This entry and the next one, will be the last two to follow a linear timeline. From there on, since people will now have a taste of the basic atmosphere and spirit of these days, I’ll be able to write freely in various forms, ponctual stories, sketch of situations and people, that took place and I met. However, I’ll always size any opportunity as I did in the previous entries, to digress on different matters, that relate to Pro gaming or Korea. As my trip over Korea was quite lenghty, I’m also somewhat planing to make future entry with a basic summary of the possible entries I could make, and maybe make a poll for people to decide what they want to hear the most. I’m not sure yet.
As a matter of fact, my “korean life”, divides in three distinct eras. The first one I’m telling now, where I was living as a gamer, and later as a pro gamer once I got sponsored. The second, is my return in Seoul, helping out Elky and Smuft for some months, as a manager. And the third and last, is me working in Seoul, and cuting all my ties with gaming, as to dive very deep into Korean society (that part is the most fucked up and funniest one, eventually ^^, and if I didn’t know that people who witnessed this part of my life, were still alive to back me up on this, I wouldn’t tell anyone about, because I know nobody would bielive it.).
Back to Seoul 1999. (again I can’t remember if it was 2000, if someone could enlight me on this one.. basically the year Slayer won the KBK).
You know, there’s that thing about Korea, that makes up for all Seoul’s sick pollution, overall city uglyness and dirty sides. That very specific thing is the climate. Now I know that practician anthropologists, these days, set limits as to how much physical environement can decides one’s language and quality of thought. But, as I’m more of a bieliver, in the way I can easily imagine around me and within my own expectations, natural occurence of mysticism, I’m fairly convinced that the quality and tone of my feelings back then, was deep in, a true reflection of Korea’s very dynamic, and sometimes unatural, seasons and weather. There’s nothing like Spring in Korea. And nothing like the deep ending of August. As in Europe, things can change slow, with this very calm and quiet temper, where you can notice one season’s era slumping into the next, day after day. It’s nothing like that in Korea. You just wake up one day, and everything’s different. Everything has changed and will remain this way until the next season. Like Spring will bloom without a single day of rain, and die into Summer, leaving us from the most beautiful of Korea’s season, into the shithole Summer can be over there. Summer is terrible. You just don’t wanna be in Seoul at that time.
We got to Korea, I think, at the very very end of the Summer. It was eventually still very warm, but because of the excitement, we wouldn’t notice it. At least not to the point where it would annoy us. I guess we also had that picture of a british explorer stucked into our head, basically fighting mosquito swarms in an endless, deep and hostile nature. The hostile nature here, was replaced with PC rooms and a very nice and clean subway to travel around, so unconscienlty, we prolly were thinking it wasn’t too bad all in all.
With the lack of sleep, and the “filled to the maximum” days we were experiencing, little we noticed, stucked onto our screens waiting for the time to leave N.E.T. for Maynard’s place, that something was happening outside the heaven of the PC BANG. As Storm (he was the oldest and often making decisions for our small party) stood up saying we had to go now, while we were packing up and heading for the exit, we should’ve been warned by the looks of people around, staring at us in a very dramatic way and deep silence. No, we didn’t notice. When we stepped outside on the street, as if a higher force was suddenly unleashing a long contained wrath, we just had time to grab onto each other and hold like in storm on a ship, before we almost got blowed away by the wind. All sorts of unexpected objects, of any size, were flying around. The sky was dark and thick, like it was about to fall, or rather, slowly squash everything underneath. Eventho I grew for a part of my childhood, right in front of the northern French sea, where frequently huge storms take place, I never had witnessed such a natural elemental activity. But, as true Stracraft players, who are all deep inside, gladiators and blinded fighters by the forseen scream of victory, we didn’t make a single step back and slowly, but firmly, conquered the few meters separating us from the road, where we were planing to yell and stop a taxi. And that’s how we waited, stinged and bashed by the dust that the madness of the wind was throwing around, about 1 hour, for a Taxi to actually take the risk of stopping his car in the midle of the road, that was now half of a pool, as if from the undergrounds of the city, a black sea was rising everywhere.
The time we waited was truely epic. But it was only the begenning. And this really is the only way to describe it. There was a storm, or sort of a cyclone, can’t really remember, right over Seoul that night, and people were warned to stay home. We weren’t.
When the taxi stopped and we jumped in, we pretty much considered then the driver, nothing less than an Angel or an avatar of Mahomet, Boudha or Jesus, directly sent by god to help us in our journey. We happened to be painfully wrong.
See, if you’re planing to travel over Korea and take Taxis alot, make sure to train before at prounoncing properly the name of the location you want him to get you to. Otherwise, you’re in for some time. With the storm raging all around, we were seeing that driver as a hero, as none of us could see through dark night outside. We wondered how could he drive, but we held all the faith of the world in his skill, to bring us to Maynard.
The Texan player was staying in a place called Sindaebang Lotte Departement Store. Sindaebang is the name of the area, and the actual place, a big assed commercial complex. Now, as we just got in Korea, we didn’t have a cellphone yet. So no way to actually call him while we were in the Taxi, and ask him to put on a Korean folk to tell the driver in a proper Korean the location. For the half of the first hour in the car, we took turns trying to pronounce the name of the place to the driver. He couldn’t stop because of storm, so at least he was driving, and eventho we weren’t sure at all he was going the right direction, we were still going somewhere, as to us, at that precise time, in midle of the element’s madness, our sole worry was to actually set ourselves in motion and not wait for a tree, a truck or a cow to fall on us from the skies.
And that’s how we started to drive around Seoul, just like in a maze. The guy had absolutely for the first hour no fucking idea of where we actually wanted to go and was taking guesses as we would try different ways of saying Sindaebang. The man was in a constant hilarity. We were getting pissed off. That’s actually when we noticed that he was in fact awfully drunk. At some point, in the very midle of the highway, he tried to explain us he urgently needed to take a pee. As we finally understood his need, he stopped at a highway fork, where it divides in two different ways, basically the most dangerous and awkward place you could stop. He hastly ran into the small bit of wilderness in between, and smoked a cigaret while taking a piss. Needless to say, that besides the raging storm, and the cars dodging us at the very last second each time they would pass by, for the eternity it took him to empty himself, we pretty much considered ourselves dead. But we went through this without any harm, and has he got relived and got back to the car, suddenly his mind or his ears, got clear enough to finally understand where to go.
So, after a two and a half hours drive, we got to Sindaebang. Eventho we were in the correct area, and found the building, we had yet to find a way how to enter it. Cuz guess what ? A departement store IS FUCKING CLOSED AT NIGHT.
Hunger was tearing fat Elky. Angryness spoiling fat Storm. And I was extactic. Yeah, I pretty much didn’t care what happened back then, to me Maynard aka the holy grail was a few steps ahead in our journey. I bravely told my companions to stay under an open galery as a shelter, and I went on my own, fighting the wind through the night to find a phoneboxe as to call Maynard. Because the connection of his cellphone was so bad, and Texan accent was something I never experienced first hand before, I hardly understood anything. I can’t remember today, what was the magical word that gave us the clue that the access was located in some place of the building almost impossible to find, but we found it. Maybe the distress guided our steps in the right direction.
KPGA ( or maybe was it KPGL, can’t remember really), was a Korean company, owning a huge PC BANG under the Sindaebang lotte departement store, operating from there, an internet broadcasted Starcraft league. They also happened to be sponsoring one of the very few pro gaming teams back then.
The league itself didn’t turn out to be so successful, and they had to stop their activities a few months later. Maynard was sponsored by them. (By the way, I will often shamelessly give out numbers, about salaries, budgets and such, as for you guys to get an idea of how things worked at that time. How pro gaming was structured for gamers, and what they would get or could expect from beeing pro.). He was getting about 1200 $ a month, with a house and his own computer. It was very big actually, at that time. First because very few were actually getting a salary, and because Maynard hadn’t won any big thing in Korea. Nevertheless, he was on TV for some time with Grrrr..., and he was a very well known player online. Quite a legend actually, pictured as Grrrr...’s former teacher. Online fame back then, was actually very important for Korean teams, because the impact of online fame was much bigger than it is today.
The basement we got to was huge. Lines over lines of tables and computers, with futuristic seats, were shining. The room was very long, at the bottom you had some sort of lobby with tables, food and drinks dispensers, a small kitchen where to cook basic stuff, and large soffas where to rest. The place contained about a hundred computers, lined 5 by 5. At the other opposite of the lobby, you first had an area of regular seats, where the audience would sit during events or league games, and after that a large stage with mutiple computers and broadcasting devices.
After all we had endured to get there, we were like Jews getting out of Egypt to the promised land.
Maynard wasn’t there, but some Koreans, one beeing the team’s manager, showed up to us, trying to explain they were expecting our arrival, with mimics of the storm, as to mean they understood why we were so late. The team had something to celebrate (we never knew exactly what, neither did Maynard we learned later this night), and they went on about an hour ago, to party. The manager nicely called them on the phone and told us they were almost done and would be soon coming back here. He went away and came back a few seconds later, with an english speaking korean dude, working with him, that briefed us on KPGL ( Actually it’s prolly KPGL as KPGA was the first name for Kespa, as in Korean pro gaming association.). He then gave us access cards so we could use computers, and brang us some free drinks. Elky was drooling around the place, Storm hooked up on another to start writting a report on broodwar.com ( the biggest starcraft site for years, maybe some of youdidnt know it. It’s basically the anscestor or Wgtour, gosugamers, TL.net and all those. Only sclegacy was the other SC site back then. Storm was the owner of broodwar.com. Not to compare with anything really, but the impact of news and interviews on this site, was a hella much bigger than today’s sites, mainly because Starcraft was much main stream then I guess.). I was myself talking with the two Korean guys, asking them as much as I could about the team and their league, as how to join the tournament and play in it etc. Unfortunately the season was at it’s end, and they didn’t know when the next would start. We played some games with each others, me and Elky taking turns raping poor old Storm over and over again, and me dodging elky as I didn’t want to get raped.
Sooner or later, a noisy and happy drunken band of Korean players showed up. Maynard was in the pack. I’ll describe Maynard here for a bit. Maynard was a warm and very friendly person, but who was basically dissing all he could on Korea. He didn’t at that time really liked the country. He was beeing very sceptical and pessimistic about his own situation and the pro gaming thing, eventho he was living it. He would go on forever about how there was nothing to do or no place to be aside this basement for him, and that he was planing to leave very soon. Often, later on ICQ or MSN, he would regret alot Korea and be very nostalgic as how he would have changed things he done back there if he could, and hang around much more with me and Grrrr... to have fun. Maynard was a simple and frank person. You could tell right away, and wanted to be friend with him.
At first we kept laughing as he was awfully drunk, trading his stories about Korea with our own adventure that brought us that night to him. As Elky, beeing his usual self, was pressuring Miguel (maynard) to play him, Maynard finally agreed and they started duking it out, while me and Storm would proceed to join the ambiant fun by getting drunk with various liquors Maynard’s team mates had brought back from the party for us. That was a very sad night for Maynard, that was at that time, playing Terran. I had often played with him before online, him beeing the monster Zerg he was (fucked up macroing zerg overexpanding your protoss ass in every possible way, to later run over your storms with an endless stream of hydralisks), but since a bit, he was considering Terran the most powerful thing around, mainly because of Korean players such as Themarine, Slayer and [B-Blade]Leader. We took turns that night proving him wrong. Elky and Storm kept playing zerg, and raping him with lurker packs, as he was always fast exping and couldn’t keep up with his marine micro an evergrowing force of lurkers. I played one game as protoss and decimated his scvs at first with reavers, to later have him forfeiting as his first push was denied by dragoons and zealots. That’s when he started to rant on how bad he was (while we all knew that if he picked Zerg, we had, but Elky, not the slimest chance to take a game from him), and why he had to leave, cuz any random Korean could rape his ass in the very first round of any Lan tournament or League.
This was kind of shocking to us, because Maynard was basically in our eyes, the equal of Grrrr..., if not better. His Zerg was truely something to watch when he wanted to give it a try. But truth was, he was dissing himself and his own talent, in fear of Koreans. Elky for instance was the complete opposite, as I recall years from then, at a LAN tournament hosted by KTF, telling him to be careful of his next opponent who was a short Korean kid, and him answering with these words :
“You think I’m gonna lose to a 8 years old kid ?”. His opponent wasn’t 8 at all, more like 16, but he was so short and looking so young, you could actually make this kind of joke.
In the middle of Maynard’s confessions, as we were starting me and Storm to get pretty drunk, and Storm babbling about how he needed to go to hookers, the captain of the KPGL team showed up, about twice more wasted than we were, hardly able to talk properly or even stand straight. The funny thing was that eventho he had no clue on how to speak english, because he was drunk, he was convinced to have a natural talent at english and that he was perfectly able to have a regular conversation with us. This guy was Feel~Sense, one of the very great early korean protoss players, and one hell of a nice guy. What you people might not know, is that Korean males with each others, especially young, tend to be very physicaly close to each others. In western society one would see this kind of attitude as clear mark of pure gayness, but to them, it’s all perfectly natural. One could argue of the gay nature of male close relationships in Korea, if homosexuality wasn’t regarded as the worst sin ever over there, but tolerated for cultural esthaetics and artistical purpose, as in the attitude and not the actual fact. So, for some weird reason, as you could realisticly assess that Storm was the less attractive between us, the KPGL team captain had suddenly decided Storm to be some kind of a long lost birth brother, that he desesperatly needed to hug and hold in his arms while chating, to make him feel the love. That’s when we discovered Storm was actually highly homophobic, and half laughing, half drunk, kept bugging Maynard asking if Feel~Sense was gay or not, and why he was trying to hit on him. All that meanwhile Maynard was having blast laughing his ass off at Storm, and Storm politely at first removing the wandering hands of the Korean from his opulent body, and after some time trying to be more firm and explaning the poor Korean that wasn’t gay at all, he didn’t like men. Actually, Storm was red all over his face, and feeling very uncomfortable, but in a weird way, as that somehow, he was more trying to fight maybe a mix feeling of scariness and anxiety. I promptly stated that he shouldn’t deny his new friend, and that even his denials wouldn’t convince us he wasn’t deep inside, a man lover.
He finally got rid of Feel~Sense, by getting him to play. However after spreading his probes and making one pylon, he left the game saying he was so drunk he had to lie down on a couch.
My memory lacks abit concerning the events that happened right after. I know that at some point I was left alone in the PC room (think Elky and Storm wanted to take a nap on one of the sofas, and that Maynard went home, because his GF called him). My plan was to not sleep until dawn, and the two KPGL team managers were still up as well, and as we were talking, they said they wanted me to play to entertain them. And so I went on Bnet and raped random East friends, as they weren’t able to find any Korean up so late to play me.
Around 6 am, Elky me and Storm went back to Kang nam, N.E.T. and the hotel. Night left us all a very pleasant and fun memory, that I still talk about with Elky (as everything we lived together in Korea), when we’re hanging out together in Paris. (Wich is quite often these days as he isn’t living anymore in Korea).
Elky and Storm had to leave the day after or so, I think. Storm was running his own company in France, and Starcraft and Korea were more of a fun trip to him than anything else. Elky however was very troubled and sad within. He didn’t want to leave, and neither did I wanted him to leave. It was even harder for him, as he was by far the best player between us two, and I was the on getting to stay, while I wasn’t part of any big team that would support me and he was with the GOOD GAME european team, that somehow, didn’t work something out for him to stay back then. But we made the promise he’d come back as soon as possible, and said it was all for the better. However he never came back while I was pro gamer. Only much later, when I already had gone through all the pro gaming thing.
This thing is kind of important, as even (as you will know later in these stories) I always had friends over Korea, and like, “progaming life partners”, and having Grrrr... beeing very close to me and often helping when I was in deep shit, but I would’ve have loved above everything else to have Elky along with me, as he was a friend I knew from before in France, and we had at that time the very same dream. The way I lived it was very different from what he experienced when he became pro gamer himself, as Pro gaming had already at his time, stepped on the road it is walking today.
What I lived was a life of urban wilderness. An enchanted modern jungle, dominated by the muscis of friendship through rough times. A time under the gouvernment of extreme hope washing away failures, while rewarding me with unexpected luck in what I was trying. I felt then reality, as a living dream within myself.
Next will be on Grrrr..., and my first broadcasted anal pro gaming gang bang, by the likes of Boxer, intotherain and Saint Eagle, all in one sole day. ^^