New Level Unlocked: A Look Inside Pro-Gamer Life
BigCheeseKIT and NortonLifeLock’s Darren Shou talk going pro and findings from 2021 NCSIR: Special Report – Gaming & Cybercrime
The gaming industry is becoming more popular than ever, and in turn, increasingly competitive. One indication of this is that esports were included as part of Olympics programming for the first time this year. As the competition grows steeper, some gamers might look for new ways to make the most of their resources and gain a competitive edge. In fact, NortonLifeLock recently released the results of the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Gaming & Cybercrime study, uncovering surprising findings about online gaming culture and just how far some gamers are willing to go to win.
Today, we’re chatting with BigCheeseKIT, gamer, Twitch streamer and entertainer, to take a look behind the curtain on gaming culture and what life is like as a pro gamer. Based in Tampa, Florida, BigCheeseKIT began playing video games professionally in 2013 when he participated in a fighting game tournament, Community Effort Orlando. He is known for his hyped and energetic style, and his channel is all about having fun and showing off the positivity in video games. Let’s dive in.
Going Pro: “I’m investing in my gaming career every chance I get.”
Just like any professional endeavor, taking the jump to go pro requires a lot of time and dedication. “It was 2013 when I started playing professionally. Since then, I’m investing in my gaming career every chance I get,” said BigCheeseKIT.
With the amount of time and money players invest in building their profiles to reach higher levels in the game and compete with their friends, gaming accounts can be as valuable as a coveted art piece. Especially for those that are considering a professional career, losing something you’ve spent so much time and effort working toward can be devastating.
In fact, our recent Gaming & Cybercrime study found hardcore gamers in the U.S. overwhelmingly agree that they would be very upset or devastated if their gaming account was hacked and they lost their account (78%), progress they made in the game (68%), or digital items they earned or purchased (64%), like special edition skins.
Living Life Online: “I’ve met a lot of amazing individuals playing games online.”
For anyone who considers themselves a “hardcore gamer,” video games aren’t just a fun hobby: it’s a way of life. For BigCheeseKIT, his passion for gaming is deeply meaningful to him.
“How has gaming changed my life? Gaming saved my life,” he said. “It kept me out of a bad neighborhood. It kept me out of bad situations.”
As we’ve navigated the pandemic, video games have not only offered an escape, but a meaningful way to socialize and stay connected with friends.
“I’ve met a lot of amazing individuals playing games online. I’ve even developed better friendships online than I have locally. It taught me not to be so much of an introvert and to be more open to others. It also taught me that people just want to have fun and want to have conversations and enjoy life. It has made a huge impact on my life,” he shared.
Video games serve as another way to find valuable connections and broaden gamers’ social lives through online platforms. Among hardcore gamers who saw an increase in the amount of time they spent playing games during the pandemic, many say it helped them make new friends online (37%), made them feel closer to their family (38%), and helped them feel a sense of community (29%), according to the results of our study.
“Once I find the game I’m going to play, I just steam and get ready to entertain my community,” he said, smiling.
Cyber Safety Challenges: “There was a time when I was once doxed, and I was almost swatted.”
“As a gamer and content creator, there’s a lot of things out there that people can scam you or try to trick you with. You have to watch what you agree to because you could be agreeing to have all your information out there in world and you don’t even know it,” BigCheeseKIT acknowledged.
“When I first started my account, I had very weak passwords. There was a time when I was once doxed, and I was almost swatted. I called the local police station to let them know the issue at hand.”
Attacks to gaming accounts are more common than people might think. Many are often surprised to learn that cybercriminals are interested in gamers, but they can be very lucrative targets because of the personal data and financial information connected to them. Gaming profiles can have significant monetary value if they have considerable virtual currency banked up or an impressive library of in-game digital items, like limited edition skins. Cybercriminals also take advantage of stolen accounts by selling the scraped personal information on the dark web, using details like the credit card number linked to an account for fraudulent purchases, or other nefarious purposes, like identity theft.
In turn, hardcore and professional gamers are more likely to experience cyberattacks to their gaming accounts. Not only because they spend more time online, but they also typically have more built-out, “valuable” gaming profiles. They also have channels that receive a significant amount of traffic and are highly visible to the public.
“With me being a content creator, it’s important that I protect my family and myself,” said BigCheeseKIT.
Here are some types of gaming attacks gamers commonly experience:
- Doxing, a form of online harassment where a user targets a specific person or group, finds personal information, and publishes it. For example, a famous gaming case occurred when feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian was doxed in 2013 after releasing her YouTube series about gender stereotypes in games called “Tropes vs Women in Video Games.” This is not uncommon for gamers that spend a lot of time online. Our study found in the U.S. hardcore gamers are 2x as likely to get doxed vs. casual gamers (16% vs. 7%) – and 50% more likely than all U.S. gamers (10%).
- Hacked Game Accounts, when cyberciminals use stolen account credentials, whether dumped in a data breach or purchased on the dark web, to fraudulently log into someone else’s gaming account. Once logged in, cybercriminals can access the payment services linked to the account, like credit cards. The gaming user might notice missing funds from their gaming account, and in some cases, discover that their account was used to make fraudulent purchases.
- Disguised Downloadable Game Content, in which cybercriminals offer up free downloads of game content – like software cheats or special edition items – to trick gamers into clicking spammy links or downloading malware that infect the gamer’s device or system. This can take the form of phishing emails or even Discord chats. According to our study, 23% of hardcore U.S. gamers have been tricked into installing malware onto a gaming device, compared to just 14% of American gamers overall.
To close, we turn to BigCheeseKIT to see what advice he has for gamers to take proactive steps to help keep themselves safe when gaming online. Here are his three key best practices:
- Be Proactive About Cyber Safety: With the intense competition in online games today, it can be tempting to remove any software that might impact your PC’s performance. However, having that safety net when you accidentally click on a spammy link or download content that’s sneakily laced with malware will ensure your game keeps running smoothly in the long-term – and that you don’t lose your gaming profile or in-game items to cybercriminals. Take it from a professional to know it’s much better to take a proactive Cyber Safety approach. “I know that people hesitate to have antivirus programs on their computers when they are playing games, but they don’t know Norton 360 for Gamers. Once you try it out, you will still have your high frames per second and your quality as long as you use Game Optimizer. You can trust me on that,” said BigCheeseKIT.
- Avoid #StrangerDanger: The online gaming community is a great way to meet new people, and it can be tempting to share details about yourself to forge connections. However, avoid sharing personal information with online friends, like your birthday or location – instead, bond over common interests or your favorite game. “Being a professional gamer, people want to research you, figure out who you are and what you’re doing. It taught me to prepare for individuals that want to invade in my personal information in that way,” he shared.
- Use Purposeful Passwords: Strong passwords are essential for a safe, secure online gaming experience. BigCheeseKIT suggests, “Use different passwords for different sites. I’d suggest using longer passwords with symbols and numbers. Use a password manager, too, which is also included in Norton 360 for Gamers. As long as you have a password manager, you will always have what you need as far as remembering your passwords and not having to think about it. I also do two factor authentication.”
Be sure to check out the Norton Internet Security Center for more Cyber Safety tips.
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