Growing up an only child in the 90’s I had only a few choices.
- To go out and make friends, play in trees, get dirty, and cause general mayhem in my predominately white, suburban neighborhood.
- Stay inside and play video games. All while avoiding general sunlight.
I chose the latter thanks to a game called Dark Age of Camelot(DAoC). DAoC came out October 9, 2001 and it was introduced to me by a family friend in February the following year. I created a Troll Warrior named Aulf and was instantly hooked, not only to the game but to an online community where the sky was the limit.
Camelot was not esports ready nor was created with the new budding esports community in mind. However, it did open my eyes to the online gaming community. After reaching ‘Max’ level in DAoC and running countless farm groups and Artifact hunts I decided to pick up on something different. Once I knew I had done enough research, about 2 hours’ worth, I decided on a game called Call of Duty (2003), a name that has become synonymous in nearly every household in America now days. Back then Call of Duty(CoD) was a game that flew under everyone’s radar and was generally unheard of.
I played through the Single Player and, like everyone else who played at the time, I thought I was the Derek Jeter of Call of Duty and jumped right into Multiplayer on old school Punkbuster Protected Servers. I was immediately put in my place by the people who were able to get the game at release. I tried not to let it get to me and kept grinding up and trying to better myself and my skills. I was only 12 at the time and still had school to go to in the morning but I would still be up until 4 or 5 in the morning playing until I heard my Mom get up and then it was a feat trying to get to bed and look asleep before she came to check on me (I got pretty good at it!). The Next thing I knew I had met a few people playing on the same servers and we began talking about creating a team. This was my introduction to what would later be called “Esports”.
To play CoD1 competitively you needed at least a 5-person team but it was always good to have a backup or two since most of us had school and parents to appease. Competition was based around Capture the Flag(CTF) and actually had a lot of thought and strategy put into it. A few of the guys on the team came from Counter Strike and had competitive knowledge and knew what it took to make a winning strategy. Listening to them talk about strategy and seeing the strategies put in motion left me awestruck. Right away I was enamored by the simplicity of playing a video game competitively and the community that was created around the game. Our team had practices on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday and I was there every night. We would hop in our VOIP server like Ventrilo or TeamSpeak and run down what we would be working on each night. The captains tried to run our team as close to a traditional sports team as possible. Friday and Sunday nights were match nights and I had never been that nervous just minutes before the match would start. We never really accomplished much in the first ‘league’ we played in but I learned more about what Esports really was and what it could offer and that would mold me into what my core beliefs are to this day.
In late October 2005 Call of Duty 2 was released and I was the first in line at my local Wal-Mart to get the game. Much to my surprise, and maybe even yours dear reader, there was no line. I was caught up in the community I had come to love and appreciate that I forgot that no one else in the ‘real’ world, really cared or even knew what Call of Duty was. That didn’t stop me. I picked up the game, rushed home to install it, and then spent the next 2 weeks playing. Every unused waking hour was spent practicing and perfecting my craft.
Early the following year I began to really devote myself to getting better, coming up with strategies and what we would call ‘set nades’. Set Nades allowed you to stand in a specific spot on the map, aim your cursor at a seemingly random spot on the screen, and letting the grenade(nade) go where it would fly through the air and blow up perfectly in a spot that was common for people to sit and shoot from. I was immersing myself in the game, I wanted to learn any and everything that had to do with the game competitively. Eventually I was knowledgeable enough and decent enough of a player to start trolling forums and trying out for teams. I did a countless number of tryouts and never got a response back after the tryout. As a 14-year-old boy this was demolishing to my ego and I took a break from gaming all around. But this would not last long as I would be getting a call back from one of the first teams I tried out for very soon.