RALEIGH – For most, getting paid to play video games is called living the dream.

But for Matthew Stevens, it’s called his job.

The 21-year-old from southern California is a member of the five-player team, Dark Zero Esports, the only American team to compete in this past weekend’s Raleigh Major.

Dark Zero player Matthew Stevens at Raleigh Major this weekend. Photo: Chantal Allam

Team Empire from Russia took home the $200,000 grand prize, competing against 15 teams from around the world, playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, a popular first-person shooter game.

WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam got the chance to sit down with him, and find out what it’s like being a professional esports athlete. Here’s what he had to say:

  • Is this your full-time job?

I’ve done it for the past three years. Now it’s full time, but it wasn’t before. I started going full time about a year ago.

  • How did you get started?

[I and a teammate] were doing pretty good at Pro League at the time. We were in the top two. Dark Zero Esports (a full-scale esports organization that combines training and development) messaged us that they wanted to sign us.

We got signed, and they moved us out to Texas to live in a team house together in Dallas.

  • What’s it like being an esports athlete?

Basically, our daily routine is we wake up around 9.30 am, we have workouts from 10-11 am. We have a personal trainer who will mix it up. We have free weights; we go on runs. After the workouts, we’ll shower and we’ll practice from 11.30-9 pm, six days a week.

  • What does practice involve?

We’ll play against other teams, we’ll go into custom lobbies, it’s called, and we’ll practice strategies that we made ourselves. We live in team house. That’s where we do everything.

  • What are the terms of your salary and contract?

I can’t disclose that, but we make good money. Or else I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s better than average, better than minimum wage.

  • Raleigh Major’s winning team walked away with $200,000. Do you know how much the players are making?

I think they get around $50,000 each.

  • Did you make money from this tournament?

I think we’ll take home $5,000 each.

  • And your expenses?

They cover everything: food, hotel, everything.

  • How long do you plan on doing this as a career?

I plan on doing it the next seven years.

  • And after that?

Hopefully this will transition into something after esports like becoming a coach or a manager for other teams.

  • Esports has exploded. When would you say it started to become something big?

I’d say in the last five to seven years, things kicked off. Now it’s bigger than ever and continually growing.

  • Are you surprised you can make a living at playing video games?

I’m not surprised. I kind of grew up watching people that did. I’m surprised that me myself is doing it.

  • What does it take to play at that level?

Just like any professional sports, like NBA Basketball, you have to put in the time.

  • Physically, is it demanding?

No, but I would say that it is the most stress-intensive thing to do. You’re using your mind 24/7, whereas in physical sports, you’ll kind of have “off times.”

  • What’s your next big tournament?

Dreamhack Montreal in September. If we win that, it will get us a spot into the invitations {a larger tournament].

Esports ‘athletes’ take home $500,000 in prizes at Raleigh Major