Calling master chief

After making a ton of money in the advertising business, Michael Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni decided six years ago that it was time to goof off. How did these two guys, then in their late 20s, pass the time? They played a lot of "Halo."

Then they had an idea: Why not start a professional video-game league?

Don't laugh. The former ad men raised $35 million from private-equity investors, rounded up some skilled gamers and launched Major League Gaming in 2003. Today, the predominantly web-based league has five million monthly unique users, most of them young men whose average age is 19. They flocked to to watch star gamers like FearitSelf and ThuggishKilla blast each other to smithereens in shooter games like "Halo 3" and "Gears of War." In June, the league hosted nearly 600,000 amateur matches on its GameBattles Web site.

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