It was a dream I had that stemmed all the way back to 2003. I fell in love with Brood War when some students in my English class started to play some team games and UMS maps. I remembered my brother had already bought the game a few years back when it first came out and we attempted to play the campaign but eventually failed. I dug around our old computer desk and found the dusty, tattered disc. I quickly installed it and chose my first id: Cr8ZyENGtchr. This was due to me thinking it would be a hilarious joke with my classmates since we did happen to have a senile and eccentric English teacher by the name of Mrs. Baxter. But anyways. I digress! We began to play some 3v3's, Dragonball Z RPG's, and Cat N' Mouse UMS maps together. I couldn't get enough of playing and I eventually started to play way more than I probably should have. They all eventually moved on together to play Counterstrike but I kept on playing. I eventually started to play 1v1 BGH games doing my infamous 1-base mutalisk rush into 2-hatch hydralisk. I was doing quite well in the public melee arena until I played this one individual that absolutely crushed my dreams. To this day, I still remember the exact build. It was a 1 gateway dragoon range rush into 3 more gates. The constant aggression and the control of moving back his weakened dragoons pummeled me into submission before I tapped GG. I was astonished about how powerful and refined this build was as I have never experienced anything quite like it before. In retrospect, it was somewhat comparable to a 1 base blink stalker all-in nowadays but you have to remember this was 2003! I pestered my opponent and he told me that he was a low-money map player that just wanted to play some BGH for shits and giggles. With my interest piqued, I eventually found out about the community chat channels “Motel” and “Clan X17” and from there I was hooked like a fiend on wacky dust. I began to devote all my waking hours to playing it even though there was no scene at all. Beginning in high school, I remember waking up at 5am for the sole purpose of squeezing in some practice time against the Koreans on U.S. West and iCCup before I went off to school and then playing right as I got home, skipping homework, until I passed out that night. Initially I never had any dreams of becoming a “progamer” or winning tournaments. To be honest, I found enjoyment just in the basic fundamentals of the game. I was most interested with nailing every supply depot, hitting my production cycles right on time, learning how to control my vultures properly and so forth. It was a weird, nerd fetish you could say. StarCraft to me was always about self-mastery. It was about improving day-by-day and finding satisfaction in just that. I always compare it to learning how to play a musical instrument; perfecting your technique (mechanics, for instance) and learning to play new songs and melodies (builds/strategies). The high skill ceiling and the ability to keep on improving is what drew me to the game. Though I did try my hand at other games such as Counterstrike and Half-Life, they never quite gave me the same satisfaction StarCraft did. Come to think of it, I don't even think I like videos games at all. It was just this one little RTS.
Initially, I did not compete at all but due to peer pressure and some coaxing, I began to participate in the yearly WCG qualifiers which was comparable to the modern day WCS NA in StarCraft II. Boy was I terrible! I was a complete nervous wreck and got completely stomped at my first local qualifier by Nyoken. I had no experience at LAN's and even forgot to disable mouse acceleration when I played. But the thrill of competing was contagious. It was no longer just about self-mastery anymore. I wanted to compete and perform at an international and Korean level now. My anticipation for next year's qualifier grew exponentially after this. All of my practice and mastering of the said craft throughout year all came down to this one annual competition and it was what we all looked forward to. The year after I improved my results and made it to regionals but then bombed out again to Nyoken in the first round; my arch nemesis with the killer TvT. The next year in 2006 I was now senior in high school and I had a luckier bracket you could say by not running into him again. I was able to advance further in the regionals that summer and won versus IdrA and won in the finals against the future WCG USA winner of that year, LastGosu. It was not the biggest achievement at all in retrospect when compared to the greater picture but to me it meant the world. After winning, I qualified for USA finals but that was a few months off into late October and though I had just came off from a personal high winning, I became burnt out and frustrated with StarCraft. This low happened to timed out right as I was beginning college. When classes started, I made a decision to stop playing all together; straight cold turkey. I saw this as a new opportunity to get the most out of these years. I was now able to make up for all the experiences that I missed out in high school such as having a social life, participating in extracurricular activities and exploring other hobbies and talents. I won't lie. It was fucking fun. But eventually time crept up on me, and the WCG USA finals was here. Completely out of shape, I installed Brood War back onto my hard-drive the night before my flight and jam-packed as many games as possible until 3am. I hailed a cab and left the dormitory that night to the airport for the finals. It normally didn't take me that long to get into shape back then but I performed as I should have and bombed out in the first round robin group that included SloG4 and Day. Years later I stumbled upon Day who mentioned me in his famous Daily #100. My ID smurf at the time was EchoOfDream (though I know he forgot and mentions me as EchoOfTerran). But anyways, I don't know why I expected different results from what happened but regardless I was emotionally distraught. After traveling back I decided to hang up my mouse and keyboard and never got to realize my true potential. At the moment, I didn't think too much of it and went on with my ways in university. But I'm torn on the decision when I reflect back. On one hand, I experienced so many different things that I probably couldn't have if I kept on with gaming but on the other I gave up a childhood dream of mine before the apex. It was a tough decision and I'm not sure if I should have done it differently if I could. Maybe I should have. Maybe I shouldn't.
A year or so into my studies, I heard from a friend that messaged me on facebook or AIM, I don't quite remember which, saying that IdrA was going to Korea to pursue professional gaming with a KESPA team. It came to me as a shock honestly. I'd lie and say that I wasn't a little bit envious. It was what my dream was after all; to compete at the highest level, to win tournaments, to travel and have fans cheer you on. But I gave up on it. I gave up on it because I never thought it was possible anymore to have that opportunity to go to Korea. I had it in my mind that it was something of the past with foreigners competing and winning OSL's in spacesuits and sunglasses. + Show Spoiler +
I thought that it was never going to materialize into anything even if I tried my hardest. I coped with this by egging on myself to believe that I could have done that if I tried. I could have done that if I really put the time in. Who hasn't said these things to themselves at least once in their lifetimes? I hear it all the time from people on an almost weekly basis nowadays. 'I want to travel but I don't have the money.' 'I could have aced high school if I tried. It was easy but I didn't try.' 'I could have been so and so etc. etc.' Statements like these are quite silly to make when looking back. You were never going to achieve those goals because you never prioritized them enough in your life to make it a reality. It doesn't matter what you could have or should have done. It's about what you do. It's just meaningless excuses that people use to lull them into accepting their shortcomings and making themselves feel better. I found this comic awhile back. It's quite depressing but I think it's pertinent to what I felt when I made my following decision after I graduated.
I moved on with my years. It was a definite change to how I was back home in high school. At home, I had solidarity and only practiced StarCraft. It was who I was. In college, it was like I was trying to fill in the large gap that I left behind when I stopped playing except for the fact that no one hobby/activity filled it up so I had to compensate by doing many things. From participating in competitive ping pong, to joining the Boxing club, to DJ'ing, to tennis; I did it all! Probably too much. I basically became the jack of all trades. Good at everything but exceptional at nothing. Though I found lots of enjoyment from these hobbies, nothing was lasting and most faded with time.
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Yes I did happen to lose btw lolol.
I studied Biology with a concentration in Pre-Medicine. It was the path to take if you wanted to become a doctor. I actually don't know exactly why I chose this degree to study. I think it was because I didn't find interest in most subjects but I was quite good at memorizing facts and numbers. This seemed the obvious choice for me then. I wasn't a 4.0 student though. I was a B student. College was just the train tracks for my directionless life. There was no clear goal for what I wanted to achieve. It was just a means to some end that I didn't know and personally probably didn't care all too much for at the time. Yup! Young and dumb. There's a reason people always say “chase your passion” and it's quite simple why. For the most of us slackers and procrastinators out there like I was and still am, it will simply be too hard or unrewarding for you to pursue anything if your heart isn't it. Finishing up my last semester, was quite possibly one of the most difficult things I've done. On paper, it was easy. The classes were nothing different from what I did the semester before or the semester before that. My motivation for school dropped down close to zilch. I didn't know what I wanted to do and had no goal to strive to. At the time, I was living with 4 other housemates and we all got into the poker craze. We invited friends and people over and became obsessed. The stakes gradually rose to 1$/2$ and things got a little out of control. My responsibility as a student was put on the back burner and I lost sight. Playing poker all night until noon and then passing out, I began to skip classes on a regular basis. It became habit and we did this at least 6 days out of the week. I was 'rowing down shits creek with paddles this deep!' as Eminem eloquently once put it. I don't blame poker though. It was all my fault. I had to retake all my classes from the last semester except for one of them. Trust me I thought I would have learned my lesson but I apparently I didn't. It started to dawn on me why I was lacking motivation, so I started to look down all the avenues when all of a sudden StarCraft II was released. This began to rekindle my interest again at a time when I had little to none. It brought back my aspirations of playing competitively again like when I was back in high school. A little over 4 years had passed since I had played my last game of StarCraft. But it was like wacky dust and I got hooked. The first day I bought the game I was able to get into the top 200 on the NA server. Not the biggest achievement, but damn was 1 rax reaper expand a strong strategy back then XD. I played all throughout my last semester and after I finished college I decided to go for it. I remember spending my time between classes laddering and hitting HuK on ladder. One day we played closed to 11 games maybe and I lost every single one of them. Expand into 4 gate pressure was near impossible to wrap my head around at the time. 1 rax expand into 4 rax... shouldn't I have enough to deal with this properly since I have the same amount of production facilities as him!? Ah, those were the days. Little did I know I needed 3+ bunkers but anyways, I have digressed once more. The excitement of a developing game.
I moved back to my parent's house after I finished up my last semester at college and became the stereotypical neck-beard hermitting it up in a dark man cave playing StarCraft. It was definitely not the ideal place to try and pursue gaming. My parents, my girlfriend, nor my siblings didn't understand what I was doing at the time. But I sure as hell don't blame them. Why the hell would I? It sounds quite ridiculous when you take a step back and analyze it. But it was just one of those things that you have to go for. The team I was on got absorbed into Quantic and I began traveling every few months or so to MLG. It did somewhat keep them off my back for a bit but that was only temporarily. The slow creep of impending student loans, the daily babysitting of my then 2 year old niece, and the need to constantly revise and send out my job resume to subdue the temper of my parents grinded away at me.
Divine intervention seemingly happened though. It was announced that Quantic was opening a team house and I had the opportunity to finally make a real shot at going full-time, attempting to achieve what all the North American gamers out there dreamt of. My blog here goes into depth my experience there so I won't repeat myself too much. In the beginning of that blog, I said it was a fresh start for me and it really was. There were of course some setbacks and troubles, but overall it was worth it. I grinded and grinded games like nobodies business, practicing on the KR server for 8 hrs daily. It was not the most efficient practice ever, but I felt like I was slowly improving. My mentality and attitude were also improving in the months prior but the dark times for Terran came in full force following the queen buff. Regardless of my views on balance, I ended up losing most of my confidence in my play, and in turn it showed in the tournaments that I attended. It was disappointing to me that I was not able to make any tangible result after staying in the house.
As you most likely already know, Quantic collapsed and so went the house. Everyone scrambled around in the daze of confusion figuring out their next team and their flights back home. Though I was figuring out my team options as well, I was in a different predicament. Moving back into my parent's house was never ever an option in my mind after I had first left. I was still hungry and still wanted to pursue gaming. I had to sort out all of my options though. I did get approached by Electronic Arts to work a temporary spot as a balance tester. I had visions of me rising through the ranks and becoming an infamous figurehead like David Kim. It was a neat opportunity that arose. Juggling between the thoughts of staying with one of the managers in southern California, moving back East near the girlfriend, and the taking the temporary EA spot in Los Angeles, it was a tough decision. After attempting multiple times to figure out more details from the EA contact, time ran out and I had to make a decision before Christmas as they needed to book my flight. I took everything into consideration and I decided to move back East near my girlfriend. I don't regret the decision one bit because I still did deep down wanted to compete instead of moving on. A delusional quality that I think is needed.
I arrived back on the east coast and it was quite the adventure from there. I stayed at my girlfriend's apartment right off of the UMD campus. She had just finished up graduate school and had to return back home in Virginia but the lease did not end until January 1st. Luckily I could stay there and I had approximately two and half weeks to figure out the game-plan. The internet was shut down the month prior so there was none of that inter-web shenanigans. My first blog I go into detail writing about the events that happened. Could you blame me? What else is there to do but read and write like it was the 17th century when the internet is out. I would have gave an arm and a leg to watch some candlelight for entertainment like they used to do.
I eventually moved into a room I rented from a Vietnamese family. They were the family of one of my girlfriend's old high school friend. At first it was awkward, as no one in the family could speak English except for their kid who was in junior high but eventually there was a mutual silent agreement that I was just the weird dude who lives upstairs that doesn't leave his man cave unless he needs to pee, poop, or eat. 7 months have passed and I still don't know their names except for the kid's pet hamster Yogurt. I didn't mind at all though. It was actually rather ideal for a gamer except for some issues with the internet but I won't complain about that here. The first month adjusting there was the roughest. I didn't have a bed nor any furniture and ended up sleeping on the floor until February. I super fucked up setting up my new PC because I was a complete computer illiterate imbecile. It worked for a week before it short-circuited due to my lack of thermal paste. A silly mistake indeed. Replacing the processor took awhile to replace say the least. In the meantime I played on my macbook to make ends meet. I resorted to the crack-slanging business of e-Sports: account boosting. Boosting somewhere in the vicinity of 7-8 accounts into NA grandmaster in one season, I perfected the art of 1 base and 2 base all ins! Not very honorable, but hey! I'm sorry for all-inning everyone making NA even cheesier. In retrospect, I should have just settled on a part time job as I stabilized but I somehow convinced myself that I had to devote my entire existence to this thing if I wanted to succeed. Probably another big mistake by me but it seemed to allow me to scrape by. When I finally replaced my processor though, I was able to stream and advertise myself through coaching. It was quite enjoyable to do so and I really did enjoy teaching people StarCraft. I met some super cool individuals through coaching. Due to my sporadic late night streams, I ended up teaching a good amount of Aussies. Though all my students have been incredibly easy to get along with the Aussies are probably some of the overall nicest people I've met to date. I plan to travel there eventually.
In the end, all was not doom and gloom. I enjoyed many unique experiences and opportunities few individuals can say they have had. I was fortunate in many ways and I learned some life lessons that I don't think I ever would have learned the true value of if I wasn't put out on my own. Sometimes a kick to the balls from life can bring something positive. The first and most important thing I learned and trust me I learned this very quickly: No one owes you anything. It's the sad, stone-cold truth. No one. Not my parents, my girlfriend, my teammates, MLG or Blizzard. I, of course like many others out there, had some sense of entitlement. I'm not sure I can even count how many times I fantasized about some random person just handing me a blank check or a stack of sweaty cold-hard cash. Maybe even the possibility of getting a lucky donation discretely left in my Paypal crossed my mind a few times. There are extremely fortunate circumstances that can happen sometimes such as when I was helped out with getting a new computer, but these should never be demanded or expected. In the past, I felt entitled to certain things; whether that be money, player interviews, matches shown on the main stage, etc. It was a paradigm shift for me when I finally realized that if opportunity doesn't knock, you have to build yourself a door. Instead of expecting a salary, practice and try to attain results making you worthy enough. Instead of complaining about not getting those interviews which give you much needed exposure, make your own damn content in the form of replay packs, tutorials, blogs, etc. Everyone has a story right? If no one wants to narrate it for you, the responsibility is on you to do so. Instead of bitching and moaning of not getting a broad-casted main stage match, wear a banana suit on your stream or become so damn good that they have no option but to show your match. The list goes on but it was important that I got it through my head from the start when I first moved out on my own. A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on it's own wings. Corny. I know. :D
I should wrap this up and shut up now. I could talk all night. It was a fun ride. I don't even know where I was going with this entire thing so I will just bullet list the rest. I'll answer some of the questions everyone has been asking since I announced quitting SCII.
Why did I never move into the ROOT house? There were a variety of reasons as to why I chose not to. Most importantly it was the fact that the house was essentially opened by charity money. It was too much of a risk for me to move out west again like I did with Quantic. I did not want to end up in the same predicament I did at the beginning of this year again. I ABSOLUTELY hope that it is able to become sustainable in the long run. It was just a risk I could not take; breaking my lease and having no where to relocate my belongings. Again, I hope it works out great for the ROOT guys. They are all amazing and friendly and I loved every moment that I was with the team.
Why am I quitting SCII? The are many reasons that are pointing me in this direction. It wasn't one single factor that influenced my decision. One was the lack of consistent NA tournaments (it doesn't even matter if it's region locked or not). There's just too few opportunities to make a name for yourself. I'm not blaming anyone. It's just unfortunate circumstances. Goswser was a smart man to move to Europe. The main point if I had to choose one was that the benefits of chasing other pursuits outweigh how I am currently living. Over-drafting to make ends meet is not something I want to deal with every month as I get older. Balancing practice with supporting yourself is a thin and risky line. Practice too much and you don't have enough money to survive. Practice too few and you can't compete. Unfortunately I could not stream consistently enough to keep afloat. It's just about personal sustainability. I still love the game down to my damn bones and it's not about the current balance or that hellbats got nerfed. I still enjoy it like when I first began down to its simplest form; building supply depots, hitting production cycles, microing, etc. I will not compete nor try to become a personality for the time being, but I will still play on occasion at a very, very casual level and most likely in anonymity. It will just be on the back burner for a hobby as I gather the pieces back together. I will still continue to coach for the next few months until I am back up on my feet.
I've probably contradicted myself several times while writing this blog/explanation and trust me I know...and rightfully so. We're humans after all and I would be lying if I said that this wasn't a difficult and tough decision to make.
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