WILKES-BARRE — David Roebuck’s video-game experiences started when he was just 3.
Now, at age 21, the Forty Fort resident and Wyoming Valley West and Wyoming Seminary alum has played his way through tournament after tournament and into the 2018 NHL World Gaming Championships in Las Vegas.
After qualifying for the United States regional round Easter Sunday and finishing as one of the top two Americans on May 20, Roebuck is one of six players who will play in the round-robin EASPORTS NHL 18 tournament with a $50,000 prize on the line.
The one-day tournament is June 19.
Years ago, before Roebuck was even in preschool, he started playing games his parents had on their computer.
As his parents purchased a Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, he began playing hockey video games. Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey 98 and NHL Breakaway 99 on the N64 were the first two hockey games he played.
But it was when his family purchased PlayStation 3 that Roebuck started to make a name for himself. He started playing NHL 13 online and would “play the leaderboards” for fun. He ended up beating the No. 1 player in the world.
“I thought, ‘OK, just beat this guy. I can do this,’” said Roebuck, a member of the SetToDestroyX eSports team. “Growing up, whenever I played my buddies, most of the games I beat them pretty comfortably. I mean, there were some close games, but for the most part I felt I had the upper hand, but I never thought that I was actually that high. Then once I beat that guy I thought, ‘OK, I can actually do this.’ And I got up to No. 1 there.”
After taking a few years off to focus on school and hockey — Roebuck went to Massachusetts to play junior hockey and now attends Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh — he’s back near the top of the gamer world.
It took some time, however.
He struggled in a few tournaments leading up to the qualifying round for the Regional Finals of the World Gaming Championships, but he caught his groove just in time. He fell to John Wayne Casagranda in the finals, which still allowed him to qualify for the world championships.
Roebuck also believes he has an advantage because hockey doesn’t just have a presence virtually, but in his life away from PlayStation 4 as well.
Playing club hockey at Robert Morris, Roebuck uses what he’s learned on the rink when he puts a controller in his hand.
“A lot of my success in real-life hockey revolves around my work ethic and just my smarts for the game, like knowing what to do at what time or how to out-smart someone,” Roebuck said. “I’m consistently thinking … as a player and as a coach. I feel that helps out a lot, especially when I see what players do in the game and I think back to real-life hockey, ‘OK, how would you beat this? What works? What doesn’t work?’”
He’s going to Las Vegas a relaxed man, intent on just enjoying the experience.
“I think I’m going to go, keep it loose and try to make the most of it,” he said. “If you put too much pressure on yourself, you can have issues.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle