Plugged in: Kelowna teen thriving with professional eSports U.S. team

Russel Van Dulken turned his love and skills of gaming into a career

Kelowna’s Russell Van Dulken plays for Team Liquid. Photo: Instagram

It may be every teenagers dream, but being a professional gamer is a reality for Russel Van Dulken.

The 19-year-old from Kelowna is a superstar Counter-Strike player playing in the biggest eSports competitions in the world. Alongside his team, Team Liquid, Van Dulken plays against other professional teams across the world in games that gather millions of viewers.

Starting playing seriously in 2015, it only took a few years for Van Dulken to realize this was his desired career.

“With my first pro team, I was getting used to playing in a team environment, it was for me to learn and educate myself,” Van Dulken said. “With my second team, I knew it was happening; when I moved to California, that’s when I knew.”

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With his gamer handle ‘Twistzz,” he quickly rose through the ranks of the professional eSports leagues. Moving to California in 2017 was a strategic step to be able to train in the same room everyday with his teammates, something that had become a necessity for teams if they wanted to improve and win.

And winning is something he’s done, having earned over $300,000 in his career and three first place titles in eSports major competitions in 2018 alone.

Winning comes a lot harder in professional game than one may think. Van Dulken said it’s more than just putting in a few hours while sitting in a chair.

“Six days a week, eight to nine hours, and if we’re all in the same area it’s 11 to 12 hours.”

“We’re all physically active. I work out 6 days a week. People don’t realize how physical and mental health are important. You need to make sure you’re feeling good and eating healthy,” said Van Dulken.

He said it’s also important to have an office where he can separate his work and his home life.

“Even though it’s just leaving your house, it’s good. You’re forced to socialize, which I like, and you’re not just at home with the computer on.”

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While his game-play has gotten him plenty of recognition from the large, international eSports world, he’s still surprised that he has grown a fan-base, especially at his old high school, Rutland Secondary.

“An old teacher contacted me to see if I could interact with some students, and like 45-50 students came,” Van Dulken laughed. “Truthfully, I feel like people didn’t know I existed.”

Meanwhile, nearly a million fans will tune in to watch him, and other gamers, play during national competitions.

While he’s unsure if eSports will ever take off locally in Kelowna, Van Dulken thinks virtual reality games (VR) will soon blow up and change the world of pro gaming.

“I think computer games (that I play) will be around for a long time, but with wireless VR headsets now, more games will be trying to build something in VR.”

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According to HLTV.com, a Counter-Strike coverage site, Van Dulken was ranked as the 12th best player in 2018. Twistzz said he’ll continue with his gaming, with his next national championship coming April 28 in Australia.

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