The University of Texas at Arlington's eSports team took home a big win at Blizzard's Heroes of the Dorm collegiate tournament in April in Las Vegas.EXPAND
The University of Texas at Arlington's eSports team took home a big win at Blizzard's Heroes of the Dorm collegiate tournament in April in Las Vegas.
courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports Stars

In the '80s, cartoonist and Far Side comic strip creator Gary Larson drew a comic with the caption "Hopeful parents" that somehow came to fruition.

The comic featured a pair of proud parents looking at their buck-toothed kid playing a video game. The thought bubble above their heads showed the "help wanted" section of a newspaper in 2005, with job ads like "Nintendo expert needed, $50,000 salary + bonus" and "Looking for good Mario Brothers player, $100,000 plus your own car."

These days, $100,000 is the low end of the pay scale for successful professional gamers.

The rise of eSports has turned pro gamers into superstars who can make millions just by winning a League of Legends or Call of Duty tournament. Dallas is starting to attract some top talent and teams to current and upcoming eSports leagues fronted by some of the sporting world's richest investors. Here are some of the names that could one day rank as high in the minds of Dallas sports fans as Dirk Nowitzki, Nolan Ryan and Emmitt Smith.

The Dallas Fuel (Overwatch League)

Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports StarsEXPAND
courtesy Dallas Fuel

Brandon "Seagull" Larned, USA, @A_Seagul

Larned is one of the most famous Overwatch players in the world. He started playing games professionally in sponsored leagues for Valve's Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 before finding stardom in Blizzard's Overwatch, where he took home more than $50,000 in winnings and racked up an audience of more than 600,000 subscribers as a YouTube streamer, according to a recent profile in Rolling Stone. He left eSports last April to focus on his streaming career, but the Dallas Fuel picked him up the following summer as team owners formed the Overwatch League.

Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports StarsEXPAND
courtesy Dallas Fuel

Pongphop "Mickie" Rattansangchod, Thailand, @MickiePP

This Dallas Fuel player got his start in eSports playing arcade shooting games like Point Blank in his native Thailand in 2007. He won his first tournament and a check for 25,000 Thai baht ($761 at today's exchange rate). Rattansangchod found his way to Overwatch and earned a spot on the 2016 Thailand Overwatch World Cup team, where his quirky and charming personality earned him the nickname "The Smiling Assassin." He joined Team EnVyUs in 2016 and will serve as the "Tank" for the Dallas Fuel. 

OpTic Gaming (Call of Duty World League)

Seth "Scump" Abner, USA, @OpTic_Scumper
This longtime pro CoD player has one of the biggest personalities in eSports and the stats to back up his big claims. He ranks seventh in the nation overall on eSportsEarnings.com, with more than $523,000 in tournament winnings and five first-place finishes since 2015. The eSports Industry Awards also named him the Console Player of the Year in 2016. 

Matthew "FormaL" Piper, USA, @OpTic_FormaL

Piper made a name for himself in pro gaming leagues for Halo: Reach, Halo 4, Halo 2 Anniversary, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. He's won six Call of Duty tournaments in the Call of Duty World League and Major League Gaming since 2015. He also became the first pro first-person shooter player to win major LAN championships in Halo and Call of Duty in the same tournament at the Gfinity G3 in 2014, while he was a member of Team EnVyUs.

The UTA eSports Team

Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports StarsEXPAND
courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Kevin "EKevin" Park

The University of Texas at Arlington's big win at the Heroes of the Dorm tournament in April in Las Vegas was definitely a team effort, but having a player like "EKevin" on the roster certainly didn't hurt. According to Blizzpro.com, the team went undefeated into its showdown with Louisiana State University, and Park helped ensure the victory by dismantling LSU's Keep in the first game. Key Mosh Pit placements from Park in the third game helped secure UTA's path to victory. 

Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports StarsEXPAND
courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Toby "EToby" Park

The other Park brother, EToby, also delivered some key clutch plays that ensured UTA's victory in the Heroes of the Dorm tournament. Park racked up 11 assists and zero deaths in the tournament as his team fought its way to its enemy's Core and secured a flawless 29-0 tournament record. 

Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports StarsEXPAND
courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Richard "Kladeous" Tran, @Kladeouz

This information-systems major isn't out of college yet, and he's already earned his place in the eSports world — and some big bucks, too. Tran competes on UTA's eSports team and picked up four kills and no deaths at Heroes of the Dorm. He also joined forces with the Dallas-based Team Blaze, helping to secure several wins at the Go4Heroes Monthly Finals in 2015, according to eSportsEarnings.com

Team Liquid
Clear Eyes, Pixel Hearts, Can't Lose: Meet Some of Dallas' Top eSports StarsEXPAND
Photo by Robert Paul

Shane "Rapha" Hendrixson, @liquidrapha
At 28, Hendrixson is one of the older stars in the eSports world, but he's racked up an impressive series of wins in his decadelong pro career. He won his first tournament for Quake Live in his professional debut at 2008's QuakeCon and has earned 25 first-place wins in tournaments at QuakeCon, DreamHack and Intel Extreme Masters. His most recent first-place win happened last October with Team Liquid at the DreamHack conference in Denver, on id Software's new eSports title Quake Champions.

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