Original: (LanM’s blog, posts agglomerated on SGamer)
Dotaland note: Written by LanM himself, this is a look back at his roots, his journey, and his reflections. A great read. This is part 1 and part 2 of a 9-part series. Stay tuned for parts 4-9 in the next few days!
Note that, if you read the entire thing, it is possible to figure out which teams and competitions he is talking about, to give yourself an even deeper view into the progamer side of it all. He covers the time between roughly 2010 to 2013, and mentions teams and competitions, along with how they affected him… For further background reading, directly related, see his response last year from the ACE/EHOME controversy.
The Chronicles of LanM: “Stories of Yesteryear” [Part 1-3]
As someone with a relatively lower level of education and no inherent talent in writing, composing stuff like this isn’t necessarily an easy thing for me. My goal is to faithfully reproduce and represent the livelihood and lifestyle of a professional gamer’s place in the real world and society. The hope being that not only will this bring more mainstream recognition and acceptance to the profession, but also to serve as a record of those trailblazers in esports that once led the charge from the forefront, fighting for their families, their dreams, and their love of the game.
1. A Youth Without Energy
In the fog of a mild headache, perched stomach-first on the edge of the bed to hit the power button on the computer case, I finally took the majority of my blankets to block out the rays of light sreaming in from outside, and shut my eyes again. About an hour later, as the sound of the fans in the computer case rotated ever more resoundingly, I finally got up and out of bed. With only one foot clad in a slipper, after hopping over to the computer chair and sitting down, I started up QQ, and clicked on the notification, represented by an avatar of a pretty girl.
“I’m up, let’s play.”
“Wait, almost done, already took a set of rax,” the response came a few minutes later.
“Fuck, still not done, I thought you’d broken a lane already,” my impatience shortly afterwards.
“Damn it, these dumbshits won’t push the rest of the base, all they do is fountain dive, I can’t even stop them.”
“Hurry up, if you can’t then just Alt-QQ.”
“Fuck off, those are my ladder points.”
This was Li Haigui. On the VS ladder, he was the one that snatched the renowned ‘SKY’ ID. I, in the hopes of making friends with a hero of Chinese gamers, had originally added this ID thinking that it would get me closer to that goal. After realizing eventually that it was not the real SKY behind the ID, I came to find that, in reality, this fun-loving character behind the ID was in fact just another passionate, fiery gamer, with a side of youthful naivete.
“How’s it going between you and the girl in your avatar, Sea Turtle? (Haigui is the same sound as the phrase for sea turtle, thus a joke is born)”
“Don’t ask, I’ve been all over her QQ space, and haven’t even successfully gotten a friend add.”
“You should just give it up. I’m gonna go brush my teeth.”
This kind of lifestyle, these kinds of mornings, were the norm for me from the time I finished high school all the way up to age 20. My father, after losing everything gambling, had left, leaving my mother to float around to this day. Since then, my father had long since re-established himself with another family. As for myself, living at my grandmother’s house, whenever relatives and family visit, I’d always lock myself in my room, to avoid all their lectures and advice. Sometimes, even from inside, I could hear my aunts and uncles and their words of pity and sympathy for me. Perhaps it was because over time I’d heard too much of this, and perhaps because of my naturally rebellious nature, from then on I gradually became more and more invested in building and realizing my own value and dreams. Sometimes, one of my closer uncles would knock on the door and come in, and tell me, “Get out there and look around, don’t always just stay at home. Even waiting tables can get you 800RMB a month.” And even though somewhere inside I thought, “Only 800?”, I still understood that 800 was money anyway, and it’s not like my parents had good conditions or anything. My proud mother would never ask my dad for a single cent of money or help, and so I relied on my grandparents’ 1500 RMB monthly pension to finish middle school.
In high school, in the face of many ‘fail’ marks, I rode an uncle’s connections into a specialized high school art program. As someone who had never had any interest in art, plus coveting more time to play, I gave up on school and dropped out on an impulse, rationalizing it by noting the program’s high fees and costs. Because my parents weren’t nearby, and my grandparents couldn’t really stop me, over time it became accepted in the family. After soaking in the internet cafe for a month, mom feared me falling in with the wrong people and influences, and so she borrowed money to buy me a computer, knowing that I’d always loved playing games. From that day on, I officially began my recluse lifestyle (otaku-style). It was precisely this kind of quiet, low-key entertainment, that accompanied me through what should be a person’s most vibrant, energetic years in life.
2. Dreams I
Even though dreams are made of the stuff of our desires, they also hold within them our passions, responsibilities, as well as the purest of our original intentions. Joy is nothing more than fulfilling our dreams, and sorrow is nothing more than having to give them up.
Our elementary school teacher asked everyone in the class what they’d like to be when they grow up.
“Like mother, a doctor…” the responses came one by one, in all forms, undoubtedly emulating their parents, relatives, or a hero of theirs.
Watching others say that they’d like to be like their parents, I always felt very out of place. During that period of time, I lived at my teacher’s house, only going back home over the weekends to my parents’ house. All I remembered was that every time back home, once evening came, the space would be filled with all kinds of people, the atmosphere filled with their smoke. Father loved gambling, and oftentimes after a session there’d be huge arguments, escalating occasionally to violence. In summary, I really hated being at home then, and especially hated the nights, because at least in the daytime I had schoolmates and friends to play with. At night, sleeping by myself in my room, I was afraid of the dark and the monsters that might get through the window, but then… it was so noisy and boisterous out in the main room, at least it served a purpose in making me less afraid.
“Zhang Zhicheng, what do you want to be when you grow up,” the teacher asked.
“A scientist,” I picked a term I was familiar with.
In truth, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, what kind of person I would be, and maybe I never had an idea before I was 20 years old. But at the time, I knew I had to have a textbook answer for the teacher, to prove that I wouldn’t be a bad kid. Thinking back now, my skills in fabricating lies on the spot have their roots in practice from all the way back then. In this society where many things are out of one’s own control, this skill has seemingly proven to be quite useful.
“LanM, why aren’t you following up, what the fuck?”
“My bad, I just dazed out for a second,” I typed out to Haigui, with a tinge of embarrassment.
My (Chinese) ID, “国土无双” was what gaming friends came up with to call me. We had played a game previously, based on Three Kingdoms lore, that had a text indicator saying the same, displayed in a way that we all felt was quite cool, so I ended up using it as an ID. In reality the original version was 国士无双, yet, with mistakes in typing and earlier Chinese keyboard input software, it ended up becoming 国土无双 (difference being in the 土 and 士).
Those days were full of fun, and quite relaxed. We endlessly pursued First Bloods, exalted every Beyond Godlike, cheered for every brilliant counter maneuver a teammate pulled off, excitedly celebrated every death-defying comeback. Though once we took off the masks of our gaming identities we were still just students, kids, what we truly loved was those masks and what they allowed us to be.
3. Dreams II
They wondered why we were so into a game, said that we played too much and lost ourselves. Because they didn’t understand that this was our outlet for the pressures of the world, and this was the place where we learned teamwork, cooperation, forgiveness, determination in the face of defeat. It was here that we made friends, true friends, without the worries of real-life profit and benefit.
They all say that this is a world where the strong eat the weak, the fittest survive. From childhood I’d been cooped up, put to work on solving the questions presented to me in my books, yet books wouldn’t teach me the rules of survival in the real world — reality would. After growing up, we’re taught that we must still follow the path laid out for us by our parents, and once we veer from this path, we get the label of ‘unfilial’ tagged onto our heads. In the face of relatives, our love and respect for our parents, we finally relent and agree, because without their support, we have nothing, we are nothing, to the point that we don’t even have anything to survive with. So, like this, we do our best to follow our parents’ plans for us, our parents’ finally satisfied gaze follows our shadows as we gradually follow this path further and further away from them. Sometimes we look back at those stifled dreams of ours, reach out a hand to give them some life, and yet, we’re pushed further ahead and away by countless pairs of hands.
Fortunately, and unfortunately, I myself do not belong to this group of people amongst my peers. Even still, from the day this reality emerged, it has exerted its force upon me and my dreams, crushingly, to the point of shatter.
“You going? If you’re going, let’s do it,” Haigui said.
“Where are we going? Is it legit?” I only half trusted this.
“Shanghai. Their team was the champion of the WCG Shanghai 3rd region. Some of their members have left to go to school, the remaining ones want to create a pro team.”
In my mind, images of Sky’s triumphs in WCG floated to the top, and it was from then on that my dreams began to sprout. But afterwards, I didn’t go to Shanghai, and neither did Li Haigui. The reason being that we feared going there and finding it was all just a scam. He said if I didn’t go, he didn’t want to go either; he likes to play with people he can get along with. Nowadays, I really regret not going, really regret not getting into this scene earlier. Because if I had gone, I wouldn’t have at first lost my dreams, and then lost her too.
For those chasing your dreams, when an opportunity visits you, don’t hesitate. While you’re still young, you can still take failure.
The next opportunity would be two years later. In June of 2010, DK was founded, and through a friend’s recommendation, I unflinchingly accepted their invite, and officially stepped into the professional scene. At that time, Li Haigui had been gone from Dota for a long time. He told me, he had graduated university, his dad had gotten him a job, and it was time to look towards settling down in a career and getting married.
The day before I set out on my new journey, I opened up my QQ and flipped to that old account of his, one that had been grey (offline) for so long now. I quietly reminisced about those days we fought side by side. His QQ had been hacked before, and it was a long time after that that he finally got it back. After that, the avatar was never again respresented by all kinds of pretty girls, and instead was just that default penguin. He’d only talk a bit before seemingly hurriedly rushing offline. He said to me “Dumbass, while you’re still young, go and fight for it, give it a go. Remember to bring a championship back for me too.”
Shamefully, I’ve let his hopes for me down so far, and haven’t won a title for myself yet.
I’ve said so much, and some readers might feel like I’m full of blame for people and things around me. Well, let me tell you a story then.
Next: Parts 4-5 here