Today I turn 21 years old..
The last few years have been a blur, but recently I had a chance to tell the story for the first time in a while. It actually happened this past weekend. vVv staff was all visiting LA for the weekend for MLG, LCS and to get aligned on strategy. Naturally, I’m not a very open or vulnerable person, but after sharing and seeing the reaction of the room - I realized how important the two are in building relationships and trust between people. I’d now like to share that same story with the World.
So here goes nothing . . .
I discovered vVv Gaming back in June of 2007 after joining a random Public Lobby in Gears of War. I remember it vividly. The map was canals and I was immediately welcomed by the voices of vVv members, applicants and the application manager at the time, vVv Woody56292jr. I had known of clans before from when I played socom on gamebattles a few years back, but had not encountered any on the console before. Woody did a great job explaining what vVv was and told me to check out the website if I was interested in joining. The website, which I learned was designed by a member of the community named “Froot” had an image of their Gears of War team winning a big tournament in New Jersey. I thought to myself, “These guys are legit, I want to one day become as good as them and learn everything I can from this community.” I submitted an application, and the rest was history from there. I was banned from the shoutbox several times, had my application closed due to a very immature attitude. Looking back, I was a terrible teammate and just a brat kid who thought he knew more than he did.
Although I departed from vVv before I was ever really accepted back then, they introduced my to competitive gaming, specifically the Gears scene. I took my application being closed as motivation to improve as a player and person. I played every single day that Summer for at least 6 hours on gamebattles and in scrims with friends. I attended my first major event in 2007 which in Toronto and ended up placing 4th. Not too shabby.
Local Lan in Connecticut
Fast forward about a year later, I ran into a player named Sun Down who was apart of vVv’s Gears division. We both hadn't earned “Pro Status” yet, but we hit it off right away and decided to work together with two other players in Enmity and Demon. This was our team, and the tournament we were preparing for was the next MLG event on the 2008 pro circuit in Toronto. Because Sun Down was already apart and vVv, we decided to approach them to represent a community because we knew they could help us take our game to the next level with their history in the Gears scene. I still remember that interview with Jerry and I know he knew that I was the same brat kid who had his application closed and was banned in the past, but he gave me that shot to redeem myself. We had the spot and were the 2nd Gears team for vVv at that time. That team was called vVv Destiny. Remember that name for later in the story.
Our team actually stuck together for the months leading up to the event and we were really confident in our strategies and teamwork. I still remember some of the late nights coordinating with Nick (Enmity) how we would play the host spot and secondary positions together to focus down someone trying to go for the mid pillar or sandbag push strat. We went to the event and actually had a to get a last minute replacement at the event for Demon because he sketched out. We grabbed Mephisto from another team and were ready to go. No practice with him at all, we had to change our strats, but we knew his rawl skill would definitely fill in for that.
vVv Destiny at MLG Toronto ‘07
We placed 9th at this event, which was a big accomplishment for all of us since it was of the most competitive events of the year and of course with our circumstances of using a last minute replacement.
The team stuck together, but made a roster change with bringing in Storm for Sun Down. Our next big event was closer to home for me in New York City at the Samsung Experience Center for WCG. I took the train down from Connecticut and stayed with my sister in the city. This event was on the newly released Gears of War 2 and we took 2nd at this event as an invitational team.
After this event, the team was working towards the next level and my attitude was letting not allowing the team to perform at their best. I was released from the team and got involved with several other competitive titles such as Socom, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. I still hung around vVv, but was not nearly as involved as I was when I was competing. I was very competitive in these games as well, hitting gladiator in WoW on multiple accounts and holding the Crown in Socom for the longest out of any team that season. I became back involved with vVv again for Call of Duty, where I lead the first community team “vVv Essence. to a victory in the MLG NYB online tournament.
After Call of Duty wasn’t supported with any LAN events, I stopped playing games all together. This was all around my Junior year in High School. I switched back to Public School from a Tech Program and went on to try to lead an ordinary life, without gaming. I had a lot of catching up to do because I was away from those friends for several years, but I tried my best to be “normal” and live up to the social expectations of a Senior. I went out, hosted a few parties and built relationships. Summer just started. I just graduated, turned 18, got accepted into the school I wanted to attend and got a brand new car.
I was living the ordinary life. Not in contact with anyone from vVv or gaming at all, I thought this is what I wanted. Fourth of July was around the corner, and I thought it would be a good idea to drink and drive. Long story short. I drove home from a party by myself, hit a car and then drove home with the front end of my car scraping against the pavement. When I pulled into my driveway, the cops were already there. I refused the breathalyzer test and started talking to them about my times as a competitive gamer. They took me to jail and then later the Hospital. I was charged with Reckless Driving, Driving in the Wrong Lane and Driving Under the Influence.
Thousands of dollars in lawyer fees later, two of the charges were dropped and was license was suspended for one year. I had to take classes and immediately accept a ton of responsibility to not only pay my family back, but also get my life together. This accident turned around my life. It was a wake up call. That Summer, I worked every day with my Dad and then later got a job at Panera. For the next two years, I commuted to school my train every Monday and Wednesday. Woke up at 6am took a bus to a train, to a shuttle and then another bus. I would get home at about 9pm.
Around this time, I reached out to Jerry to tell him my story and see if I could get back involved with my passions: gaming and esports. I was paying very little attention to the scene, but it just felt right to go back home to vVv. I began writing articles and blogs just to share my competitive gaming thoughts and stories. The blog hit 30,000 views at one point, but by then I wanted to get more and more involved with vVv staff. At this point, I was getting advice from my sister and parents that I shouldn’t do vVv stuff for too long as it was unpaid work and wouldn’t provide me with anything. I also had the urge this entire time to go out and party with friends, but I stayed focused and stuck to my gut. With vVv, I wanted to help players who had the same challenges I did as a player and help them be successful. I ran tournaments, write articles, consulted on team decisions and did whatever I could to help vVv become a better organization. All of my energy outside of work and school (and even sometimes in school, see photo above) was focused on that goal.
About a year and a half later, I became the VP of Operations at vVv Gaming. Two weeks later, Jerry announced that he was joining Riot Games as the Director of People.
Fast forward to the Season 3 World Finals for League of Legends, I made the trip out to LA to visit Jerry and Jordan at their new apartment. During this time, Jordan and I were working on a project called the Experience Initiative which was focused on providing teams and staff opportunities to work in the gaming industry. While we were watching the World Finals that year, Forbes had released an article about our project with an interview - I lost it. It wasn’t the attention or article, the emotion that hit me was the culmination from that first GoW Public match, to the MLG events, DUI accident and to now. Jerry looked at me, and we both felt it. We both knew at the very moment that vVv Gaming was a very special place. For some reason, at that moment, Jerry also saw something in me and decided to offer me to come live out in Los Angeles to pursue my own personal goal of working in the gaming industry full time.
Season 2 World Championship
I landed back in New York City to stay with my sister that weekend and told her about the trip. I mentioned that it could be a possibility of me leaving school in Connecticut to come to LA to work on vVv. There were a lot of concerns about leaving school, or how I would manage out there on my own. She suggested that I study abroad in Germany like she did and I was tempted. I kept it to myself for a while because I wasn’t sure how my parents would react, but then, when my Grandma was visiting I told her all about it. We sat down with my parents and sister to explain my decision and the opportunity. About a week later it was December 15th and I had a one way ticket to LA…
I'll be releasing the full story throughout the next few days. Do you have a vVv story? Share it with us!