Chicagoan Solomon Smith spent quarantine becoming a pro gamer

Just two years after deciding to become a professional gamer, Solomon Smith IV made the world stage: the 2022 “Call of Duty” Mobile World Championship.

In June 2020, when everyone was tuning into Zoom sessions as the pandemic took hold, Smith picked up his mobile device and got serious about becoming a professional gamer.

“I did a semester at Chicago State University after I graduated high school, but I didn’t have as much motivation for school then,” he said. “I really wanted to focus on games for a while.”

Smith has since competed in a host of tournaments. On December 18, his team, Luminosity Gaming, took second place at the world championship in Raleigh, North Carolina, winning prize money totaling $280,000. After putting some of his winnings into savings, Smith is looking for his first car, but he has yet to get his driver’s license.

For Smith, aka Solo, “Call of Duty” always caught his interest, even in his childhood.

“I grew up watching other ‘Call of Duty’ games played by other streamers and YouTubers, and when I had the opportunity and found out the mobile game was coming out, I thought I’d give it a shot ,” says the 19-year-old Humboldt Park resident. “I definitely liked watching it growing up, and it made a lasting impression, so I tended to play it. I think a lot of people played the game a lot longer than I did because I didn’t take the game as seriously as some until later. But I consider myself a pretty good player in relation to how much time I’ve played.”

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Smith, the son of artist, poet and organizer Leslé Honoré and the brother of artist Sage Smith, started playing video games with his uncle around the age of 9, according to his mother. (His favorite game is “Lego Star Wars”.

Smith’s playing prowess with the first-person shooter in the 2021 world competition has amazed others. Former competitor Carlos Butalid, aka Image, recalls Smith’s skill being so impressive that he recruited Smith when he formed the five-member, Toronto-based team Luminosity.

“Solomon’s team beat us in the North American regional stage and what was quite impressive was that Solomon was the key factor in their team winning,” says Butalid, Luminosity’s head coach. “It shocked us because we were a super team … and we were taken down by a team that only had one superstar and that superstar was not even known. He absolutely came out guns blazing and smoked us.”

Solomon Smith IV puts on his headphones before playing.

For someone who didn’t play much before the pandemic, Smith’s aggressive style of play has given him some notoriety. Although he doesn’t get stopped on the street for autographs, the Luminosity name is already recognizable after one year of competition.


“The amount of time I play the game is daily, but it varies by day,” Smith said. “Sometimes you play a really stupid long session – 10 hours – and other days it’s four hours, which is the average.”

Smith estimates he’s put in 200 days of practice and training since picking up his phone or iPad to play “Call of Duty: Mobile” professionally. Now he is a salaried employee who is paid once a month.

Smith plans to create more content and broaden his streaming reach beyond what he does on the Trovo video game streaming platform. He is working on getting instructional videos on his YouTube channel and is focusing on bringing home a championship win before eventually going back to college to get his bachelor’s degree. He is not sure if his college career and playing will cross, but right now he is focusing on winning first place in the world championships. If it takes a few more years for college to come into the picture, so be it.

“Our job as parents is to help our children find their way, not ours,” Honoré said. “Our parents may not know the game, but we know life. And that wisdom will always have a place to help them, but they won’t be able to access it if we can’t find a way to respect their passions as well.”

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Smith was the only Black person to participate in the 2022 international championship among 16 teams. But given the easy accessibility of the game – the full game can be played without paying any money – he knows other black players are trying to compete on this scale.

Solomon Smith IV (19) had his hair combed by his sister Sage Smith before he played on December 22, 2022.

“As far as playing the game and getting good at it, anybody can do it,” Smith said. “I feel like video games are not a thing that’s really pushed too strongly in the Black community. … Competitively, I don’t think it’s the biggest thing that’s looked at and as an option … to make money. It’s a pretty risky option.”

Smith’s advice to those looking to enter the professional gaming world? Play as much as you physically can and try to be better every day than you were yesterday. It’s something Smith lives and breathes.

“It’s definitely a naturally progressive thing, so your efforts pay off,” he said. “If you lock in, play a lot and try your best to get better, there will definitely be dividends.”

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