Playing video games professionally (known in the industry as ‘Esports’) has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Blurring the lines between hyper-competitive sporting event and jaw-dropping entertainment spectacle, players compete across the globe in different events and tournaments organised and sponsored by huge multinational companies. And the Esports bug is beginning to take over Canada too.
At the time of writing, 3,679 professional Canadian video game players have bagged over $40,000,000 combined, making it the tenth-highest-earning country in the Esports world. As the world’s most lucrative title, Dota 2 is Canada’s most profitable game, making up nearly 20% of all of the country’s earnings. The likes of Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and Rocket League complete the top five games for prize money earned by Canadian athletes.
Join us here at Haligonia as we take a deeper dive at some of the biggest pros in the server and run you through the biggest Canadian Esport superstars!
Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev
Uzbekistan-born Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev first shot to Dota 2 prominence when he became only the second player in history to reach 9,000 Matchmaking Rating (MMR) in online matchmaking. What followed was one of the most remarkable rises the game had ever seen, with Arteezy becoming a renowned force both in the competitive scene, and on streaming platform Twitch.
Arteezy has made over $2.5 million playing Dota 2 professionally for the likes of Evil Geniuses, Team Secret and Shopify Rebellion. His best finish remains a 3rd place finish with EG at the 2018 International, the-then most lucrative Esports event in history.
He is also amongst the world’s most followed streamers, currently boasting a 700,000 followers. In December 2022, Arteezy returned from a 400-day streaming hiatus and smashed a peak viewer count of 22,500 and an average concurrent viewership of 17,980.
Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling
Only Arteezy has made more money as a Canadian in Esports than Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling, with the pair also being the only ones to have reached over $2 million. Originally a member of the University of British Columbia, Aui_2000 dropped education in favour of a career in Esports, joining Team Dignitas in 2012.
He was a member of the Evil Geniuses side that won The International 2015, but was controversially dropped by the org just days afterwards in favour of Arteezy. Not that this setback held Aui_2000 back for long, continuing to play competitively in the game until 2021 and then going on to coach the Tundra Esports side that won The International 2022.
Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken
Russel ‘Twistzz’ van Dulken is one of the most successful CS:GO players of all time. He was the star fragger in the all-conquering Team Liquid side of 2019, winning a slew of MVP awards as the org became the first NA side to win the Intel Grand Slam.
In 2021, Twistzz moved to European org and Esports giants FaZe Clan, where his personal and team accolades hit even further heights. In 2022, the side dominated all major CSGO betting markets and became the first in history to win IEM Katowice, IEM Cologne and the Major in a single year, with Twistzz becoming only the second North American to win an Intel Grand Slam and a Major Championship. To date, Twistzz has won over $1.5 million in prize earnings.
Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow
Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow is a Canadian-American former Call of Duty pro player who dominated the FPS world for over a decade. Having begun playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2010, Karma made his first big move into the Esports scene when he replaced 100 Thieves CEO Matt “Nadeshot” Haag at OpTic Gaming.
His impact with the org was almost immediate, winning back-to-back Call of Duty Championships in 2013 and 2014. A third title followed in 2017, with the now-naturalised American citizen ending his playing career in 2020. At the time of writing, Karma has amassed over $830,000 from tournament winnings, making him the fifth-highest earner in CoD history and the fifth-highest earner in any console title.
Williams ‘Zayt’ Aubin
Considered to be the most decorated Fortnite veteran in the history of the game, Canadian Williams “Zayt” Aubin’s legacy in the Epic Games title’s formative years is as significant as any other pro. Between 2018 and 2022, Zayt played for NRG and has racked up over $1.1 million in prize earnings.
Arguably his biggest achievement came in 2019 at the Fortnite World Cup Duo Finals, where he and teammate Rocco “Saf” Morales finished 4th and took home $750,000. In 2023, Zayt announced his retirement from Fortnite, announcing that he would be hosting watch parties on his stream whilst also aiming to grind away in the professional Valorant circuit.