All this happened while my passion (eugh—I hate that word) for Starcraft reached its nadir at the start of Legacy of the Void. One of my many character flaws that I'm infuriated by is my inability to compromise. If I'm interested in something, I have to know it all and see it all—I can never be a casual fan. Towards the end, I had been writing at TL because I felt I had to, rather than because I wanted to; I was slowly becoming more and more apathetic to the games I was watching. As new blood arrived in the TL writing staff, I suddenly realised that it was time to call it quits. My final maps I watched were Games 5 and 6 of the HSC XV Finals between Zest and ByuN on 23 July 2017—I know this as I have a spreadsheet listing nearly every map of professional SC2 that I've ever watched. It currently stands at 13,025 columns. I don't watch another map for over two years.
My first SC2 tournament was Iron Squid 1. I loved it, but for some bizarre reason never followed up on it. Uni was tough at the time—I was slowly realising that I really wasn't good enough—and the daily grind to improve took up nearly every waking moment of my day. Eventually, I am done with my course; I am thoroughly disappointed with my mediocre results. The summer passes by in a wave of apathy and failed job applications. One evening, I happen to click through to the start of the WCS Season 2 Finals on twitch, and am hooked for good.
While working full-time, I turn the clock back, watching the whole of Season 2; then Season 1; then systematically work my way through the whole of Starcraft history. I fall in love with MMA; with INnoVation; with Squirtle. From mid-2013 to 2016, I watch everything that I have time for, and some things that I don't. I do not miss a single map of offline SC2.
Some context now; in 2014, I move to Hong Kong. It isn't a choice I make myself, and it isn't one I want. While Hong Kong is a place where I look like I fit in, my terrible Cantonese accent gives the game away immediately. Besides family friends—all of whom are at least 20 years older than me—I know one person in Hong Kong, who is flooded by the working hours in investment banking. I cannot read or write Chinese, and so spend the days at work terrified of being given documents I can't read, or answering calls that I can't understand without the context of seeing them in person. Even something as simple as ordering lunch becomes a guessing game of spotting what others have ordered, and rolling the dice on exactly what it might be called. More than all that though, the work is menial and tedious. I hate it.
At some point, I see a post on TL asking for writers' applications. I spent most of my school life hating essay-writing—when I was applying to university, I joked that I picked a maths degree so that I wouldn't have to write essays, and I still don't know how much truth there was in that. But this was about something I loved, and I was bored at work with nothing to do, so what the hell. You can read my initial application in one of my previous blogs. Zealously messages me asking for my Skype—he likes my work, for some bizarre reason—and then promptly forgets about me for another two weeks. Eventually though, I am in.
I spend the next 18 months writing for TL while at work, furiously alt tabbing between liquipedia, TL, and my actual job while thanking god that my colleagues aren't interested in looking too closely at what I'm actually writing every day in assorted word documents. I get promoted to pseudo-Editor at some point, and every day follows the same pattern—edit anything that's been written, write anything that hasn't, and then go home at the perfect time to catch the KR games. When those are done, there's more writing to do, and VODs of any games that I've missed to catch up. Especially at the weekend, there are EU games to watch and recap—I distinctly remember a FireCake game day that went on for so long that it was light by the time it was finally over. Frequently, I fall asleep in my chair, before waking up, finishing my piece and finally fall into bed. My sleep schedule has always been terrible—even now, I often go to work after one or two hours of sleep (if that)—and speaking from the present it's the one thing that I most hope to correct soon. But for the first time in a while, I am working on a project that I love.
Eventually, I secure a spot on a Masters' course back in the UK, and am able to come home.
TL fly me out to BlizzCon 2016—an experience that I'll forever cherish and for which I remain hugely grateful—but even though I don't realise it at the time, this is the beginning of the end. My dissatisfiction with the gameplay in early LotV continues to grow, and various uni projects keep me too busy to watch games at the start of 2017. Before you know it it's been nearly three months. IEM Katowice represents one final golden hour of great Starcraft, but from there my love for the game slowly fizzles out, and I call it quits in July.
As ever with everything I write, this has morphed unrecognisably from what I set out to do—a simple paragraph to thank everyone on the Blizzard SC2 team and at TL for the past ten years—but I really did want to illustrate truly what this game and this community meant to me, as well as to close off a truly significant chapter of my life. There have been a bunch of people posting about how SC2 has saved their lives; while that may be going a little too far for me personally, it's inarguable that it really was the spark that kept me going for those glory years of HotS. It came at a time when my morale was as low as it's ever been, and gave me an outlet to find some enjoyment from the daily grind. There's still little in esports to match those truly electrifying moments in Starcraft—the culmination of IEM Cologne 2014; Proleague at its peak; watching soO finally reach the summit at KeSPA Cup.
TL was a job that taught me so much—most obviously how to write fast, well (I hope, at least), and on the fly—but was also just a wonderful place to work. I do miss the camaraderie of the writing team, and there's some sick part of me that misses the adrenaline kick of the sudden realisation that it's an hour to go until the next GSL group and nothing's been written. I'll forever be indebted to my editors, who each improved my writing so much in different ways, and to the rest of the writing team too—I miss you all. That extends to the whole TL community too—even some of the truly awful posters who I'm not going to name.
Unfortunately, SC2 just isn't the game for me anymore. I hope that anyone reading this can take this in the manner intended—know that I am so happy for you if you're still hooked. It was certainly a delight to check into an LR thread and recognise some of the posters that were there before me, and are still there long after I've left. I've been told that the game is much improved over what it was back in 2017, and maybe there's some world where I click through to a match out of boredom and fall in love all over again. For now though, it's goodbye. You'll always hold a place in my heart—thank you for everything