Every person has a cool story on how they became part of something amazing. Mine really isn’t that cool, but it’s inspiring to me so here goes.
Before we get into it, though, let’s set the scene briefly. I joined Steam and downloaded Team Fortress 2 on June 24th, 2011, one day after it went free-to-play. I started really getting into the game during the Very Scary Halloween Special. I joined the Steam Users’ Forums or SPUF during one of its legendary community events. In late 2012 I rose to become the head admin of the unofficial server for the community after leading a revival effort.
Notably absent from this brief history is the competitive scene. I had considered it several times, but I was not really poised for it. I mean, I personally hosted a server for competitive use, I donated a server to Ready Steady Pan, and I even tried to start a league (an eternal embarrassment and an everlasting dream that remains with me to this day), but as far as playing myself, I hadn’t. I personally favored Highlander at the time (ha), but it was played by default on Monday nights, and even I knew then that nobody played outside of the default dates. 6v6 in UGC was a bit easier to get into, but I wasn’t really good at any of the standard classes. The closest I got was holding a bunch of Gunslinger vs. Highlander events, but those were more community fun events than anything really competitive.
So the story really begins in the middle of April. I was mostly bored as usual, and I happened to notice that an interesting event called Tip of the Hats was running, some sort of charity event held by the competitive scene. Having not much else to do, I decided to tune in and throw in a few of my own bucks and have a watch, and… well, I had a lot of fun. I watched the various types of events like 6v6 lobbies and MGE and surfing, and it looked really cool. Serendipitously, I found out about newbie mixes and decided to try it out for myself. I played medic because my DM skills were as bad as (or maybe even worse than, if that’s possible) they are now. In the mix I played, we got rolled, but everyone was pretty nice and I learned quite a lot. After that, I went back to watching the stream until it signed off for the night.
The next day was mostly the same, relaxing and watching. Over the course of the day (and of course the previous day) I saw a few names that I recognized, but it wasn’t until the PUG tournament that I really got a surprise - elle2play, who was my pocket soldier the night before in newbie mixes, was laying as the medic for one of those teams. I don’t know why that stuck with me so much, but I think it was just the awe of playing with someone famous. Whatever it was, it helped push me over to playing competitive.
On Monday, I signed up for the teamfortress.tv forums, and on Tuesday I made probably my first real contribution to competitive when I contributed some fixes and minor additions to the recently released MGE 2.0. As far as playing again, I remained relatively low-key, playing newbie mixes until the summer when I subbed in for a UGC Steel team and began a league winless streak that I have yet to break today.
For all of this I have to thank two groups of people. First and foremost is the entire Tip of the Hats team over the past few years. That event in particular is what drove me to become a part of this scene, and I can’t really imagine where I would be if it weren’t for that one magical weekend. They’ve only done better and better over the years, and their dedication continues to inspire me. Hats off to you guys, and keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s amazing.
The second group is the many people who have come together to make newbie mixes happen over the past few years. It truly is a valuable resource in helping people get their feet wet in the community, and nothing else comes anywhere close. I’m not really a success story given my current competitive record, but the many people who have joined the community after being introduced via newbie mixes is enough testament to the success of the program, and certainly some of those students have risen to great heights.
If it weren’t for these two groups, I wouldn’t be here. I can never thank them enough for that.