Everyone has a favorite thing to do when they get some time to spare for entertainment. Sports, reading, watching television, things of that nature. What if I told you that you could spend an entire weekend among other fans just as yourself along with most every big name person that is responsible for popularizing your hobby and entertainment? Famous athletes, famous authors, television stars, people of that nature. Walking around, watching them do what they do best, being able to talk and interact with them freely. Sounds like a hard to dream to come by, right? Well, not for me.
I play Starcraft.
And this past weekend, in Columbus, my dream came true.
Pro Circuit Winter Championships, Columbus, OH March 23-25
415 miles away from DeKalb, Illinois, is Columbus Ohio. Having only really been in and around Chicago as a major city before, Columbus was a breath of fresh air. Wide streets, little to no traffic, architecture that wasn’t cramped or falling apart, Columbus was a beautiful city, one which I actually enjoyed walking around in. The venue was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, a really cool looking building that was pretty damn good for hosting MLG.
Outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center
Not only was the building great, but what MLG put inside it was even better. One of their sponsors, Dr. Pepper, supplied them with a monster amount of their product, and they gave it away for free to everyone the entire weekend. That is so far beyond anything I would expect a game contest sponsor to do, but me and thousands of other people took our Dr. Pepper without much questions. There were plenty of seats to watch the three different main stages, and plenty of room to walk around and watch the outlying game stations. There were so many games going on at once, you could pretty much find whatever you wanted whenever you wanted. The best part, though, was when they weren’t playing games.
Professional Starcraft II players, people who make a living off playing this game, from all over the world, were walking around the venue, enjoying the food and drinks and watching games just like I was. You were free to just walk up to your favorite players in the world and talk to them, take pictures, and get their autographs. And I did just that.
It was a surreal experience watching these guys sign their names onto this mouse pad and talking to them. I’ve seen them infinite times online and on streams, and they looked exactly the same in person, but this time I could actually interact with them. I even got pictures with two of them:
Now, for any of you that know Starcraft, I play Zerg, and the two pictures I got were with DRG, the best Zerg on the planet, and Stephano, the best foreigner Zerg. These two people are my eSports idols, especially Stephano. This is like meeting Jordan as a Bulls fan in the 80’s/90’s. Meeting him, and what happened at the end of the first night, were life changing events. I can honestly say that this weekend at MLG Columbus was on of the best weekends of my entire life. I will be forever grateful for being able to attend such an event.
On Saturday night, tired as hell from driving there the previous morning and having been standing all day, the events were done and the venue was closing up. We stayed long past the last Starcraft game in order to try and at least catch a glimpse, if not interact with the broadcasters. After a long wait, we were only able to find DJ Wheat leaving the backstage area, but he hurried out before anyone could talk to him. So we went out into the lobby area where my friends waited for me while I went to the bathroom. When I came back out, we were about to head out, and then I noticed that Sean Plott, better known to the internet as Day, was standing just 20 yards away from us, talking to several people. We went over and waited our turn to talk to him.
I thought I was tired from the day. After seeing him, I felt like I could run a marathon.
Sean was barely functioning. His eyelids never opened past 50%, his voice raspy and quiet, his legs swaying. His job had started on Friday, and Must have been at work a solid 12 hours on Saturday. When he signed our mouse pads, he flopped to the ground in relief to do so. He has another many hours of work that needed to be done the following day. This man needed rest, he needed to be at his hotel sleeping to try and recover enough to do his job. But he wasn’t. Instead, he was standing out in public talking to his fans.
“Why are you doing this?” I thought to myself. He could barely stand up, barely function, yet he was out here talking to random people that he has never met, and will never meet again. I didn’t understand it. Then it was our turn to talk to him. When the other group left, the looks on their faces was incredible. They looked like they had won the lottery. Beaming from ear to ear, talking to each other in quick and excited tones, jumping around, unable to contain their joy. We started talking to him, and I came to figure out why he was out here with us.
This man truly loves what he does.
Sean “Day” Plott, and my three friends
Inspiration is hard to come by today. It’s hard to find reasons to do what we have to do, or keep doing what we like to do. I don’t think I need to look any further. Sean embodies inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really seen true joy from someone who is on the job, in the moment. I’ve seen that dozens of times with Sean, and that’s what I want to feel. I want to love something as much as Sean loves eSports and his fans. I want to find something I truly enjoy doing and I want to do that for a living.
There is a video that Sean made a while back. Several days a week, he has a webcam show where he analyzes Starcraft games. On his 100th episode, he did something special to celebrate. He talked about his history with Starcraft, from buying it, to playing it, to being a professional, to now. It is the single most touching, honest, influential video I have ever seen, ever. It is two hours long, but I implore you to watch it. It is literally life changing.
A lot of people, mainly the older generations, give video games a bad reputation. They think they are just way of rotting your mind sitting in front of a screen doing nothing productive with your time. That’s sad to see, and sad that people judge books by their cover. Don’t get me wrong, some video games can be pretty much only that, but some are different, some are special.
Video games have made me who I am.
In late 2004, I was a freshman in high school. Coming from a private school with a graduating class of around 30 people, I didn’t really know anyone. My class was a few hundred in high school, it was extremely overwhelming. I rarely saw any of my private school classmates, and it was frightening. I was alone in a sea of people. My personal skills were non-existent. Being in that private school, I didn’t really have to go out and meet people. They were all in my class every year for eight years. That wasn’t the case anymore. I had to go out and talk to random people, make friends. But I couldn’t find whatever I needed to do so.
In early 2005, my second semester of freshman year, I got Xbox Live, and I played Halo 2. After a few weeks of playing with what few friends I had on there, I found out that a large number of high school classmates played this game too. I played a few games with these people, and eventually developed a sort of actual relationship with these people. When I would end up seeing them in school, we would talk about the game, and sometimes other stuff too. I was making friends. I found my method of socializing. Befriending these Halo 2 players lead to making more friends, and in my junior and senior year, I was more popular than I could have ever imagined, which is a big deal in high school.
Video games are still mainly for socialization for me. I play games with friends as a way of “hanging out”. I of course still hang out with them personally, but this is a way to do so without leaving the house, which you can’t always do. I enjoy playing these games, it’s a real passion of mine. I’ve actually been pretty good with a lot of games, and the idea of playing these for money is incredibly appealing, but just out of my reach, unless I can find the right game and time to play it. But I digress.
Video games are important. There are an infinite number of kids just like me in school that are introverted and shy, scared of trying to make friends. Video games give you a community in which to interact and have fun.
They are also incredible gateways for learning. Starcraft has long been known as the “chess” of video games. Chess is intellectually stimulating and requires actual personal values like patience, adaptability, endurance, focus and so many more. Starcraft is the exact same. Feel free to debate it, but Starcraft is a sport. It is usually labeled as an eSport, electronic sport, but a sport nonetheless. It does require physical ability, just as other sports, but on a minimal level, but mentally, I don’t see how any other sport is more requiring.
I don’t know how I want to/can conclude this entry. I guess I can just give the small list of advice that has come to mind while writing this. The first thing would be to go to an event like MLG. If you like video games at all, attend one of these things and see how awesome eSports can be. It’s honestly unbelievable. The second is to do what makes you happy. These people spend most of the hours of the day playing a video game. To a lot of people, that sounds like a pathetic life. But it is what they enjoy, and there are others that enjoy watching them do it, and if they play enough, they can make a living out of it. It’s what makes them happy, what they enjoy doing. I hope to find that soon, and when I do, I’m not letting go of it.