On May 25th, I didn't drive to the L.A. Convention Center for the five-day celebration of Star Wars' 30th Anniversary (my storm trooper uniform was at the dry cleaners, sorry). On that day, however, I received an e-vite to a different event being hosted on June 12th in Los Angeles. In the Holmby Hills. At the Playboy Mansion.
I mean, that's when you know you've finally made it, right? Sipping Jack and Pepsi in your silk pajamas with Hugh Marston Hefner; and as the Girls Next Door stroll past, you do that thing where you kiss your first two fingers and they turn into a peace sign....
Sadly (and now the truth comes out), I'm low on the list of e-vite VIPs. And the event being held isn't a toast to my hyper-imaginative id. It's the formation of the first-ever professional video gaming league, the Championship Gaming Series (CGS). And it's kicking off its inaugural player draft at the Mansion, that veritable Mecca of the 18 to 34-year-old male demographic.
Video games are nothing new to the Hefner Estate, of course. The October 2004 issue of Playboy sported a CGI photospread featuring some of gaming's hottest vixens; and then they did it all over again the next year. Playboy: The Mansion (the game) was unleashed to a hungry populace in January 2005, but succumbed to harsh reviews. And despite the game's entertaining run-a-magazine business model, the sex was apparently too watered down to make much of a splash.
But Playboy seems far from giving up, and hosting the Region 1 CGS Draft proves that -- even at 81 years old -- Hef's still got game. While hundreds of gamers will descend upon the Mansion this coming Tuesday, only 60 (ten-person teams to be located in six major cities) will have the twitch reflexes, personal character, and general wherewithal to make payroll -- a payroll that guarantees each member an annual salary of at least $30,000, not to mention performance bonuses that could bring total annual compensation to over $100k. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that jaw-dropping figure could push these professional gamers into the top 7% of individual-income earners in the U.S.
The Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods/Tony Hawk of eSports, Johnathan Wendel (that's "Fatal1ty" to you), is signed on as the official spokesperson and play-by-play commentator for the CGS; the apparent fruits of dominating the field for the last seven years. And he'll no doubt be soaking in the bunny-laden sights this coming Tuesday. I'd shake Mr. Wendel's hand, if his wasn't full of half a million in previous tournament winnings and over three times that amount in product endorsements -- not to mention his lucrative new position as the CGS godhead.
Instead, I'll probably be holding Fatal1ty's Jack and Pepsi for him while he's chatting with Hef and the girls, checking into his newly-formed Swiss bank account. And I'll be commiserating with my sluggish reflexes over the fact that I spent far too little time perfecting any Counter-Strike strategies.