level.
It is 3:45 PM (CST) on a Monday and Chaves has only recently woken up. With only five days until the Halo World Championship regional tournament, his nights and days have been adjusted to maximize his training.
“The typical day for me right now, is that I wake up at two or three in the afternoon and I try to think about a video to make for YouTube. With the tournament being so close, most of my videos are about Halo and the tournament scene so that I can keep everyone posted. I try and make one of those videos real quick and that usually takes an hour or so to make. Recording it, editing it, making sure that it is perfect, uploading it, rendering it and all that. After that, I get some food and then hop on stream and start gaming right away. I do that until four or five in the morning.”
This is not just any tournament for Chaves though, this is one of the biggest he has ever been a part of. This is a round robin tournament that includes sixteen of the best teams in North America, divided into four pools. If he and his OpTic Gaming teammates can finish in the top two of their pool, they will make it to the Halo World Championship in March. The tournament has a $2 million prize pool. The bracket is comprised of sixteen total teams, eight from North America and eight from across the rest of the globe. This is high stakes gaming.
The lead up to the regionals started on February 6th with an online qualifier tournament, where Flamesword and his OpTic Gaming team were able to win the tournament, while only losing two maps. While a showing like that surely boosted the overall confidence of the team, Chaves’ mindset keeps him confident in their chances.
“Even though it is a new game and there have been a lot of great changes to the in-game functions, it is still Halo. The game is still Halo at its core and the way you win it is the same as before. You need great teamwork. You need to play the game a lot individually, just so you know your way around the map first hand. The functionality is very similar with the new games. For me, I got to play a lot of Destiny last year and there are a lot of similar things between it and Halo 5. That allowed me to incorporate a lot of things in my game play. At the end of the day, if you know the core way to win Halo, which is the same as it has always been, then you will be fine.”
Make sure to keep up with Michael Chaves on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or streaming on Twitch. Keep up with his OpTic Gaming teammates on Twitter, Instagram and on their Official Website.
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