My first year in esports may not feel all that eventful to me, but looking back there has been some remarkable progress. It started out with my first article for ESFI World in December 2013. I wrote about how Hearthstone was poised to be the next big esport, and I appear to have been right!
What was incredible though, was that very same day I got into the Hearthstone beta. Coincidence? More thank likely actually…but it was a live-saver to me in China. I had a horrendous internet connection, so it was the only thing I played for the next 6 months.
Too my surprise ESL Gaming then took me on! I never thought they’d reply to my email, let alone let me write for them. My first article even attracted the criticism of John “TotalBiscuit” Bain – The Cynical Brit. High praise in its own little way.
Just read an ESL article about Teamhouses that said "housing is so much cheaper in Korea". That's complete bollocks, it's pricey as hell.
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) June 3, 2014
On June 28 my contract in China was up and left for Seoul to attend the Code S GSL Finals! It was my first ever live esports experience. However, in all honesty, Protoss versus Protoss made for uneventful matches. The best part was meeting other fans, and the iconic Starcraft II casters, Nick “Tasteless” Plott and Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski!
At the time I was hopeful I would be able to pin them down for an interview, but with that being the night of the finals, the season over, and it was well-deserved holiday time for the both of them.
It taught me a lesson though, and I made sure that Lee “Flash” Young Ho wasn’t going to get away from me when I had the chance! It’s not everyday you get to meet the greatest Starcraft player of all time, the man nicknamed “God”.
I also saw Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn in the airport when I left Seoul, the most successful female pro-gamer of all time. But, she was probably in no mood to meet a fan. Plus I couldn’t find her after we passed through security…
At first, I thought Seoul was going to do more for me. I was staying in various hostels in the HongDae university area, and I was amazed how good everyone’s English was. At esports events though, I was surprised by how few people spoke any English at all.
I was quite used to being surrounded by people who didn’t speak English by this point, but I was a little surprised that the students had a good grip on the language, but not the people who were part of – what I consider – a very international industry.
My original plan was to come back to Seoul after two months at home, even if that meant being an English teacher again. However, with the language barrier, I decided that maybe Seoul wasn’t the best place to base some kind of esports career, at least maybe not to start one. Plus, I didn’t enjoy teaching. In fact I hated it.
So I came back to ‘blightly’ on July 24 I think, or thereabouts, and hid at my Grandmother’s place until it was time for my Dad’s surprise birthday party in London! I remember at that party talking to family about China, culture shock, Korea and regularly explaining esports and why I saw a future in it.
But I also talked quite a bit about how I missed my girlfriend. California was now on my mind. As a hive of pro-gaming, YouTubing, and innovative online startups – where everyone spoke English – it began to appeal to me more as a place to make a future for myself.
In August I went to Cologne (Germany) to go to Gamescom, which was pure awesome. Even better was that ESL allowed me to bring my best friend along as my Cameraman. I got to interview Paul “ReDeYe” Chaolner, Scott Smith (upload pending), Andy “Bravo” Dudynsky and Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez.
We tried out Battlecry, Evolve, Destiny and even Magicka 2! I even briefly met Jang “MC” Min Chul, and tried to congratulate him on how well his English has improved over the past few years. It was awkward.
When I came back from Gamescom I realised that I had no plan whatsoever. I wrote some articles for ESL, but I had to face the fact, that I was probably going to stay with my parents until Christmas. So I’d better get on with something.
I had initially planned to write a lot on this blog while I was in Korea, but it ended up not working out that way. So I thought about investing more time in this blog and starting up my own youtube channel. Not with anything serious in mind, but just to practice.
However, it wasn’t enough really. Honestly, I felt pretty directionless. “Just produce content” wasn’t much of an aim to work towards. So I started to consider running my own tournament. I was lamenting that there weren’t any events near me, so why not run my own?
I got in touch with the University of Manchester’s Esports Society, who gave me a great deal of guidance. It was a bit of rocky road, mostly because I invested so much time and energy into the event, and nothing else. For weeks it was the only thing on my mind, which wasn’t good, because the instant I hit any difficultly at all, it had a much bigger effect on my morale than it should’ve done.
Pro-tip: Always have a side project.
For instance, I had to move my event one weekend back, because it was colliding with Insomnia, the biggest LAN Gaming Festival in the UK. I thought about whether it mattered for a while, but I decided that competing with it would just be foolish.
In all honesty, I was outraged at the time, because I’d never even heard of it!
It’s a weird problem the UK gaming scene seems to have, there seems to be a large gap between gamers and UK events. Throughout university I lived with friends who were as into gaming – if not more – than I was. Despite this, I don’t remember anyone ever talking about, or going to, Insomnia. I’m slowly discovering there’s more going on in the UK than I thought there was, but still, most of my friends have never heard of these events I’ve been going to.
So anyway, I found that I could volunteer there, so I did. I had a great time being a community admin. I got to run tournaments there that were just for fun, so I wasn’t under any pressure. It was a really good way to get ready for my first event the following weekend.
Through Twitter I had gotten to know some more people in the esports world. I got in touch with Kevin “Odinn” Hovdestad, who had ideas for a tournament format for Hearthstone, the game I would be using for my event. Together we drummed out the “Duel” format, a sideboard format.
The interview with Kevin, and the review of my tournament, together totalled some 24,000 views. I’m really pleased to see that “Duel” is still getting quite a bit of attention, and more people are running tournaments in this format.
Now I want to make more out of this “ToBeGosu” brand I’ve created, but it may be a while before I have the time to run another event.
I’m trying to build up a backlog of articles, videos and blog posts so that I can keep content coming regularly. I haven’t touched my Travel blog in ages, and there’s still so much I have to say about my trip to Tibet, and other things too.
For now though, it’s time to make the most of trip to California!
I’ll be going to see my girlfriend, and trying to make some contacts over there. I’m hopeful I can find something there to keep me busy.
I’m also planning to make more time for my other projects. There’s a tabletop role-playing game where you get to run your own kingdom, which I play-tested at university, which needs finishing. There’s also a couple of movies, and an animated show about some fantastic super-hero characters I really want to share with the world one day. I love these characters I’ve created, and I just want them to exist outside of my head.
No promises those are going to be done this year, but maybe I’ll just a little be closer to achieving my ambitions. In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to be gosu.