Money wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t an issue in the way we didn’t have any. “We” could have beeen somewhat of a global “we”, spreading all over the low standard pro gaming grounds. That would pretty much mean 97% of the progaming community back then.
However, most were not dedicating their entire life to their passion.
Some were still at school, studying, others working part time. As the only real TV league was the one held on the young OGN channel, the basic goal of any gifted starcraft player giving a try at this, would mean winning lan tournaments and pray the holy protoss shrine OGN might hear about you and send the invite for the offline qualifers.
See the thing was that the TV stage, like any other main stream that focused on Starcraft at some point, in the mind of most semi pros, amateurs, was some kind of inacessible place that you shouldn’t count on for your career, if there WAS a career ever.
Career was, and still is, a very big word to describe what can one expect when dedicating his days to pro gaming. As for now, the only player I might consider that ever had a “career” would be Nada. But that’s for another chapter.
A few teams were rising, trying to form, then would collapse. Some would find a sponsor, company would go bankrupt, they would disband. Some others, very few again, would try to stick together, as a team, a clan, whatsoever, share the same pc bang, or expectionnaly the same house. This wasn’t common at all, this was unique and rare.
As I remember it, the big thing that time, was Garimto getting sponsored by Hanbit. I recall him beeing their only player then, and this was how things would usually turn : A big company would sponsor one very famous player and that was about it. The team spirit as you guys know it today wasn’t born yet, and neither would it be from OGN or sponsors. Nah. Most of the teams were pretty much borned from KGL. As the KGL unofficial goal, was to actually promote team of players and find them a sponsor.
I’ll talk about KGL a little later.
I’m more in the gaming for survival tale mood. As I stated, nobody would really expect to get in OGN quick as a regular player. You’d pretty much basically need a very good manager that knew the producers well, or be already famous. Boths of these prerequesites turn out to be the same thing : to get in OGN you needed to have a name.
And that name, wasn’t a thing you could make online. No. No way. Korean pro gaming community was a littlebig world. The road was long and tedious. You litteraly had to be on the verge of anything happening. You had to go real. You had to go lan. You had to prove yourself. You had to go live.
There weren’t many straight cash prized lans. Most of the lans that were held, were qualifers, for other qualifers for final phases of nationwide tournaments. Those would go under the name of “game festivals” and you would have many throughout the year. These could also lead, after an endless nightmare of consequent winning streak, over weeks people... over weeks... to a live event in Busan, Seoul or some other city, where you’d get the chance to play one big starcraft star and hopefully beat him, because he wouldn’t care.
You had university tournaments, you had famous websites tournaments, and you had gamei.. and lans, unknown random lans, wich’s only advertisement, would be mouth to mouth, online, gamer to gamer saying “ yeah that day, over there, there is lan, there is money.”
Pro gaming, was a gigantic, mystical mess.
I’ll briefly describe the way Grrrr...’s team would work back then. As this team was a “rich” one, and as you’ll see how players were managed and the team was run, you’ll get a sweet idea of what it really meant to be pro gamer.
So in this team, to actually get a salary or some kind of investement, you had to get a contract with them, after long and painful hours of practicing for free and hanging out just like a homeless person, waiting for the managers to pay you a meal with the rest of the team, now and then.
After making sure you weren’t the kind that would die eating one ramen meal only a day and sleeping in front of a computer 6 hours every night for a decent period, and making sure you were tournament material, by randomly sending you to far away lans, they would offer you a deal that would basically go like this :
80 % of your winnings would go for the team, while the team supports you, giving you from 200 to 400$ a month, depending if you were full time or half time contract, and of course, actively trying to find you a sponsor. Aside this awesome and shiny deal, you’d get a crappy room with no heat and no shower, in a random building where the managing company would have it’s office at that time.
That’s why so many players back then, didn’t want any manager, or even sponsor. Even the sponsors would usually ask you to hand them your hard won cash prizes.
So as a progamer you’d fall in one of these 3 categories :
In some sort of a team, with very nice dedicated manager, that would work things out well trying to make the whole team hold together (jinsu, jinam first manager is a good exemple of that kind of place)
In contract with a “pro gaming” team, asking you alot and giving you very little, but providing some kind of “official deal and support” to their players.
Be a lone wolf, roaming from lan to lan, tournaments to tournaments, a bounty hunter, that would basically piss on all managers and teams.
If pro gaming ever risked death, as many people were fortelling it, I think it’s very first and natural predators, were all these losers and parasites, that would stick to players and try to get money without doing much in return – managers.
Nice coaches, nice managers, as you all picture them nowadays on tv is : a) wrong b) very small minority.
Most of them were uneducated, school dropped out students, PC bang bums, that weren’t good at starcraft, but that would stick to the good players around. Even some of them you see today on TV, in nice shiny black suits and ties, were a few years ago, just as dirty and ingnorant you can get.
As you can see, I don’t really have a good experience with managers. I myself didn’t have many, nor for any long period. Grrrr... always made sure he had control over his manager and made things clear the guy was working for him and not the other way around.
Others players.. well... they were pretty much gaming slaves.
Oh well, this might look like a dark and gloomy vision of the managing thing, but I can give you my word on that : at first, things were very ugly and miserable.
Back to me ! So my situation sucked. It hadn’t yet reached the very deep bottom of the Indian Ocean, nevertheless, let’s say I was sort of on a curve, and the part of the curve where it would start to fall. I had very little money, just like my two friends, Jaeyong and Su yeon. We were sharing alot. Su yeon was somewhat from a wealthy family, and she often was the one treating everyone to diner.
Now, unlike today’s Team houses, and tight pro team practicing schedules, it was different. We were basically completly free to do whatever it pleased us. So we usually would spend the afternoon playing, then leave at night for diner, then cheap soju bang, then back to PC room, and from midnight to dawn, hardcore gaming. Morning was night, and time to sleep.
As for the rooms, Jaeyong would go back to sleep to the team building now and then, and I would go sleep at Grrrr...’s hotel room whenever he wasn’t in. When I had some spare cash I would give him. But most of the time, as it was a hotel room and the maid would daily clean, he wouldn’t care as much than if it was his own place. Su Yeon was randomly going back to sleep at her home to take breaks from gaming.
BUT MOST OF TIME : We would just be hardcore, and sleep in the PC room sofas and chairs, or just not sleep.
I recall me and Jaeyong taking turns to the luxuous bathrooms of N.E.T, basically washing ouselves around 5 am when no customer was still there. We’d lock the main door of the bathrooms, wash ourselves entirely with cold water and get out of it barely dried with our wet hairs.
Nobody would say a thing. It was just fun.
Then we’d grab some coffee drinks, go for a moonlight walk around Kang nam, come back an hour later, and resume gaming.
My poor existence was one of my sweetest time in Seoul city. We really didn’t need much money. About 20 bucks were enough to sustain ourselves for a day. Automn was perfect. We didn’t need any warm clothes, days were still long, evenings slow in Kang nam streets, eating on street side tables with my two friends, some good calbi, a few bottles of soju, and that was it. Happiness. Times where future had no true meaning. Hope wasn’t rare or to be seen – it was an endless stream shaping everything.
My infamous duo would not hang out with the rest of Grrrr...’s team, they didn’t like them.. errm.. they hated their own team. Su yeon had joined because this team was the only deal Jaeyong had found to get a financial support to move over Seoul and try pro gaming.
Now that I come to think about it and that all these forgotten pictures, memories of situation surface, I clearly remember one extra pro gaming chick on the roster, the hip hop kind, very small and very cute, just like so many of them. I didn’t get to see her really often however.
I said a little earlier we were miserable. We were miserable as youth can be, upon reaching that sort of superb climax of pure freedom ; that peak felt upon moving over the slow transition to adulthood. Everything felt like in a dream.
That’s about that time that Jong min, Grrrr...’s personal manager and slave, decided he had to help me, and try something with me.
His first idea was to take me out drinking after one night’s diner, then, while we got wasted real fast, he proposed to dye my hairs. We hopped by a shop in the subway and bought the needed products to do so. All the way long Jong Min was explaining how his ex GF was a hairdresser and that he knew all about doing it.
We went to Guillaume’s room, and after a few hours, work was done. I was drunk and it looked truely awesome. All the time it took doing it, I and Jong min were drinking soju and beers in Guillaume’s room. We got back to N.E.T. and went to every single person we knew in there, to show my hairs. People were staring at us, like freaks.
And so, as Jong Min’s first act toward managing me, that was to dye my hairs, was over, some kind of secret contract was silently signed, and from there on he helped me giving me 10 or 20 bucks a day, and paying me food as often as possible.
I somewhat liked him. He was acting real dumb and really was nothing close to a guarantee of help or sucess out there, but we had fun together.
That night he took me Jaeyong and Su yeon on to drink to the nearest Soju bang again.
I came back alone, Su yeon had left in a cab for her home, Jong Min basically felt asleep in the Soju bang, and Jaeyong had to bring fat Jong min back the team’s building.
I remember showing up to Guillaume upon entering N.E.T.
He was PvZing on - ashrigo ? or was it char magma -, Ilovestar, the Zerg runner up of the last KbK that lost to Slayer. Ridiculous hydralisks waves were raping him as I stood behind him, while Guillaume would type “GG yo, Hydra mana ^^”.
I was making fun of him because I was drunk. Guillaume then forced me to play against IloveStar and join the fun. I didn’t want to. It was just a B.net game but I knew I would get raped. Anyway, we made on LT, I spawned P at 9, IloveStar Zerg at 6.
I didn’t really care about the game, and used a very old build of Grrrr... to mock him. While building my shit up, I was telling him how his build sucked blah blah..
You’d basically pump zealots out from one gate until 27 Supply with constant probes, then expand with about 3 zealots, halt probe production and drop 4 gates at once and go on 5 gate zealots.
What happened just suprised me as much as Guillaume, whom I could hear the excitement behind me.
I handled Ilovestar’s speedling easily, then went out with about 16 zealots, marched over his natural, that I raped. However I was stopped on top of his ramp by newly morphed sunkens and shitloads of drones and zerglings.
I thought I had the game, retreated and teched up.
When zealot speed finished I went back to poke at him, but no sign of expansion. As my first photons finish warping in my main, about 12 overlords drop by to say hello, hordes of zerglings and a full pack of lurkers.
My squads of zealots and my few templars couldn’t save my main, nor the game, that soon moved over islands he had expanded to.
I played a few more games that night with Bluek, prolly the worst pro gamer ever, but the only one I could beat with consitency, and enjoyed the way he would curse each time I would beat him within 7 mins.
Guess it was about 4 am or so. Guillaume was leveling his D2 char somewhere in the Pc room. Han and Bbark were taking turns playing me. Everything was calm. That very unique Pc room peace you find around these hours, when everyone is feigning to sleep, not making any move or any noise, other than what comes from moving a mouse, typing on a keyboard, slowly driven by the friendly lights and sounds of the games.
Every game or two, you’d slowly move out of the chair, meet up your friends at the drink machine, smoke a cigaret and then proceed to sit back and play more.
Night should’ve gone this way until dawn. But something happened.
As I was having a break from Starcraft and aimlessly browsing internet, some random person requested me on for an add on his ICQ list, to chat and stuff.
Now I was never big of a chater, I have my times, you know, but I don’t really enjoy it.
That unknown person that was spaming me and that I greeted upon saying “Fuck off”, promptly stated she was a girl in Seoul. Just one more reason for me to bielive it was a scam – little did I knew at that time, it was actually really common in Korea, to randomly talk with people you didn’t know.. However, as I didn’t block right away the message box, while browsing I was replying, making fun and such, saying he wasn’t a girl at all but a fucking perv pretending to be a chick.
That’s about when I got this message : “You don’t bielive me ? Give me your phone number and I’ll call to prove you I’m a girl.”
Now I was starting to wonder what the hell was wrong.
She didn’t have a webcam and sended me pics. I had sent some of mine back. Then she actually called on the phone, she was a girl, with a young voice. Could’ve perfectly matched the pictures she sent...
Then she asked me to get on the webcam if I had one. Each computer of the pc room had one. So there I was, showing myself up at 5 am to a chick I didn’t know, with my brand new flashy blue hairs.
I somewhat asked, if she wanted to come and and meet me. She said she was on holidays and she’d be happy to do so, because she was damn curious about what a french boy of 18 years old was doing in Seoul, playing computer games.
I told her to come to N.E.T. in the afternoon and that we’d go for a walk and some coffeeshop.
Next thing I know and see, is a tiny and cute face with a huge smile, waking me up in my chair in front of the computer.
I cursed at myself in French for about 5 minutes upon waking up. I didn’t expect the girl to be pretty. But she was. I was feeling unconfortable, I rushed to the hotel, washed and came back.
So jee was a highschool girl and it was her last year. She had lived abroad for a longwhile and had a perfect english. She was soft, hot and smart. It kind of felt at first like a dream. We went walking the first day. The next she came again and we walked some more. We went to a park couple of days later, spent the entire evening there and kissed.
That’s how I met So jee. We dated for the next 6 months.
Next will be about me, Jaeyong, cezanne. Junju starcraft festival. KGL.
Sorry about the way it was written. Might sound different. That’s because I quit smoking 6 days ago now ! Life feels kind of weird as I’ve been smoking one box of cigaret a day for the past 10 years !
Anyway, the next entry will come shortly and will be much better !!