People often ask me about what games I’m playing. I have realised that my gaming habits are dictated largely by my competitive streak and whatever happens to be the team’s main game at the time. We play a lot of games together. I write this all down so I can look back on our past and fondly remember all the effort we put in and the experiences we gained from it.
When preparing for tournaments, I really don’t practice as much as I should. In the past, I rely ninety percent on natural ability and ten percent whatever practice I’ve had. That is how little I practice. I perform well randomly. Must be something I eat. However, these days, it’s all starting to change.
Here’s my history in competitive gaming, up until 2012.
My esports story started with Tekken 5. My friends and I hung out at my local arcade a lot when we were teenagers. We pretty much grew up in that area. Looking back, it wasn’t a very nice place. Somebody was stabbed there and the arcade was shut down as a result, but every time we walk past the spot we reminisce about the good old days skipping school and playing Tekken.
I thought I was pretty damn awesome at Tekken because out of my circle of friends, I beat everyone the most (and was the loudest about it). One day I turned up at the arcade only to find a larger crowd than usual had gathered around the Tekken machine. Intrigued, I approached the group of spectators.
It turned out two pros who usually played in the city had come to our little arcade and were owning everyone. They were pulling combos and impossible, top-tier gameplay I had never ever seen in my LIFE. I was blown away. It was the first time I had ever witnessed such high-level play in any game, ever.
It was a life changing moment.
The impact that had on fifteen-year old me was deep. I was so impressed, I had to know who they were and how they did what they did. I wanted to be like them.
These two Aussie pros turned out to be saiyuk and Crimson, who are respectable Tekken players both locally and internationally. I tracked them down online and befriended Crimson, because he showed up to our local arcade occasionally and our schools were located close to one another. Crimson and I started meeting up regularly to play Tekken, and he introduced me to the rest of the scene. Shortly after, I entered my first ever gaming tournament.
I’ll never forget my first match.
It was a random draw, but somehow I ended up in the opening round of the tournament. I was matched up with a player named Toshin. At the time he was one of the best Mishima players in Australia. I wish there was video footage of it. I managed to take a round off him, and the crowd went off. There was so much yelling and screaming.
He ended up beating me, but from that moment onward I was hooked. I started regularly entering tournaments afterwards. Toshin and I became good friends and he pretty much trained me to be the Tekken player I am today. He taught me not to be cheap, how to anticipate decisions, movement, and somehow ingrained in me some sort of consistency. We’d have these crazy, six hour Tekken marathons of playing till three in the morning.
By then Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection had hit the arcades and I was learning all sorts of new tricks. I look back at this period as the peak of my fighting game form.
When Tekken 6 was released in Japanese arcades, I had started university. At this point, my school friends were over fighting games and had progressed to the PC side of things. We were always PC gamers, but with no more local arcades everyone was less vested in fighting games. I had made close friends in the Tekken community and have maintained ties to them since. If it weren’t for them I would have lost interest much earlier than I did.
I still visited my local trading card shop every week because they stocked arcade cabinets like Street Fighter, etc. Every week I would enter the shop and ask if they had received the new Tekken yet. And every week the shop owner would shake his head and say no, not yet. It got to the point where I’d walk in and he’d look up, see me, and just say, “Not yet!”
Tekken 6 had a very long life in the scene. I’m pretty lucky because the Sydney Tekken scene is such a great group of people; I love hanging out with them even when we’re not playing games. But we were all very, very dedicated to Tekken. One of them worked at a camera shop and bought some gear and started recording our matches. We’d study videos, look up players overseas, and improve the local level substantially.
And thus I am brought to the second highlight of my Tekken career: Zhan.
Zhan is known to the Sydney Tekken Community as the walking Tekken encyclopedia. He plays a lot of characters, and he plays them well. He has placed top three in Australian tournaments easily.
So one day at one of our local tournaments I am matched against Zhan. Sure, I thought. He’ll beat me, but I won’t go down without a fight. I’d played against him several times before, and I had seen him play enough to know that at that stage, I wouldn’t have been able to beat him.
Imagine my reaction when I did.
He approached me afterwards and offered to train me to be the (and I quote) “best female Tekken player in Australia”. I politely refused, saying I did not wish to be the best female player, I wished to be the best overall. /cue pokemon theme
I then went on to explain that other games had found my interest by then but appreciated the offer nonetheless.
With the newly acquired recording equipment in the community, I began commentating matches with Australia’s resident champion, MMT.
By the time Tekken Tag Tournament 2 hit arcades, my interest had already been largely captured by my PC.
I have a love/hate relationship with Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Mainly because I have dedicated nowhere near as much time as I did in Tekken 5: DR, when I was at my prime. There’s so much new stuff to learn, and the rest of the scene is so far ahead it’ll be hard work catching up. I’ll admit I’ve lost some enthusiasm for the game and simply do not have the same amount of time as I did before.
I both competed in and commentated Tekken Tag Tournament 2 at Shadowloo Showdown 2012 (Stream starts at 1 hour 5 minute mark), as well as the OzHadou Nationals 2012.
To this day I still enter Tekken tournaments for fun, but I no longer keep up with the game as much as I used to.
Somewhere between Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection and Tekken 6, I was gifted a new PC, one that I had so desperately wanted. I have been a PC gamer my whole life, and with the new upgrade came new opportunities.
Steam was starting to hit its stride around this period and my group of friends and I began to dedicate around thirty hours per week to gaming (I was still a student after all).
Then I stumbled across a local LAN tournament and suggested to the guys that we go check it out. Of the games available for competitive play, we could enter Team Fortress 2. After much convincing needed from me, we dragged our PCs out and entered our very first tournament as a team.
It was when we steamrolled our first opponents when I realised, “Hey, we’re not half-bad”.
Unfortunately technical difficulties (hurray for LANs) prevented us from getting much further than that, but the experience left me with a craving for more. We were good, and I wanted to see how far we could stretch our talents.
Warcraft III is without a doubt my favourite game of all time. I love the storyline, setting, and I loved the custom maps that were born of it – after all, DOTA came from Warcraft 3. I played Warcraft III for so long.
I used 1v1 frequently with one of my teammates, who is now an amazing StarCraft 2 player. Out of my team I loved Warcraft 3 the most, despite the scene being so dead here in Australia. When I discovered that Warcraft III was one of the games available at a local tournament, I entered without hesitation.
In hindsight, I seriously underestimated the level of play that would come from that tiny tournament. I figured nobody played the game anymore and it would be easy prize-grabbing for me. Boy, was I wrong. I rolled through my first opponent easily and then faced off against MiranaKerr. He proved to be too good for me and made short work of our match. He ended up placing second in the tournament.
I honestly had not expected anyone actually skilled to enter and had planned to cheese my way through to the grand final. Imagine my utter disappointment when I did not actually win.
But I learned to no longer to underestimate my opponents. I also met playwithonehand, who had placed first in that tournament. Playwithonehand had previously lost to moonglade in the previous WCG, placing third. He was really nice, helping to analyse my matches and provide constructive feedback on what I needed to improve. He invited me to play on garena with him and ladder there, but I was otherwise occupied with DOTA at the time.
Then Starcraft 2 peaked, and WC3 was all but abandoned.
I’m actually not sure which happened first for us collectively – Dota or CS:S, but I can say with certainty that DOTA (the original) was a huge turning point for me. I played that game a lot. I honestly would not be surprised if I have clocked more than 500 hours over that year of my life in DOTA. I loved that game.
Our first DOTA tournament experience could have gone smoother. It was a poorly run affair.
The tournament was at another local LAN. We played our first opponents and won the game in the standard 45 minutes, except that in the last 10 minutes one of their players experienced technical issues and dropped from the game. He put up an argument against the admins, demanding a rematch. The admins turned to me and said it was my decision.
We had already forfeited from our next round of CS:S in order to play this, so I figured sure: If we could beat ‘em once we could beat them again. I agreed to a rematch. It shouldn’t take long, right?
We agreed to play the same line-ups again. The game swung well in our favour, and we were on the verge of approaching their base for a final push when the power cut on their area, dropping half their team. The way the Warcraft 3 engine worked we could not pause the game and have them reconnect.
So we played again.
We won, again. With setup and game time combined, we had been at it for three hours. Three hours of one match of DoTA. We threw our next match. The guys were tired, I was irritated at how things had gone and our wasted CS:S opportunity. Our opponents were less then gracious, especially since I had fixed Warcraft 3 for them so that they could participate in the tournament in the first place. To their credit though, the captain shook hands with us.
After that experience, we took an extended break from DoTA.
It was nearly a year later before we entered our second DoTA tournament. I figured a 3v3 would be right up our lane. We could sub in players when needed. It wouldn’t be another three-hour long test for just one round.
Despite our extended break from the game, we managed to fight our way to the grand final. During the course of the competition some of the team had to leave and attend to real-life matters, and we were down to the three of us. Right before starting, our third player received an urgent call and had to leave for twenty minutes. I stalled as long as I could, but the opposing team were pushing for us to either start or forfeit.
So I pretended to be our missing member, and we played 2v3.
Our opponents had absolutely no idea. With our LAN setup, we had our PC’s seated three in a row next to each other. We placed our absent member’s PC in the middle, so I could multitask moving his mouse with my left hand and my teammate could hit the hotkeys with his right. We were both multitasking.
It was a bit risky. If the admins had looked over to our area at any time they would have realized what we were up to. It was also the most challenging early game of DOTA I have ever experienced. But we held out.
After one or two deaths to neutral creeps in the jungle (lol) our teammate finally returned, and resumed playing as if nothing had happened. We ended up winning.
I am pretty sure I was grinning like an idiot when we walked on stage to be presented with our prizes. As I turned to my two friends, each of us clutching a prize in our hands, I could tell that the expressions they wore on their faces were identical to the one I wore on my own.
We had finally won a tournament.
I have fond memories of 1.6. I played Counter-strike 1.6 mostly during my school years at our local internet café. Clan warred once or twice, lost horribly. When CS:S was released I had little interest, but eventually bought it to play with my friends.
Our first CS:S tournament was at another local LAN. I had barely begun to play the game at that stage, but we entered the tournament anyway. Me with my ten hours of CS:S experience.
Needless to say, we defeated our first opponents 16-10. It was a hilarious match, comprised of me messing around and doing stupid things like trying to knife an AWP’er. We moved up to the next round to face a team comprised of members of Team Immunity.
They were clearly above our level in skill and we got demolished, but I took it as motivation to improve my CS:S. I’m very lucky in that some of the guys are very good at the game, taking the time to train us. Our training was brief and sporadic but useful.
With about thirty more hours under my belt we entered a few more CS:S tournaments, doing about average. After winning a tiny LAN tournament, we took a short break from the game.
During our extended break from DOTA we shifted to Dota-like game Heroes of Newerth. I have about 100 games on my record, so I didn’t play the game as much as I did DOTA. Regardless, I still enjoyed it. Despite our brief experience with the game, we entered a local HoN tournament and did below-average, going two-and-out. Regardless, it proved to be a fun experience. I met a lot of new people in the esports scene and we had fun.
It was during our last HoN tournament when I witnessed us play the best I have ever seen us play in my entire life.
It was at another LAN – an overnight one that ran for 26 hours. We had stayed up all night waiting for our HoN tournament to start. When we were finally called out for our game it had been a ten hour delay. The tournament was supposed to have kicked off in the evening but by the time we played our first match, the sun had begun to rise. We were all quite tired.
Our first opponents had a member missing and requested to substitute in a professional player from the professional team MindFreak. Bleary-eyed and sleepy, I agreed.
It was at nine o’clock in the morning when we started up. They opened the match with, “Don’t worry guys, their captain is a girl.”
Oh, were they going to pay for that jibe.
I don’t know if it was something we ate, or if we were just reading each other minds or something, but my teammates and myself coordinated and played as one. I hope the replay is saved somewhere. Our opponents were good no doubt, but we worked together better. Every action executed was precise. We were talking calmly to each other and pushing furiously, timing our movements. Not once did the match swing in their favour.
I don’t know how it happened – maybe the stars aligned or something, but we won. We won.
The player from MindFreak, ever professional, waltzed up to us and said, “I can’t believe we lost to you guys.” He was bitter. They didn’t even shake our hands. I gloated, and yawned. Too tired to go on, we pulled out from our next match and started packing to head home.
After that, with a lack of HoN tournaments in the scene, we stopped playing the game.
It would be a long time before we got into playing a game competitively again. Dota 2, now our current title, happened much later. The transition felt very natural to us, and the game had been tweaked to a very polished experience. It was Dota without the limitations, without the disconnect issues. We are currently playing Dota 2 without a fifth member (who has quit to play SC2) and waiting for the next tournament to happen. It’s harder for us to play competitively now – we no longer have the luxury of free time. Some of us work night shifts. Our combined availability makes for organizing tournament play a complete nightmare.
But I still love the game. And as long as we’re having fun, I’ll keep on playing.
Despite the set-backs, I don’t think I could ever leave competitive gaming. The rush of adrenaline, the test of skill, the metagame, it’s all too much fun. It’s a bonding experience. It’s what we do best. It’s rewarding. The reasons are endless. So long as my team is still with me, I’ll always be trying.
See you on the field!