SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s 2019. Your quit your day job to play video games full-time, and the next thing you know you’re on a plane to compete in ESPN’s X-Games as a professional gamer. Sounds like a dream, but for Springfield’s Christian Feliciano it’s a reality.
“I was on the verge of quitting so I just got a stroke of luck at the right time I guess.”
Feliciano, or Nokokopuffs as he’s known in the gaming world, has been trying to get signed as a professional gamer for the last seven years. Recently, he started gaining traction on the live streaming platform Twitch and his dream came true.
“Trying to convince your family that you want to yell at a monitor for the rest of your life is really difficult, but for the most part they were cool with it considering my skill level,” Feliciano explained. “I showed things to back it up, I had a full time job, you know, I was doing everything the right way.”
It’s only been about three months since Feliciano started playing video games for a living and it’s been nothing short of exciting. Feliciano and his Counter Logic Gaming teammates left for Minneapolis Tuesday to battle other teams in the APEX Legends competition, the only E-sports event being showcased at the X-Games.
“We caught wind of it on Twitter then all of a sudden one of my teammates was like, ‘uh.. Hello? Are we in? Is this a thing? Are we in this?’,” Feliciano said as he described the moment they found out they were invited to the X-Games.
Gaming has become increasingly popular in recent years that these types of prestigious competitions are becoming more common. In fact, a 16-year-old gamer made headlines earlier this week for taking home the $3 million grand prize at the first-ever Fortnite World Cup.
Growing up with gaming
At age 26, Feliciano is one of the older players in the professional gaming community.
“You don’t see it a lot inside of e-sports because of relationships, a house, kids, family,” he said. “To put 8 hours or 10 hours on top of a fulltime job to become a professional gamer is really difficult.”
He first got into gaming at a very young age, thanks to his father who bought him and his two brothers computers to play on.
“I always had this attraction to gaming, like this was my escape,” Feliciano said. “I never had so much fun. It could be 100 degrees outside, and I’m like ‘I want to play video games.’ It sounds terrible but that was my happy place and it kind of developed from there.”
Over the years, Feliciano has seen gaming transform into what it is today.
“Seven years ago or even 10 years ago, gaming isn’t what it is now,” Feliciano said. “My brother used to be a professional gamer way back in the day, and you’d win a mouse and a keyboard. Now you’re competing for millions of dollars.”
Life as a professional gamer
For work, Feliciano live streams himself playing APEX Legends Monday through Saturday 4:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
“It’s a very fun lifestyle and a lot of people, they think it’s just like sitting in front of a TV playing video games,” he said.
However, it’s much more than just a game.
Feliciano has his own streaming area set up in his home, equipped with three monitors, a camera, microphone, studio lights, and backdrop. His hours-long streams double as a show that he puts on for his viewers and subscribers.
“I know some people who don’t think of gaming as a sport, but I always think of it as a mental sport,” Feliciano said. “You use your hands a lot, things like that…reaction time…”
Feliciano said people are always curious about how much money he makes.
“I always try to shrug it off,” he said. “That topic… I wouldn’t say it makes me feel uncomfortable, but it’s just like, you never would, you know, walk up to someone and say ‘how much money do you make?'”
For him, it’s much more than the money. Feliciano is not only doing what he loves, he’s also making lifelong friendships along the way. Over the years he’s been to a fellow gamer’s wedding, and has built relationships with countless others over a headset.
“I think that is really cool, you can have that relationship with so many people, even if you’ve never met them before or not even seeing their face,” Feliciano said.
Nokokopuffs is not planning on switching careers anytime soon. Some of his immediate goals are taking home gold at this weekend’s X-Games, and building his following on social media.