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Cyberathletes compete for real money

Winner takes home $25,000 grand prize

The Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) championships offers gamers a chance to display their abilities and win some money in the process.  

DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- Although these athletes may not move from their chairs, many of them are still sweating by the end of a match.

More than 4,200 computer gamers recently gathered in Dallas, Texas, to display their lightning-fast reflexes during the five-day Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) championships.

They came from 63 countries for a round-robin tournament to test their silicon skills in strategy and teamwork.

Angel Munoz started the CPL five years ago with just 300 people and a $300 grand prize. However, since that time, gaming has grown into a $9-billion-a-year industry.

Now he watches as five-person teams -- mostly young males 17 to 24 years old -- play each other on the PC game "Half-Life: Counterstrike" for a total of $100,000 in cash, with the winner getting $25,000. This year, a team called Schröt Kommando was awarded the top prize.

"When I went to talk to people and said, 'yeah, we're starting a league and it's a Cyberathlete Professional League,' you know, there was a lot of snickering," says Munoz.

There are now big tech companies sponsoring these gamers and in many cases, they're sponsoring teams.

"More and more people are playing computers, more people are interested in this league," says Munoz. "More and more people are interested in gamers and what happens at an event like this, so this is our best year ever."

More than 4,000 video game players in pro leagues compete in summer cyberathlete championships. CNN's Renay San Miguel reports (July 25)

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Traditionally, an athlete is somebody who sweats a little, moves around a lot, and someone who may pull a muscle every now and then. So can a person who sits in front of a computer all day really be considered a cyberathlete?

"I have a sporting background myself, and now I don't really have as much time to play it," says Swedish gamer Andres Thorstensson. "I played basketball for nine years but I don't have time and I think that playing games is just another alternative to playing sports. This is excellent."

Other gamers agree.

"There are other sides of athletes, not just the physical part," says gamer Tim Marchant. "There's the mental strength, the mental skill, the reflexes, the reaction, the dedication."

Social interaction?

Marchant plays for one of the top 10-ranked CPL teams called Domain of Pain. He's played for three years, which he says is long enough to see differences in the styles of United States and European cyberathletes. He says Europeans take advantage of faster Internet connections to stress team work.

Some observers believe there is a difference between the gaming styles of United States and European cyberathletes.  

"The Americans, we rely on skill like true raw skill," says Marchant. "We play a pickoff game. We sit and wait for somebody to make a mistake and we pick them off."

But what about worries that playing computer games all day breeds isolation?

One mother, Beverly Clark, who brought her 11-year-old son from northwest Arkansas to the tournament, says it's all in the coaching you get from mom and dad.

"This is all done in a family way. We do it together," she says. "He isn't secluded from anything. He doesn't get to sit in his room by himself for hours at a time, doing things that we don't know what he's doing. That's where the problems start, when the parents aren't involved."

CPL founder Munoz believes that gaming is intrinsically interactive.

"We're happy to see that the industry's waking up to the reality that people do want to socialize," he says. "I mean, gamers are human, and humans are social."


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