Rise a n00b

I never really learned what it was to be just a kid. A few months after my first birthday, I had to move with my parents from Quito to Morona Santiago. This province, located deep in the Amazon region of Ecuador, was the place where my father had to do one of his tours as a Lieutenant in the Army. Weather conditions were hard; buckets of water fell from the sky every day, almost all day long. This is something that has not changed at all. Roads were just being built by the army corps of engineers, and the only way to get there was by taking a small biplane that went weekly. It is precisely in this place where my story as a gamer began…

Being the first-born of a very young couple and living in the harsh conditions of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, my life revolved around being happy in a place with many hazards. Mom had a hard time trying to protect me against the dangerous bugs, snakes, and weather native to the region. There was no TV signal, and only one radio station that did not broadcast all the time. You might start wondering, what was fun about all of this? My dad had an Atari 2600 with many of the games I am very fond of even today.

A few months before my second birthday, dad started to show me how to interact with the joystick, and the single orange button in the controller. Playing games like Pitfall, Pac-Man, Tanks, Space Invaders, and many others quickly grew into me. Dad tells me that, despite my young age, I started to understand the effects of moving the joystick and pressing the button on the little pixels dancing on our TV screen. He also noticed the blissful state I entered every time he sat me on his lap to play video games with him. Sadly, that was the last time I played them with him. I will elaborate on why later on this story.

I continued to play my beloved Atari 2600 until I turned three. It was time to move back to Quito, just to learn my dad was reassigned to a small town in the coast. This was something my grandparents did not like very much and decided that this time I was going to stay with them. My mom is the eldest of four siblings: her and her three younger brothers. When I moved in with my grandparents, my life took another turning point. Grandma is a professional pianist. She got me into music, and also taught me how to read and write. It was because of her that I now play piano, violin, and guitar. My youngest uncle also lived with us, and he owned an NES. My thirst for gaming also continued, as we played lots of games together. I blazed through Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Contra, Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda, and many others. The big joystick with a single button became a small rectangular pad with directional buttons, and two action buttons.

By my fifth birthday, I was still living with my grandparents and had a happy life. One of my uncles was graduating from college with his Mechanical Engineering degree. He introduced me to my first computer. This relic was a monochromatic 286 running at a blazing 12.5MHz. It had DOS installed and many of the programs my uncle used during the development of his final project. Among them, there was this amazing thing called QBasic. He was kind and very patient enough to teach me how it worked, what variables and basic control flow structures did. It was mind-blowing! By the time I was six, I could fully understand how to perform basic arithmetic operations. I also learned how to print shapes made out of star characters * in the screen using loops, if statements, labels, goto statements, and more. I just learned my first programming language! I was also very comfortable navigating my way through DOS commands.

The most exciting part of my first computer interactions was to actually discover the infamous cd games and everything inside of that directory. Thanks to my uncle, I played my first PC games, and some of them are quite embarrassing for a six-year-old: Strip Poker (yes, he did play it in front of me and that is how I learned to play Poker), California Games, Sokoban, and Prince of Persia. I was delighted with the latter, the beautiful graphics and animations, dazzling level design, and awesome combat mechanics that made me fall in love.

The Super Nintendo came shortly after that. What great games I played there… Super Mario World, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Mega Man X, all of the Mortal Kombat games of that generation, Super Metroid, StarFox, and the Donkey Kong Country saga. The best years of my childhood were spent with a SNES controller in my hands.

The Nintendo 64 is probably my favorite console ever. My favorite game of all time was released for it and I never felt again what that game made me feel. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time opened my mind to a new whole reality. It even made my English vocabulary richer than my classmates’. I also have to mention Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, International Super Star Soccer 64, Mortal Kombat 4, StarFox 64 and Super Mario 64. Games that filled my teen years with joy and happiness. The kind of happiness I find playing games even to this day. The long hours sitting in front of the TV with friends playing on split-screen are unforgettable.

I also played more PC games. I fell in love with first-person shooters the first time I played Doom and Wolfenstein when I was seven. I remembered I bugged my dad so much so he would buy me a SoundBlaster sound card and a CD-ROM for our old 486 machine. He got them for me after my first report card back in 1993. I installed the card and the CD-ROM unit myself around the time of my eighth birthday. My first real-time strategy games were Dune and Dune 2, fell in love with the genre too. After that, WarCraft came into my world. WarCraft 2: Tides of Darkness and its expansion made me play RTSs almost exclusively for years.

I got even deeper into PC gaming shortly after. Games played and looked better than the ones on my SNES. The first Diablo was just breathtaking. In 1997 the first StarCraft came out and with that game, my first major computer upgrade: A battle-hardened Compaq Presario with a 200Mhz Pentium processor with 16MB of RAM. I cannot even count many games I played on Battle.net and over modem with friends. Countless were my dad’s rants about the phone bills as well, but he always supported my passion and made him proud, so he never grounded me because of that.

Age of Empires 1 and 2 were amazing. The first Unreal Tournament games came out as well. My first taste of competitive gaming happened when WarCraft 3 came out. I played that game a lot with my friends as I was entering my last year of high school. I was beating them all the time.

LG organized a tournament, the LG Latin American Cup, later that year. I remember Quake 3 and WarCraft 3 were among the games in the competition. I was convinced by my friends to participate, but I needed my parents’ consent to do it. It was very hard to explain to them that video game tournaments were a thing. So after much persistence, they gave the chance to go and play. I ended up winning the WarCraft 3 tourney. The prize was a DVD-Writer and a flat screen monitor. I finally ditched my old CRT.

Along the way I also had a PlayStation and PlayStation 2. I was sold on the PS2 the moment I played Grand Theft Auto 3 for the first time at a friend’s house. I started getting into Sony’s franchises as well and games like God of War, Killzone, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro were quickly among my favorites. I also played the first Call of Duty games in both console and PC.

Then the first Xbox then came out and I played Halo, Medal of Honor, and Doom 3. I fell in love with Halo when Halo 2 came out. The Xbox 360 was released a couple of years later and Call of Duty 2 just sucked me in. It was quickly eclipsed by Halo 3. MLG started to be a thing and I followed the first Halo “pros.” I was relatively old for that time compared to how young the first Halo pros were. I was twenty two, and some of them were fifteen – sixteen. I also lived in a country where opportunities like MLG were non-existent. I had to just play online, do GameBattles, and play at local tourneys that did not have the best competitive level.

But I still wanted to make it, and started grinding Call of Duty when Modern Warfare was released. I played COD games so much, I really wanted to make it. It was during Black Ops 2 that I became Master Rank 1 in Legue Play, and never gave up the idea of competing in the US. As my career became more successful, I started making enough money to eventually travel to the US and compete at MLG, and later UMG events. My best accomplishment in COD was placing among the Top 48 teams in 2014 in Call of Duty: Ghosts at UMG Dallas. After that, I stopped playing at events, I was already 29 years old and started moving up career-wise.

A n00b was rising in a time were rudimentary computers and simple games defined who I am today. I got a Computer Science degree and started working professionally as a developer since I was eighteen. I currently work as a Lead Mobile Engineer at an amazing company called FanHero, LLC. I fluently speak Spanish, Italian, English, French, and German. I still play music, focusing mostly on the violin.

Of course I keep playing video games, and as a matter of fact, it is by far my favorite hobby and passion. I have fell in love with Halo again and started following the best SWAT player in the world and one of my best friends today, Danny ‘NapTimez’ Allen, currently ranked Champion 1. I started playing with him; learning and studying his gameplay and taking all of his words of advice to improve. I have also met many amazing and kind people in the SWAT community, many I call my friends now. I just feel at home there. I am happy to say that today I am ranked Champion on the SWAT playlist and have my seat among the Top 200 Halo 5 SWAT players in the world. I still have a long way to go on and to keep improving.

It only took me 33 years (as of this story’s writing) to make the n00b rise, and “nothing’s gonna break my stride” now.

Member of the Top 200 Club

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