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The King of the Controller

Jan 28 2019
Photo by
Jordi Muñoz/Dexerto
Photo by
Jordi Muñoz/Dexerto
Jan 28 2019
P

arty chat is the worst thing to happen to gaming.

Seriously.

Do you remember those long nights — I’m talkin’ real scary hours, like 3 or 4 a.m., and you’re in a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare lobby, just bombing strangers with life-ending insults? That flimsy Xbox mic dangling around your neck, maybe some headphones on, or your TV turned down real low so your parents wouldn’t hear?

Those were the days, the days, man. For the kids out there who played too much — my grinders — y’all remember those lobbies.

Then they went and put the party chat system in. Now nobody has a mic on, or they’re just hiding in a party. That’s some nonsense! Get out here, come to the game chat, come get some. That’s what it’s about.

Those were our streets, for real. If you could survive one of those CoD 4 lobbies you were ready for whatever the world was going to throw at you.

And they were our streets because, well, that’s where we hung out. I think, sometimes, people who don’t get gaming — we all know one, or a thousand — don’t understand that the act of playing a game is like going to toss the ball with a friend at the park. Like, those maps were our backyards, y’know?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve retaken three-story on Crash on CoD 4, just having the time of my life. Or tried to get some quick-scopes off near the statue on Strike. Or, man, even change the game up — how ’bout playing some good old-fashioned slayer on Blood Gulch on Halo 2. I grew up on those maps.

When I think of my childhood, I think of those maps — those moments. But it wasn’t all gaming, I had my real-life stuff that I loved. I grew up just north of Seattle in Marysville, and in the late ’90s and early 2000s, kids around that area all had the same hero that united us: Ken Griffey Jr.

That was my dude.

My family and I used to make the 45-minute drive down to the Kingdome (R.I.P.) and eventually Safeco, and I remember just watching that buttery-smooth swing launch dingers into the rightfield stands.

My oh my.

Griffey was so sick, so sick. I played baseball, but I was just a chubby kid who would have rather been sweating it out in Search and Destroy, so it didn’t take me too far. Whatever I was doing, though, I’d turn my hat around backward, and do it with a little Griffey, swag.

Jordi Muñoz/Dexerto

The Kid — my first hero. But this story isn’t about him. The reason I’m writing this is because of my other hero growing up.

Have you guys heard of Ogre 2?

I was big into Halo and CoD when I was a kid. And when I started to get a little better, I began paying attention to the competitive scene. Back then, around 2005, Halo was probably the biggest competitive game domestically. And there was one guy who stood above the rest. He might not like it if I described him like that — It’s a team game and all blahblahblah. But Tom (Ogre 2) Ryan was straight nasty. Also, yes, there is an Ogre 1 — his twin brother, Dan. They were a disgusting duo, and they dominated H2 and a few years later, Halo 3. They played for Final Boss and it seemed like every end-of-year world championship we, the viewers, were just watching the Ogres stomp on some other team.

And Tom was just unreal. He won 40 — 40! — championships during his career. The most ever for a console player.

That man, he’s the real king of the controller.

I knew pretty much from the first time I ever tried to play baseball that I was never going to be as good as Griffey. It just wasn’t in the cards.

But with Tom it was different. I didn’t know if I could become as good as him. But I did know that I wanted to do everything I could to try.

First step: Buy an extra power cord for my Xbox. Because, you see, my parents had this rule that I could only play three hours a day. There was this magic hour, though — actually a few hours, when I’d get home from school before they got home from work. But they’d hide my power cord somewhere around the house … I couldn’t play. So I just went to Gamestop, got my own, and I was back.

I wouldn’t say I was addicted. I just wanted to be the best. I wanted to be Ogre 2.

Eventually my parents sort of got it. Like, O.K., he’s pretty good at this, let’s let him take this a bit further.

And that’s how it went for a while. There were a lot of hours spent on Gamebattles, basically the semi-pro site for players who wanted to be competitive. A lot of grinding. It wasn’t easy. I had jobs on the side to pay for flights and travel to MLG events. I even ended up selling my cell phone for a flight when I was 18 because one of my Halo team sponsors wasn’t paying.

I ended up going to the University of Washington a year later. And, man, let me tell you … I’m STILL tired from the lack of sleep I got in college. I was working at Sports Authority, trying to be pro-level at two games, and writing papers. Thank goodness Twitch wasn’t as popular back then, I might have died.

Chesnot/Getty Images

It was all too much. It was. I couldn’t make enough money, I couldn’t find a team for the next CoD game. I felt like I was at the end of the road. In the fall of 2012, I went to a military recruiter in Bellevue. He told me that if I enlisted, they would pay for the rest of my schooling. I wanted to be a fighter jet pilot, I thought. And he said that would all be possible. I went home to think about it. I was pacing around, talking out loud, scrolling through Twitter.

Then I saw it. That little notification over the DM box. Somebody was slidin’.

It was a guy named Patrick Price.

Damn Aches.

Back then he was just another CoD pro. He wasn’t the two-time world champ that we know him as now. Anyway, Pat’s up in my DMs, asking me about my plans for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. At this point in my career, some people knew me from CoD 4 and Mw2, but nobody really wanted to take a chance and team with me because I wasn’t well-known.

Pat told me he had a friend, Tyler (TeePee) Polchow, and they wanted to get me and a fourth for Bo2.

I was like, 24 hours from signing up to fly frickin’ fighter jets and then Pat swooped in and changed my life forever. That’s a weird sentence to read, I know. But it happened and I’m thankful to those guys at CompLexity, his team, who gave me a chance.

Without that DM, who knows where I am.

At CompLexity, I feel like I had my first true professional experience. I made great friends with teammates like Pat, Tyler, James (Clayster) Eubanks and Damon (Karma) Barlow. The Call of Duty esports scene started to grow, too. That was the most exciting part of it all. As the years went on, at every event we started to get more and more people out to watch and the stream numbers went up, too.

There’s something really special about a CoD crowd.

There’s something really special about a CoD crowd. Because it’s such a North American-centric game — and that’s no disrespect to the excellent, excellent teams that we have in the EU and APAC — I think there’s a lot of pride for the NA based teams. Everyone who plays games in the U.S. has hopped on a few games of CoD at some point, that’s the just way it is. And when I started to see it get some more respect, some more interest, I began to picture what was possible for the game and my own career.

During my time at Col, there were was always one constant when it came to opponents: The Greenwall — OpTic Gaming’s fans. And they hated us. Probably mostly just Aches … but, yeah, there was a lot of hostility. It was such a weird thing because the scene didn’t really have any fanbases like that. Everyone was pretty chill and liked a lot of teams. But the OpTic fans were just like, IF IT’S NOT GREEN, KILL IT.

I didn’t get it.

And then, a few years later, of course, I joined OpTic.

Then I got it.

I think the Greenwall is special because of how unique it is. So many of the OpTic fans have been there since Day One — way before there was any competitive stuff. They grew up with Hecz, Nade, Scump … the real OGs. It took me a little while, but I sort of began to understand that OpTic, for a lot of people, me included now, is a big family. And through different mediums — YouTube, Twitter, Twitch — you can feel, and be, a part of the family. Over time, that bond becomes incredibly strong, and that’s where the rabid fanbase comes from. Maybe it’s because they were so big, so early, but it’s also because of the people, the humans, who make this team so great.

That’s what the Greenwall means to me.

Most of the time, it’s great. Sometimes, the pressure … it’s a lot.

Chesnot/Getty Images

I remember before the world championship in August 2017, we really felt the weight of expectation. OpTic is known for CoD, and here we are at the fifth ever championship and OpTic doesn’t have a title. Man, we felt that. Mostly because we knew how good we were that year. Seth (Scump) Abner was frying all season, Karma was nasty and we had the best player in the game, Matt (FormaL) Piper.

It was a weird sensation. In gaming usually the only person you feel you’re letting down is yourself, or at most your teammates. But during this whole tournament, every map we won, or lost, it just felt like life and death for us and the fans.

And when we got to the grand final and had to beat Envy twice in consecutive best-of-fives … it felt like there was no tomorrow. If we lost that, I don’t know — how do you come back from something like that?

We won the first series, and went up 2–0 in the next one.

On the main stage, like most esports, we wear noise-cancelling headphones to make sure we can’t hear the crowd or the other team’s callouts. And our game sound is turned up all the way, too.

But in the third game, Uplink on Precinct, we were up 4–2 with a few minutes to go, and I started to hear this noise through my headphones. It was faint at first, and then it got louder and louder….

LET’S GO OPTIC, LET’S GO OPTIC, LET’S GO OPTIC.

I was trying not to lose composure, because we were so close, but it was just unreal. It was so damn cool.

I was trying not to lose composure, because we were so close, but it was just unreal.

A few minutes later, we were world champs.

The Greenwall had a ring, finally.

And special shoutout to Jack (Courage) Dunlop, who was casting and gave us one of the best calls of all time.

OF ALL TIME.

Goosebumps, bro. Goosebumps every damn time I hear that.

I know our team has changed a lot, and we’ve had our ups and downs. But they can never, never, take that away from us. That memory, those feelings — that’s priceless.


We had a tough year last season in Call of Duty: WWII. The game didn’t quite work for us and it was just … tough, everything felt off. When you go from the high of winning a world title, to not winning a single event in the next game, it’s pretty humbling.

After we won worlds, I started to realize that my total titles won was actually getting pretty close to Ogre 2. I couldn’t believe it. Honestly, it sort of snuck up on me.

But when I saw I was over 30, I made it my mission to get to 40.

Then we went and bombed at WWII. No titles. Rough.

You hate to see it.

But this year … man, we’re back.

You love to see it.

Karma, the GOAT, is still on the team, same with Scump. We brought in T.J. (Teej) Haly and Brandon (Dashy) Otell. These boys are young. Probably haven’t even heard of CoD 4. But they’re nasty, for real. We won the first event of the year, in Las Vegas, and the world got to see how good Dashy is. That kid … for real, keep an eye on him.

And I can feel that pressure building again. Even though it’s early in the year, I can feel it. This time, though, I want it. We want it. We want the weight of the Greenwall on us — we need it.

I need it.

Because now I’ve got 33 titles. And I need 40. Gotta get there.Then I’ll hit up Ken Griffey Jr. and Ogre 2, maybe slide in a group DM.

I’ll say thanks.

Then it’s back online.

Back to the grind.