VIDEO GAMES: MORE THAN A HOBBY

December 25, 2007 11:00 pm
Matt Powers (right) accepts a check after his team won the 2006 World Series of Video Games. (Submitted photo).
Matt Powers (right) accepts a check after his team won the 2006 World Series of Video Games. (Submitted photo).

By Josh Bronson

Pilot staff writer

The definition of sport is constantly changing.

Morphing and expanding to include the ever-growing realm of activities that garner our attention.

One of the latest to work its way onto the radar of professional sports is one of the nation's favorite past times: video games.

For years, people all over the country, from children to adults, have enjoyed the entertainment provided by video games.

But two Brookings residents have found a way to turn that enjoyable hobby into a job.

Matt Powers, 29, and Seth Copeland, 23, are professional video game players.

Yes, they get paid to play video games.

Powers and Copeland are two members of one of the best teams in the country, Flatline.

"It's cool because it's something we love to do," Powers said.

The two local gamers are getting the opportunity to do what every parent wishes for their children: Getting paid while doing something they love.

Now, Powers and Copeland are taking the road less traveled while following their dreams.

In fact, they are some of the pioneers of the sport of professional gaming.

"It's awesome to know that we helped start it all, that we were there in the beginning," Copeland said.

As a professional gamer, you don't just get paid to play, like in most other professional sports.

You get paid to win.

"You gotta be good," Copeland said. "You can't really make a lot of money if you're losing."

Powers, Copeland and the other members of Flatline make their money by winning tournaments.

Tournaments that take place at large venues around the country with thousands of contestants.

And even with all the competition, the boys of Flatline usually come out on top.

Before official tournaments began forming in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, gamers were only able to play each other online.

And even that was only made possible when Xbox Live came out in 2001.

"It all started with Xbox Live," Copeland. "Then I just kept winning and wanted to see where I could take it."

With Powers, it was the same situation.

"I played in several online tournaments and just kept winning," Powers said.

So how do some of the best gamers in the country wind up on the same team?

Well, through competition, of course.

"When it all started, we were actually on opposite teams," Powers said of Copeland. "We were the two dominant teams, then the best players from each team joined forces and made up our current team."

And the word "team" is definitely emphasized among all the players.

There is no animosity or jealousy among teammates,

"Sometimes, you have a bad game," Copeland said. "But they're there to pick up your slack. With the group of guys we have, there's no jealousy, just congratulations."

The more cohesive the team, the better success they will have.

"We have a definite chemistry," Powers said. "That helps because you usually do better when you're not yelling at each other."

Just like any other sport, the members of Flatline have to train in order to perfect their game.

"It's not just about playing, it's about developing and memorizing," Powers said.

"Just like any other sport, it's about dedication," Copeland added.

One of the keys to success, according to Powers and Copeland is knowledge of the maps in any game you're playing.

"You have to learn the ins-and-outs of the maps, good viewpoints and angles," Copeland said. "It's a constant learning process."

The current game of choice for the Flatline boys is Call of Duty 4.

"It's the best game ever made, period," Powers said. "But all of the Tom Clancy titles (Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, etc.) have always been good to us."

Powers and Copeland are now trying to do what they can to promote the sport they love in the community where they live.

The two gamers are trying to put on monthly tournaments at the Redwood Theatre, with the next one taking place Saturday, Dec. 29.

"We do it for the love of the sport," Copeland said. "And we want to show kids that there's an opportunity out there."

"It'll only get as big as the community wants it to," Powers said. "But if there's a demand, we'll go as far as we can to help them out."

For more information about the upcoming HALO3 tournament on Saturday, contact Powers at (541) 251-2002.

The members of Flatline and their gamer tags are: BALLISTICS (Powers), SETHWHO (Copeland), NINJA ZERO, MOONRAKER ELITE, SYLENCED, FISCOPATH and ANTIDOLT.