April 6, 2019 7:19 pm

British Columbia teen part of worldwide eSports explosion

E-Sports are increasing in popularity and payout for players. Kelowna native Russel Van Dulken is taking advantage of his talent, and gaming's surge in popularity.

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One thing Russel Van Dulken has in common with fellow teens is his love for video games.

The average teen spends about 12 hours a week gaming. But for a pro gamer like 19-year-old Van Dulken, that’s next to nothing.

Now living in Los Angeles, the former Kelowna resident is part of a six-member eSports team that travels the world playing in video game tournaments.

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The game Van Dulken plays professionally is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The team he plays for is called Team Liquid. Van Dulken says he trains around seven hours per day with his team.

“People don’t really understand the stress that we go through,” Van Dulken told Global News. “Last year, we travelled 209 days of the year, so I don’t get to stay home very often.”

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While playing eSports may seem small-time, it’s not. In fact, for the elite, the results can be lucrative.

Since he started his pro gaming career at 16, Van Dulken has won just over $340,000. His popularity is also increasing dramatically.

This week, Van Dulken is in the Okanagan, visiting family. On Thursday, he stopped by his former high school, Rutland Senior Secondary, where students geeked out at having an online celebrity in their midst.

“The feeling I got when I walked back into the school was so crazy,” said Van Dulken, who talked to students about his experiences. “I can’t even explain it, to be honest.”

Two RSS students spoke to Global News about Van Dulken visiting the school.

“When I first heard the announcement [that Russel was stopping by], I thought it was an April Fool’s joke,” said student Dipta Ghosh. “I was speechless. I cannot explain what it felt like in that moment.”

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Student Josh Monteagudo said “normal people, like outside people from normal sports, look at [e-sports] as like a mediocre type of thing. And seeing him make money off it and like doing what he does, it opened my eyes.”

Regarding the future of e-sports, Van Dulken says to get ready to see it in more places, more often – watching other people playing video games, he says, is becoming a major attraction.

“Nowadays, it’s like, you know, you go to like a Buffalo Wild Wings in like the U.S.,” he said. “You’re probably going to see like Counter-Strike or something on the TV because people want to watch that.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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