Whether you agree with it or not, the phenomenon of eSports — electronic sports, usually focused on gaming tournaments — is gaining in popularity by the year. Just like athletic sporting events, gaming tournaments are watched by audiences worldwide and live streams are often broadcast online. In certain parts of the world, including Korea and China, eSports are just as popular as any other traditional sport, with players for their professional teams making a significant amount of money.
It isn’t just Asia that’s making a definite move towards integrating eSports into the mainstream: As of 2013, there were four hundred million players of multiplayer online games in the world. The average gamer plays twenty-two hours a week; these are significant numbers which cannot be ignored. The world is adapting to and welcoming a new type of sport and accordingly, there are many pro gamers around the world today who make seriously good money as part of professional teams or as professional independent players. This isn’t limited to adults, either — a large number of gamers are making incredible money before they turn eighteen. The following are the most successful under eighteen pro gamers, in terms of winnings, in the history of eSports.
20. Martin Larsson/Rekkles — $46,844.37
Martin Larsson, alias Rekkles, is a Swedish League of Legends player. He began earning money through gaming at the age of sixteen, and to date has won a total of $46,845. He’s now seventeen years old.
19. Ji Hoon Jung/Jjakji — $57,901.53
A Terran player from South Korea, Ji Hoon Jung, alias Jjakji, also began making money from gaming when he was sixteen years old. He has made $57,901 while under eighteen, and has recently qualified for the WCS Premier League, in which his region is Europe rather than Korea.
18. Scott Lussier/Gandhi — $60,950
American Scott Lussier, alias Gandhi, is at number eighteen. Another gamer earning money from the age of sixteen, Lussier racked up over sixty thousand dollars before the age of eighteen. Now aged twenty-four, Lussier’s game is Halo, and won his largest prize at the 2006 Major Leagues Gaming tournament in Las Vegas, at which he won $25,000.
17. Lee Jae Dong/Jaedong — $63,591.65, aged 17
Lee Jae Dong, alias Jaedong, is from Korea, and began making money from gaming when he was seventeen. In the space of a year he made $63,591, all before his eighteenth birthday. He plays Starcraft: Brood War and its sequel Starcraft II. He won his first major tournament, the OnGameNet StarLeague, in 2007.
16. Kwon Tae Hoon/Sniper — $63,682.17
Sniper, also known as Korean gamer Kwon Tae Hoon, began making money from gaming when he was sixteen. As of his eighteenth birthday, he had made over $63,000. While Sniper is something of an enigma, we can at least be sure of the fact that StarCraft II is definitely his game; he has made 100% of his earnings from it.
15. Sung Gyoon Park/Mind — $69,960.19
Park Sung Gyoon, a.k.a. Mind, made $69,960 through gaming between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Mind is from Korea and is now twenty-two. He makes his money playing StarCraft: Brood War and StarCraft II.
14. Liu Zhihao/Zzitai — $70,493.55
Liu Zhihao, or Zzitai, began earning his gaming awards at the impressive age of fifteen. Now aged seventeen, he has to date amassed a total of $70,493 in gaming winnings. Zzitai hails from China, and has made all of his money from playing League of Legends.
13. Jian Zihao/Uzi — $74,666.10
12. Justin Deese/Pistola — $75,760
11. Lee Jung Hoon/MarineKing — $78,860.71
Lee Jung Hoon, alias MarineKing, is a twenty-one year old StarCraft II player from Korea. He began earning money gaming at the age of seventeen, and by his eighteenth birthday he had made $78,860. His largest single prize was at the GSL Open Season 2 tournament in 2010, at which he won over $26,000.
10. Yoon Young Suh/TaeJa — $83,012.60
Yoon Young Suh, or TaeJa, began gaming professionally at the age of fifteen. He has played seventy-one StarCraft II tournaments to date, from which he has earned all of his money. Before the age of eighteen TaeJa had racked up over $83,000.
9. John Hill/ZeRo4 — $89,300
Gamer ZeRo4, or John Hill, began gaming professionally at the age of fifteen. Hailing from the United States, he is now twenty-nine, but had made over $89,000 by the time he turned eighteen. His main game is Quake III Arena, but he has also earned money from playing Quake Live, QuakeWorld, and ShootMania Storm.
8. Jang Hyun Woo/Creator — $95,701.97
Gamer Creator, or Jang Hyun Woo, began professional gaming at the incredible age of fourteen. He is now eighteen, and before he became a legal adult had earned $95,701 through gaming. He has made 100% of his earnings through StarCraft II. Creator is Korean.
7. Cho Sung Choo/Maru — $101,461.66
6. Kim Taek Yong/Bisu — $111,772.86
Korean gamer Bisu, or Kim Taek Yong, began earning money from Playing StarCraft: Brood War when he was seventeen. Now twenty-six years old, Bisu had made over $111,000 by the time he turned eighteen. Bisu has since earned a small portion of his winnings from playing StarCraft II.
5. Lee Dong Nyung/Leenock — $208,629.34
Gamer Leenock, AKA Lee Dong Nyung, is a twenty year old Korean. Before the age of eighteen he had earned over $208,000 through professional gaming. He has made all of his money from playing StarCraft II.
4. Lee Seung Hyun/Life — $234,637.62
3. Lee Sang Hyeok/Faker — $255,575.35
Another Korean gamer, Lee Sang Hyeok, alias Faker, made well over half a million dollars from gaming at aged seventeen. His game is League of Legends, and to date he has played the game in fifteen tournaments.
2. Lee Young Ho/Flash — $269,972.27
At number two is Lee Young Ho, or Flash, a Korean gamer who began gaming professionally at the age of fifteen. Before his eighteenth birthday, he had made $269,972. He is a Terran player in StarCraft: Brood War.
1. Ludwig Wåhlberg/Zai — $276,532.75
The number one richest gamer under the age of eighteen is Ludwig Wåhlberg, aged seventeen. Wåhlberg, alias Zai, began gaming professionally aged sixteen. Since then he has made and incredible $276,532. The Swedish player’s main game is Dota 2, although he has also made a portion of his money playing Heroes of Newerth.