So after my decision to stop playing competitively, the first question that came to mind naturally was: what now?
The answer to that question depends on the type of person I am. How did I get into Gaming/DotA? Why did I choose to play full-time after having earned a college degree? What's important to me?
I blame Starcraft. In 1998, Starcraft was released and it was instantly popular in Korea (I think, I was a kid so I don't remember for certain). For a while, it seemed as if SC was the only worthwhile hobby for males from ages 6-40. I've literally seen kindergarteners playing SC and more commonly many men well past their 30's with ties and suits, skipping work and lying to their wives for all I know, in PC bangs.
If you're an anime guy (I'm not for the record. Not that I have anything against anime!), you'll notice that Asians like putting numbers on people. Who's the stronger villain? Well it fucking says this guy's a 2 and that guy's a 5 so discussion over. School was kind of like that too in many regards. During my school years in Korea, we had seating arrangements usually decided by height so the shorter kids sat in the front of the class and the tall kids in the back, allowing everyone to see the blackboard clearly. I was always one of the shorter kids during my earlier years. I was always between 1 or 5. How well you're doing in school? Same deal. You know exactly which # you are in your class and in your year. It was kind of funny that when I had to leave Korea because of my dad's job and went to school in another country, a lot of kids would hide their test scores. I guess I was too used to knowing exactly how smart or dumb everyone was.
There were also rankings of fighting too. Who was the baddest mother fucker in the class? This was in elementary school so it might sound cute but when you're also a kid, some other kids can look really big and scary. There was a lot of fighting in school. Unless someone got seriously injured, parents and faculty didn't know or didn't care too much about it. I'm not sure if things are actually better now but when I think back on violence in school, it was mostly from the faculty anyway, not other kids. I've been kicked, punched, bitch slapped, hit with a large wooden stick, ran into a corner and beat the fuck up for a good 60 seconds etc. by teachers. And the craziest thing is that that was normal. No one's going to lift an eye if you say you received a beating for being late to class. If you want to be a cool kid, you have to take that beating and walk off like nothing happened. No tears allowed, show minimal or no signs of pain.
I kind of trailed off there but the point I wanted to get back to was that eventually it became cool to be good at Starcraft. You wanted to be that guy that maxed out 200/200 faster than everyone else and had more money than god. People wanted to be on your team. Winning was fun and the better you were at the game, the more fun you were to be around.
I was too small to be a badass and I wasn't doing too well at school so I wanted to be the best at something: Starcraft. But I mean... how good can a 11-12 year kid be? We were playing 30 min no rush on 50k mineral patches. I eventually became considered as one of the best players in school and that felt good. Looking back, Waxangel (we were friends and went to the same school) was probably much better but I was more popular so kids put me on the pedestal. Hi Wax.
After a year or two, my family had to leave the country because of my dad's job. When you're a child, being the new kid in school isn't so hard but it gets tougher in your teenage years. I was way more extroverted in my younger years. I was even somewhat of the class clown but going to school with a bunch of white kids made me feel shy all of the sudden. When I moved to the US in high school, that was pretty tough as well. I remember for my sophomore year there was only school and Warcraft III. I used to eat lunch by myself for the first few weeks of school but then some guy I had a class with told me I should come over and sit with him and his friends. I was like cool OK, and I went over and it turns out I sat at the wrong table. Ya'll white kids look the same man... And to make things worse the table I was supposed to sit with and the table I sat at were on bad terms. But it was too late and I eventually became friends with the guys I sat at over the next few years.
I became more social and comfortable by my junior year so school was more fun but that didn't mean my hobby of playing games at home was any less fun either. Playing Warcraft eventually lead to DotA but it was just some low-skill time passing custom game at the time anyway. When I got back to Korea for college though, DotA had become much more evolved. It was competitive. My roommates and I were looking for a game to play together. We didn't want to play a MMORPG because that shit might ruin our GPA. So we played DotA. Lots and lots of DotA and ended up with pathetic GPAs regardless.
Because IceFrog kept patching the game and releasing new heroes and items, I don't think I ever got tired of DotA. I played some other games here and there, even took 6+ month breaks from DotA but it was always the game that I went back to. After a while, I was considered the best Korean DotA player and I was. But the game was sort of a dead end in terms of playing it full time. It wasn't anything like playing SC professionally for example. Eventually I had to go to the army in 2011 (really late) and before I enlisted, TI1 was hosted, where Na'Vi won a million dollars. A million fucking dollars. It blew my mind. Nowadays people are too used to DotA's modern prize pool but in DotA 1, you flew over to other countries to play for a few thousand dollars for 1st place.
Flash forward a few years and I got a spot in MVP after having played less than 50 games of DotA 2 soley based on my reputation from DotA 1. Good things happened. Bad things happened. But for the most part 'Korean DotA' was making progress. However, I wasn't the same person I used to be. I used to spend hours upon hours in PC bangs for the pure love of the game. In MVP, I was given free shelter and food, and the environment to play 16+ hours of DotA a day if I wanted to but I couldn't. It wasn't that DotA had become boring. There were thoughts that clouded my mind as I was approaching my 30's that made it hard to focus. How much longer can I be doing this? What if this player leaves and we have to start all over again? Is it worth the effort and time to play from Korea given we're playing in arguably the worst region in the world with a ping disadvantage?
Eventually I came to two conclusions.
1. I had to stop playing full-time
2. I still liked DotA
I spent over 10 years playing this game and I wanted to stay a part of it somehow. So I thought about casting. I enjoy talking about the game. I have a lot of insights that I've acquired over the years as a player, drafter and captain. But the question was whether I could deliver. My English is OK but I haven't had much experience speaking to a larger audience so I had to find out. I got into contact with some of the casters in the scene and got my first series to cast: Signature.Trust vs First Departure with Tobi. I was worried at first that I might not have much to stay at times but that was hardly a problem as it turned out. What's more important is how and when I speak up.
I usually hate listening to myself but if I'm going to find out if I have any potential whatsoever as a caster, I had to swallow my personal awkwardness of listening to myself and look to improve. Apparently I did OK on my first cast so I got an opportunity to cast some of the WCA games. I was super eager to get the experience and said I'll cast the entire first two days (12 games each) without any break in between. I could play DotA for 24+ hours if I wanted to so I was confident that I could. However, what I didn't consider was the fact that WCA only allocated 90 minutes to each bo2 series with no break in between, which everyone thought was odd. Even if every game was on average 30 minutes long, there was no way they were going to be able to stick to that schedule. I've been to enough LANs to know that shit happens and there will almost ALWAYS be delays.
The day before the WCA, I studied some replays and stats of the participating teams because I wanted to have some edge that might separate myself from other casters and make up for the lack of experience. The first game was going to start at 1:30 PM Korean time. I was going to sleep at 5 AMish and then I find out that the 6.86 patch got released. Well, fuck. I hadn't taken a serious look at the patch notes so I spent a lot of time going over it and creating lobbies to test things for myself as well as checking out the new map layout. Before I knew it, it was already lunch time and I didn't have enough time to sleep. New patch or not it was irresponsible as fuck on my part. I ended up casting for a bit over 16 hours straight on the first day and the total amount of time I went on without sleeping was close to 40 hours.
My mind was drawing blanks throughout the day and I was having trouble looking for words or expressing my thoughts coherently. I must've come off as some retard with a speech impediment to a lot of people because I was saying um, uh, but uh, I mean.. every other sentence LOL
There was a 6 hour break between the 1st and 2nd day of WCA and I went to sleep right away after Day 1 had ended. I think I did a lot better on Day 2. But as I'm going through some of my casts I realize that even though I may have felt that I did a 6/10 cast during the game, I'm disappointed by my performance when I watch the VOD because it looks like a 2/10 and I'm thinking 'was I really this bad?'
I've asked some close friends to be give it to me straight about my casting and they've said that I should work on my delivery because I have some interesting points. Also I'm really unhype but that's how I am for matches as well. I might go crazy in pubs shouting at people and making jokes but I've always been calm and collected in matches so something to work on.
I was supposed to be in another city right now but I slept a ton and woke up at an awkward time so I figured I might reflect on what's been happening in my life recently. If anyone's watched some of my casts, feel free to leave criticisms. I've already seen some of the most savage flames so there's no need to hold back :p