A teenage gaming sensation is just a few steps away from claiming a $100,000 prize after winning a place at a prestigious world championship event.
James Luo, from Boston Road St Annes, has travelled to Los Angeles to compete in the eSports BlizzCon 2014 World Championships.
The 16-year-old, who is being sponsored by Domino’s Pizza in Blackpool, will compete against 15 other gamers in the online strategy card game Hearthstone – designed by the same company which produced the World of Warcraft fantasy game – for a chance to win a $100,000 top prize.
AKS Lytham student James, who only started playing the game a year ago, won his place at the showpiece event at the Anaheim Convention Centre after winning a tournament in Stockholm, Sweden, in September.
He said: “It all started when I took part in a 128-person online tournament – this qualified me for a 16-man competition in Stockholm, which I won, and it qualified me for this World Championships.
“All my friends are really surprised. They had no idea you could make this money out of gaming.
“Funnily enough it was my friends who got me involved in the first place and introduced me to the game.”
The A-Level student will represent Europe at the competition, with the 16-man event made up of competitors from China, South East Asia and North America.
The winner of the event gets $100,000 – around £62,000 – with James guaranteed at least $5,000 for qualifying for the finals.
The competition starts with a two-day group stage on Sunday, with the top eight taking part in a knock-out competition the following weekend.
In Hearthstone, players choose one of nine epic Warcraft characters to play as. They then take turns using playing cards from their decks to “cast potent spells, use heroic weapons or abilities, or summon powerful characters to crush their opponent”.
James, who lives with mum Kay-Su, 45 and dad Ming, 49, added: “With most card games there is a bit of luck.
“But I should make it out of the group and through to the top eight.
“The feeling is most people from China and Asia are not as good at the game as others, so I’m hopeful of doing well.”
Steven Whittingham, Domino’s area manager in Blackpool, said: “It’s always great to be able to give back to a fan of Domino’s, so when we heard we had a potential world champion in the area we couldn’t wait to get behind James.
“We wish him all the best on his LA adventures and look forward to having a pizza ready for when he touches back down.”