Three Days at QuakeCon
The following journal details the time that I spent at QuakeCon this past weekend.
I arrived in Dallas Fort Worth around 3:30 after 6 hours worth of plane rides with little idea of what I was going to be doing next, beyond the potential for an interview with CVH (about which I had emailed him earlier and had not yet received a response) and nebulous information about dinner with Endozoa and Chris.
After waiting an hour outside baggage claim for the shuttle to arrive from the Hyatt in Grapevine, I made it to and unwound in my hotel room. When finally I got a response from CVH about our interview plans, I took the shuttle to the convention center. I received a message from Endozoa saying that he and the gang were going to the lobby to “meet for dinne” [sic].
I wandered around the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center for a few minutes until I wandered right by where Endozoa was with his TRS gang, the few other Masters Series competitors who were there (Kara, Thuldir, Booms, Super, Wita, and Frenzy), as well as Charmer, CVH, Silver, Eolis, Ianbits, and a bunch of other people who I didn’t know yet.
See, that’s the funny thing about the internet age: you know people only through a screen, where you can see their face and hear their voice, but all they know of you is text on a screen. You can be standing inches away from them, and they’d never know it. Beyond Endozoa, who recognized me by voice, I stood feet away from Eolis (who had been excited to meet me), CVH (who I had earlier arranged an interview with for that night), and Karakondzhul, whose streams I’d come to frequent, and who happened to be at that very moment messaging me back. In this age of internet solipsism, where it’s so easy to forget that the people you see online are real individuals, it’s such a crazy and surreal experience to be with them in the flesh.
Eventually, Lyser declared that it was time for “all the TESL.nerds to head to dinner (and CVH has said he’ll play piano for us afterwards),” and CVH protested, “I never said that!” About time: I was pretty hungry. Before, I had been standing around awkwardly not knowing what to do. Now, since people were walking, I got some of the missing introductions out of the way.
At dinner, I introduced myself to Ian, Eolis, Jason, and Charmer, and sat down at the table where the TRS gang and I discussed current TESL events and more. It was an amazing time talking to everyone, even as I kept nagging Lyser with parts of my life story.
After dinner, I spoke briefly to CVH, and we agreed to do our interview the following day in the early morning rather than that night. I went back to the hotel.
I arrived at the convention center sometime around 8:30. Inside, I spotted Endozoa as I waited around the registration booth to get my Quakecon wristband replaced (they’d given me the regular one rather than the QdQ which I had paid for). I said hello and good morning, and after we exchanged greetings he went off into the event hall to meet with Super and discuss their game plan.
I got my wristband replaced and took my place inside the event hall, sitting up in the stands with the big boys. At some point before the show began, Corey Millhouse came sprinting around, giving everybody a high five. Somehow he already knew my name and face, though I didn’t know his: he introduced himself to me. I was touched.
I sat in the back on the high elevated platform for the first couple of games, partially out of respect to Endozoa and his TRS teammates, trying to give them their space, and also because I like not having to strain my neck to see the big screen. After a while though, I came down from the platform to sit with the players.
I enjoyed having the company of Karakondzhul for the duration of the viewing that he wasn’t playing. You already know how the games went, though: you probably watched them yourself. I won’t bother to recap them for you here. I felt bad for Wita after his 0-3 to Kara, even though I was rooting for Kara to win: “I didn’t draw a single fucking negation,” is something I’ve said myself many times. I cheered for Booms as he took his victory over Super. I laughed alongside the others at the various graphical and audiological mishaps.
I will admit that I was crushed by Kara’s defeat by Thuldir (he was my favorite to win). Thuldir deserved it, of course: they’re both amazing players, after all. Again, though, there’s really something special about just being there alongside all of these guys, just chatting with them while watching live a sport you have a high investment in.
After the match between Booms and Super, I interviewed Kara. He gave some great answers (you check them all out here).
After the matches were all over, I hung around for a while, waiting for the post-show to start (little did I know that there was no post-show, and that Lazer had gotten pranked), after a while getting pretty nervous that I had missed my chance to interview CVH and at one point sneaking back stage to see if he was actually there. He agreed to take the interview then and there before going off to dinner with his friends. It was wonderful getting the opportunity to talk to him: he’s a great guy, and a lot of fun to talk to. I would have spoke with him longer if there had been time (and if the AC inside of the convention center weren’t freezing me to death).
I arrived at the convention center at 9:30, having agreed to meet Thuldir at 10:00 for his interview, along with Boomslife, whose contact information I didn’t have. Fortunately for me, I ran into Boomslife outside the hotel lobby, a bit before Thuldir showed up. We did our interview immediately (you can check that out here). I chatted with Booms for a bit, until Thuldir came walking by. I sprinted off to grab him, then dragged him back over to where Booms and I had done our interview at the bar in the hotel lobby. Thuldir gave a short and sweet interview, though he spoke very softly. I was listening as hard as I could, yet barely heard him above the roar of the fountain (though as you’ll find while listening to the interviews, it was difficult to find a quiet place for each one). You can listen to Thuldir’s interview here.
After this, I went upstairs to see the exhibit hall. Beyond a guy carrying a stack of boxes all stylized to look like companion cubes, there wasn’t much for me to see in the hall beyond the Doom Eternal demo: but, having paid for the QdQ, I went ahead and got my fifteen minutes playing Doom Eternal. I died a lot during the demo, illustrating, I think, how difficult the game can be, even for a guy like me with lots of FPS experience. But the gameplay was incredibly immersive, putting you right in the shoes of the demon killer as you snipe down demon scum from afar, get up close and personal and slice them down with your chainsaw to get ammo, and punch them to pieces to get back health. It was a blast.
About halfway through my time playing the demo, I glanced to my side and found that quite serendipitously I sat down right next to Fafal. Once the guy running the demo called out that the time was over, I gave Fafal a tap and said good morning.
Fafal and I walked over to sit in the esports hall where just eighteen hours earlier he and the other contestants finished up the last few games of the Master Series. He gave an excellent interview, which you can listen to here. Once we were done there, I messaged Endozoa about getting lunch, and I headed up to the tabletop section on the third floor: I had an itching to play Keyforge.
For those of you who don’t know what Keyforge is (which I believe is most of you), it is the first of its kind: a new type of game designed by Richard Garfield, creator of Magic (among many other games), called a unique deck game, in which rather than building their own decks, each pack contains one entire randomly generated deck which is unique to itself and cannot be interchanged among other cards you have. As for the gameplay of Keyforge itself, while it does have creature combat in it, it is not itself a creature combat game. It is rather an engine building game focused around exploring the unique synergistic combo potential of each individual deck.
Being as it is that I haven’t played very much, I’m not very good at it. Out of the six games I played, I won exactly zero. Part of the skill necessary to play a card game is having the encyclopedic knowledge of every card you can run into, to know what is in a player’s deck and to be able to play around it. I got my ass handed to me during the sealed section by guys who pulled way better decks than I did.
Overall, I earned myself 10 aember tokens for playing, enough to actually be able to use them in a game of Keyforge. Not bad.
By this point, I’d received word from both Endozoa and Karakondzhul that they were playing MTG cube draft in the hotel lobby. Unfortunately, by the time I got over to where they were, the chilling cold of the convention center had gotten to me again, and I had a shivering headache. I said hello to the guys, then went back outside to the food trucks to get myself some dinner.
My mood and energy having somewhat returned to me, I went back to the gang to join them as they went to the in-hotel Italian restaurant. I finally got my opportunity to talk to TDCJason, and I sat next to him and Flow in the restaurant as I drank a tonic water. I got to learn from him a bunch of stuff about card design, have an interesting conversation about the state of the game, nerfs and buffs, learn why there will never be a good regenerate card (and also that Emeric, Covenant King’s ability is basically original regenerate from alpha), and I got to share with him a new game design podcast he had never listened to before.
The gang of Kara, Ian, and Wita finally showed their faces, along with Eolis, and we all walked back to the hotel lobby. At this point, I was finally able to get three of the remaining four missing interviews, and in short order too (in large part thanks to Boomslife’s pestering me to get it done): Frenzy, Flow, and finally, Wita. They all gave fantastic interviews, in particular Wita, who spoke with great eloquence for someone wasn’t speaking their native language. Definitely my favorite interview by far (up to that point). The last interview, unfortunately, was going to take me a while to get: Super’s.
Having in my mind finished all the interviews I believed I was going to get, I planned on staying for a while. I wanted this night to never end.
Eolis, Ian, Wita, Frenzy and I sat down to play some games. We started out with a game Eolis was very excited to show us, called Last Card: basically Uno, except with a regular 52 card deck. Unfortunately for Eolis’ plans though, having five players must have screwed something up, because due to the rules (each consecutive five played means the next player must draw five cards, with the five cards stacking onto the next player in line with each player to play a five), and the first card being played being a five from Ian, followed by a five from Wita, followed by a five from me, Frenzy ended up being forced to draw 15 cards for not being able to play anything, causing him to instantly lose and forcing Eolis to stop everything and start stuttering something about the rules (“Well, Frenzy’s broken it. I’ve played this game since childhood and this has never happened to me before.”), and forcing her to shuffle the stack in and draw new cards because she had a two and had to draw two cards. That game was a hilarious disaster.
We followed that up with some BS, prompted by Ian saying, “No, we’re not playing this again.” That game ended poorly (for me), as I tried playing it honestly, got down to three cards, had to pass, discovered I couldn’t, and was forced to put the entire stack into my hands (T_T, I believe, as the kids say nowadays). Frenzy won that game, to get back at us for his previous loss.
Finally, it was time for what I had been waiting for all three days: Silver and Ian took out their Switches, and we played smash. I would like to say I whooped their asses with Mr. Game & Watch, my main. And I probably would have too, if we hadn’t played a team match, and my partner hadn’t been Frenzy, who apparently had never played a smash bros game before and left me fighting both Ian and Silver. I put up a good fight, but was eventually laid to rest.
Then Eolis took Frenzy’s place at the joycon. I will let the following photo speak for the game which followed.
After we were done with that, I was left to wander around for a while, chatting with the other TESL.nerds there. I had a good time chatting and laughing alongside the others. I think we played another game of Last Card, or Final Card, or whatever it was called (I finally won one, blessed be the holy RNG).
But I was really just hanging around there waiting to get the last interview checked off of my list: Super’s. Because he was there playing Magic draft with the others (at that point playing against TDCJason), I realized I had the opportunity to finish what I’d started. At last, Super got up from the table, and came to give me his interview. And that was the actual best interview from the weekend. If you have the time, I really suggest giving it a listen right here.
Then Ian left. I was feeling the sting of sleepiness and emotional exhaustion (whatever the hell that is, HAH!). It was time for me to go. I gave my last goodbyes. I gave most of the people there a hug. I had a small tear in my eye. I didn’t want this night to end, but I had to do so on my own terms.
I called the hotel to send the shuttle. It stops running after midnight, I was told.
I jogged back. I had wanted to do that anyways.
Ian. Booms. Frenzy. Surebanker. Alex. Ilia. Chris. Corey. Darick. Wita. Thuldir. Super. Sophie. Silver. Jason. Flow. Lyser. Griffin. (No particular order) I love all y’all, so very much. This has been the happiest I’ve been in five years, and I hope to god I get to do this next year. I love all of you to bits.
Signing off, and with much love,