I have to admit, I had moderate expectations for my trip to Dreamhack Austin. It wasn't because it was an unknown experience to me or that I had a fear that everyone I've met through Starcraft would reject me or even that I was even hyped. None of those options were even concerns for me. What concerned me was an apathy I had for Starcraft and the scene. The Rival StarCraft 2 League’s most recent season was winding down, and I didn't feel good about how it turned out. It was by far the best season we've put on, but I was burnt out, I felt like I had very little support, and I felt I had very little purpose in the scene.
With the Patreon only getting a single patron (Cheers to OFU), the viewership levels for each broadcast were mediocre due to conflicting schedules with Basetrade TV and other tournaments (we were the smaller fish, after all), scrambling to make sure every detail of the tournament was ran as smoothly as possible, and wearing all hats, I was completely passioned out. I recalled a Reddit comment I got from the introduction post of the RSL, someone who warned me about burning out, and I thought I knew what burning it felt like and took precautions against it. However, after four seasons and several hundred dollars, I then understood that comment. This burnout caused me to stop doing anything Starcraft related.
So it was with this feeling of overall apathy for the Starcraft eSports in my life, I was at a point where I had to decide, do I keep going, or do I slowly disappear from the scene like those before me. I was one of few players in the Fargo region who actively played and watched Starcraft, and I felt isolated from the rest of people I've interacted with on Twitter, in game, TeamSpeak, Discord, etc. Dreamhack Austin unintentionally became the experience that would determine the rest of my eSports career.
Dreamhack Austin blew me away in so many ways. It was such an incredible experience that had me begging for me. It legitimately had me wishing that I didn't have to return to my normal life in Fargo. It was the recharge I needed for all things Starcraft. Simply being in the presence of other players and fans who love Starcraft was reinvigorating. The passion for this game was unreal.
A coworker and I flew out early Friday morning. We landed in Austin around 11:30 and we found out hotel was literally on the same intersection as the Downtown Convention Center in Austin. We grabbed some lunch and then as we stepped into the convention center, I met up with my teammates from Rival Gaming. Seeing them for the first time in real life, I instantly knew that this trip was going to be at minimum a fun experience with the friends I stayed up late at night with on TeamSpeak. We quickly got over the introductions and we went in to get our visitors and competitors passes. At this point, my coworker (a diehard CSGO fan) left to go watch the CS games and the Open tournament started for us at the Starcraft area.
We had six Rival Players competing that day. Hjax (P), FoxeR (T), Pure (P), Nitro (T), Tesla (P), and Cuddlebear (T) entered the Ro96 Group Stage ready to compete. Pure, FoxeR, and Cuddlebear advanced to the second Group Stage (Ro64) and put up a good fight, but they were eliminated by some of the top level pros who qualified to be seeded into the second round.
As I watched my teammates played, I played my role as Team Manager along with Kaboosh (our fearless leader of Rival Gaming) and we supported our players the best we could. We encouraged them in between games, I live tweeted the progress of our player's on our team's Twitter account, I took pictures and video of the players, we got them food and drinks, and about anything else we could do to support them. I felt like a parent who was watching their kid at a sports game. It felt good to play that role, as I knew that the players were being tested in LAN environment, the best experience a player could be in, which simultaneously is the most stressful experience. I could tell they appreciated every small act Kaboosh and I did and it made me proud to be one of the leaders of our team.
After the players were eliminated, we continued to play at the machines setup for the players and watched the games that were being played on the main stage. We also took the opportunity to watch professional gamers play their matches and boy, it was something that you would never be able to catch on a Twitch stream. The night went by quick, and before we knew it, the night was over. We parted ways for the evening and I went to sleep knowing that Saturday was going to be just as exciting of a day.
The games started at noon and we watched the Ro16 matches and the quarter finals play out on the Main Stage. Once again, we found ourselves drawn to the players PC section, where we sat down and played ladder games. I can't say there was anything that was super eventful that day outside of the tournament, but being around other Starcraft enthusiasts was infectious. The energy in the room was amazing and you could tell everyone was feeling it. At one point in time, we left to go have lunch somewhere downtown and we ended up having lunch with Firecake, SirRobin, Neeb, puCK, PanicSwitch, and Temp0! It was fun to enjoy a meal with these players and personalities and we became friends with them (or they tolerated our heavily Rival Gaming presence!).
Sunday, my coworker and I started our day off with some Counter-Strike: GO. The first semifinal was Cloud9 versus Tempo Storm. It made me rethink how I watched and played CSGO from watching the series. So many intense moments, so many clutch instances, and many chants of USA; it sent chills down my spine. It was an awesome experience to watch, and gave me some time to enjoy a different eSport for a little bit. After two rounds of CSGO, it was time for the StarCraft Finals.
The stage moved from the upstairs ballroom to the main floor. The first semifinal was Neeb vs Snute and boy, was it entertaining! I love Liquid`Snute, but over the weekend, Neeb won me over and won the series 3-1 against Snute. Next, it was [Elevate] Masa vs ROOT hydra. It was a straight 3-0, the difference between a Korean player (hydra) and a foreign raised Korean player (Masa). Then, it was the American player Neeb vs hydra. The finals started strong in Neeb’s favor with a strong game 1, but the next 4 games went in favor of hydra, ending the finals in a 4-1 score. There were many cheers of USA when Neeb did anything remotely cool (even sniping an overlord), but it just wasn’t enough to take down hydra.
With the finals over, we all decided to go out and grab some dinner. Per recommendation of our local Austin resident MDKnights, we went to a restaurant called Wingzup, a restaurant that had a BWW feel to it, but had super legit wings and margaritas. After dinner, we moved to MotherShip Books and Games, a shop that had PCs we could use for gaming. We ended up laddering until the shop closed, enjoying being able to play StarCraft in the same building as a team. We each laddered on our own respective accounts, and even hit each other sometimes. Afterwards, we spent a couple more hours together playing Cards Against Humanity before many of us called it a night.
Coming home on Monday, I felt the pain of leaving my teammates and new friends. I didn’t want the event to end, the limited amount of time to hang with the gang. I was able to catch Rookwood, Hjax, and Pure at the airport while waiting for my flight to leave, but leaving was very difficult for me. I did feel a renewed sense of passion for StarCraft II and Rival Gaming, heavily anticipating arriving home just so I can continue to ladder. During the weekend and the next couple of days, I’ve played over 35 ladder games and starting to get back into the groove of playing again. Climbing the rank in my division (Platinum League) and anticipating that promotion to Diamond rank here in the next couple of weeks. As Rival is competing in all Masters/GM/Semi-Pro leagues, I have signed up for Chobo Team League and have been enlisted on Team Born Gosu, a clan I was involved with back in 2012 prior to joining Rival.
So what happened at Dreamhack? A lot of things happened, actually, but one thing is for sure. The level of passion for North American StarCraft II was so reinvigorating. Just by watching players and being around other enthusiasts, I felt myself getting excited for a game that I was burned out of originally. It was like the tanks of passion were refilled, the ded gaems memes didn’t have that sting of truth, and my view of StarCraft eSports became much more optimistic. I found myself wishing I could have competed, but I am not at that level to even make a splash in competitions yet.
This trip was so much more than anything I could have imagined and I am grateful for every moment. It was just what I needed to keep myself in the scene and continue to contribute towards the growing eSports scene that is StarCraft II and I cannot wait for the next opportunity I have to go to another LAN event like Dreamhack.
Shoutout to everyone I've met, including (but not limited to):
- Casters and Community Members(DrennoC, feardragon, Temp0, Coltarren, FatCatChef, and more)
- Players (xKawaiian, Namshar, PengWin, RuFF. PandaBearMe, more)
- My teammates (Kaboosh, Pure, Tesla, Hjax, Nitro, Cuddlebear, Foxer, MDK, Rally)
Also, I am working on making a video with GoPro footage I've recorded while there. Stay tuned for that in the next couple of weeks! While you're waiting, please enjoy this pictures from this event.