You may have heard the metaphor about life being a video game with only one man, but what if you were a man whose life benefited from playing a video game? Although one might assume it’s the ultimate laid-back lifestyle, with plenty of spare time and lazy eating habits; on the contrary—there is a level of gaming out there equally as much of an occupation as it is a sport; where winning a tournament could earn you up to $300K or more, (training-related injuries included).
Our latest Urban Beardsman Michael “Flamesword” Chaves is not a casual video game junkie that lives off pizza and Doritos. He literally takes things to the next level as a professional gamer: accompanied by a worldwide fan base, a sponsorship by Red Bull, and often found working just as hard (if not harder) than many who hold down a typical nine-to-five. Chaves knows how to allocate his time wisely: he stays equipped with a solid fitness regimen, a side-job writing game strategies along with juggling his social media outlets—not to mention, he has just a handful of classes left before earning his bachelor’s in Information Technology. His hard work is paying off, earning him the status as a top ranked Halo player since going pro in 2009. He’s also gearing up to compete again in the next Iron Gaming tournaments beginning this April through July.
As a recent Chicago transplant by way of New Jersey, Chaves explains becoming a pro gamer happened organically. Like many of us, he grew up on games with storylines based on acquiring enough 1-Up mushrooms to save the princess from the castle; but since 8-bit technology a lot has changed in the gaming world. “When I was in high school and was on the basketball team, I was only 5/7” and knew that wasn’t gonna work well in the NBA,” laughs Chaves. “However, I learned that you could earn money though playing video games, particularly though the Major League Gaming association. I’d been gaming since I was a kid and that really caught my interest. I started out playing competitively with Halo 2, jumping online and playing with teams. I eventually met a tournament company over the Internet, and realized I really enjoyed the aspect of team gaming.”
Chaves formed a crew known as Status Quo, and as their team leader, they worked up the ladder starting in the amateur levels, later graduating to pro. While continuously winning a multitude of tournaments (placing in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th ranks), a career defining moment happened in his gaming career. The team placed second in Halo 3 at MLG’s 2010 Season National Championship.” My team stuck together for the whole season, which can be rare for some, so it meant a lot placing our best with that squad.” Chaves’ wins were loud enough to catch the attention of Red Bull, landing him a corporate sponsorship. “Red Bull has been such a great brand to work with, they treat us really well and hold events that enable us to meet and hang with other athletes. I’ve been able to do things from skydiving with the Red Bull Air Force Team, to go-kart racing with Mitchell Dejong, a fourteen year old boy that destroyed all of us,” he admits.
Along with the perks of being a pro gamer at Halo, Chaves has branched out to compete in another popular game series. He recently joined forces with his new crew Optic Gaming to tackle coaching for the first time in his career for the Call of Duty series. Being an active member of a team is something Chaves takes much pride in and admits establishing genuine relationships (both in and out of the gaming world) as a key to success. “I always say what I say, and do what I do. I try to make sure the person next to me is having a better day, and always try to send out positive vibes because if you put them out there, they will come back,” he states.
Staying on top of his game has not always been easy. During the time he began taking Call of Duty training more seriously, he developed a collarbone injury due to his intense training and school schedule—resulting in surgery. It was during this time that Chaves let his beard grow out longer than ever before. He states, “I went through physical therapy to recover as quickly as I could, but I stopped shaving after not being as active—so initially it went with my lifestyle theme. Now that I’m working out again, (feeling better), and being more physically active, it’s become even more symbolic of how I live my life today. I’m moving forward and sharing goodwill, not really bound to anything. I get to travel a lot and share great experiences with people, and that’s what I’m all about—sharing goodwill.”
Chaves’ beard has also become a staple of sorts in his competitive game play. The color of his Optic Gaming team is green, and he had an idea for a bet with his Twitter followers. He promised to dye his beard for an upcoming tournament if a certain game-related topic he posted reached 5000 re-tweets. “I looked at my phone a bit later and saw the number had reached 5000, so I had to spray it green. I had a lot fun with that one! I might even go all pink for breast cancer awareness month or another charity color for a future tournament,” he reveals.
As he ramps up training for his next series of competitions, Chaves continues to balance his schedule by hitting the gym regularly and incorporating a healthy diet into his daily routine. He can also be found giving everything from gaming strategies to fitness tips on his YouTube Channel, demonstrating how you can easily exercise in your home; not too far from your game console. “I enjoy staying active and always being on the move, it allows me to stay relaxed and play my best,” he says.
Just like any sport in the game of life, Chaves exemplifies the key to happiness isn’t just about winning, but spending your time wisely, taking care of your health, and forming positive relationships with others. Optimizing full control of his path, we envision multiple bearded lives for Chaves and many more wins to come!