With SC2 and everything going on in Korea with pro gaming atm, maybe I should write more of this before all vanishes into the past and is only to be remembered by a handful of persons that were living in Korea at that time.
Back on the topic.
My sponsored life as a pro gamer was going very well. My sponsor wasn’t actually expecting any result from me for now, because their game wasn’t launched yet (I was sponsored by a company trying to make a mmo crossgender, between lineage and fallout).
However I was playing Starcraft a lot on gamei and finally picking up what my “job” really was. Practice, practice and practice some more !
That meant to me getting bashed, over and over and over again by my Sam gug gi clan mates. Junwi was one of those for instance.
My PvZ wasn’t so bad, but all my other mus were atrocious. Still, I wanted to participate in as many tournaments possible. I wanted to try.
As I didn’t have any manager to take care of my registrations for the tournaments, Mr. Ha that was sitting next to me, was doing it.
There was that ZERG.CO.KR tournament I went to with him, I was fairly confident, as my friends on gamei told me that no big figure would show up and I had a decent shot at ranking up in the tournament. Eventho that was more to cheer me up than anything else, it gave me some confidence.
Mr. Ha took me there one morning, ZERG.CO.KR was actually the name of the pc bang itself. The thing started quite fast and unlike many other events, players didn’t have to wait hours doing nothing. I can’t remember if I got to second round or lost at the first one. I just remember the game I lost. I drew 6 on LT, pvz, my opponent was 3. The game sucked hard, I went early zealot speed and pushed into his main killing his expansion, taking mine, everything looked fine. Then all of a sudden, I had lurkers containing me. Back then, PVZ was very much about breaking the lurker contain or not. Especially on LT. I lost most of my army breaking it, just to realize my opponent’s economy was twice mine and that the only reason I first killed his expansion, was because he had expanded at 12 very early.
We went back to the sponsor office and Mr. Ha just told everyone that the conditions in the pc bang were very bad (wich was entirely true, my mouse behaved like shit without its drivers), but then, it was the same for my opponent, so I don’t really know how could this be somewhat of an excuse.
Well, it wasn’t anything big anyway and I still had KGL running, with our team ranking fine thanks to Jaeyong 1v1 wins and the 2v2s we would rarely lose.
At that time, I was mainly spending my time with my GF, seeing Guillaume less as they didn’t like each other. I was also trying to lure Maynard out Shin dae bang to have some drinks, only to succeed once, where he came with his gf and we had an awful night of heavy drinking somewhere in Samseong dong. Maynard was a cheerful person, it’s a shame he didn’t go out more.
That night he told me he was flying back to texas within the month.
I think Everlast was also about to leave, so that would leave only me and Grrrr… in Korea. Somehow, things didn’t look so optimistic as well for pro gaming. Most of Pd’s and managers were (that was a common habit back then) predicting starcraft to die soon.
I was in Korea since about 9 months and had made friends within pro gaming. Ophium (gameq player manager) would often invite me for drinks, I think he met my gf as well a couple of times. Ophium, to me back then, seemed to be the coolest guy on earth.
He spoke English, had that manly tone in the voice, tall, dark bearded with badass glasses, he looked like a fucking pimp and he was always making jokes about drugs. He liked me and intotherain a lot, not sure why, I mean, I sucked and I was still invited to all his tournaments . He never blamed me and never told me to pick up. He knew I was just enjoying my time here as a very very young adult and respected that. Hell, he often told me he’d love to be in my shoes, be a foreigner in a far country, doing something fun and having it easy with the girls (im pretty sure he did have his share of fun with girls tho -_-).
I think Ophium was one of the first person to tell me I should find a way to stay and live in Korea, be it gaming or whatever and that idea pretty much struck me : “Yes, it’s not about Starcraft, it’s about Korea”. I really wanted to stay there.
Soon after, Jaeyong, opened to me on how he was going back Busan and quitting pro gaming. I tried everything I could to make him stay, spoke to my boss about sponsoring him, even making him come several times to the office to introduce him to people.
I went up to ophium to beg him to find him a sponsor. But at that time, you had about a hundred of other gamers trying to find a sponsor, and gameq couldn’t help them all. Cezanne also had quit, I think he went back working at the fish market with his dad and su yeon, was entering her second year at university. Our KGL team wouldn’t even finish the season.
The only ray of hope in all that was to come from intotherain.
I remember we had a long conversation the evening of his birthday, where we went with his gf and mine (his gf was smoking hot, never really understood how he got her jesus) in a bar drinking ourselves to the floor.
Intotherain wasn’t a drinker at all. He was much more optimistic on the gaming thing than I was (ofc, I was bad at the game and he was good) and anytime I would be with him, it looked like anything was possible with pro gaming. That night after a few whiskies he just passed out and I had to carry him on my back for a shitwhile until we found a taxi agreeing to drive them home.
That goofy dude you see nowadays on MBC, is prolly the most merry, cheery, the nicest Korean gamer I’ve met. He was also THE protoss legend, the only protoss player to win tournaments at that time. Zealots didn’t have their + 1 armor base bonus back then and spawning pool was 150 minerals and completing faster and hydralisk and lurker upgrades were half their present cost. Basically, to kill zergs, you had to either be Grrrr…, garimto or intotherain.
So, one morning after a night out the sponsorship office, I arrived to see most of the workers crying around the place. That’s when the boss asked me to come his office and told me the game they were making was taking way too long and he didn’t have the money to support it anymore and aht he the company would now turn to web advertisement and fire ¾ of the workers. They gave me about 2000$, because they knew I didn’t save a single dime of my salary since all those months. That was very kind.
Of course this was a shock. I was 19 back then and had no clue yet what I could work in in Korea. I picked up my phone and called Daniel to tell him about the situation (we were in good terms )and he told me he’d help me out the best he can (wich he did).
Daniel found me a very nice homestay in the sutend area of seoul. It was pretty cheap and the food was awesome, I could live there for a while with the money sponsor left me.
I had for a month one of my most poetic and free time in Korea. I was roaming streets, alone at night, going into dark bars and cheap night clubs alone, meeting with strangers, many weirdos, many other people that end up kind of lost in Seoul nights, just like I was. I felt like some kind of creature in these night streets. Oh, how to describe what goes through a 19 years old mind, when every street light that shines under the moon, looks to the imaginative eye like a dance of shiny and electric ghosts.
Every person, every encounter, was digging a bit further in this world of unknown. With alcohol helping, it even seemed sometimes, like another dimension. I had no identity. I had no roots. Pro gaming rapidly, seemed a far way thing, something without any meaning or substance. Adventure was only now starting. Nights in far east Asia, carry a unique smell for the westerner. A bizarre flagrance of freedom and all the hidden emotions, that such a liberty can procure to one man lost alone somewhere in the world.
At the same time, I had met a new girl and was seeing soo jee far less. The crash of my company and the end of my pro gaming career, gave me the feeling for a change and I broke up with Soo jee, and soon after, moved in with that new girl I had met, Jee hae. That girl was sexually anything a 19 years old male could wish for. She was about 26 and just came back from USA, alas, with her good will and charity, I was soon to explore and discover Seoul in a whole other way than I had when I was pro gamer.
We changed home quite often, living in many different parts of the city. I still had no idea what I would do for a living, she wanted me to model, but I was skeptical. Life dragged into the summer, I was playing Diablo 2 mainly, drinking everyday while she was introducing me to many people in Korea.
However, I wanted to spend the summer back in France, I was clueless as what to do in Korea for a living, so I took the plane back home around July.
At first I didn’t have any plan to go back any soon, but I had bought a two ways ticket, so I had one more possible ride to Korea.
Soon WCG qualification started and upon taking interest in the event, I got back in touch with Smuft and Elky that were both going to fly to Korea for the finals.
That’s when I also decided to go back Korea (jee hae was there waiting for me), having in mind the idea from my own experience, that my many connections in Korea and Pro gaming industry, could help these two out. I also knew that if they wanted to stay and try to be pro gamer, they’d have a very hard time with Korean managers if they didn’t rank both 1# and 2# at WCG.
Sorry if this chapter was little boring, but I had to end up the first part of my trip to Korea a way or another. Now in that “second” part, I’m not a gamer anymore, but having one of the most fun times in Korea, with all the crew that was there for a while after this WCG. Dudey, Kenka, Kevin, Elky, Smuft, Grrr.. and many others !
I hope I’ll be able to write more soon !