There I stood at Norfolk International Airport with my lone suitcase and backpack. It was mid-July and inside these two pieces of luggage was the entirety of my existence. From the assortment of clothes I quickly packed together that morning like a can of sardines, to my toiletries, to the mouse and keyboard I had in my backpack; what else did I need? I was setting off to the Quantic training facility in Oceanside, California to try my hand at becoming a professional gamer. I didn’t know exactly what to expect and with this lack of foresight came an uneasiness. I welcomed it with open arms. I knew it’s what I wanted to do so it was worth it no matter what was to happen.
Arriving in San Diego, I was thoroughly exhausted but was in good spirits. You can laugh all you want at me but at the time San Diego was an idyllic place to me. To this day, I still remember how the sun looked that evening when it was setting; how the sky was flushed with oranges and reds and was slowly fading into pink. Corny, I know, but I loved every moment of it and was giggling on the inside with excitement like a little Catholic schoolboy. Tehehe! I was happy because it was a new beginning for me. A fresh start. I made my way outside the terminal to the shuttle, which was booked for me in advance and forty-five minutes later, I arrived at the house. Wandering outside in the street not knowing exactly what the address was, I called the house for help. Soon after, much to my surprise, I heard the shuffling of running footsteps towards me in the darkness. It was Devan and Ryan, better known as Hawk and State. They were exclaiming with trollish smiles on their faces, “THEO! THEO! SUP THEO!” and both gave me a big, burly nerd hug. It was completely unexpected because they were only acquaintances to me since the merging of Vile and Quantic. It was a warm welcome.
The house itself was perfect. It exceeded what I had seen from the few pictures I saw online. Situated atop a large hillside in a well-off suburban neighborhood, the house had a large practice room, a full-sized kitchen, military bunks, a grotto-style pool and even a hot tub. Though the hot tub and pool were unnecessary luxuries for a Starcraft-dedicated training facility, it was stated that this house was chosen to appeal to the sponsors and our Korean counterpart, Startale, etc. Whatever the case, if there even was one, we didn’t complain. We rarely used them anyways as the sun would hurt our nerd eyes and ruin our hard-earned monitor tans.
My teammates had already been in full swing of things with the routine for a few weeks now. I happened to arrive later than most of the players in the house due to some personal issues back home. Luckily, I was given an extra day after my arrival to acclimate. I soon found out that the house was to be regarded as a “training facility” and not a house at all. The practice routine was rigorous and tough (the next part of this blog I go into detail about how the house was set up, etc.). We practiced daily and we usually ended the day exhausted but that didn’t affect our moods too much.
We were lucky that all of us happened to mesh well together. All of us were friends and we forged bonds that transcended the title of ‘teammate’. It was refreshing being near like-minded individuals that had the same interests and goals as you. All of us were nerds in our own respect, though some of us were less nerdier than others *cough cough*. The atmosphere of the house was good-humored and cheerful. The house after practice felt like one of those slumber parties you had in middle school where you would construct pillow forts, play Duck-Duck-Goose, and make yourself one of those cleansing masks with cucumbers on your eyes. Err, okay, maybe not the latter but definitely the pillow forts and Duck-Duck-Goose! We spent time browsing the reddit’s and teamliquid.net’s of the internet, strumming ukuleles (you might have heard this quite often if you ever caught any of our streams on a regular basis), watching movies or TV series, dabbling lightly with other video games and in general just killing time.
Oh yeah, I forgot about poker. Starcraft gamers and Poker: what a combination! There was a period of time in the house when we all became borderline obsessive with poker. It was to the point where we were squeezing in quick poker sessions in our off-hours and hurriedly finishing practice so we could gamble with nothing. We even ended up pitching-in to buy a felt tabletop off of Craigslist and spent countless hours in the garage playing. Since I was only the only gamer in the house over 21, I often went to Ocean’s 11, a casino only a 10 minute drive away, with one of my managers on our rest days. I even heard Rekrul played here frequently but I wasn’t certain. Others in the house satisfied their craving with online poker. Some of us even started to fiddle around with idea of becoming poker pros if our gaming careers didn’t work out, following in the footsteps of many gamers-turned-poker-pro before us: Ryan “BigBalls” Daut, Guillaume “Grrrr…” Patry, and Betrand “Elky” Grospellier. + Show Spoiler +
These were only fleeting thoughts. After a few months, our poker craze died down.
Time at the Quantic house was enriched even more when Myeong Hwan “Golden”, Min Hyung “Apocalypse”, Yun Sik “TheStC” and Hwang Sin “HwangSin” came to stay. Though we were still in America, the experiences and culture I learned from their stay was invaluable. Sometimes it even felt surreal. If I didn’t have any prior knowledge of where we were I would have guessed that we were smack dab in the middle of Seoul, Korea. It was Korea without Korea: the people, the language, the food, the Starcraft!
Overall the house was an amazing experience but there were some definite drawbacks. Probably the most significant one to me was the lack of privacy. All of us lived our lives in a glass box. We practiced eight hours and spent most of our free time in the gaming room together. The guys slept in bunk beds in close quarters while Flo had her own room. The bathroom/shower unfortunately didn’t have a door and a small curtain was its stand-in. From the start, I had absolutely no problem with this since we were all close-knit friends and teammates. Besides the fact of no safe place for fap-time, I barely even noticed. But after living everyday this way for a few months, it wore me down mentally. It started to get to the point where I was stressing out and becoming irritable. Everyone, and I mean everyone, no matter how stressful their day job is, has at least an hour or so at the end of the day alone to unwind and relax. I definitely took that small luxury for granted. I learned to remedy this by leaving the house immediately after practice just to have some Theo-time to clear my head and relieve some stress. No, I didn’t fap in the back bushes or anything like that. So don’t get those ideas in your head you perv! Just going for solo walks to 7/11 or Target for about thirty minutes to an hour helped immensely. I’ve never really encountered the stress of no privacy before but it was a small problem that I was able to fix myself.
It’s kind of funny because even though at first I tried to get the hell out of the house for some alone time, Min Hyung, better known as “Apoc” started to join me on these walks, which I ended up not minding. All of the Koreans were extremely friendly but Apoc was unique among them. He seemed to go out of his way to cross the cultural barrier. Looking back, it was like he already knew that Quantic was going to die (none of us knew then f.y.i.) and wanted to soak up all of the experiences that he could from America in his short stay. We often tied some of these walks to purchasing some cheap liquor from the BevMo nearby. During these hikes up and down the hillside, we would attempt to communicate with each other and talk in broken English. He was a quick learner and picked up on phrases and keywords through context after a few times of me using them. Obviously, I taught him the curse words and funny, bad mannered phrases first. Honestly, who doesn’t learn these first when learning a new language anyways? “Fuck dat shieeet!”, “What the fuq bro?”, “Get the fuqqq out of here bro!”, “Sup son!” Hilariously, Apoc began to use these phrases online and in funny situations like when someone asked him if he wanted corndogs or not: “Fuck that shiet, bro!” After hearing this, Flo scolded us both. So damn funny. But anyways, we talked about other topics such as our lives back home, relationships with girlfriends, our parents, and “making” it in e-Sports. I was super close with everyone in the house but Apoc probably had the most substantial affect on me while I was at the house.
+ Show Spoiler +
News broke out about Quantic disbanding. The house for the most part was startled. Each person coped with it differently. Some were frantically typing passages on Skype, some were copying and pasting words into Google translate, some cried, some played Counterstrike, and some said “Fuck it!” and started to stream (me lol). It was hectic but I decided not to let it worry me too much. I’ve dealt with an innumerable amount of bullshit before and I learned not to let these things drag you down. It becomes a vicious downward spiral if you dwell on things for too long. You need to try and salvage what you can and then you need to move the fuck on.
After the initial shock died down, the house was an anarchic free-for-all. The first thing to go was the practice schedule. It was ironic because oddly enough we started to actually feel somewhat like real gamers now. I can’t exactly explain it but for some reason we did. It was like Lord of the Flies: Quantic Edition. We were like a loose tribe of kids fending for ourselves now. We were now waking up whenever we wanted and playing when we wanted. Grocery shopping for the most part ceased to exist and we were fending on the scarce scraps of meat in the fridge, the half box of frozen taquitos in the fridges, and the leftover scraps of delivery pizza left on the counter. I swear if we were in the house any longer there would have been an outbreak of nerd cannibalism. That definitely would have been the highlight of reddit and TL for weeks to come. But anyways, I have digressed.
Slowly players started to trickle out of the house one by one. We said our goodbyes and farewells to each other when the time came but for the most part we all kept gaming until the end. Everything was going to be okay.
+ Show Spoiler +
PS: cabernet > merlot.
PT.2 of this blog will come later which will entail my "Critique and Analysis of Western Team Houses" It will be less personal and will deal with the more objective aspects of a team house and my opinions on what western team houses need to do to stay competitive with Korea.
Facebook/Youtube: Soon to come!