Well I had fun in Mexico but I'm glad to be back home. Competing in Mexico was an all new experience that really made me appreciate how good we have it here in the U.S. You thought games were expensive here? You complain about having to pay $300 for an Xbox but what if you had to pay over $550 for the system and $100 for each game? That's right... in Mexico gaming is probably one of the most expensive professions you can have. With technology being outrageously overpriced the gamers in Mexico take every gaming tournament VERY seriously because they have some serious money to make up for all of the money they've invested into pursuing gaming as a career. Just wanted to touch base on this probably unknown fact and say that I appreciate the dedication of Mexico's players and highly respect all of them. And now... for details on my trip!
Sept 11th 8:30 am Los Angeles, CA LAX Airport
I'm at the airport. It's sooo early! Time to leave for mexico. I thought I'd be able to sleep on the flight but I found out I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork explaining my purpose to the country and such. This was my first time flying out of the country so I was completely oblivious to how everything worked. I was pretty happy I decided not to bring my xbox at this point in time since I saw how much of a hassle it was getting electronic devices on the flight.
12:00 noon Jalisco, Guadalajara, Guadalajara Airport
I push the button and it turns green *phew* I can pass into Mexico! I walk through the long walkway filled with people holding signs for their loved ones. Somehow I pass the guy holding the WCG sign without knowing it and was heading for the doors to outside when all of a sudden I hear "CIJI!!!" I look around and see none other than WCG Ultimate Gamer's Jamal "Zophar321" Nickens! He told me that he was there to fill in for Robert "Prod1gy X" Paz for Halo3. I had no idea he was coming so this was a pleasant surprise. Jamal is definitely one of the most fun of the group to hang out with. I noticed that there was extra baggage next to Jamal... Mark "applesauce" Smith had arrived with Jamal but was away at the moment. I checked in with the man in charge, Laurent, and we awaited Geoff "iNcoNtrol" Robinson. I greeted Geoff with a huge hug and was extremely happy that I was with my friends again. TEAM USA! we said... this is it! We left for our hotel and talked about the gaming community and what we've been up to since the show.
Later that night we stopped by the venue to check out the setup and check in on the progress of the Mexican country finals. We were all pretty impressed with Mexico's skilled players and all admitted that we probably underestimated our competition. A lot of people came up to us (the ultimate gamers) and asked where we're from. "USA" we respond, and the guys talk about which game they are there to play. This next part... it happened literally 6 or 7 times... The person then turns to me and says "...and you're here to cheer them on?". I chuckle and point to my badge... "I'm here to compete in Guitar Hero" to which almost all of them responded "Oh my gosh I'm so sorry... I mean... I didn't mean that like... " they then stumbled on their words. "It's ok" I responded. The USA Team leader jokes around and says "It's cuz you're a girl (lol)". "I've never seen a female competitor at WCG before is all." they say. I was amazed how many times they said this. I'm hoping that in the future there are more females at these events, and not just to watch. This shouldn't be unusual to people...
Geoff, Jamal and I take some time to do some Ultimate Gamer Rock Band 2. We choose Paramore's song "That's What You Get" since that was a song that Swoozie kind of helped to make our Ultimate Gamer official Rock Band 2 song on the show. :D We missed ya Swoozie! That song was dedicated to you!
We go back to the hotel after grabbing some food and I immediately work out an agreement to practice Guitar Hero with the Canadian GH player Dan. Luckily Mark brought his Xbox and I had my guitar and the Dan just happened to have a copy of GH: World Tour even though he had no xbox with him. (It's crazy how that worked out!) We played together and he told me which songs he thought would be in the competition. After practicing for a while I had beaten him on some songs but he still always beat me on points for nearly every song. This guy was good... I looked at it as HE was going to be the guy to beat here in Mexico.
Sept 12th Guadalajara, Guadalajara Convention Center
We arrive at the convention center and prepare for the flag ceremony practice run. Jamal had requested to be the flag carrier the day before so he was carrying the US flag. 13 countries chose the best players to represent their countries for each game. Mexico had the major upper hand in the competition since each country was allowed to have up to 3 people representing their country for each game but most countries couldn't afford to fly that many players out, Mexico was the only country to have multiple people representing their country for each game. It was at this point we realized our Virtua Fighter 5 player never showed up so we had no representation in that game. We played some games while we waited for the opening ceremony to begin.
Once the opening ceremony was finished we all ran to our perspective games to prepare to compete. I was upset to find that the Guitar Hero World Tour setup was on a huge tv and not just that... they had a sound system hooked up to it. Why is this an issue you ask? Well Guitar Hero is a game based on timing. With huge LCD, Plasma, etc tv's there is some video lag. When you add a 5 speaker sound system to the mix and have no audio coming out of the tv you then add the element of audio lag. We attempted to calibrate the tv the best possible and even fixed the xbox settings and in game settings to make up for the fact that it was not even set to HDTV when we arrived. No matter what we did there was no fixing the lag... this tournament would end up being determined by who can adjust to the lag best. Mexico, again, had the upper hand since they had been practicing on this setup for the past couple days.
Around 2pm I did an interview with a news station from Brazil called GlobalTV about my style and gaming/ competing. I have to find that interview and post it on here for you guys to check out! It was short, but they interviewed a lot of competitors so I'm curious to learn more about them and their thoughts on the event.
As the day goes on our Halo team loses. Unfortunately they do not move onto day 2, but they ended up placing 5th. I am not adjusting to the lag well, and the matches are somewhat close, but I was not performing anything close to how I was playing the night before in the hotel room when practicing with the Canadian Guitar Hero player. After some matches I was done for the day and had to wait for Sunday for the rest of my matches, so I moved over to the Rock Band area to practice for the tournament they were doing. At this point our Fifa player was out of the competition and Geoff was struggling not to be eliminated.
As the event came to an end StarCraft matches were still going on. Geoff finally won a match which gave him a chance for a tiebreaker match. He won his first match, lost the second then won the third. One more time Geoff! We sat by his side all night as he fought... then he finally did it. Geoff moved onto top 3 and moves on to finals the next day! YAY!
Sept 13th 10:00pm Guadalajara, Dubai Night Club
WCG set up a VIP party for the players at Dubai. This club was AMAZING! I'm not a big party person but I went because I figured this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with some amazing gamers and it was really the ONLY time that Geoff, Mark, Jamal and I would would have hang out together outside of the tv show. (with the only exception being that I hung out with Jamal a little bit at E3) Team USA, Team Canada and Team Mexico along with some of Team Brazil showed up to the event and we all got to know each other and learned more about how gaming is in other countries. We had a ton of fun dancing and chatting it up in the VIP area and then headed back to the hotel at about 3am.
10:00am Guadalajara, Guadalajara Convention Center
Well it's the day of finals. Guitar Hero is wrapping up. I have had enough of the lag... it's even worse today not to mention literally 10feet away from our area are two HUGE speakers blaring the WCG theme song. I love that song and all... but after listening to it for 4 hours straight I had grown tired of it. They had to turn the sound up for the game so loud that it blew out the speakers making it hard to hear the songs and making it even worse to play on. I'm done with World Tour so I run over to the Rock Band 2 area and sign ups were closed for the tournament. I ask the people running the tournament if they can squeeze me in. I had come late due to the GH tournament but they let me enter so I was last to go and wouldn't have a chance to practice any more. Many of the GH players that were competing in World Tour entered along with Mexico's top GH players from the Mexican national finals from the first day so I had some tough competition. Luckily when I stopped playing World Tour earlier this year I had grown super fond of and played a LOT of RB2.
The tournament was set up by the organizers picking the song and the players each had to do their best on the song to score the most points possible. This style of competition is usually called SCORE ATTACK. I was super nervous because Mexico was currently in the lead with the most points. The final song: Testament "Souls of Black". I'm watching people fail at the solo thinking to myself... "oh gosh please just make it through the solo without needing overdrive!" The lag on the tv's is minimal so I'm ok. I get 93% on the solo and I'm missing a couple hammer ons here and there because I'm still used to the wider note hit window of GH but I start fixing my mistakes pretty fast. I'm nearing the end of the song and notice I'm still about 13k below the highest scorers points... I save up overdrive hoping for just one more to fill it up and deploy on the final set of double notes to surpass the highest score by near 20k and the crowd went wild. It was awesome to have the crowd cheer for me once I won. I got a lot of handshakes and "congrats" after I collected my prizes. :D
The competitions are over. In the end USA had not performed as well as we had hoped. The only person placing top 3 was Geoff who pulled out an amazing win after a bad losing streak in the beginning. We watched a video which showed the past 2 days of competition at the Pan American Championships and I was excited to see that they showed me in the video for Guitar Hero about 1 min 50 sec in. (see below) The medals were awarded and we showered Geoff with praise for his great accomplishment.
Team USA results:
Halo 3- Mark/Jamal 5th
Guitar Hero World Tour- Ciji 7th
Virtua Fighter 5- Unknown No show
Fifa- Unknown Unknown
StarCraft- Geoff 2nd
Rock Band 2- Ciji 1st
After everyone collected their checks and the event was closing up I got SWAMPED for photos. From magazines like UrBeat to the other competitors. I had never experienced something quite to this extent before. In Mexico I was treated with so much respect and got a lot of praise for what I'm accomplishing and hoping to accomplish in the gaming industry. I did an interview with Joseph from GAME ON! a Costa Rican company that sells games/ accessories and such but also runs events and keeps the gamers up to date on events and gaming news. I had a great time talking to him about the event, what I'm hoping to accomplish in the gaming community and even was asked to come out to Costa Rica to go to one of their events! It was a great end to the event and I was a bit bummed that I had to leave the next day.
After all the photo ops were done and the interview was completed the USA crew headed back to the hotel. We took some time to bond again by playing some Street Fighter 4 in the hotel lobby since we decided to pull an all niter before catching the shuttle early in the morning to the airport. I was really happy I got to spend that time in Mexico with everyone... it was truly a learning experience for me and it was also an amazing opportunity for me to meet some GREAT competitors and amazing people.
Thank you WCG for making this happen! But I do have one thing to say... Samsung... please bring some CRTs to the US National Finals... I promise you the finalists will love you FOREVER if you do! Thanks again!