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Fifteen-year-old Thomas Hughes has loved playing video games for as long as he can remember, but he never guessed he would one day be making money playing a game he loves.

Entering VOLAN's Super Smash Brother’s Ultimate tournament, Hughes had his eyes set on winning the over $500 first-place cash prize. Starting early in the morning and not stopping until midnight that same day, Hughes finished at 2nd place and out-placed 115 other competitors. Hughes, though disappointed with not being first, walked away happy and with a $300 cash prize.

“He’s so good, I’ve never seen anything like it. He makes people that have been playing competitive games for years and years look like they’re newbies,” UTK e-sports club representative Matthew Maynard said. Hughes was watched by a supportive crowd, and despite his age, did not buckle under any pressure.

Hughes started his competitive gaming career in 2014 with Smash Bros on Nintendo’s Wii U console and immediately found he was skilled at the game.

“Initially I was losing a bit, but I really wasn’t bothered by it because it was fun, but I wanted to keep improving so going to tournaments helped,” Hughes said. He continued to win multiple tournaments across different Smash Bros titles.

Playing almost every day he can, Hughes said he was drawn into Super Smash Bros because of the game’s variance and ability for the player to play how they want.

“I love this game because I get to move and use my character however, I want, and I get to play super flashy, which makes people get really excited,” Hughes said.

Averaging at least 30 hours a week playing the game since its release in December, Hughes has had plenty of practice for the tournaments he has attended. Along with his gaming career, Hughes has also successfully managed his first years of high school and maintained a high GPA.

“I play this game a lot, whenever I can really, but I still try to maintain a healthy balance with my school work so my parents are happy,” Hughes said, laughing.

Having a bright future ahead of him in competitive gaming, Hughes said he intends to keep improving with the game and attend large-scale events with much higher prize pools.

“One day, when I get to go to a big tournament like Evo that has over 5,000 attendees, I know I can win. I want to keep improving to get to that dream,” Hughes said. With fire in his eyes, Hughes picks up his controller and resumes playing his favorite game.

To learn more about the UT Esports club, follow our Esports column or visit their website

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