Back in My Room


When I’m on stage with my team, I can’t hear the fans.

The game sound in our headsets is cranked all the way up.

I’ve got four other guys calling out the other team’s movements and spawns.

I’m in the zone, so that’s all I hear.

But I know the fans are there, because I can feel them. And not in some like, Oh, I feel their presence in the room, sort of thing. I legit feel that they’re there. It’s in my feet. That’s where the vibrations hit. When there’s a hype moment, or a big clutch, I don’t hear the roar — I feel it.

It’s really sick. That’s how you know that whatever just happened was a big play. In competitive Call of Duty, there are a million things going on. Especially in the respawn game types. It’s all happening a hundred miles an hour and I can’t see what everyone is doing at all times. So, when I feel that rumble in my feet, I know. I just know. Big play alert. I miss that pretty bad right now. Like all sports and esports in North America, we haven’t been able to play in front of fans since the COVID-19 lockdowns started.

To perform on the biggest stage … playing the game you love … competing against the best in the world. That’s what esports are all about. That’s what we live for.

For gamers, playing online is not a completely new idea. Online play is familiar to all of us because it’s how we spend the majority of our time grinding the game. I think, as our league prepares for something completely new — an 0nline championship — many of us players will be reminded of where we came from, and what it was like to play big games when nobody was watching.

You see, before I was on the big stage, before I was a world champ, before I was trying to go back-to-back, I was in my room.

When I feel that rumble in my feet, I know. I just know. Big play alert. I miss that pretty bad right now.

My room was right across from my parents’ when I was growing up. We lived on Long Island. Our house was just outside Oceanside, New York. It was me, my parents and my older brother. I mentioned that my room was near my parents’ because, if you game, you know … that’s just not ideal. There were a LOT of nights I’d be up way late playing GameBattles — basically low-low-level, competitive CoD – or just running pubs and my parents would give a knock on the door.

“Chris … you just gotta stop screaming.”

Like I said, when my headset is on, I’m in the zone.

But my parents were the best, for real. Mom was a nail technician at a salon in town, and Dad worked for UPS for like 30 years, I think. He’s retired now. Back when I was younger, it was actually my dad who got the ball rolling with gaming for me. We used to have a Nintendo GameCube and we would play lots of Super Mario Party and games like that. Dad was actually kind of good with it, too. Any of the tapping games where you just had to hammer on a few buttons, he was pretty good. He was more of an outdoorsman than a gamer, but he did love some Nintendo.

Eventually, I outgrew the Nintendo. When I moved up to bigger, newer, consoles, I started playing more CoD with my IRL friends. (That means “in real life,” for the boomers in the chat.). I went to school with some guys who were pretty good, and we got into the search-and-destroy scene. SnD, as it’s known, is a game type within CoD. You have one life — no respawn — and it’s super intense. It’s where you separate the men from the boys. When I was in middle school, the SnD scene was just crazy. In Black Ops II, my friends and I would play GameBattles.

I just remember thinking how cool it was that something like this actually existed. That my buddies and I could get on, get in a party chat together, and pretend like we were playing for a million bucks against some people we couldn’t see.

In the moment, when you’re that young … when you’re that into it, it just felt so important. It was the best.

CoD is just the best, man.

As I got older, I attended in-person LAN events in and around New York State. My dad took me to every single one. He didn’t know all that much about CoD, but he did everything he could to get a grasp on the scene and really understand what was going on. He’d watch the big matches and try to follow along on streams when he could.

With him at the events, I won locals three years in a row. To win East Coast locals that many times is pretty unheard of, I think. And when I did, I knew I had to take things even more seriously. I knew about the pro scene. I watched the OpTic dynasty win champs in 2017 and it was just … it was the coolest thing ever. I wanted to do that one day.

But it’s tough to make the jump from good SnD player to an actual pro player. You need help.

I got lots from my family and teammates over the years. But somebody who helped in a different way was Clayster. People know him as one of the greatest players of all time and a legend in the community. But, for me, he was also one of my first friends and a mentor. He followed my amateur career and reached out to me a few times. He was always there if I had any questions or needed anything. When he helped get me some attention in 2018 when he was with eUnited, it accelerated my career. Like I always believed deep down I’d make it one day, but without Clay’s help I don’t think I’d have been part of the eUnited team in 2019.

When I finally had a pro contract and a chance to prove myself to the world, it was surreal. It’s crazy that it all just started up in my room one night. A game turned into a passion, a passion into grind, a grind into a career. Pretty cool.

It’s tough to make the jump from good SnD player to an actual pro player. You need help.

That year with eUnited was a whirlwind. From making my debut in London and making it to the finals of that event, to learning what it meant to be a pro, to eventually winning worlds — I mean, I really couldn’t have asked for a better rookie year. Being able to learn alongside all those guys: Preston, Alec, Clay, Tyler — it just helped me a ton.

That champs was special, too, because it was the last one before the Call of Duty League launched.

Tyler Demogenes for Activision Blizzard

It’s been a really interesting year to be a part of all this, and we’ve made some big steps toward having a great league for years to come. There’s not a lot the CDL could have done to keep play going through the pandemic, but they’ve handled it well.

The one thing that everybody in esports needs right now is adaptability. And that’s what we, as players, have. There are no esports athletes who go through nearly as much change as CoD players do — and our adaptability is one of the reasons I think our league is going to have success.

We all just love CoD. And we want it to be as good as it can be — as big as it can be. That’s all.

All of us pro players in the Call of Duty League knew that, with the way the pandemic was trending, there was a good chance champs would be moved to an online format. Which is what happened, but we’re still thankful to be able to compete for a big prize. We just have to do it at home.

It’s going to be weird, for sure. I won’t be on Long Island anymore. I live in Atlanta now with my girlfriend (shout out, Jerika, if you’ve read this far). I think I’ve got a good chance to win champs again because our Atlanta FaZe roster is full of guys who can play under any conditions. Online or on LAN, we can bring it.

It’s going to be like old times. Just some buddies in a party chat (shout out, Discord), sitting in their rooms, playing against some guys they can’t see. Except this time, everything’s on the line, it all matters and it’s all over a million bucks.

But still. Been there, done that. Right?

Call of Duty.

It’s the best.