VERA CHINESE PHOTO
Victor de Leon, aka LiL Poison, became the youngest professional gamer in the world at age 6 in 2004. The Flanders native, now 12, is the subject of a documentary titled ‘LiL Poison’ that will be screened at the New York International Latino Film Festival this week.
Victor de Leon III first picked up a video game controller at an age when most kids aren’t even potty trained.
By the time he was 6 years old, LiL Poison, as he’s known in the gaming community, had become the youngest professional video game player in the world.
That’s why the now 12-year-old Flanders native, who has competed in more than 150 tournaments and been featured on MTV and “60 Minutes,” is the star of a documentary being screened at the New York International Latino Film Festival this week. The film, named “LiL Poison” after its star, had its world premiere yesterday and is scheduled to screen again Friday at 6 p.m. The filmmakers, who declined to be interviewed for this story, will hold a question-and-answer session after the screening.
Victor began playing against his uncle Gabriel de Leon, whose gamer nickname was Poison, and his family quickly realized he was good. Really good.
“When he was 2, he started beating his cousins who were 9 or 10,” said Victor’s father, also named Victor.
The uncle and nephew team soon became a force in the gaming community, garnering the younger de Leon the nickname “LiL Poison.”
Victor first competed in a local Halo competition on Long Island at 4 years old. He gained attention when people began to see how easily he defeated players twice his age and older. In 2004, he signed a contract with Major League Gaming.
LiL Poison is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as both youngest professional gamer and the youngest player to ever win money in a tournament. Though he has taken home prize money on more than one occasion, his dad said the real dough comes from endorsement deals. Victor has been sponsored by a few gaming companies in the past, but his dad said they are hoping to parlay the movie’s release into something bigger and better.
He added that while Victor makes money from gaming, it is an expensive hobby and traveling around the country for tournaments can cost thousands of dollars per trip.
Major League Gaming typically hosts seven events each year. The next one is scheduled for Aug. 27-29 in Raleigh, N.C. LiL Posion plans on being there.
Mr. de Leon acknowledged that the documentary, filmed over a four-year period, portrays a rocky period in the de Leon family’s life. The film chronicles Mr. de Leon’s divorce from Victor’s mother, Maribel Juarez, and how Victor, an only child, copes with it.
Victor and his mother, a longtime Flanders resident, lived in the area for many years, but have since moved to Mastic.
As for the younger Victor, he said his favorite game is the Halo series and he mostly plays on the Xbox 360 gaming console.
Despite his minor stardom, the baby-faced, soft-spoken and polite Victor is a normal kid who also enjoys jujitsu and paintball.
He said his playing time goes down in the summer, usually to just one or two hours per day, as playing basketball and swimming in his pool take precedence. Asked if he plays games against kids from school, LiL Poison said it was rare because he’s simply out of their league.
“They’re kind of bad,” he said.