And while all those things are nice and glamorous, most of the job is thankless grunt work. Forty articles, a hundred recaps and thousands of forgettable games later and it all sort of blurs together. So if you’re wondering what I get out of all this, I still don’t know. Just a few weeks ago, I would have told you “nothing” and, that more than anything else, I hate StarCraft. It wasn’t a new feeling by any means, but, for a few days, it was so strong it came to dominate my life.
If you’ve been regularly reading TL over the past year, you’ve probably noticed news posts popping up in the hours following GSL, SSL, VSL and weekenders. If you’ve ever wondered what poor sap would willingly do those, the answer is me. I started sometime during GSL Season 1 and never stopped. Since I was already waking up at 3:30-5:00 AM to watch StarCraft, I figured I should find a way to be productive and help out the writing staff. No one was demanding I do the recaps, in fact there were a few people telling me it was a complete waste of time. I was doing it because I thought I was providing a service. After awhile it just became a point of pride. It felt good knowing there were people who were reading and enjoying the recaps. They didn’t have to post anything or reply, I saw the views and knew people appreciated how hard I was working. After all, it’s not easy to describe games in three lines of text using dynamic and engaging language. I knew I wasn’t always able to, but that didn’t stop me from spending ten minutes to get one game just right. I knew some people wouldn’t be happy with the product, but I kept telling myself there’s always someone with a negative opinion.
Recapping was hard work, though. Not so much sitting down, taking notes and coming up with a summation, but more the act of staying interested. People would talk about these great games in the recap threads, but I didn’t see it. Maybe if I thought the games had been as amazing as everyone said they were, it wouldn’t have felt like such a chore. But they were just so boring. The same cookie cutter thing over and over and, when things got crazy, it just made recapping so tedious. I know there’s a bunch of readers who love long TvTs. I hate them. They’re horrible to recap. Player A drop, Player B sieges, Player A kills a CC, there really isn’t much more to it once the players get to three bases. I hated watching skytoss, I hated watching new age mech. I didn’t like liberators, adepts, yada, yada, yada. I was watching though. That much wasn’t up for debate. I wasn’t really enjoying it, but at least the work was getting done.
Bottom line, I was struggling to pay attention. I had to carry on constant conversations during these recapping sessions in order to keep myself somewhat interested. I could never really offer a proper explanation on the forum for why I felt so alienated from the rest of the community on this matter, but I think I knew the answer all along.
I was a huge Maru fan ever since getting back into StarCraft in 2015. In HotS I was a big supporter of Rogue, sOs and the rest of Jin Air as well as soO, Zest, Stats, Classic, BrAvO and a few others. In 2016 I became a fan or Dark as well. Any and all of these players captivated me and I hung on their every match as if the world were at stake. Then I met soO. Meeting, working with and talking to soO entirely changed the way I view progamers. For the first time this was a real person, not some mouse wielding hero more similar to a Kpop idol than anything else. I became increasingly invested in soO’s success. I cheered for him so loudly it woke my dog up. I got nervous when he played to the point that I’d pace around between games. When he lost, I felt deflated and listless. I was getting to experience a fraction of what he felt and it was unforgettable.
But all that came at a price. Suddenly watching Maru wasn’t as exciting. Rogue’s recent rise to success? It was hard to feel anything more than tepid acknowledgement. The life had been sucked out of StarCraft. Why? Because every tournament had been reduced to one thing: can soO win? All the while, I was paying more attention to the forums, which brought my attention to certain vocal fans/fan bases. Their blind zealousness only made me resent the players they were championing. Stats winning was nice, but I wasn’t happy for him like I was during his 2015 and 2016 Proleague campaign when he was lopping off heads left and right. Plus he had beaten soO in GSL Season 1. That left a sour taste in my mouth.
So back to recaps. I missed a few while I was in Korea and actually felt bad about it. Imagine, I’m on vacation seeing my favorite idol group and watching GSL and I’m thinking about the best way to describe games I didn’t really enjoy watching. I got back and resumed work on the recaps, but something changed had begun to change. Suddenly the negative words were bothering me a lot more. There were people complaining the descriptions weren’t animated or descriptive enough, people complaining about spoilers or titles or even word choices. It shouldn’t have bothered me so much, but it was hard not to get mad and condemn them as ungrateful. I would read these posts and get mad, complain to my friends and ask myself why I was doing this. I couldn’t stop though. The reason: I wouldn’t let myself. I was told that SSL Challenge wasn’t important or that I could take days off, but that wasn’t possible. I’m stubborn to a fault and riddled with anxiety. I just had to keep recapping, even as it became torture rather than joy. It was always going to end in disaster. I was just hoping to avoid falling off the train as long as possible.
I’m a terrible writer. I said it. I say it every day. I repeat it to myself more often than I should, but that’s just because I don’t want to hide from it. I’m a vain person as Waxangel loves to point out. I seek approval and want to be told what a good job I’m doing. Being a writer for TL is great in that if I produce a decent product, people will often let me know they appreciate it. If only I could really trust them and take their compliments to heart.
I think I’m pretty good at writing about StarCraft. That’s not where my ambitions lie, though. I want to be a published fiction author and, as talented as I might be, I’m still a long way from making that dream a reality. I tell myself I’m a terrible writer because I want to be something great some day and I’m painfully aware of how far I am from reaching that goal. After joining TL I started working with someone to improve my skills. Progress was slow going and often frustrating, but I decided to give another novel a try in July. I wrote 30k words before the whole project collapsed under the weight of my neurosis. I told myself I couldn’t capture the emotion required to properly write the dialogue that needed to be written, so I just gave up. I needed to work more and improve before I tried again. But I couldn’t just goof around and say I was trying to get better like I’d been doing. I needed to really figure out a way to get better if I wanted any chance of becoming the writer I wanted to be. But how could I, being as bad as I am and so unwilling to try new things? If only I was willing to go to the lengths to which I always said I would.
So, I stopped working on the book and settled back into writing about StarCraft 2. I worked on the finals for GSL and SSL, but it wasn’t without frustration. In the end I was happy with the articles I put out, so all the effort felt worth it. That’s how it had always been with TL. Lots of work, little tangible reward, but a sense of accomplishment that left me hungry for me.
The Super Tournament rolled around. It was going to be a marathon, but I was convinced I was ready. I knew I had to wake up at 3:30 AM for four straight days, but I’d done similar things before and I assumed I was prepared. I was able to wake up each day and cover the games, but I wound up disgustingly tired once they finished up. I’d do the recaps and get on with my mornings, only to crash midway through the day to the point that just staring at my computer screen felt like dragging a car without tires up a hill. I was getting incredibly anxious, eating constantly in an self prescribed attempt to stave off crippling tiredness and then feeling guilty about it to the point that my stomach felt like I’d swallowed knives. I cycled between complaining about the Super Tournament to life in general. I was a wreck and, though the tournament’s end was fast approaching, I knew my distress wasn’t going to disappear when a player finally lifted the trophy.
The tournament came to an end, as I knew it would, but that didn’t mean I was getting a break. BlizzCon was right around the corner and preparations were already underway for The Road to BlizzCon series. The first round of selections for articles were made while I was asleep, but I managed to grab soO and TY, opting not to do INnoVation since I’d written two final previews about him earlier in the year. A few days later I picked up Stats as well, giving me three articles in total. Some of my other writers were really enthusiastic about the upcoming projects. To say I wasn’t would be an understatement. I felt like someone racing towards the bottom of a river, their food embedded in block of cement.
In those few days, I truly and honestly hated writing as much as I’ve hated anything in my life. I was never going to be a novel writer because I’m just world away from being decent. StarCraft 2 writing was never going to be interesting - the same stories, the same players, how could I keep doing it? I really don’t know how Olli has been for so long. Let’s ignore all the work that goes into editing and coordinating the people responsible for graphics with writers and other staff. I’m just talking about writing. Writing about the same players for four years. Almost a year had passed and I’d said pretty much everything about everyone. I always tried to write something original, to put my own spin on it, but it’s not always easy. KeSPA teams may be gone, but Korean players still exist behind a veil. We have our set way of looking at them and describing them and we default to that way too easily. The trope of INnoVation as a machine, Zest as an adonic figure and Stats as a Proleague monster literally disgusts me. It’s a sign of people settling for boring and using memes instead of words.
I was complaining to friends, completely heedless of whether they felt like listening or not. I had written so much about StarCraft since joining TL. It’s been the greatest year of my life and I’ve made so many friends and met really extraordinary people. But at that moment, it all came to a head. I hated StarCraft and I hated writing. What was the point in bothering with either when neither gave me joy?
Thank CosmicSpiral for snapping me out of it. My Stats article was terrible. I knew it and I knew he would too when he read it. He told me as much and I snapped back that I didn’t want to write the same story over and over. “Then don’t.” Is all he said. Honestly it was exactly what I needed.
Just because other people were willing to settle for repetitive, contrived existing storylines didn't mean I had to. I could find a new way, tell a different story and that’s exactly what I did for Stats. I rewrote the article, framing him in a light no article has for years (maybe ever even). I dove back into the work and before I knew it, the draft was done. But it wasn’t enough, I needed to write more. I was going to give the novel another chance. For ten straight days I wrote 2k words a day. I wrote 900 words in twenty minutes at one point. I was back in my element and loving it. The BlizzCon articles were being released and mine were still a ways off from being published. I always get anxious before my work is posted, but I’d never had to wait so long. The days before were a countdown, but the morning of release was filled with trips to the store or endless chores - anything to occupy my mind. TY came out and people liked it. The one about soO was also well received. Stats was my favorite, I was hoping people would agree. And they did. What a relief. What joy. I knew the writing wasn’t my best and that I hope to do better one day, but given how awful I’d felt just a few weeks earlier, this was just perfect.
And now BlizzCon is only a day away. Measuring my days by the passing of games and groups, not seconds or hours is what I signed up for when I applied to Team Liquid, but somewhere along the line, it turned into so much more. Yeah, I hate StarCraft, but I love it too. I love it so much that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing over the next two weekends and into 2018. I’ll be doing recaps and soO will be playing. It’s gonna be a roller coaster, plain and simple. But this is what I wanted and really I can only be thankful. It may be a small dream compared to others, but I’m living it out each and every day. Maybe I had to consider throwing it all away to realize how lucky I am.