After Zest cleanly ended YoDa's run in the tournament, I eyed some people in the semi-open backstage where he was giving away signatures. Quickly rising for one didn't seem so necessary as the venue was fairly empty, giving me ample time to meet him face to face. Thankfully my Korean skills aren't too awful so I made a bit of a conversation with him. Said my hellos and he seemed astonished somewhat, asking, "Are you Korean?". Either I do not look Korean at all (sad face) or the lack of fans who were able to use Korean was at a low number. I asked him where HyuN was, which was sadly retorted with, "I think he isn't here", ending my hopes of meeting my Zerg hero in person forever (really sad face). Speaking of missing players, I noticed very few of them were around other than the remaining players and Snute, practicing ever so diligently in the back. Got disappointed I couldn't get a signature from Polt, Leenock, viOLet, Jaedong and Bunny, but maybe next time. Assume that they were visiting around Toronto because it is a great city, so I could excuse that, but still, no HyuN
Returning to my seat for the Flash vs TaeJa match, a series I anticipated would be awesome from the names alone. I was rooting for Flash and the crowd began to grow as time progressed, adding to the hype. Almost resembling Jesus on the Mount, the multitudes developed around the personality of the Ultimate Weapon himself, delivering his mercy and justice on all. The games lived up to the hype and Flash proved worthy of ascending to the finals. Retreating to the backstage, I wondered if I could get a picture with God himself and a signature as well, only to see him give the "L" with his fingers towards Apollo for whatever reason. Sadly Flash wasn't willing to give signatures with one word, "Tired" being enough to deter people. However, the person who was just called a loser by Flash proved he wasn't by gleefully giving autographs and talking to the people, wonderful chap. Then Carmac passed by and gave autographs as well, so a two for one in quick succession. Camping out for a bit more I glimpsed TaeJa passing by who seemed dejected and joined the flow of the crowd. I will admit I ran a bit to ask him for his signature, which he gave wordlessly. Felt a bit bad having to do that after he lost honestly, but afterwards he gave away more so I guess negated?
In the downtime I wandered the venue and took in the sights of nerd heaven, seeing a variety of costumes ranging from Dr. Who to Final Fantasy characters. Walking by the celebrity autograph sections a list ranging from voice actors like John DiMaggio to well known actors like Elijah Wood had packed lines and a devoted fanbase. I had a thought in mind to join a line but after a big sign which indicated $60 for a signature, that thought quickly erased. Funny thing about washrooms is that you never know if you will see someone famous, and having seen Mr. Bitter, soO and Maru in the washroom during WCS I was hoping for fate to strike the same luck as last year. Sadly my toilet tales are lacking in stars and more in piss than anything.
The Zest vs Life series was on its way as I was in the washroom and I lost my seat which resulted in me standing up and occasionally sitting crossed legged on the edges of the venue. Now that the event was fully started the crowd started growing immense and expanding beyond the blue carpet. As much as I wanted a chair it was great seeing how much interest the IEM event was gaining even for non-StarCraft players who wanted to see why people were clapping and cheering so loud every few minutes. Zest vs Life ended, and I went scouring the back for more signatures (I know I sound like an awful person doing this) and found the great casting duo of Rifkin and ZombieGrub. Both seemed a bit astonished I asked for their signatures but were glad to give them. (If you two read this blog, keep up your casting!) I noticed Snute as well, talking to the fans and genuinely enjoying conversations. When I got his signature I told him he made Swarm Hosts interesting, while he laughed it off and said he was doing everything in his power to make the unit interesting.
Great as it was meeting these community figures and players, the finals were fast approaching and I had to view it. Taking my position, I watched as Flash dismantled Zest and showed off his starsense, his eye twitching and ruler skills throughout the games. When the final gg was called, the crowd erupted in cheers, in veneration and worship of their StarCraft messiah. Then came the Four Terran Wisemen and the baptizing of ReDeYe with icy cold water by Flash himself. Noticing the streamer Winter, I had to ask him for a signature which he gave, adding to my signature head count. I camped out the back (again) and waited for Flash to grace our presence. In the meantime Kaelaris, ReDeYe and ToD graced my notebook with their signatures, but the crown jewel was nowhere to be found. Standing by for a few more minutes, desRow and Apollo were asked the whereabouts of Flash and both were unsure themselves with Apollo stating they probably left via secret exit in the backroom. Disappointedly I had to back away and realize I should have attended Saturday (damn you real life!) for a chance to get Flash's writing on my book, but I didn't leave poor in signatures compared to last year.
Although I only saw Sunday, IEM and ESL know how to create some of the best tournaments StarCraft has ever seen. The energy, the casters, the hosts, and stage all reflect great professionalism and humbleness when they interact with the fans. While I was lacking in player signatures the people behind it all were just as good, the people who make everything possible. Overhearing Jarett Cale's conversation with someone else, he mentioned the overcrowding of the event you may have noticed where the set-up wasn't capable of holding all the fans and went beyond. Piggybacking off Fan Expo did create some issues in costs, for reference, the WCS season finals last year in Toronto were $30 for three days, Fan Expo cost $40 for Sunday alone, being $50 on Saturday. While I loved the tournament I do think Jarett raised some good issues which I hope are resolved the next time StarCraft comes to Canada. Thanks to all the players, ESL, IEM and Blizzard for organizing such a wonderful event.