George Yao, the 25-year-old who dominated Supercell's mobile strategy title Clash of Clans for a half a year, took up the title as a way to feel less isolated after a cross-country move for a change of pace, according to a profile of Yao by The New York Times.
Yao — who went by Jorge Yao in Clash of Clans — spent around six months as the number one player in the mobile game's rankings, having been the first player to hit the 4,000 trophy mark. YouTube videos of his battles became wildly popular, and when Yao visited other in-game clans he was met as a celebrity. At the end of May, Yao announced he was retiring from Clash of Clans, stating in a note posted to his Facebook that he was "going out on top like [Michael Jordan]."
Yao's official line of work is as an I.T. project compliance analyst for financial services company Provident, a job which he hates, according to The New York Times. Prior to moving to San Francisco for the job, Yao finished a degree in finance at Penn State and ended things with his longtime girlfriend. After moving across the country his found Clash of Clans while searching the App Store in the middle of the night one evening, looking for something to keep him occupied.
According the report, Yao played the game obsessively, sometimes for 48-hour stretches at a time. The game's "round-the-clock promise of camaraderie" made him feel less isolated. He would spend $250 on gems a week until a clanmate from Turkey, the 38-year-old son of a wealthy businessman, became his sponsor and began purchasing Yao the in-game gems needs to progress. However, the game began to negatively affect Yao's life; when clan members quit he would take over their accounts to attack his own and bolster his stats, and without noticing he rapidly lost 20 pounds.
"After a while, it felt more like a job than anything else," Yao said. "It really took the fun out of the game."
Yao left the game when he realized he no longer had control over his experience.
"Nowadays I can't even stand opening the app, the sight of it," he said. "Looking back, I think I must have been insane. I was so immersed in it at the time. I knew it was abnormal, but never to the extent that I see it now."
Earlier this fall, Helsinki-based Clash of Clans developer Supercell announced it pulled in $2.4 million a day from games like Clash and Hayday, it's more peaceful chicken raising simulator. Shortly after, Japanese telecommunications firm Softbank bought a 51 percent stake in Supercell for $1.5 billion.