When Lufkin-born east Texas native Mike Rufail quit his commercial television job and decided to dive headfirst into professional competitive video gaming, his parents were a little concerned. We didn’t yet have mega-rich teen Youtube stars and online streaming platforms back then; the path to pro gaming success was much narrower and steeper than it is today. Nonetheless, Rufail had the drive and passion to traverse it.“My family’s always been supportive of me, no matter what. But here, they were skeptical at first, to say the least.”

His parents aren’t worried any more. In 2019 Forbes valued Rufail’s Dallas-based esports franchise Envy Gaming at $170 million.

Rufail competed professionally in the first-person-shooter game Call of Duty over a decade ago, and today he oversees Envy Gaming’s numerous teams of esport athletes competing in today’s top competitive games like Overwatch, Fortnite, and Super Smash Bros. The ever-growing audience (online and in-person) and money pouring into competitive gaming are clear indicators of the field’s rising sway around the country and the world. Rufail attributes this growth to the rapidly widening demographic and cultural reach of gaming today.

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“We have fans who were with us ten years ago, in their late 20s say, who today are showing up to events with their kids in tow, both decked out in our team jerseys. My age group had to discover gaming for ourselves as kids. Today, it’s being passed down generationally, just like football or baseball or any American pastime.”

Rufail says he’s proud to base his franchise in Texas, and that the company strives to emulate the state’s independent streak and vast cultural diversity in building their team. Dallas is already a hotbed for esports, having hosted some of the earliest world competitions for Counter Strike and other competitive gaming staples. And thanks to Rufail, who lists local sports owner legends Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban as inspirations, Dallas has already secured its place in the future of competitive gaming as well.

Q&A

  • In what ways does Texas influence you, your career, or your story?

I’m from deep East Texas, but I grew up traveling and camping all across the state with my family, and totally fell in love with it. Also, both of my parents are immigrants, so as a family we have that unique pride that comes from seeing a place with some outside perspective.

  • How does an “independent spirit” play a role in your success?

When building competitive teams, individual spirit and passion is everything. If you don’t bring passion with you every single day then you’re already losing. We can’t teach passion.

  • If you had an “Independent Spirit” motto what would that be?

Chase your passion and find a way to make it viable work! There’s nothing like waking up excited to go to work every day.

  • What is your advice to young Texans who may look up to you?

If you want to do something with your life, if you’ve got a big idea of who you want to be, DON’T WAIT! START NOW! Get out there and learn everything you can immediately! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, mistakes teach you how to get better, they are a completely necessary part.

Read the stories of the six other Texans who are breaking boundaries across the Lone Star State here.

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