I’m sorry for the people my slack disapointed. Also, my horrid and broken english made me wonder for a while if this wasn’t too much of a litterature atrocity. Steven defined it best as it feeling : “like a weird and fucked up byun tae fantasy cheap book” (byun tae in korean means a “sexual pervert”). However, I decided to give it a new go.
I can’t promise anything, regarding the frequency at wich the new entries will show up. Just pray for the best.
Here we go.
Seoul’s somewhat huge. I mean, of course in France, cities can’t compare to any of the “newer” city, much bigger ones, world contains. Big ones such as Seoul. One might think that, as a young adult living in Seoul, as a foreigner, you’d want to pick easy going girls, that live close, or are able to drive and go out at night. That should be your most rational thought if you go there. Sojee was still in highschool, and she was living at her parents, with her sister, two hours from where I was staying – at that time still near Kang nam yok, my house virtually beeing N.E.T. pc room.
As her regular time she could stay until before she had to go home, was a 6 pm limit, things were pretty dry at first for me. Hopefully, I didn’t have any sufficient ressource to party constantly with Guillaume or anybody else, so, spending some time going for a movie or a small restaurant with her on week ends, was very convinent on the other hand.
Now, you have to figure that even if, in western countries, highschool is already kind of considered “very young”, they look even “younger” at that age and place in Korea. I was about 18 at that time, and she was 1 year younger, so really, wasn’t anything special. But the first time she asked if I wanted to come pick her up after school, and that I did so, man I was in shock.
They were all wearing uniforms. All the girls had the exact same skirt, shirt, and tie. I mean, it was cute yes, but they all just looked fucking 13 years old wearing these uniforms. I almost felt like hiding, scared that people would think of me as a western pedo or something. But, that’s the kind of situation you encounter traveling, feeling awkward, totally out of place, but yet, you face the situation and try to make it convinent, in a way or another.
Memories of me going to see her there, are things really precious now to me. Winter had begun, and the farther you went from the center of Seoul, the colder it seemed to get. Snow was everywhere, with it’s tricky ice, that you have to beware of in Seoul, because it can cover an unshaped, mudded road, or a very flat and sloppy one.
We’d basically walk until she had to get home, go near her house’s parks (there’s a crapfuckload of parks in Seoul, it’s insane), or explore the commercial streets around that didn’t look anything like other parts of Seoul.
Truth is I always loved, and often lived, on the Seoul borders, on the very outskirt of the subway network. Places were much poorer there, with more evidences of Korean lifestyle, below it’s middle classes – people in these areas, tend to wear the same kind of clothes, look quite similar. Streets, buildings, just look, if that can mean anything, true, in their urban nature and commonness. When I was there, I would always think and feel something such as : “Yeah, that’s what Seoul looks like”. I virtually lived everywhere imaginable in Seoul.
If her parents were on a trip, we’d go at her house and her sister would hide, locked in her room. They both perfectly spoke english, their parents had lived in NY for some years. Her sister was somewhat fun, and the only time I saw her, she ran away yelling and giggling like a retard.
One day, she called me to meet up with one of her friends, a pretty girl, that surprisingly I would meet again, a year and half later, without even recognizing her, and date for a while, when one day she’d show up saying “You really don’t remember me ?”, after two weeks we had been dating already. ( Facial recognition had failed pretty hardcore there.)
Reality was starting to knock at my body’s door. My health was not so good. I had eaten ramens for the past 2 weeks or so, everyday, every meal almost. Leagues weren’t paying enough, I had to spend money on motels, transports... I had barely anything left to eat.
Guillaume would help me out a bit, paying me a meal now and then, but he was beeing really busy and we wouldn’t constantly hang out together. You also have to know, that in the very same environement, Everlast was here as well, in the exact same position as me, maybe with more ressources, but Guillaume was already helping him shitloads, and I couldn’t hop onto the “poor ppl’s help train”, nor did I want it.
I have no real memory of my thoughts or plans back then. I know I was somewhat practicing, with my friends online, mainly intotherain and a few others that I knew good. Cezanne had somewhat quit, for a while, saying SC was going to hell. Su yeon was going to school more and lowering SC. Jaeyong was getting deseperate and thinking of going back to Busan.
There was nothing to hold on to, even to each others. We would share, go out, eat together, wash, sleep even. Beeing poor in a unfamiliar environement is no easy for youngsters that are planing to rely on playing a video game as their source of income.
At last, one morning, I woke up saying that was it ( I had been in Korea for 3 months). My visa was about to expire and I only had enough money left to pay myself a trip back to France. So I called my mother and told her I was coming back. I called my girlfriend, saying she could bring her friend and we would all have diner at TGI tonight, because I had something to tell her. I then went to Guillaume’s place to tell him.
Now, remember I had no cellphone whatsoever. All the calls I was making, or getting, were at the N.E.T. pc room desk. While I was at Guillaume’s my girlfriend tried to call me, to change our meeting time and got the female head N.E.T. staff worker, to write down her friend’s cellphone number (she had no cellphone either) and give it to me, so I could call her back if anything. Now what I just said, is extremly important. Because the mere fact, this phone number was written down and saved on the N.E.T. desk, probably actually changed my life.
Back then, I was much younger. Fact I was 18 and for the first time, completly free, by myself in such a foreign place, gave me surnatural energy and strength, to live the way I lived. But, I had none of the latter qualities, a forged temper has, I had none of the true strengths, exeperience with age brings.
Back then, for instance, I wasn’t “firm”. I didn’t know what it really meant. I could feel the lack of it, but couldn’t define what could fill that lack. When I was playing important games, I was always shaking. I wasn’t anything close to beeing scared ; actually, it was more of an excitement. But I wasn’t firm.
That night, I would’ve have to tell So jee, who was already by that time, prolly the person I liked the most on earth, that I was leaving back for France. That shit was hurting me in a way. I didn’t want to do have to do it. I knew she would cry and stuff, I hated it. Anyway we met, went to TGI, ordered.
I didn’t know when to spit it. Not before, not in the midle of it. Before the desert. I told her. Explained her why ; that I had no money at all, and it was time to go. She cried all she could, and with her friend, with that natural Korean trait, especially girls have over there, they started to figure a way for me to stay, how they could give me enough money to live and eat.. but I had made my decision, and depending on two school girls for a living, wasn’t exactly souding like a “plan” or something anything close to moraly convinent.
She had stopped crying. She was shocked. Much more than I had expected. People in the restaurant were staring at our table, we just looked as if someone close had just died.
When I picture the scene again (scene that I won’t ever forget), in that restaurant, seeing my silent girl, staring with her red and wet eyes at the table, blankly, as if I had destroyed her, I realise now, she was actually staring at the cellphone of her friend, wich was at the very center of the table.
I told her once more my bags were packed and that I would leave the country as soon as possible.
That’s when the cellphone rang. Somehow, it looked weird. Silence breaker, I guess. Her friend picked up, and to my surprise after listening to what she was told on the phone, handed it to me with big eyes.
I had on the phone a voice that I knew. I remembered it, even tho I only had heard it once. This was the voice of Richard Yang, heard marketing of Triple Dice, a mmorpg company.
“Hello Mark, this is Richard Yang, do you remember me ?”
“It’s been a while, but I told you, I would call back. I would like to come and meet you at N.E.T. tomorrow. How that sounds ?”
“Well that’s nice..I mean..”
“I called Shinah ( the N.E.T. manager ), hopefully, they gave me this cellphone number where I could reach you. You’re still playing Starcraft right ?”
“Well, my company is looking forward to sponsor you. So, can I come and pick you up tomorrow ? I’ll drive you to the company office and you’ll meet the owner. He watched some of your games on internet, he’s really looking forward to meet you – you dont have any contract with any other company at the moment right ?”
Now, I swear on my poor father’s grave that everything, that night, EXACTLY happened that way. It was surreal. Sojee’s joy and screams and jumping in the restaurant were too. People looked at us like fucking freaks. I’m not sure if I had a tear or two, but that night after, we went all drinking until real late, at 4X, some very frequented basement bar, in Kang nam, back then.
Shinah, the N.E.T. owner, two months prior to that, had introduced to me this man, Richard Yang, that was one of his very close friends. The old man had told me, Richard was working for a game company, quite a big one, and maybe making some connection with him would be good. Richard had studied in NY, so he had a real nice english, and we got along together very well that first meeting we had, 2 months before the “magic” call.
I remember that, in that first meeting, upon leaving, he told me this :
“Don’t let it go. Just try to keep it up. It will be very hard, but something will happen, trust me.”
I never thought what would happen would be him actually calling me night before my departure to France, saying I was finally, getting sponsored.
I was saved. There’s no other word for it. On several other occasions, of my Korean trip, such things will happen again. Each time, this was making me love this country even more, and got me thankful to it, for every friend, every love, every bit of luck, every bad time, I lived and encountered over there. I had, like many could say the same, something special going on with Korea and the way it was keeping me there.
To end this entry, I would like to emphesize to you people, how BIG it was to get an actual contract, a full salary and a place where to live and practice, all paid by a company. I wasn’t on a “managing team” or whatever crap situation, amateurs and semis were in. Reality was, at that time, maybe not more than 20 or 30 players were getting a salary from starcraft in Korea. This wasn’t like winning national lottery, but close enough to me.
The N.E.T. owner had found me my sponsor. All credits go to this old man, who treated me better than you can imagine. That goes as well for all the persons working in N.E.T. at that time. You can ask anyone that was there, back then – these times were golden.
That’s something people that go to Korea often don’t know, and the reason why they have someday to leave ; when you’re there, you have to work it your own way, building your own connections, in a way or another. Otherwise, you’ll end up bounded to some western ppl and unable to move on. To anyone that plans to go there, to play starcraft or whatever, my best advice is that, whenever you feel youre capable, move on to find your own structure, the one that fits you. Go and meet the country. There’s luck all over the place, for everyone.
I met Richard the next day, we went to the sponsor office, who was located in a building right accross the avenue COEX mall is located. There we discussed the contract and signed it. I was getting 1800 $ a month with a place where to stay ( you had a dorm on the same floor of the office, that belonged to the company ). There was everything one would need. Company was making a mmorpg, some kind of mixture between lineage and fallout. This situation would last for the next 8 months.
People might think, this is no big money, but if you add to this the money coming from the leagues and games played, then it was real nice, for playing a game only, when you’re 18, in a foreign country.
So my pro gaming adventure kept going on, but with a new start.
First thing I did after getting the contract deal, was to ask if they planed adding more players and told them to get Jaeyong. They said they’d think about it, but the boss only wanted “foreigners with big eyes and very good looking”. My joy was mixed with sadness, because Jaeyong deserved this 120 times more than I did. But Richard knew me, and I was the one Shinah and N.E.T. were taking care of.. Jaeyong had his evil managing crew...
I took Jaeyong, Su yeon, and one of Su yeon’s school girl friend to clubbing that night. My pockets were full of cash. We got drunk to the point, we all ended up in the same motel room and in the same bed. I still have a few memories of that night that I can’t tell !
That’s all, folks !
If another loosy night like this one, comes up, I’ll write a big entry on my sponsored gaming life in Seoul. How things would go.
I have no precise plan as to when and how make the things go from there.
There’s quite a lenghty period of time to cover, from the moment I got sponsored until July / August, where I went back to france.
I really want to get as fast as possible to the “second pro gaming generation”, aka the “cool kids” one, that happened when I came back, trying to take care of Smuft and Elky when they got to Korea. This period of time isn’t in my memory as shiny and golden as my own personal antiquity, but it’s for sure the funniest and the most active.
Most of the people of the 2nd generation, are people that I’m still in touch with. So it’s something that kind of lives on, for a very few individuals, that were in Seoul, that time, doing all this silly shit we did.
So I’m off for now, I hope I get some time soon for the rest !