Until I watched first person vods of NaDa.
My childhood is, by now, probably a very well-known story to the internet in general. Gifted kid, bit of a loner, smart but doesn't participate in discussions, does okay in school but doesn't seem interested. It seems like every other person on the English-speaking internet lived this life and at this point frankly I'm sick of hearing about it. My pastime, once we had internet, was video games. I started on Blizzard games like Diablo 1 and Starcraft, but very quickly expanded to other genres. I found that, for the most part, I was a lot more competitive than others. This mindset led me to strive to get better; in hindsight, I guess it might have been an outlet after I stopped playing soccer.
So naturally, spending so many hours on games I ended up fairly good at them. Even now I consider myself a 'generalist' - I excel at a few genres, am pretty good at most, and I'm confident that were I to play an unfamiliar one I could be good at it too. There's a lot of crossover in general, I think. But I was broken of the illusion that I could ever be 'the best' at Starcraft when I was, I think, 18, in 2007.
The scene changed rapidly, back then. When I first arrived to the community we mostly got news in the form of written reports post-game. Rarely, you could catch a stream of horrific quality in 320x240. Different world. Anyway, living in New Zealand it was impossible for me to watch streams reliably in the first place. So I liked to rely on downloads instead; I snapped up leaked pro replays whenever I could, they were amazing.
Here's the thing about replays, though: they don't get you inside the game. Take a competitive FPS, for instance. You watch a player and you can see right away that they are fantastic. Their reflexes, aim, and results are what put them at the top. But these aspects of them are only human. They can, with enough time and effort, be emulated. What they're missing is the game sense, the thought process. Nowadays, you can actually get some of that too from streams on Twitch - but we didn't have that luxury back then, and even if we did the vast majority of us didn't speak Korean anyway.
So imagine my surprise when NaDa, 3x OSL winner and the greatest Terran player of all time (at the time), had fpvods leaked. I idolized this guy, he was who I wanted to emulate most. I had spent hours watching his replays, taking his build orders and watching his micro/macro. I was so happy that, finally, I would get to see how he really played - that I'd be able to evaluate his actual decision making in real time.
I don't know what the time record is for dreams being shattered but there was an audible sound of glass breaking in my mind. He wasn't human. It is one thing to see that someone has 350-400 APM; I played at 150 with spikes to 250 when I played TvZ, and with more experience I thought I could achieve similar results. It is another thing entirely to watch it in action. 360 actions per minute is 6 actions per second but watching NaDa you would swear his screen switched locations 20 times a second. Forget being as good as him, I wasn't even playing the same game.
It's hard to imagine the possibility that anyone could give up so fast on something they felt so strongly about, but reality is often harsh and stark. It's very difficult to lie to yourself when faced with the sheer absurdity of the truth. In a way, though, it was a little exciting to know that he was different. That there was some kind of ethereal, inhuman quality separating me and these professionals. After that, I stopped playing Brood War with any real intent to get better; I was secure in the knowledge that I would never reach the ceiling. Actually, I didn't think anyone would ever be better. Imagine my surprise when the triumvirate of Flash/Jaedong/Bisu came along and ousted the kings of the time - but that's another story, I guess.
It's weird to think that a video game had such a profound effect on me, but it's safe to say I no longer harbor such delusions of grandeur, ha. This is ancient history by now and I'm a completely different person, but it's fun to look back and remember the time I saw how a legend played firsthand. I sometimes wonder if other people never have their 'NaDa moment' and go on with their lives confident that they're the best. What a trip.