Video gamer nets $120K

17-year-old world champion competed before audience of 115,000

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The 2018 Smite World Champion gamer is a 17 year-old high school senior from Cranston.

Brandon Casale is a student at Cranston High School West and is a third year student in the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center’s (CACTC) Interactive Digital Media program. Casale was also named MVP of the world championship tournament, held live in front of 15,000 people, with 100,000 people watching online, in January. Casale’s peers in the Digital Media program were among the 100,000 watching online as he became the champion Smite player for the entire world.

The prize? $120,000. Per player. Casale has been honing his craft for the past several years, ultimately readying himself for this big event. “I first started playing Smite [an online, multi-player game] four or five years ago for fun. It’s a ranked system where better players get noticed by the professional players,” Casale said. “It took me about three years to get noticed. I played on a lower-end team first, and then got picked up and replaced a good friend of mine who works for the company now.” Casale took the fifth spot on the North American team and immediately felt the good synergy between him and the other players. He is the second youngest player on the team, whose players hail from all over the country. He began to learn from his own mistakes as he played, and saw himself improving.

“I’m a very competitive person and I always wanted to be at the top,” he said. “I just thought that it would take longer. As a team, we were very confident and we wanted to win.”

Their team played for the E-Sports Smite Pro League, playing the game “Moba.” The recent world tournament was played in Atlanta, Georgia. It was not the first time that Casale has had the chance to travel to compete, but this was the largest tournament he had competed in, and had the biggest prize.

There are many skills and strategies Casale utilizes when playing the game that is mythology-based.

“I need to have good hand-eye coordination and a solid background knowledge of what the other characters do because I need to be able to outplay my opponent,” he said.

One also needs to have a good amount of stamina to compete.

“You play the best of five games, first to three,” he said. “You take a three-minute break between games and a bathroom break after the third game.”

For many, playing in front of such a large crowd might be intimidating, but for Casale it makes him a better player and the adrenaline keeps him going.

“You could hear them chanting U.S.A. and ‘Moba,’ and you could feel the floor shaking,” he said. “Europe had won two years in a row and there was super hype and excitement for us to win.”

The computer science skills that Casale has learned in his CACTC Digital Media program over the past three years have served him well in perfecting his game.

“I have gotten a lot of background knowledge because of my classes,” he said. “I have background knowledge of how to make a game and that helps me know how the game should work. It definitely helps you. All knowledge of the coding, graphics and frames per second are all things that I have used.”

Casale has also needed to put to use some of the skills he learned in his financial literacy course, a new graduation requirement in Cranston that was taken as part of his CACTC program.

With paid sponsors, cash prizes and a paycheck every month, he’s had to make some very adult decisions as to what to do with his earnings.

“We make above a full time salary,” he said. “The company takes very good care of their players.”

His Digital Media teacher, Aimee Duarte, ranks herself as one of Casale’s biggest fans, and could not be more proud of his accomplishments and the skills he has been able to put to use from her class.

“I think this has been a great opportunity for Brandon,” she said. “Some students take Interactive Digital Media because they are excited about video games and are interested in creating them. Brandon is the perfect example of hard work paying off. Not only does he contribute to testing video games, which is a gamer’s dream in itself, he also earned a spot on a national competitive team. One of the key components in game design and development in my course is teamwork. Brandon has successfully mastered that one. I am extremely proud of Brandon and what he has accomplished already in life. He is very polite and has a great personality, and you would never know he has such a competitive side. I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.”

Casale will be taking some time after graduation to evaluate where he will be going from here.

“I’m going to take a gap year and see where everything takes me. I can keep playing competitively and see how long that lasts or I can take a specific job with the company, like game testing, or I can go on to college,” he said. “I need to decide if I want to move to Atlanta and if so, do I want to move right away or not. I could also move to Vegas. As a team we could move in together.”

Either way, Casale is fully committed to moving forward with his gaming career, and is grateful to his parents for their continued support as he makes these next big decisions.

“When I first starting playing, they definitely thought I was playing too much,” he said. “But once they saw the potential and I was starting to play for money, they were 100 percent on board and supportive.”

Cranston West principal Tom Barbieri is seeing the world of gaming through new eyes thanks to Casale.

“This is a much bigger opportunity than I ever realized,” Barbieri said. “Video games have come a long way from Asteroids and Pac Man. This is like an automatic internship for him and he has a whole world of opportunity ahead of him because of it. These types of opportunities did not even exist before. I’m so glad to hear Brandon talking about having a job, a retirement account, and options for a plan for the future.”

To learn more about Smite and Casale’s world champion league, visit esports.smitegame.com.

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