Playing video games for a living is the kind of job the average young man would kill to have.

But Kurt Fenech, 21, is no average gamer. Having already ranked fourth in a European FIFA 16 tournament, he now has his sights set on securing a professional gaming contract.

Mr Fenech will have to rank highly at next month's FIFA Play Like a Legend World Grand Finals if he's to turn that dream into a reality. But if the pressure is getting to him, it doesn't show.

"Winning it is my objective," he told timesofmalta.com. "This is the big one and while qualifying is in itself a huge achievement, I want to win."

The World Grand Finals will pit 16 of the world's best FIFA 16 players against one another, with the winner walking away with a cool $10,000 in prize money.

E-sports - essentially gaming competitions - have become a massive online business, with total prize money running into the millions of dollars every year. In 2013, viewers on e-sports streaming platform Twitch watched 12 billion minutes of video.

Mr Fenech came from relative obscurity to reach the quarter finals of a FIFA 16 Play Like a Legend season tournament earlier this year. Having topped his group, he won the first leg of his quarter final 3-1 and seemed on course to make the semis.

But triumph turned into tragedy in the second leg, when he failed to take his chances and allowed his opponent a way back into the tie. A 79th minute Paul Pogba goal turned the tide and sent Mr Fenech out.

Kurt looks on during his Gfinity quarter final match. Photo: Gfinity.netKurt looks on during his Gfinity quarter final match. Photo: Gfinity.net

The defeat still rankles. "I'm still not sure how I lost," Mr Fenech admitted. "I utterly dominated my opponent. I should have won it."

FIFA 16's Play Like A Legend allows gamers to build their team using whichever mix of footballers they like, including past greats such as Maradona, Pele,
Maldini, and Van Basten.

The world-class competition Mr Fenech faces these days is a million miles removed from his first gaming experiences.

He first started gaming when he was 10 or 11 years old, playing FIFA 99 against his father. As online gaming became increasingly popular, his hobby became an ever-bigger part of his life.

"I started to play more and more, and it became apparent that I was pretty good at it," he said. Not that everyone is all that happy about his gaming skills. “I like beating my friends the most,” he says mischievously.

Having now thrown his hat into the competitive ring, he's confident he can go one better and turn his passion into a career. And if it doesn't work out, well, he’ll always have his friends to thrash.

 

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