ESPORTS: WVW grad Kyle Jola playing for Doritos Bowl prize pool of $250,000 |

Kyle Jola did everything by the book, until he didn’t.

And, he says, he’s never been happier.

The 29-year-old Wyoming Valley West graduate carved out a conventional career for himself, working nearly three years as a catastrophe analyst for an insurance company in Connecticut.

Jola’s fiance, Rachel, lived in Lancaster, though, and the burden of a long-distance relationship got to the point in February where he quit his job, moved to Lancaster and chased his dream of gaming for a living.

“There’s a huge opportunity to make money, in terms of sponsorship and engagement through social media,” Jola said. “Gaming is huge on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, obviously Twitch and YouTube. There’s a lot of content to be consumed on those specific platforms.

“I just found myself in a spot where I thought that I was talented enough to make it work.”

Jola’s biggest break yet in eSports arrives Wednesday, when he competes for his share of $250,000 in prize money at the Twitch Rivals Doritos Bowl — “Call of Duty: Warzone.”

Having already advanced through the first two rounds of the invite-only pro-am tournament, Jola’s team claimed one of 50 spots in the finals; 25 are pros, 25, including his team, are amateurs.

Jola’s team could win as much as $45,000 for first-place, $12,000 for fifth, $3,300 for 10th and no less than $1,200, even if it comes in dead-last while playing for the combat video game’s title.

Jola estimates 200,000-plus people will view Wednesday’s event on Twitch, a video-streaming website with millions of users and a multi-billion dollar evaluation.

“It’s like one large gathering of friends,” Jola said of Twitch.

When talking about his unconventional career pivot, Jola points to Nick Kolcheff (aka Nickmercs), 30, who makes an estimated $1.37 million annually from Twitch subscriptions alone.

According to Forbes, the 10 highest-paid gamers collectively earned more than $120 million in 2019, including Tyler Blevins (aka Ninja), who topped the list with a reported $17 million in earnings.

“The misconception,” Jola said, “is that people don’t understand the business end and that there’s actually a lot of money to be made. It’s not just sitting and playing a game; you’re interacting with people from all over the world and you’re basically there to take them away from their realities of the day. So they come to you for their entertainment at the end of the day instead of watching TV.”

In the same way that Jola, a former baseball player, turned to sports on television to distract him at the end of a stressful day while studying at Penn State, people now tune into his channel,

“The live, freewheeling sessions on Twitch have the appeal of a major sporting…

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