Playing video games and getting paid good money to do so is probably high up on the list of dream jobs for many of us, and it's become a newly lucrative reality for some talented gaming enthusiasts. Nowadays, electronic sports - or eSports - have truly exploded worldwide and have created a subculture of full-time gamers making comfortable livings playing the games they love.
For more than 60 gamers the world over, prize money has topped $100,000 and for the elite serious gamers, prize money has extended well beyond this. Keep in mind that the calculated earnings here don’t include any and all sponsorship deals, team salaries or even income that many players get for streaming their practice games. The list compiled below is based purely on tournament winnings - and the numbers are huge.
So, next time you think about forcing your child or partner to turn off their video game, consider they could be simply in training! This isn't all talent and training though; these professional gamers have invested serious money in state of the art technology to make sure they're quite literally at the top of their game.
10 Dmitriy "LighTofHeaveN" Kupriyanov - $270,156
Russia’s Dmitriy “LighTofHeaveN” Kupriyanov takes the number ten spot. His total earnings are compiled from 23 tournaments. At 26, LighTofHeaveN has set himself up financially. In most of the tournaments he's played in he has placed 1st or 2nd at international level. His game of choice: Defense of the Ancients, or DotA as it's known in the gaming community.
9 Jung "Mvp" Jong Hyun - $390,116.38
Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun has played in 49 tournaments thus far. He has become a legendary player in the GOMTV Global StarCraft II League. It's a league hosted by Blizzard Entertainment and GomTV in South Korea - although it's an international tournament, and there's an English stream available as well. Hyun is not only a professional player of StarCraft II, but of StarCraft: Brood War and is a four time Global StarCraft II champion.
8 Jang "Moon" Jae Ho - $424,757.00
Jang “Moon” Jae Ho has played in a total of 78 tournaments. He is 27-years-old and his gaming career included playing as Night Elf in Warcraft III (Night Elf), and a Zerg in StarCraft II.
He's won over ten high-profile games including five championship tournaments as a player of Warcraft III, four seasons of MBCGame’s World War, and three nationally televised South-Korean leagues.
Moon has earned himself the nickname of “5th Race” for his gameplay in Warcraft III, and has developed benchmark strategies that others have been adopted by others in the gaming world. Moon has the honor of having played in more televised WarCraft III games than any other player; he's a serious professional. No wonder he has made his way to number six on the top earning gamers list - this guy is nearly unstoppable.
7 Jang "MC" Min Chul - $426,526.25
Jang “MC” Min Chul has earned his place in the gamer world after playing in 75 tournaments, and earning almost half a million dollars doing so. MC is still very young at 22 and has a lot of time to move up on this list. He's one of the best Protoss players out there, and consistently performs at a seemingly unbeatable level. MC is known for his pregame and postgame ceremonies - one of his most outlandish moments was when he dressed as Murloc for the 2011 MLG Providence Pro-Circuit, and not only that, but he performed an elaborate victory ceremony after he won against fellow gamer Mvp.
6 Clement "Puppey" Ivanov - $433,638.84
Estonian Clement “Puppey” Ivanov is pretty impressive. Having played in less than half of the tournaments MC has played in, Puppey has still earned more. At 23, Puppey finds himself as team captain of Natus Vincere - a Ukranian eSports team - and in this position he's lead his team to victory in both the ESWC and The International. A significant amount of his earnings have been won playing DotA 2.
5 Oleksandr "XBOCT" Dashkevych - $435,838.84
Oleksandr Dashkevych, or XBOCT, is 29 and has played in a total of 36 tournaments. He is part of the Ukrainian team Natus Vincere, and he plays DotA 2 professionally. He is known for his talent as a Carry, and esports.com reports that he maintains 'fast and steady farm' in gameplay. This pro gamer helped his team to victory in several high-profile tournaments. XBOCT didn’t really earn big money until The International in 2011, but it certainly seems he has got the hang of it now.
4 Danylo "Dendi" Ishutin - $438,142.93
Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin is 24 and has already played in a total of 38 tournaments. In 2008, he started his professional gaming career by playing the original Defence of the Ancients. However, shortly thereafter he was hired by a professional gaming team, Natus Vincere, whose members feature heavily on this list. Dendi originally played the first "Defense of the Ancients" in 2008 for a living, until hired by professional gaming team – Natus Vincere – in 2011 after a DotA 2 tournament with million dollar prize was announced. He is now recognized as one of the most successful DotA 2 players in the world.
3 Lee "Flash" Young Ho - $446,371.91
Lee “Flash” Young Ho is a Terran player in StarCraft: Brood War. At 21 (23 Korean) he is the youngest top earner on the list. Just as his gamer name Flash indicated, this wunderkind is quick. His career started strong, as he rapidly amassed a winning record playing Proleague games in both the MSL (MBCGame StarCraft League) and OSL (OnGameNet StarLeague). He also became the youngest programer to win a title in Starleague, at the ripe young age of 15. Flash has also become the first player ever to reach both individual league finals three times in a row.
2 Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel - $454,544.98
Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel has developed into a legendary game player, and has held one of the top earning gamer spots for the past few years. He has played in 35 tournaments to date, and at 35-years-old he is a little more seasoned than most other players on this list. Fatal1ty has been most successful playing first-person shooters, and has earned massive cash prizes doing so. In 2005 alone, when he played in 10 tournaments, this gamer earned over $230,000. He's also an entrepreneur; using his status as one of the world’s first prominent professional gamers, Fatal1ty has received major sponsorship from computer hardware companies, and sells his own gaming gear.
1 Lee "Jaedong" Jae Dong - $504,486.72
At age 25, Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong is the top dog in gaming, having earned over half a million dollars in a total of 47 tournaments. He is a Zerg player in StarCraft: Brood War and has been regarded as the greatest Zerg player in the history of professional gameplay. He's also been able to achieve incredible success playing StarCraft” Brood War’s sequel: StarCraft II. However, before he moved on to StarCraft: II, Jaedong made massive earning playing Brood War. If he does just as well with the sequel, Jaedong will be sure to go down in gaming history as one of the all time greats.