Some athletes train for years on the field, months in the pool or seasons on the slopes – but local teenager Logan Courtney practices from the comfort of his own home for his sport of choice.
Courtney, who one day hopes to be a professional gamer, is well on his way to achieving his dreams.
Courtney, 17, started playing video games when many people do, in his childhood.
“I loved to play as a little kid at my grandma’s house,” he said.
Although he enjoyed the various virtual adventures and the challenges that came with beating a game from a young age, it wasn’t until his grandfather purchased an Xbox 360 that Courtney said he really started getting into the gaming world.
Around eighth grade, Courtney took his gaming to another level. He went on the internet and sought out challengers of various levels.
“I finally got online and started playing against other people, well, playing and practicing,” said Courtney, a senior to be at Martinsville High School.
The teen’s game of choice became Call of Duty, a popular series, published by Activision, which follows a first-person shooter narrative. The first game arrived on the market in 2003 and focused on stories set in the World War II era, and the series has expanded into modern times, the Cold War era and plot lines based in futuristic worlds and outer space.
The next installation of the game, Modern Warfare, is in development.
The game is so popular that people not only play against each other online but also attend competitions all over the world.
The chance to come out on top at many competitions doesn’t only offer bragging rights. In 2016, the Call of Duty XP Championship gave away $2 million at the end of the tournament. Other large sums include the 2017 and 2018 Call of Duty World League (CWL) Championships, the first of which gave away more than $ 1.5 million, followed by a solid $1.5 million prize the next year.
Both the competition and the financial potential sparked Courtney’s interest. Instead of jumping into a competition feeling unprepared, Courtney first worked behind the scenes, building up his skills and looking for others who also shared his same level of enthusiasm and game play.
“I never felt like I had a good enough team,” Courtney said.
But he didn’t let that thought get him down. He consistently practiced and battled against other gamers, dedicating hours to virtual combat.
“You get online and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do a scrim’ – that’s short for scrimmage,” Courtney said. “You see if another team wants to practice. It’s really like any other sport.”
When Courtney felt confident that he and a group of four other players could hold their own in competition, the team started looking at a variety of venues. The teens decided on a competition in Ohio, and off they went.
Upon arrival at the venue, the group of five felt a little apprehensive, he said.
“The first time was definitely scary,” Courtney said. “I thought we would be totally destroyed.”
As Courtney compared his team to others at the venue, he noticed a glaring contrast between his group and others – Courtney’s team consisted solely of teenagers, the youngest being 15 years old, but the majority of other teams had players in their 20s.
Courtney said he feared that the age discrepancy could impact his group’s game, because they hadn’t been playing as long as most of their competitors.
When the competition commenced, Courtney and his group focused on the game and started to relax.
“It all starts to feel natural, like you’re home again,” Courtney said.
As the all-teen group played, they started beating older teams around them. By the end of the competition, they had a fan group of sorts.
“Everyone’s hyped. Everyone’s screaming,” Courtney said. “We realized that we’re the underdogs.”
Courtney’s team walked away with second place in Ohio and quickly decided to do it all again. They found a competition in Raleigh, N.C., and traveled there last month.
The teenage team again finished in second place, boosting the players’ confidence.
“I decided to keep doing this,” Courtney said.
Next, Courtney and friends selected a competition in Charlotte, N.C. This appeared no different than the other two venues, when the team looked around, they noticed an age discrepancy.
“We’ve always been the youngest team,” Courtney said.
Now more comfortable with their sport, the group settled into their game play and faced their competitors head on.
While the teenage team fought hard, the group that came out on top at the end of the competition shocked all five players – they were the winners.
“When we won first, I thought, ‘I can’t believe that just happened,’” Courtney said.
With his head held high, Courtney returned to Martinsville ready for the next competition. The moral victory also came with a perk – some spending money.
Placing in three consecutive tournaments also impressed Courtney’s friends, who have been on the journey with him since he first started playing Call of Duty.
“At first, they were like, ‘Oh, he’s good at COD, but he’s not that good at it.’ Then I started winning some money, and they were like, ‘He’s pretty good,’” Courtney said. “When I won first place, they were like, ‘Okay, he can actually make it.’”
On the path to becoming a professional gamer, Courtney said a lot of the pros get noticed by a fairly cut-and-dried recipe – one part skill and the other part luck. Although some schools are adding gaming teams and scholarships — such as Patrick Henry Community College recently did — Courtney said he is scouring for better competitions to draw attention to his ability.
“It’s not really a set thing. It’s not like a pro-level you get into, like with college sports,” he said. “You just have to go out there and get yourself known. Eventually, you’ll get noticed by a pro team. Or you could make a pro team by yourself. There’s really no set way.”
Amie Knowles can be reached at email@example.com