ByKen McDonnell, writer at Creators.co
Now Loading's sentimental Irishman. I can't stop playing Overwatch, please send help.
Ken McDonnell

Even to an avid gamer like myself the phenomenon of eSports is hard to wrap my head around. Events celebrating some of the greatest talents in games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Super Smash Bros., to name a few, attract fans in their thousands to stadiums all over the world. Standing amongst these euphoric gamers can be alienating for those who can't follow, but understanding, appreciation and recognition is growing.

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What once began in tiny conference rooms in small hotels has exploded into an industry where some of the biggest stadiums in the world devote themselves to weeks of gaming, and the money flows like wine. In 2016 alone, over 20 million dollars in prize money has been awarded to individuals and teams across the globe. But when it comes to cash, there are a few clear winners in the history of professional gaming. Let's meet them, shall we? These are...

The 11 Highest Paid Professional Gamers

Dota 2
Dota 2

11. Zhang Ning - xiao8

At the age of 26, Zhang Ning, aka xiao8, is currently the captain of a team called LGD.cn, which plays Dota 2 professionally. His career began in 2010 and he's gone on to become one of the greatest forces in the Dota scene.

  • Game: Dota 2
  • Country: China
  • Best year by earnings: $1,032,369.94
  • Best year: 2014
  • Highest prize money: $1,005,661.60 for winning The International in 2014
  • Total earnings: $1,785,744.53

10. Zhang Ruida - Faith_bian

Currently playing for Wings Gaming and only on the Dota 2 professional scene for 2 years, it's clear that Faith has some incredible years ahead of him.

  • Game: Dota 2
  • Country: China
  • Best year by earnings: $1,876,250.00
  • Best year: 2016
  • Highest prize money: $1,827,800.40 for winning The International in 2016
  • Total earnings: $1,885,800.48

9. Chu Zeyu - Shadow

Another member of Wings Gaming alongside Faith, Shadow is fresh on the Dota 2 scene. He's demonstrated a keen ability as a carrier.

  • Game: Dota 2
  • Country: China
  • Best year by earnings: $1,882,365.92
  • Best year: 2016
  • Highest prize money: $1,827,800.40 for winning The International in 2016
  • Total earnings: $1,891,816.40

8. Zhang Yiping - Innocence

A player for — can you guess? — Wings Gaming, Zhang "y`" Yiping is the team's support, with two more years experience under his belt than the other teammates previously mentioned.

  • Game: Dota 2
  • Country: China
  • Best year by earnings: $1,882,365.92
  • Best year: 2016
  • Highest prize money: $1,827,800.40 for winning The International in 2016
  • Total earnings: $1,891,976.82

7. Zhou Yang - bLink

Playing a solo middle role in Dota 2, bLink is yet another component of the dominating team in 2016, Wings Gaming. He's been playing professionally since 2014 and his career really mirrors that of Innocence.

  • Game: Dota 2
  • Country: China
  • Best year by earnings: $1,882,365.92
  • Best year: 2016
  • Highest prize money: $1,827,800.40 for winning The International in 2016
  • Total earnings: $1,891,816.40

6. Kurtis Ling - Aui_2000

While learning to play Dota 2 professionally, Kurtis Ling maintained two jobs simultaneously as a preschool janitor and stocker in a supermarket whilst studying sociology at his university. Well done, sir. He's been a support player for teams like Cloud9, Evil Genius and Digital Chaos. He was most recently a coach and a sub for Team Secret.

  • Game: Dota 2
  • Country: Canada
  • Best year by earnings: $1,641,750.94
  • Best year: 2015
  • Highest prize money: $1,326,932.14 for winning The International in 2015
  • Total earnings: $1,898,028.64

5. Li Peng - iceice

A well-known pubstar, iceice was brought into the professional scene by xiao8 as part of the team Big God. he's been on the professional scene for two years and completes the Wings Gaming team.

Game: Dota 2

Country: China

Best year by earnings: $1,882,365.92

Best year: 2016

Highest prize money: $1,827,800.4 for winning The International in 2016

Total earnings: $1,935,526.43

4. Sumail Hassan - SumaiL

This guy is 17. Seven. Teen. Years. Old. He's part of the Evil Geniuses team, and many questioned whether he should have been allowed on board considering his age and experience. But he's shown himself to be a capable and remarkable talent on numerous occasions.

Game: Dota 2

Country: Pakistan

Best year by earnings: $1,730,076.34

Best year: 2015

Highest prize money: $1,326,932.14 for winning The International in 2015

Total earnings: $2,287,947.74

3. Clinton Loomis - Fear

Clinton Loomis has been playing games professionally since 2008. He plays the Carry role in Evil Geniuses and is seen as one of the greatest Dota 2 players of all time. He's been known to excel in any position throughout his tournament life.

Game: Dota 2

Country: USA

Best year by earnings: $1,730,076.34

Best year: 2015

Highest prize money: $1,326,932.14 for winning The International in 2015

Total earnings: $2,383,155.64

2. Saahil Arora - UNiVeRsE

From Madison, Wisconsin, UNiVeRsE is Evil Geniuses' offlaner. He's a decorated Dota veteran and seen as one of the greatest offlaners in the world. A force to be reckoned with.

Game: Dota 2

Country: USA

Best year by earnings: $1,730,076.34

Best year: 2015

Highest prize money: $1,326,932.14 for winning The International in 2015

Total earnings: $2,607,145.24

1. Peter Dager - ppd

Playing professionally since 2012, ppd gets the top position on our list, and any other list for that matter. From Fort Wayne, Indiana, he's currently the captain of Evil Geniuses at the age of 24. He plays support in Dota 2 and he's damn good at it.

Game: Dota 2

Country: USA

Best year by earnings: $1,730,076.34

Best year: 2015

Highest prize money: $1,326,932.14 for winning The International in 2015

Total earnings: $2,618,120.36

You can notice the trend. Dota 2 is increasingly handing out enormous sums of money for their competitions, meaning that over 50 of the highest paid professional gamers in the world play Valve's latest release. Wonder what the prize money will be next year, huh?

Which game would you like to play professionally?

Source: [esportsearnings]