Getting paid to travel around the country and play video games on television may sound too good to be true, but for Great Falls resident Justin Chow, 20, it was his reality for 3 whole weeks.
"It was awesome," said Chow. "Everything was catered to us, we stayed in a different hotel every night — and we got paid. It was like a 3-week vacation."
Chow, who has lived in Great Falls since he was 8, graduated from Langley High School and is currently a student at Radford University in Radford, Va.
"I've been into video games pretty much my whole life, but as far as participating in tournaments, I just got into that last year," said Chow. "Last year I flew to Vegas for a $10,000 tournament."
This past summer, when Chow heard about plans for a televised ESPN and Electronic Arts (EA) Madden NFL 06 tournament, he decided to send in an audition tape.
"I basically had to sit there and talk about why I would be good for the show and give them my background," said Chow.
Chow evidently did a convincing job. He was one of 13 gamers chosen to participate in the first video game reality series "Madden Nation."
"'Madden Nation' will give ESPN viewers the best of both worlds — exciting, top-level competition and some of football's best known players in the biggest game on the market," said John Skipper, ESPN Executive Vice President in a press release on the tournament.
THE EIGHT-EPISODE SERIES first aired on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 11:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2, and will continue to air every Tuesday until the finale on Tuesday, Dec. 27. In the finale, which was filmed in New York City's Times Square on the ABC Super Sign, one winner claims a $100,000 prize.
"I always played the Madden game," said Chow. "But then I got to know some people online, and started playing it that way."
According to Todd Sitrin, Vice President of Marketing for EA-Tiburon and EA SPORTS, "Madden Nation" gives "viewers an inside look into the daily life of the biggest Madden NFL football gamers and NFL players."
The 13 Madden NFL 06 gamers played against each other in elimination-style tournaments over the course of a 17-day national bus tour. The tour stopped in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Green Bay, Chicago, Indianapolis, Canton, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The participating gamers were also randomly paired with real-life NFL player sponsors, and Chow was matched up with Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs. Chow said he particularly enjoyed the visit to Green Bay, Wis.
"We got to go on Lambeau Field and get a VIP tour," said Chow.