While the Battle of Alberta may have come to a close, a Bellerose alumnus is gearing up to for a battle of his own in the world of e-sports.
Ben Thomson — known online by the screen name ‘uninsta1l_NHL’ — won his way to represent the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Gaming World Championship (GWC). On June 11, Thomson will face off against Matthew Geim — representing the Calgary Flames — for the opportunity to fly to Montreal and compete for a grand prize of $26,000 USD.
The GWC brings together top NHL 22 players competing on PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X gaming consoles. Thomson, who plays on the PS4, competed against 63 other players in March to make it to the second-last round of the console finals.
While Thomson is hoping his e-battle will mirror the Oilers’ real-life results May 26, he said Flames fans might be watching the game hoping for “a little bit of revenge.”
“Tying it to real life is huge, not only for the players, but the growth of the game as well,” Thomson said of the GWC.
Thomson began investing more time into playing NHL online during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a lack of exciting things to do, Thomson said he wanted something that could give him some drive.
“I just really wanted to focus on trying to get better than everyone else in the world,” Thomson said.
While the internet has made this adventure possible, Thomson said the chance to go compete in-person in Montreal has given him a new goal to strive for over the past few months. The tournament final in Montreal will take place July 7, during the NHL draft.
“You go to work thinking about it, you come home thinking about it,” Thomson said. “July 7 in your head is a highlighted date.”
The online has already began to bless Thomson's real life, however, in the form of new connections nearby.
“I’ve made a ton of friends,” Thomson said, adding that he met up with a new friend in Edmonton who is now close last summer.
Streaming makes the dream work
In addition to picking up a love of e-sports competition during the pandemic, Thomson purchased a capture card that allows him to transfer his gaming to a live video stream for others to watch. Now, he is building up an online audience in the hopes of one day being able to fulfill his dream of make a living off streaming his gaming online.
Thomson recently reached a key milestone by becoming a partner on Twitch — an interactive streaming network. The achievement required him to stream 25 hours and average 75 viewers for his streams.
The streaming success means he can now make money from his content. In-between his construction clean-up job, Thomson will stream for a few hours and make additional dollars.
“I get to say I get paid to play video games in a sense,” Thomson said.
Thomson also reached the second-last round of the GWC last year, but was ultimately defeated by Ottawa Senators representor Joshua D’Eri.
This time around, Thomson has upped his strategy in the hopes that it will take him further. Skilled offensively from the outset, Thomson has refined his defensive skills to better read his opponent.
“I’ve really mastered that part on my end,” Thomson said. “It’ll be a good series.”