I'm going to do this in maybe 2 or 3 parts, as it's gonna veeeeeery long, and I dont' think I can do it in one go. So here we go.
This years has been pretty eventful for me, and marked the start of my career in Starcraft II, even though it really started at the end of 2010 when I arrived in Korea.
All started mid/late 2010 when the GSL has been announced and confirmed. I was learning Starcraft II and the RTS genre at this time, as I never really played any other RTS. I played lot of DotA tho, around 8 years, at the highest level, so micro was all I had. Yet, I made this decision that sounded completely insane for anyone, coming from a guy like me, go to South Korea and try to compete in the GSL. I wasn't terrible (well, for those times standard at least), but I wasn't really good. I was maybe getting through a couple rounds in online cups like Go4SC2s or something similar. Only thing I did was win a couple worthless online French cups, and a Ro8 in some ZOTAC cup. So to go from this point and decide to go to Korea didn't really make sense.
This question naturally comes up : why do something as ridiculous as this ? Well, many things made me take this decision.
After taking the time to think it through, I realized one thing : what moved me the most until now is, and has always been competition. I was doing lot of sports before, playing video games for ever, and the thing that was driving me in all of this was, sure, the fun of it, but mostly competition. I used to be one of the best CS players in my homeland, played DotA at professionnal level, and also was probably the winningest rider of the country in my categories, as well as one of the most entertaining to watch from what I understood (horse riding, jumping tournaments).
The reason I'm saying this, is that once you've experienced the feeling that you get from having a whole crowd coming just to see you compete and cheer you on while you're trying to be the best and put on a show, a crowd that goes wild the moment you pull-off something crazy that makes you win a championship, with adrenaline pumping through your body... Those ecstasic moments are moments you just can't forget, and you get addicted to those.
I love competition, I love trying as hard as I can to be the best, win championships and see people enjoying watching it. I couldn't see myself living life another way than competing.
Now that doesn't answer the question entirely, so I'll get to the second point.
I've had too many of them, way too many. I missed so many eSports events and Sports events for what I thought was the reasonable thing to do, and what people were telling me I should do.
I missed a couple invitations to Dreamhack as DotA player.
I missed Beijing Olympic Games as one of France's horse riding representative.
I missed a few other things like this too but those are the biggest ones that I just can't forget about. And why did I skip on those ? Because I had exams or stuff related to my studies, conflicting with the events or the preparation to those events, so a choice had to be made. I just could not do both, I was studying engineering, it takes time and work, and sometimes compromises just can't be done.
Those are huge regrets, and I don't want to have regrets ever again because those are things that follow you your whole life.
You never have regrets by doing things, you get regrets from not doing them, which is why when GSL was announced, I had to take a decision. I was getting better at the game, I loved it, and felt I could get somewhere. So this time, I just made the choice of trying to accomplish things instead of taking the easy safe path.
To be the best, you gotta beat the best
That's what I was thinking. I was new in the RTS scene, and even more in the Starcraft scene. I didn't have any contacts at all. Nobody knew me and I didn't know anyone either. So all I had was ladder. Yes, you can be good laddering to some extent, but the thing is that if you are to do this, it's gonna be much better in Korea where people actually try hard too. Also winning online cups or smaller tournaments is cool but didn't really interest me. I just wanted to be best player possible, and win tournaments that were a big deal. The best way to do so for me who had no experience and was new to the scene was to go to Korea and play in a much much more difficult environnement, and try to compete in the hardest tournament in the world.
"Aim for the stars, and maybe you'll reach the sky". This is how I have always been thinking and it was no different in this case.
October 2010, GSL Open Season 2, I was heading to South Korea.
The GSL and South Korea
I wanted to come for Season 1, but I wasn't so sure about my choice yet, and I still needed time to get papers done in order to head to South Korea. Also, one important thing I had to do ... is talk about this to my family.
Truth be told, it wasn't easy. Video games are surely not something regarded with lot of respect in my family. I'm a gamer, they knew it, they got me into it, and they probably think it was a very bad idea to do so. They didn't mind at first as I was having very good results at school anyway, but when you spend so much time in front of a screen they obviously don't like it. So trying to make my family understand what eSports is, and that yes, it actually is reality, was extremely hard. I didn't manage to do it.
My goal at this point was to prove them that progamer is a legit occupation and that it actually exists, the same way professionnal athletes exist. I made them understand that I was NOT interested whatsoever in living a normal life with a day job that I might or might not enjoy and get in that kind of routine that I would hate.
Now I have no idea how the hell that happened but, we got to an agreement. I had a year to make something happen and prove them wrong, that eSports is a reality and that I would be the one to show them. I must say I'm extremely lucky to have such father who would let me go out there with nothing but negative opinion about gaming in general, and even help me to do so.
It was on. I was going to Korea
Arriving in Seoul
I signed up for the GSL Open Season 2. You would receive an email from John (the translator that everyone knows by now), giving you the details, the date, the venue, and the accomodation they would provide you with. Usually John comes to pick you up at the airport, but my flight was arriving to early in the morning so he couldn't get there. I had to take the bus from Incheon airport to Seoul, where I would take the subway for one stop to arrive at my hotel, that they would provide for 3 days. I arrived 2 days before the qualifier, so I decided to rest and go check out the venue the next day (Day 1 of the qualifier) so I'm 100% sure to get there in time when I have my qualifer to play.
The day after, I was off to play my qualifier.
GSL Open Season 2 qualifier
I arrived something like 30min before the time (I was playing at 11:00 am if I recall correctly) , at Sindorim's TechnoMart, on the 7th floor where the qualifier was held.
When I got there I was walking, looking around, and suddenly I hear a "Hey, foreigner guy !", turn and see a guy camera in hand : that was how I met Artosis.
+ Show Spoiler +
My accent and how unable to talk I was was pretty embarassing to be honest, but that's what it's like when you're using english outside of school for one of the first times...
I was terribly under prepared, I forgot to bring a keyboard as I was playing on a laptop back home, and was assuming the ones at the venue would be fine .... silly me.
I spent the day at the venue, watching the other foreigners play. I remember being very impressed by TLO's speed at this time while I was watching him smash protosses one after another with very micro and multitask intensive builds, to end up qualifying (he was playing Terran at this time).
I also was very surprised by something that day. I was not the kind of guy to go talk to people I don't know or I'm not getting introduced to, but the other foreigners there, namely Jinro, TLO, Artosis, etc were extremely friendly. Jinro came to talk to me during that day, to ask about me etc, and we discussed quite a bit with him, TLO, HayprO and others. This is where and how I first met most of Liquid guys as well as the other foreigners in Korea at this time. I'm not too sure if it was this day too, or the next day when I actually played, but I also met MC and Gon, and I ended going for dinner with all of Liquid and oGs people who were present that day. If I recall correctly it was TLO, Jinro, HayprO, MC, Gon, and some other koreans I'm not too sure who they were.
Needless to say, it was a pretty good day, I had a very good time met some amazing people.
Next day I was playing in the qualifier. John was taking care of me and other foreigners playing, told me where to sit and let me warm up. This is when I realized... Those keyboards are NOT gonna do it.. However I had no choice, I tried to get used to it as much as possible and to warm up, but it was incredibly hard to play on this.
John then got my opponent, a Terran, and the series was starting.
Maps were Metalopolis, Xel'naga (maybe, not sure), and Scrap Station.
I won Metalopolis pretty convincingly, but I could feel I was very nervous, and it didn't help with how unconfortable the setup was for me. I then lost the next two maps. Funnily enough I got filmed by a korean eSport journalist while I was playing the 3rd map, never noticed :
+ Show Spoiler +
I have no other memories of that day.. it is possible that the dinner with Liquid and oGs was from that day, but I'm not really sure it's too far back.
Preparing for Season 3
Now, I had to find a place to stay. Again, John took care of it and helped me find a place where I could stay after I left the hotel GOM provided me. It was a goshiwon, what you would call a student bedroom. Was basically a bed, a desk, and a closet. No space for anything more, it was extremely small, maybe something like 4m² or less.
During all the time that led to the next qualifiers a month later, I would stay there and practice with my laptop on the desk using the place's wifi, which would drop sometimes ingame. Was pretty annoying, but I could practice so it was fine. I was mostly practising on korean ladder on an account GOM lend me, and also played a bunch of practice games with HayprO who was kind enough to take so much time to play against me even if I was completely out of his league at the time, big thanks to him. Beside that, I wouldn't do much else, just going from the GSL Studio when I want a break to watch games from time to time.
A month later, I was heading to TechnoMart again for the Open Season 3 qualifiers.
*** Part 2 ***