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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 09:16 GMT
Gaming glamour tempts tennis pro
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

David Kinnaird
David Kinnaird concentrates hard while competing
Scotsman David Kinnaird is swapping his tennis racket for a railgun.

A keen gamer, Mr Kinnaird has packed in life as a pro-tennis player to try to make it in the world of professional computer gaming.

He has become one of the latest recruits to the Quake IV squad of the UK's leading pro-game team Four-Kings.

Explaining the decision, Mr Kinnaird said the rewards for pro-gamers were far better than those available to pro-tennis players.

Think fast

As a tennis player Mr Kinnaird, from Bearsden, near Glasgow, made it into Scotland's national youth side and regularly trained alongside hot prospect Andy Murray.

The worlds of pro-tennis and pro-gaming are close, said Mr Kinnaird, because both require players to live and breathe their discipline.

The excellent hand-eye co-ordination that helped him to become a good tennis player would make him a better gamer too, he said.

While many pro-gaming tournaments have contests for teams, most matches revolve around one-on-one shoot-outs in which players employ a variety of outlandish weaponry to try and kill or "frag" each other.

Mr Kinnaird said he now spends about four hours every day training on Quake IV getting to know the different "maps" that tournaments use, studying the playing styles of regular opponents and watching replays of key matches.

He added that despite Quake IV's reputation as a fast and furious shooter it does have its cerebral element too.

Winning a match is not just about shooting first and faster, he said, instead playing Quake IV can be very tactical as players try to work each other into areas of the "map" where they can be deprived of weapons and more easily "fragged".

"It requires the same sort of ideas as tennis," he said, "though the physical side is not as much you are still using your head."

Game gear

Despite his solid start as a pro-tennis player Mr Kinnaird, now 21, believes it will be easier to make a living on the pro-gaming circuit.

"Because there are so many sponsors involved, pro-gaming is bigger than tennis in a way," he said.

Screenshot from Quake IV, Activision
Mr Kinnaird is spending four hours a day in the Quake IV world
Certainly the rewards for top pro-gamers can be huge. Jonathan Wendel (aka Fatal1ty) won the final of the Cyberathlete Professional League World Tour event and walked away with a cheque for $150,000 (84,000).

Interestingly, Mr Wendel is also a keen tennis player and Mr Kinnaird is planning on challenging him to a few sets.

The CPL World Tour is only one among many tournaments that hand out big cash prizes to top players. In 2005 the tour handed out $1m in prize money. The details of the 2006 World Tour are still being finalised.

Mr Kinnaird took part in the CPL Winter Event, came in at a respectable eighth place taking home $600 for his time. Other events he is slated to attend include the CPL Summer Event and the E-Sports World Cup.

The Four-Kings clan has several players in its Quake IV squad one of which is David Treacy (aka Zaccubus) who put in a solid performance in last year's CPL World Tour.

Four-Kings has several sponsors, including chip giant Intel and PC maker Shuttle, which helps players travel the world to tournaments.

By contrast, said Mr Kinnaird, only tennis players who rank in the top 200 in the world are likely to get sponsors, and those ranked lower than that will spend a lot of their own money travelling to tournaments to improve their standing.

Few pro-tennis players manage to make a living at their chosen sport. "But," said Mr Kinnaird, "if you are a top 20 gamer you can make a living at it more or less."

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