Professional video game player from Kelowna among top Canadian earners | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Professional video game player from Kelowna among top Canadian earners

Kelowna native Russel van Dulken, known as Twistzz online, is a top eSports earner in Canada.
Image Credit: TWITTER/Russel van Dulken
May 09, 2021 - 8:00 AM

From a young age, Russel van Dulken watched his parents play video games, not knowing those moments would one day lead him to tournaments, trophies and money.

The 21-year-old is better known as Twistzz online. According to Gambling.com, he is currently the sixth highest eSports earner in Canada and has made $866,676.43 since the start of his professional gaming career in 2015.

“I think my dad had a bigger part in that, but growing up my mom and dad both played games together, it was something I kind of watched as a spectator and later on when I was seven or eight, my dad got me more involved,” he said.

His dad would play a variety of games, from consoles to personal computer games, and it was the main way van Dulken would bond with him, he said.

He plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitively, a game that has had few updates or significant changes since its release in 2012. His draw to the game came from his drive to want to learn and understand it as well as continuing to be creative and develop new tactics to excel at it.

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“It was a much more difficult game than all the other games that we were playing and I felt like there was an actual learning curve… it takes time, you know? If anyone touches the game for the first like 500 hours isn’t going to understand the fundamentals and the basics yet and that’s why I kind of just kept playing, I never stopped,” van Dulken said.

More than a million people were still playing the first-person shooter in March, 2021. Millions more pour in to watch Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments online, according to Statistica, a research and analysis platform.

An already billion-dollar industry, eSports are projected to grow more than 10% in the next two years. Canadian eSports players have earned their winnings from a variety of games including Dota 2, Fortnight and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Overwatch, Rocket League, Starcraft II, and League of Legends are also popular games amongst Canadian eSports players and tournaments, according to Gambling.com.

In Toronto, eSports are gaining even more traction than ever with the construction of a $500 million eSports park. This venue will seat more than 7,000 fans, boosting interest in an already bustling industry, according to the organization.

Van Dulken grew up in the Okanagan and moved in 2017 to Los Angeles when he joined North American gaming organization Team Liquid, a dream of his at the time. In 2019, Team Liquid claimed the $1 million Intel Grand Slam prize, a prestigious award that recognizes top Counter Strike: GO players in the world.

During the pandemic, he moved back to Canada and joined FaZe Clan, a professional eSports and entertainment organization, in January and moved to Europe. Now he’s currently living in Serbia, he said.

People assume the life of a professional gamer isn’t impacted much by the pandemic, but van Dulken and his team aren't able to meet up in person.

“It makes a tremendous difference when you’re in the same room as them. You can feel their emotions and you can talk to them easily about issues, and when you’re online, you’re just behind a monitor. If you don’t want to talk to someone you can just walk away and it’s not supposed to be like that,” he said.

“I think in general the pandemic has made the life of a professional gamer seem a lot more lame than it’s supposed to be. Sure we sit and play video games and get paid but it’s supposed to be a lot more than that. We’re supposed to be travelling to events, there’s supposed to be crowds. It’s supposed to be a lot more intense.”

He became accustomed to crowd-filled stadiums with Team Liquid in 2017.He got over his nerves and now finds the crowds help him “get into the zone.”

Back when he started in 2015, most people didn’t try to become professional gamers, he said.

“I kept playing and getting really good and I was watching the main events for (Counter Strike) but I never actually thought I would be there. I was playing with friends. I feel like my path to professional play happened pretty fast, within one year of playing competitively,” he said.

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His advice to those wanting to become a professional gamer? There's also a degree of natural talent a person must have and being good at games also lies with genetics.

“When a person is using a mouse, and how it feels in their hand and how they use the keyboard and if they’re mechanically gifted when it comes to games. A majority of people playing at the top level right now have had that talent and it’s not like you can work hard to get there. People have talent and it depends on how hard they work to bring it to the top,” he said.

Currently Twistzz and his team are competing in the European Regional Major Rankings for a spot in the Counter Strike tournament PGL Major Stockholm 2021. The tournament is the sixteenth Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship running from Oct. 23-Nov. 7 and the first place winning team will receive $2 million USD.

The main event will take place in front of a live audience Nov. 4-7. It will also be broadcast in 4K.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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