For many, being paid to play a game that one loves is a far-off childhood dream. But for sophomore Shane Cenk, that dream is his everyday.
Despite gaming competitively for less than two years, Cenk will travel to Malaysia later this month to compete in the “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG) World Championship; the second international tournament finals of his career. This comes only a year after qualifying for the World Championship in a mobile game called “Rules of Survival,” which is hosted in China.
Cenk’s team quickly became a phenomenon in the esports community, qualifying for Worlds after playing together for only two weeks.
“It’s pretty exciting getting to travel overseas to play video games,” Cenk said. “I actually went with three other kids from my high school because we qualified together as a team.”
A unique and overwhelming experience, the game had more than 150 million players worldwide at the time.
“It was really fun. We took it a bit too seriously because it was the first time we’d done something like this,” Cenk said. “We didn’t get to really enjoy being in China as much as we could have; we didn’t really get to sight-see that much.”
Soon after the end of tournament though, the game began to lose its desirability.
“I’d say by like three weeks after Worlds, I was already sick of the game,” Cenk said. “I didn’t want to play it anymore but I stuck with it because I was signed to an organization, and I decided to stick with it and just play it for the competitiveness for about another year, but I really hated playing it.
Once PUBG Mobile started hosting bigger competitions and Rules of Survival events were getting smaller and smaller, they requested to terminate his contract with the team he played on for Rules of Survival. He switched to PUBG Mobile.
“That was about five and a half months ago,” he said, “and I’m still really enjoying the game.”
Switching the game he was playing not only helped to further Cenk’s career, but also made him visibly happier with what he was doing.
“He’s definitely become a lot calmer since he switched after freshman year,” Cenk’s roommate, sophomore Tavio Pela, joked.
As fun as gaming seems, behind the scenes, Cenk puts in a lot of work to make sure he is always at the top of his game.
“[PUBG] is the only game I really play competitively,” Cenk said. “Every once in a while I’ll play some other games just for fun, but not as much during the school year, just because I don’t really have time to just play games for fun anymore, ironically.”
Senior Adam Buchmann, who has been Cenk’s resident assistant for the past two years, has watched him endeavor to balance his job and his academic life.
“Shane works hard,” Buchmann said. “He has an insane sleep schedule so that he can stay competitive and take part in a lot of the gaming tournaments.”
Even after switching to a game he enjoys, Cenk still had work to do to make it on the team he plays with now.
“Everybody else on my team has played for over a year longer than me, so I had a lot of catching up to do,” Cenk said. “I started on the team as a substitute player and in this last tournament, I was put in to start because a player was underperforming. I performed so well that they kept me in as a starter and offered me a contract through the end of this tournament.”
At the moment, Cenk is preparing for the finals of this tournament; The PUBG Mobile Club Open in Malaysia, set to start on Nov. 23 with a grand prize of $1.25 million.
“We were third in North America, which means we have to play in the preliminaries,” Cenk said, “So from Nov. 23 to Nov. 26 we will be playing our games, and if we place in the top three, we’ll be staying until Dec. 1 to play in the Grand Finals.”