Sydneysider Dominic Lewandowski takes gaming competitions like next month's World Cyber Games in Korea seriously; so seriously that his teammates have flown interstate to practise against him.
The 15-year-old, who plays under the nickname of Snoop, recently won the competition for the Unreal Tournament 2003 PC game at the Australian finals of the World Cyber Games, held in Sydney. On 10 October he'll leave for the world championships of the Games in Seoul, Korea, where officials expect 600 participants from 55 countries to contest a range of games.
Lewandowski will compete against about 40 of the world's best Unreal gamers for $US20,000 in prize money.
Run by International Cyber Marketing, the World Cyber Games have been held annually since 2000, and have received sponsorship from several high-profile technology companies. The Australian finals of WCG pitted each game's state champions against each other to decide the Australian champion.
Currently preparing for the Games in Seoul, Lewandowski said his practice consists of about four to six hours of Unreal a day. A futuristic first person shooter, players in Unreal hunt opponents through space-based landscapes, trying to shoot each other with a range of weaponry. Shooting accuracy and speed are essential requirements for success.
Lewandowski has honed these skills via a gaming clan called Dimension X. Some of his clanmates will fly from interstate to play against him before major gaming competitions. This provides better practice than playing online, Lewandowski said.
The Dimension X clan includes New Zealand's Nicholas McCabe (nickname: eVeNfLoW). McCabe was the only gamer from the Southern Hemisphere to win a medal at last year's Games in Korea. His sponsor, Intel, flew him to the Sydney finals of the World Cyber Games.
"So they might fly in for the weekend and stay at my house. The flights are paid for [by event organisers]," said Lewandowski.
Lewandowski first played (the original version of) Unreal in 2000. Once Unreal Tournament 2003 was released, he began to realise his potential.
"How I got to be professional started from playing online," he said. "I realised I was beating pros, and then I went to [last year's] WCG and it went from there."
He advises aspiring professional gamers to try to see the world's best in action, before trying the game(s) themselves.
"Last year I came second [in Unreal] at WCG, but I was really disorganised in my practice. This year I made sure my practice was better, and put my strategy in place," he said.
This strategy revolves around his ability to outthink and outsmart his opponents.
"Often they [opponents] will go in circles, so I try to know where they're going," he said.
"Also things like armour respawn [in the environment] every 50 seconds, so you have to be there then [to collect the item]."
For his first WCG world championships, Lewandowski said he wanted to finish in the top six to eight gamers.
After Korea, Lewandowski has set his sights on the USA's Cyber X Games in January, which offers a total $US600,000 prize pool.