Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 12:00 UK

Making stars out of gamers


Michael O'Dell, GM of CGS winners Birmingham Salvo, says good gamers can earn a healthy income.

With the Olympics looming thoughts have turned to British sporting prowess.

If the efforts of one group of 21st Century athletes are any guide then British hopefuls in Beijing could be about to cause some upsets.

The athletes in question are the 10 members of Birmingham Salvo - the UK's top pro-gaming team and they have just won a prestigious gaming prize.

The team was one of 18 competing in the globe-spanning Championship Gaming Series (CGS).

Backed by News Corporation, the CGS aims to turn video-gaming into a popular spectator sport.

Birmingham Salvo was one of eight teams that won national and regional tournaments to make it to the grand final held in the US.

CGS tournaments held during July saw the team progress steadily through the rankings until it made it to the final which saw it pitted against the San Francisco Optx.

"We were the underdogs, no one thought we would do very well," said Sarah "Sarahlou" Harrison for whom the CGS final was her first tournament.

David "Daveyskills" Kelly said: "All the Americans are hyped up a bit more than us, everyone expects them to beat everyone else."

He added: "In all the predictions everyone was saying that the US would win. We would get swamped and not even win a game."


Birmingham Salvo's winning game

But it didn't turn out like that.

In the final, Birmingham Salvo won four out of the five game rounds and took the title of 2008 CGS Champions 22 points to 15.

"It was good to prove those predictions wrong," said Mr Kelly.

Michael Barrett (Fifa 08)
Sarah Harrison (Dead or Alive)
Mingzhi Deng (Dead or Alive)
Dean Sutton (Forza Motorsport)
David Kelly (Forza Motorsport)
James Wilson (Counter Strike)
Elliot Welsh (Counter Strike)
Sam Gawn (Counter Strike)
Pete Wright (Counter Strike)
Marc Mangiacapra (Counter Strike)

For their work the 10-strong team shared a prize pot of $500,000 (255,850).

The upset in the final was the result of many hours of training - up to four hours per day as the final approached.

At times, said Ms Harrison, that regime was hard to maintain.

"You do get to the point where you think 'oh, this again'" she said.

"But," she added, "you do feel you need to prove that you spent the time well, that you have learned from it."

Ms Harrison spent some of her time watching re-runs of the matches played by her likely opponents to become familiar with their fighting styles.

For Mr Kelly training occasionally did get wearisome though the results of winning helped to keep him focused.

"I do take it seriously because there's a lot of money at stake," he said.

Despite the hours they have spent on the same games both say they still enjoy the time they spend playing.

The televised tournaments also mean they are starting to enjoy the notice they get from other players.

Ms Harrison said she was being "bothered" by a lot of people on MSN and Xbox Live who are keen to take her on. So far, she said, she has resisted the urge to show the wannabes how it is done.

Not so Mr Kelly. He has accepted the challenges of those keen to show him up on Forza Motorsport 2.

So far, he said, he remains unbeaten.

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