Like many of his friends, Commack’s Tim Miller, 20, still lives at home, plays video games and listens to Billy Joel. One big difference, though, is the $404,275 he earned since June playing those video games in professional esports events.
Since turning pro just more than six months ago, Miller — playing under the name of “Bizzle,”— has basked in esports success. He has it all; an agent, a team, even his own personalized merchandise and, most importantly, a professional-sized paycheck, having made over $400,000 according to ESportsEarnings.com.
One more thing, he’s already paid off his student loan from Penn State.
Miller’s game is Fortnite, a battle royale involving up to 100 players with the last player standing declared the winner. It’s been a whirlwind experience he didn’t expect, he said, but one he hopes continues. After all, what 20-year-old wouldn’t want to spend his day playing video games?
“It’s been crazy,” Miller said. “In high school, I started playing games more and more. It’s sort of like an addiction, but when you get good at it, it’s something you enjoy doing all the time.”
Miller had some earlier success playing Counter-Strike a first-person shooter game, while he was in college before turning to Fortnite and capturing the attention of Ghost Gaming, a California-based company that fields professional video game teams.
Ghost offered Miller a spot on its Fortnite squad last year, with the chance to compete at the Summer Skirmishes, an eight-week series with a total prize pool of $8 million. He accepted and in late August, placed second in the event’s final competition, winning $205,000, according to Fortnite’s official website.
And, suddenly, everything changed.
“After that, it started blowing up and I was like, ‘Wow, you can make seriously good money from video games,’ ” said Miller, who won an additional $199,275 in 12 other Fortnite events throughout 2018 according to ESportsEarnings.com.
At the time of the Summer Skirmishes, Miller was doing his best to figure out what his next step would be, both in video games and his life in general. He graduated from Commack High School in 2016, and went to Penn State, thinking he might want to be an accountant.
Instead, he transferred to Suffolk County Community College and took classes focusing on cyber security while working part-time at a golf course. But after winning six-figures, Miller started to wonder if playing video games full-time wasn’t the best option.
His mother, Debra Miller, admitted that she and Miller’s father weren’t always so sure.
“We made him register for school this past fall,” said Debra, who works at Commack Middle School. “As a mom, I was like, ‘You have to get that degree.’ ”
It quickly became apparent that the demands of a professional video-game career were bigger than any of them realized and Miller started playing full-time, stepping away from school.
Miller said he plays Fortnite about 40 hours a week on a three-screen setup in the basement of his parents’ house and has fine-tuned his hand-eye coordination.
He also travels to events in places such as Seattle and San Jose, and broadcasts his play to thousands of fans on Twitch, a live-streaming video platform. Although he’s quick to point out that he loves playing, Miller also acknowledged that going pro was far from simple.
“There’s always assumptions because some people don’t know or fully understand the whole scene,” said Miller, who added that success in pro gaming can be as hard, if not harder, than traditional sports.
“You’re not playing a region or local teams, it’s the whole country,” Miller said. “Everyone is playing Fortnite, so everyone wants to be a good player, but it’s only the top .01 percent that make it worth their while.”
Despite their early misgivings, Miller’s family have become big fans.
His sister, Stephanie, a freshman at Ohio State majoring in film and communications, cuts highlights of Miller’s best in-game plays and uploads the videos on Twitter. It’s helped him build his social media presence, with 35,000 followers, and draws more viewers to Twitch when he streams.
When Miller competes, his family packs the living room and turns on the video screen.
“[My dad is] 77 years old and he’s on Twitch,” Debra said. “He says, ‘I subscribed to Timmy!’ “It’s unbelievable.”
Miller isn’t sure how long his playing career will last. He has seen popular video games such as Fortnite come and go, but he said he’s already considered his post-Fortnite options, including coaching opportunities. He and other Ghost gamers spent time working with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas esports team in 2018.
Right now, he’s enjoying the moment.
“I like playing the game,” Miller said. “And I want to keep playing and try to make as much as I can. I’m trying to take advantage of everything.”