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For most pro gamers, chasing the esports dream has involved certain sacrifices, with the hours spent honing virtual skills resulting in a seemingly never-ending and exhausting grind.
But FaZe Clan’s star man Tfue, seemingly put on this planet to excel at every single thing he attempts, is different. Years before laying claim to the crown of the best player in Fortnite's Battle Royale mode, he was already a world record gamer in various other titles - not to mention a multiple-time champion away from his keyboard and mouse.
Despite the success, the Floridian loudmouth can sometimes be deceptively humble; more likely to describe himself as ‘experienced’ as opposed to skilful.
Some people are just good at everything they touch. Turner “Tfue” Tenney is one of them. Before so much as picking up a controller, he was already a renowned skim boarder who’d won a tonne of gold medals in various age groups. But that wasn’t all. Surfing, skateboarding, diving – anything remotely acrobatic, the guy could do it in his sleep.
One of three brothers and a sister, Tfue was home-schooled at his beach house in Florida, with his mother and limelight-loving father believing they could provide their children with the best chance in life. Was this the right choice? Well, at least two of the kids ended up following their passions to great success. Tfue with gaming, his brother Jack – nowadays known as Jack 10E from the Joogsquad – with content creation.Is this the first Fortnite World Cup champion?
The family remain incredibly close to this day. No matter how much fame and acclaim Tfue gains, it seems like that’ll never change.
Their journeys started together, but older brother Jack probably held more sway in the early years. He developed an almost obsessive dedication to documenting his family’s life and making films, all leading up to May 16th, 2007, the day of his first YouTube upload.
Tfue wasn’t even allowed to play games till he was 12 years old. Instead, he found joy in jumping off stuff and riding things. His extreme sport escapades were perfect for the camera – and no mere party trick, as he travelled the country with skim boarding, picking up gold medals anywhere he went.
Gaming came along and it soon became clear that he’d excel at that too. He started with titles that replicated his actual life, such as Kelly Slater Pro Surfer, but soon explored further afield, experimenting with MMORPGs like RuneScape and Toon Town. All the while, brother Jack helped document it all.
Whatever Tfue’s passion at the time, all of it was filmed, chopped up lovingly in Windows Movie Maker, and posted online for near enough nobody to watch. But the views didn’t matter. These talented kids were honing their respective crafts, whether the activity in question was gaming, skim boarding or long boarding.
From age twelve till Destiny’s release when he was sixteen, Tfue had been taking video games ever more seriously. But through Pro Surfer to RuneScape to Halo to Call of Duty, he’d kept these skills mostly to himself. Before his first Destiny video in early 2015, he’d uploaded only a few Advanced Warfare plays. Now it was time to make YouTube more regular. He also started streaming, directly from his Xbox One.
The early days of Tfue’s channel are a treasure-trove of then-records through various Destiny speed runs, including an 11 minute 34 Crota’s End run that picked up almost 200 thousand views. In June 2015 he added face cam. His streams hovered around the 30-viewer mark at that point, which may not sound like much compared to the forty or so thousand who tune in now, but it was something to build on.
In total, he uploaded dozens of Destiny videos in a row, breaking countless records along the way. The only thing interrupting them was a video of a dreadlocked Tfue eating a Carolina Reaper pepper, because why not?
It seemed Tfue would remain a niche on the internet that only the speed running community would ever take any interest in. His player-v-player Destiny videos, while relatively popular, just didn’t have the market reach to offer anything more than a small amount of monthly income. But then, all-of-a-sudden, the battle royale genre was blinked into existence, and as if he was still on his surfboard, Tfue rode that wave.
H1Z1 ended up as a mere testing ground for future battle royale games. But in early 2017, when Denial Esports announced they’d signed an eighteen-year-old from Florida, neither org nor player were to know that. Before ever even having a real job, Tfue the now-pro gamer had found his place in life. The next goal would be to move up as much as possible within it.
His H1Z1 highlight was fifth place in Battle for the Crown, which ran on US TV network The CW. He didn’t get too much airtime, but a televised money-winning performance represented a decent start in the new day job.
Meanwhile, Luminosity Gaming, whose roster featured someone that would go on to play a huge part in Tfue’s story, finished two places higher in third. At this early stage in their careers, it was Tfue 0, Ninja 1.
In total, Tfue earned four thousand dollars in prize money from H1Z1, constantly trading first and second on the leaderboard with Ninja. The cash was nothing life-changing, but the experience of walking the walk as a pro gamer was priceless. By mid-2017 his stream was picking up hundreds of viewers every time he went live. He’d managed to gain a fanbase, with viewers joining for his skill and staying for his infectious personality.
PUBG came along, and while Tfue was naturally world class, the six months he played did his stream almost no favors. His viewers stagnated. But a new title from Epic Games was about to come out, a very different battle royale that featured cartoonish graphics and a unique building mechanic. Fortnite Battle Royale instantly became Tfue’s game of choice, along with 10 million other players by the time it had been out for just two weeks.
On September 30th, 2017, Tfue played it for the first time ever. He got 11 kills in his first game, and his small yet dedicated community must have dared to dream, there and then, that this game would be his big break. The rest of the world didn’t know it yet, but Tfue was laying the foundations in the title that would take him to the top, one build at a time.
By April he pulled in nearly a thousand viewers every stream and was already known as one of the best in the game. A big reason for that came on February 15th, 2018, when he broke the solo kills record with a frankly ridiculous 29.
His next noticeable jump in exposure came in April, when Tfue’s perpetual boxing match with Ninja – the newly-crowned king of streaming – reached the gam colourful shores for the first time. Ninja at this point was practically a deity to the millions of kids who’d signed up to Twitch just to bestow their Prime sub upon him. He was seen as undefeatable. So, when Tfue popped out of cover to deliver a single, well-timed snapshot to Ninja’s cranium, it resulted in way more exposure than it had any real right to.
Tfue’s stock as a streamer was rising. Fast. But he had a competitive itch that needed scratching. Who better to turn to than the most subscribed-to esports org in the world: FaZe Clan.
That announcement came in April 2018, and it brought the game's best builder to new heights. His Twitch subs rose from eleven-hundred in March, to ten and a half thousand by May. His YouTube stats, arguably even more impressively, went from a hundred thousand subs on April 1st to practically a million by the start of the next month. In the present day, he's racked up over 10 million YouTube subscribers.
If he wasn’t already, Tfue became filthy rich overnight. But he still had work to do. FaZe had recruited him to win tournaments, and by July, Epic were ready to kickstart the Fortnite esports scene for real.
Tfue and FaZe teammate Cloakzy used Keemstar’s Friday Fortnite tournaments as practice. It’s fair to say the duo showed potential, winning four of the nine events they entered and finishing second and third in two others. Ten thousand bucks per win between them was nice, but Epic’s Summer Skirmish would be a game-changer. The developer controversially locked out third parties from hosting events over a certain prize threshold, and then, never afraid to throw as many dollars at a situation as it takes to grab the headlines, announced that their inaugural event would offer eight million dollars across eight weeks.
Tfue had his eyes on the prize, but a year that had been so kind to him would throw up its first real failure. In three solo events he’d place seventh at best. The duo results weren’t much better, although on the opening day of Week 6 he did achieve second place alongside Yelo.
That silver medal though, was as good as it got.
Perhaps it was outside distractions that led to these underwhelming performances. Shortly before Week 1, Tfue’s accounts were banned as he’d publicly gone against Epic’s terms of service by trying to buy and sell login details for real money. This led many in the community to see him as arrogant; that he thought he was bigger than the game that had essentially made him.
He uploaded a video twelve days prior to Week 1 apologising for his actions. He also famously claimed he’d never purchase a skin again, as it was his desperation to pick up certain limited DLC that led to his attempts to buy accounts in the first place.
To his credit, the apology seemed sincere, and he made it clear that he didn’t want his fans bringing any hate to Epic when they were very much the ones in the right. The turbulence continued though. By August 14th he’d hit 3 million YouTube subs, and this success had made him a prime target for trolls. Three days before Week 6 of the Summer Skirmish, Tfue announced he’d been hacked, despite having two-step verification.
No long-term damage was done. But then, one day before Week 7, Tfue was hit with his third distraction; a ban from Twitch for two weeks for reasons that were never completely cleared up.
He planned to livestream on YouTube during the downtime, but it turned out that while Tfue was busy being banned from Twitch, his YouTube channel was hacked yet again – according to his father by a criminal hacker. This time, the entire channel was deleted. Every single video removed. Five years of his career gone in an instant. The lost vids returned shortly after, but all this drama coming one day before Week 7 of the Summer Skirmish hardly had a positive impact on his results.
During the two weeks off, Tfue moved from his childhood home to the FaZe mansion and the bright lights of LA. But whether due to homesickness, poor internet, or just because he was missing that damn window, it wouldn’t be long before he came home.
FaZe had handed everything to Tfue on a platter, treating him like a full-time vlogger. But the Summer Skirmish was more than just a mild disappointment. It was the one blot on an otherwise immaculate career. Epic’s next tournament would be a great chance to fix that.
The Fall Skirmish, beginning September 1st, 2018, represented a second chance – one worth an eye-boggling ten million dollars over just a month and a half. Tfue would miss Week 1 due to an illness that was still lingering in Week 2. But any fans worried he’d been placed under some sort of curse were soon proven wrong.
He finished Week 2 in first. Two weeks later, in the next solo event, he won again. 37 thousand dollars for each victory. That famous window made more than just a cameo on each occasion.
At this point in Tfue’s career, 74 thousand dollars barely meant a thing. It was all about glory, and the sixth and final week of the Fall Skirmish was the only place in which he could earn it. This event, held at TwitchCon at the end of October, was the reason he’d left an LA mansion to come home. And it was here, when the pressure was greatest of all, that the underperforming duo of Tfue and Cloakzy finally lived up to their potential.
In truth, Cloakzy was the better performer on the day. But that didn’t matter. Together, they’d done it; cue the confetti and the colourful characters.
In a year that had taken Tfue from relative obscurity to 6.5 million YouTube subs, he finally had the only accomplishment that was missing. A premier esports title. Now he could sit back, relax, and have some fun with the incredible life he’d built for himself. Which by the way, is way easier when friends like the deep-pocketed Mr. Beast are desperate to give you gift after Mr-Magorium-style gift.
For Tfue, 2019 has so far been the year of kicking back, relaxing, and finally delving into all that money. Back in October 2018 he’d reached out to internet mogul Elon Musk over Twitter and asked for better internet. After getting a positive reply, he publicly promised to pick up a Tesla. In January he finally did it. Not bad for a first car.
Four days later, Tfue hit the headlines for another showdown with Ninja. In Ninja’s eyes, the apparent no-name he was up against was so good that the only explanation was that he was hacking.
In fairness, once Ninja realised it was actually Tfue, he called him a god. He also would’ve played the situation very differently if he’d known who he was up against. The fact remains though that a chicken-suited Tfue was good enough to toy with his prey.
With Ninja once more kicked to the curb, Tfue soon got back to his new favourite hobby: eating into his savings. In February, he uploaded a VLOG of himself spending a million dollars in a single day. Some went on gifts for his fans, some went on a shiny new jet ski, but the biggest investment of all was an abandoned warehouse that will presumably go on to feature in his YouTube videos.
Tfue’s spending spree was all fun and games, but it soon started to affect him as a competitor. Going into March’s ESL Royale in Katowice, Tfue was the highest earner in the game’s history with 478 thousand dollars. But he chose not to travel to the event, forfeiting top spot to Ghost Gaming’s Bizzle. Instead of travelling to Poland to compete and meet his fans, he stayed home and streamed; a decision which naturally split opinion.
Some felt it was fair for Tfue to focus on streaming, especially when the prizes were relatively low, with the top duos team winning 80k between them and the solos victor picking up just 20k. He was also rumoured to have a new girlfriend in Corinna Kopf, and leaving her would’ve been low in his list of priorities.
Others understandably saw this as yet another sign of Tfue’s arrogance. His own explanations for why he would be staying didn’t exactly help.
Looking purely at the numbers, it’s arguable that he made the right business decision. As of late March 2019, his stream remains firmly camped in the top 10 of the Twitch charts. Back in January he’d stuck firm with Fortnite Battle Royale as seemingly everyone else had moved on to Apex Legends. The decision paid off, with tens of thousands of viewers who only had eyes for Epic’s game jumping ship to Team Tfue. At the time of writing he has an estimated 40 thousand Twitch subs. Ninja, the now-former king of Twitch, sits at just under 30k.
Tfue’s fans will have high hopes that, despite missing the Katowice Royale, the competitive fire still burns strongly within. July's upcoming World Cup will be the ultimate litmus test, and Tfue will most likely see this as the true place to defend his Fall Skirmish title. With one million dollars in prizes on offer across each of the ten weeks of online open qualifiers, the financial muscle is there to make him care. But as with the Fall Skirmish, only a grand finals victory can provide any genuine glory.
On July 26th, Tfue will hope to be sat there in New York City, competing for a top prize of three million dollars.
Turner “Tfue” Tenney is a figure that continues to divide opinion. To some he represents all that excites about esports. Despite the millions in the bank and the occasional controversy, he still lives in his family home, streaming tirelessly for his fans from that same old bedroom. This alone, proof enough that his father was right all along: money isn’t everything.
To others, Tfue's finally run out of respect for a gaming scene he used to love so much and ditching the Katowice Royale may have been a watershed moment that confirmed a shift in his motivations.
Tfue is, without question, one of the greatest to ever drop on Tilted Towers. As the now-second highest earner in the game's history, he has the credentials to prove it. But going forwards, nothing less than World Cup glory will cement him as the undisputed best to ever play the game.
The only question is: how much does he still want it?