For two decades, our cultural attitude towards professional gaming was best summarized by the famous Far Side cartoon: a fantasy foisted by lazy gamers on credulous parents. In recent years, though, eSports, as they're now known, have come into their own. Major League Gaming, which hosts and broadcasts major competitions, makes more than 20 million dollars a year. In an interview with the Economist, MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni revealed that he considers his company a luxury brand, one that will rival the viewership of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in five years. Twitch, the streaming game broadcast service, attracts 23 million viewers a month (that's twice as many viewers as Halo 3 sold copies, or more than half as many people as visited ESPN.com last month).
But a burgeoning sport needs breakout stars to expand its popularity, the way Tony Hawk brought skateboarding out of the half pipe and into the living room. Despite their work - and some of them practice 12 hours a day - pro gamers, to this point, have been fairly anonymous, identical cogs in sponsored teams. Here are seven eSports stars who could help pro gaming break out.