Gamer takes state honors, strives for even more
It used to be that children aspired toward becoming firemen, doctors or teachers. Today, the overwhelming popularity video games have found amongst teens has caused a new set of role models to, one might say, come into play.
Jordan Thorson, who recently wrapped up his freshman year at Detroit Lakes High School, has discovered the thrill of competitive gaming, and already plans to turn it into a career. His forte? Halo.
Halo is a video game based in science fiction, complete with a superhuman soldier armed with technologically advanced weaponry, futuristic transportation, and an artificial intelligence buddy that guides the player through the game's storyline. Plot comes in the form of a battle against a theocracy of aligned alien races.
Thorson, 15, is one of many gamers who plays Halo against online competitors. The online ranking system he is involved with recently placed him at 10th in the state, undoubtedly an impressive feat.
"I was sixth for awhile," said Thorson, who was not so much discouraged by the slip as determined to practice more because of it. "I haven't played recently, though."
Thorson's friends find that claim unbelievable, since he is known throughout his class to do a great deal of gaming. Even the high school faculty took note of Thorson's hobby this past year. Freshman chemistry teacher Steve Fode presented Thorson with a "Halo Award" at the ceremony that marked the change of semester.
"I check online to make sure he still has a life," said Thorson's friend and incoming sophomore Tom Warweg with a smile.
Thorson began playing Halo at age 11, although he was first hooked on Super Mario games several years prior.
"When I was younger, my brother-in-law used to play Halo 1 and 2 with me," said Thorson, who has progressed with the trilogy and now plays the third segment of the game.
When the Xbox 360 came out, Thorson spent a good deal of time gaming with his sister's boyfriend. "He convinced me to get one and play online," said Thorson.
Once he had heard the gospel of gaming, he spread his hobby to his circle of friends.
"He got me into playing," said Dalton Meyer, who will also be a sophomore at DLHS this fall. He has since become very involved in the gaming circuit.
"There was one summer where we only saw him once a month," said Meyer of Thorson.
Was he home playing Halo?
"...Yeah," Thorson said after a short pause.
Thorson admits to playing an average of four hours of Halo 3 every day. When asked why, he said simply, "So I can get better."
A gamer that graduates to greatness can put together online teams, participate in tournaments, and potentially win money. Thorson and his friends cite Tom Taylor, known in the gaming realm as Tsquared, as an example of true video game expertise and success.
The professional gamer has a $250,000 contract with Major League Gaming, and also owns an instructional Web site. Amongst other accomplishments, Taylor was ranked first in Stuff Magazine's "Top 20 Under 30" list of successful young professionals.
Is this the sort of gaming glory Thorson strives toward?
"I don't know. Maybe, one day."
At present, Thorson's career plans are aimed toward becoming a video game tester, although he would be content with "whichever happens." If hired by a major gaming label, a tester with plenty of experience can expect to earn a salary of $80,000 or more yearly.
Thorson, who considers himself a very competitive person, isn't interested so much in the monetary aspect of gaming as the bragging rights. He feels the most rewarding piece of going into professional gaming would be "being able to say you can do it."
If his current gaming prowess is an indication of future success, Thorson can expect his high ranking to take him far. But what's on the less distant horizon for Thorson?
"I'm excited for the new (Halo) coming out -- the expansion," Thorson said.
His friends have a different goal for Thorson this summer: "We're going to get him a tan," Warweg said.