With its 12-hour practice days and unusual living situations, pro gaming requires a certain personality. Christian “IWDominate” Rivera, a 24-year-old player on Team Liquid’s pro League of Legends team, is a prime example.
“Winning is above being happy in my mind,” Rivera told Business Insider in a recent interview.
Rivera has been obsessed with video games since he was a young child, starting with Super Nintendo games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario and progressing to real-time-strategy games like Warcraft III. Rivera says that, as a kid, he viewed video games as a means to “progress,” not as an outlet for “screwing around.”
Rivera’s competitive spirit wasn’t limited to video games. Through most of his youth, he was heavily involved in traditional sports such as tennis and baseball. He was dedicated and skilled at both, competing in the United States Tennis Association and the Richard Dowling league in tennis and playing in regional Florida leagues for baseball.
Despite his skill and competitive nature, Rivera had a moment early on that convinced him to put all of his effort into video games over traditional sports.
Here’s what Rivera said:
In sports, I was always good, but good for my region or my team. When I brought my skills to the national level, there were kids that were better. They were just more athletic.
I remember playing football in fifth grade and seeing kids that were built like men. They were six feet tall. I was 5’5″ and scrawny. I realised that sports weren’t on an even playing field. Video games were …
Sports were a risk. I didn’t know how tall I would be. I didn’t know how athletic I would be. I didn’t know what my build would be. With video games, it’s all mental. If you are good enough and you practice hard enough, you can get to the top.”
Pro gaming didn’t catch on until Rivera was 19. He was ready when it did. He dropped out of the University of Miami his senior year and has been playing in the League of Legends pro league ever since. Now, he plays for Team Liquid, a pro team in the League of Legends Championship series, earning between $US80,000 and $US100,000 in salary, endorsements, and income from streaming on Twitch.
It looks like he made the right decision.