I realize this pours gas on the bad parenting flames of yesterday, but holy crow, I can't not show you this story. Yesterday reader tooji tipped me off to the story of Blake Peebles, a 16-year-old in Raleigh, N.C., whose parents have let him drop out of school so that he can focus on a professional gaming career via Guitar Hero.Blake convinced his folks (that is, "We couldn't take the complaining anymore," said his mom) to let him drop out last September. They hired in-home tutors to continue his education there, at least, but there's no doubt priority number one is Guitar Hero. There's a vaguely defined goal of Blake playing it professionally, either through Major League Gaming or by winning prizes in a national and international competitions. But so far he's only made about $1,000, most of that value realized in meals and other freebies won at local competitions. The other pro gamer the reporter contacted for this story said he's cashed in about $25,000 in his entire career. The description of Blake's room, his interests (or lack thereof) , and his folks' decision to let him do this just ... well, they don't make anyone look good. It would be one thing if the guy was a bona fide music or athletic prodigy. However quixotic a career in either field might be for the majority who pursue it, at least there's a long history of it paying off if you are that good enough. But Blake's never touched a real guitar (cue up the get-a-life bait). He didn't seem interested in much of anything in high school (a Christian academy where his parents had enrolled him) and wheedled his way out of going by complaining that it was a waste of time. (That line should sound very familiar to my folks. If only playing Master of the Lamps on the Commodore 64 could have won me some free Chik-Fil-A. I might have had better luck.) You gotta read it to believe it, and nearly three weeks after it was first published, it is still one of The News & Observer's top e-mailed stories. Try to keep it civil in the comments, gang, especially if you aren't a parent. I'm not, but I'll admit this blows my mind. Update: Reader yoagner. points us to an .mp3 of an American Public Media feature on Blake. The story's page is here. 'Guitar Hero' Whiz Aiming Higher [The (Raleigh N.C.) News & Observer, via davelozo.com, thanks tooji] (Also: Don't tip me on my commenter page, as I check it infrequently. If you've got a tip, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org on the weekends, or email@example.com for the rest of the staff midweek.)
@M12Ryan: Having a tutor come to your house to teach you while you focus on Guitar Hero can't measure up to how a real school develops a student. Just because he wants to be a professional gamer doesn't mean he should be quitting his real school life. And normal school topics aside, how will his social skills be developed from here on? He'll end up losing touch with what it's like to interact with other people in a setting outside of the video game world.
While both Blake and his parents are at fault, Blake does have an interesting idea. There are people (though not many) who are professional gamers and live their lives just fine. Thing is, though, they don't specialize in one specific game like Blake is doing. They might specialize in one genre, but they play dozens of games in dozens of tournaments. Blake is riding on a few games in one series that are all basically the same, where you'll never find more than a handful of decent tournaments for only the newest entry to the series.
Regardless of how poor these decisions may be, I still wish Blake the best of luck.