Alberta eSports player's team earns $1 million in South Korea tournament

The growing popularity of eSports can be seen in many ways. One local player is making a name for himself professionally and there is now an Alberta eSports Association. Teams are also popping in schools and communities around the province.

Alberta eSports participation growing at home and on the world stage

19-year-old Nolan Burdick is back at home in Edmonton and is staying focused on his next big win. (CBC News)

After a million-dollar showing in South Korea, an Edmonton professional eSports player is already battling it out in his next major competition. 

"Playing a game, especially a game I enjoy …  for a living? It's just a dream" said 19-year-old Nolan Burdick.

Burdick came in second place with his former team Zenith eSports after a three-month-long tournament playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds —  also known as PubG. 

The combat-style game starts with a large map area that shrinks over time and teams work to be the last group standing. 

A still from the game PlayerUnknown's Battleground (PUBG) as Burdick streams live on the Twitch platform. (Nolan Burdick/Twitch)

There were 32 teams from around the world competing in the tournament. All the players first had to quarantine upon arrival so Burdick said organizers increased the length of the tournament.

After that event, Burdick signed to the Dignitas team that includes three other players and a coach. His teammates are spread out across the globe with one in Texas, one in the United Kingdom and the other in Brazil. Their coach leads the way from his home base in France. 

"We'll scrim pretty much every day," Burdick said. "A scrim is just like a practice run of what a competitive day would be like. So, we play six games."

Just like in any other professional sport, the team will also take time to review their games and strategies to figure out what worked and what didn't.

Competitors also develop habits and routines to ensure they stay on top of their game. 

"The only way you can stay consistent in the game is to keep everything in your life as a player consistent," Burdick said.

"Your diet, your sleep, your exercise, your energy levels are very important. Arguably much more important than any other in-game skill."

His mom, Rachel Devereux, has enjoyed watching Nolan unexpectedly take centre stage. 

For mom, Rachel Devereux, it is exciting to watch her son. She even found herself up in the middle of the night recently as she watched live rounds from South Korea. (CBC News)

"It was just fun,' she said.

"From a kid that was downstairs in his own room quite a bit where all the gaming action happens ... to be out in the world and in South Korea and then getting recognized for that is huge. He's so dedicated and he puts a lot of work into it."

Dignitas just wrapped up their first week at the latest PubG tournament, which has two more weeks to play. The goal is to make the top six, which will allow them to participate in two other tournaments leading up to another major world tournament in November.

Alberta eSports

Brad Jones is the vice president and co-founder of the Alberta eSports Association, which launched in 2020.

It brought between 40 and 50 smaller groups together under one organization, which includes a broad assortment of ages and interests. 

Jones ran an event with players that ranged in age from seven to 77. He also regularly sees parents who came to drop off their kids jump in and start playing games too. 

Brad Jones has been a gamer for more that 16 years. Now he hosts tournaments and works to continue to grow eSports in Alberta. (CBC News)

He doesn't see eSports' popularity slowing down. 

"In the last four or five years we've seen eSports go from 'haha you're going to be in your parent's basement' to a legitimate career path," Jones said.

He also points out that, much like other sports, eSports supports an entire network of people beyond the players including coaches, event organizers and lighting and sound technicians.

There is also the opportunity for new players to get involved.

"The game quite literally changes over time. You don't see football changing its rules incredibly often, it's been the same for a very long time, but new releases in games means it's a level playing field for new entries constantly."