“StarCraft” player perfects his craft

It all started when he received a copy of “StarCraft I” on his 10th birthday. When “StarCraft II” was released, he began to turn his hobby into a career. His after-school routine is to finish homework, then play four to five hours every day to establish himself in the “StarCraft” community.

After competing in hundreds of tournaments and earning nearly $20,000 over the past three years, senior Andrew Pirelli, better known by his “StarCraft” name “intense,” is now ranked in the top three “StarCraft” players in the United States.

“I started off at the lowest ranks, but then I worked my way up and I realized I was pretty good at playing real-time strategy games, so I decided to go all the way. I enjoyed it a lot more than other video games, and plus, I was able to make money from it so I just decided to [compete],” Pirelli said.

Pirelli grew interested in competitive “StarCraft” because players are able to control the hero or champion as well as bases and units. While watching professional tournaments online, Pirelli came across an emotional video of a player winning the Global StarCraft League, which inspired him to start playing competitively.

“He was crying from happiness, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that’. So I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not that terrible, so maybe I’ll try to get good,’ and I guess it started from there,” Pirelli said.

When Pirelli first started playing competitively, his parents disapproved. However, after he showed his parents that he could compete and earn money while maintaining his grades, his parents allowed him to continue his path.

“They kind of shot me down, which was unfortunate. I guess another part of my incentive to be the best was to show to my family that I could do that, and I could be the best. I ended up doing it, kind of, but I want to do it more because I really enjoy it,” Pirelli said.

Competition season takes place in the first eight months of the year, during which Pirelli attends multiple tournaments hosted by Major League Gaming (MLG). To prepare for these tournaments, Pirelli dedicates an average of four hours a day for months in advance to sharpening his skills or studying potential opponents.

“For these tournaments, you normally have a good idea of who you’re going to play ahead of time, so I’ll study the potential opponents I might play, like how they play and their strategies in Starcraft. Besides that, I’ll practice playing the game itself, so I can play it better and faster, and do things more efficiently,” Pirelli said.

As a minor, Pirelli only competes in MLG-hosted events because of age restrictions in other tournaments. However, once he turns 18, Pirelli plans to participate in more major tournaments, such as those hosted by Red Bull, in order to make his name more familiar among American players and improve his ranking.

“[Red Bull tournaments] offer a large amount of prize money and a large viewership. It would also put my name out there. It’ll give me more results to show that I’m a good player, which would lead to more sponsorships,” Pirelli said. “Also, their events are really cool; they have really cool production value.”

Pirelli also enjoys the popularity among other players and prize money that come as a result of his success and sponsorships. His sponsors send him free gear and cover his travel and competition expenses. With his previous team, IvD Gaming, Pirelli received sponsorships from Micro-star International, Cooler Master and international online software companies such as Navertech.

“I want to be the best. What really motivates me? Probably fame and money. I like having fans; I want to have a lot of fans,” Pirelli said.

His most memorable memory playing “StarCraft” was winning a three-day online tournament in October in which the opponent used webcams to record reactions and hired professional players to cast and commentate the game.

“It wasn’t just a tournament win; it meant so much more to me personally. It changed my entire attitude and motivation in the game. Before, I didn’t feel entirely confident in myself, that I could do these things. But after this, I’m like, ‘Wow, I beat all these players that, statistically on paper, I shouldn’t have beaten,’ but it gave me the confidence to keep beating these players and since that happened, I’ve been winning and placing high in other tournaments as well,” Pirelli said.

On Oct. 31, Pirelli joined PSI Storm Gaming, a “StarCraft” team that approached him after noticing his recent consistent tournament victories. Although his previous team had more popularity and sponsors, Pirelli joined this new team to pursue his monetary interests.

“I knew a lot of them previously as they live in California, so they’re really cool friends because we go to a lot of local events. I see them probably on a monthly basis, so we’ll hang out and eat,” Pirelli said. “I knew if I joined that team, I would know a lot of players. And I knew that they had better reputations than the other teams that had given me offers; they were more popular and more liked.”

After high school, Pirelli wants to remain active on the competitive scene. He plans to take his talents to Europe, Asia, Canada and South America, where he will compete in events as a professional gamer.

“When [I] win tournaments and [I] make a few thousand bucks, yeah I’ll smile, I’ll be a little happy, but I don’t stop there,” Pirelli said. “I’m never like, ‘Oh, this is enough — I won this, I’m good’. I’m always like ‘I won this, but I want to win more,’ so I always plan for the future.”

By Anita Chuen, Manager

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