On his 30th birthday two years ago, Ben Lupo decided to walk away from a six-figure salary with an Omaha insurance company and take a chance at becoming a professional gamer.
Now he’s known as “DrLupo,” one of the country’s most popular esports athletes. During an appearance Thursday at State Farm Corporate Headquarters, Lupo recalled the reaction from his followers at the outset of his esports career.
“It was huge to see people come out of the woodwork and say, 'Hey, I’ve been waiting for you to do it full time; this is super cool,’” he said. “It has only gone up since then, which still is amazing to me.
“I think I’m one of the luckiest people in the world when it comes to the gaming industry and it’s because of the people that watch me.”
The first esports athlete sponsored by State Farm, Lupo has garnered acclaim as one of the premier Fortnite players. He held a meet-and-greet and a live streaming session in the atrium at the company headquarters, an event showcasing the surging popularity of esports.
“Now that it’s on the scale that it is, I think gaming is being taken more seriously by more people in a way I don’t think anybody thought possible or at least or at least not this quickly,” he said. “It’s changed very fast because of Fortnite and the way that things have kind of grown over the last few years.
“Finally you have people that you never would expect to show up as big gamers. You have athletes, baseball players, football players, movie stars. … This is way, way bigger than I think anybody ever thought it would be.”
Lupo became interested in video games at an early age, saying he’s been a gamer “for 25 or 26 years.” He got started with popular Nintendo programs such as Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt.
“The NES was the first console that we had when we were kids,” he said. "Then I got a Super Nintendo, a Nintendo 64, a Game Cube … we were fully invested into Nintendo’s heierarchy of consoles as they came out.
“You name it, growing up I probably played it. Then once the Xbox came out, I made a big dedication to Halo – one of my favorite games of all time. I went away to college and Halo is actually how I met a lot of my college friends.”
Lupo frequently uses his gaming to raise money for charity. He recently generated close to $1 million for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during one 4½-hour session.
What was that experience like?
“Moving, to say the least,” he said. “I took advantage of every connection that I have, in a big way. A lot of people do charity stuff and they go as full into it as they possibly can, so I decided to do the same thing.
“I contacted every company I ever worked with for sponsorship stuff, including State Farm. They showed up in droves with stuff for me to raffle away for people to win. It was $920,000 in 4½ hours and State Farm was $10,000 of that, which I am very thankful for.”
He wants to continue presenting the gaming community in a more positive light.
“My platform rose up because of the people that support me, the people that see who I am as a person and that I want to try and do good with what I’ve done,” he said. “Often times you see gaming painted into a bad light.
“I want to do what I can with what I’ve been given by the people to try and show the opposite, that gaming can do something really, really good.”
Lupo expects the popularity of esports to continue growing, and he refutes those who maintain a belief that gaming is not a “real” sport.
“They should come out to the World Cup in New York City,” he said. “They should watch it online, and they should see what we post about the back-end production and how much these people practice and how much time and energy they put into it.
“If it’s not a real sport, if it’s that easy, I challenge you to do what some of these kids are doing. I dare you to try it.”
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