With the DreamHack Winter Championship drawing near, Mad Catz will be supporting a number of players in Jönköping, Sweden, this coming weekend, including Western Wolves‘ Rickard “SortOf” Bergman. SortOf was lucky enough to travel to South Korea recently to experience playing StarCraft II in the hotbed of the eSports community first hand, and has filed this story to share his experience.
In the beginning of October I had the amazing chance to travel to South Korea. I lived and practiced with the Mad Catz sponsored powerhouse NewStar HoSeo, and I participated in the IeSF tournament.
The trip started a bit rough, with a flight delay of almost three hours. I nearly missed my transfer in Doha. Fortunately, everything ran pretty smooth after that, and I arrived on time in Korea with the other Swedish players for the IESF tournament.
As the competition started kicking off, I stayed with the rest of the participants at a very nice hotel in Ceonan, close to the venue. There were a lot of nice restaurants nearby and we even had a waterpark nearby, which unfortunately happened to be closed at that time. At the event itself, everything was arranged and organized very smoothly.
The IeSF Tournament
My performance itself wasn’t top-notch, but I managed to reach the top 16. I’m guessing jetlag as well as some unlucky map rotation caught me off guard, though it was a great learning experience. I got to meet and talk with a lot of lesser known players from all over the world while enjoying some great food, seeing a bit of Ceonan, and learning more about Korean culture.
The NSH Gaming House
After four days of the tournament, I was finally on my way to the NSH gaming house in Seoul. I headed back to the airport where I got picked up by Mad Catz’ Paul Lee, who would eventually drop me off at the gaming house itself. First, we had a great lunch of excellent Korean food, and some nice conversations in between. Our trip towards the NSH house continued with a one-hour drive, during which I got really nervous as well as excited. This was my first time ever living in a team house, so I had no clue what to expect.
Upon arrival at the HoSeo University in Seoul, located close to the gaming house, the NSH coach met us at the parking lot. First, I got a big tour around the house, starting off with the practice room. As expected, Salvation and Tassadar were already up practicing, and I got a very friendly introduction to both of them. Even though I was really nervous, they were all really friendly and welcoming. This immediately helped me ease up. To continue my tour, I was showed the sleeping area. About 8 beds were set up in the same room, which was completely new to me, but I adapted rather quickly. We also had a very nice bathroom and showers, but I was eager to start training and headed off to the practice room.
My Korean life
I sat down in a computer seat where I would be practicing for the next two weeks, and after getting a first taste of the Korean ladder at IeSF, I couldn’t wait to get started. It didn’t take long until I met the rest of the players in the house, Jakjji, Brave, Ellenkey, and Sculp. They were all very nice to me and it really started feeling like home. When I prepared for this trip, I thought the lack of privacy would get to me, but it didn’t. I was happy that I didn’t have any concerns at all while residing in their home. During the weekdays, we would eat lunch and dinner in the University cafeteria. The food was surprisingly good, and definitely a lot better and healthier than the food you get at schools in Sweden.
Our time schedule would pretty much stay the same throughout the entire week. We’d wake up around 11AM, get some lunch around noon, and then practice for about 5-6 hours straight until we all had dinner at 6PM. After dinner, practice continued until 10PM, to be followed by usually two to three hours of free time, before we headed to bed. Practicing this hard without breaks was something I hadn’t experienced at home, and I had some concerns about it, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem at all. The main reason for that is playing in the Korean ladder is much, much more fun. The skill level is so much higher, and I was struggling around a 60-65% win percentage in low to mid-GM. I tried my best every single match, which really is a big difference compared to the EU scene. I also managed to practice a bit with the gamers staying at the house, and I believe this helped me improve my game a lot.
Moving to a new place
After a couple of days in the house, we were told we’d get a new house to sleep in. The new place was really nice, and the sleeping area definitely had more personality than the previous one. Not that I disliked sleeping with 7 other people, but a bit of privacy never hurts. It took us about 6 hours to move everything, and after that everyone was so tired, we decided to head out for a well-deserved “family dinner”.
We went to a local restaurant, which served an amazing dish (I sadly can’t remember the name). It was some sort of stew, made on kimchi, which is basically cabbage in a spicy sauce. This was by far the spiciest dish I’ve ever tried, and my nose and eyes were running the entire time. I pushed through, and actually started to really enjoy it! The other guys were obviously laughing their asses off at me crying over some food, but it was all good fun.
The new house was a couple of blocks away from the university, which I thought was a nice change. It gave me the opportunity to get a refreshing walk for a couple of minutes, before starting my daily practice routine. Days flew by, very fast, too fast if you ask me.
The last day in the house, I was definitely NOT looking forward to heading back. The place already felt like a new home, mostly due to the kindness and friendliness of the coach and his players. I started my last day by having lunch with Mr. Park (the coach) and Paul Lee from Mad Catz. During every meal I had the past week, I put myself to the challenge of finding a dish I’d dislike. I was unsuccessful. Korean food is just too damn good! Anyways, we had some small talks about everything related to my stay there, and how much I enjoyed my trip so far.
After lunch, I said goodbye to Paul Lee, who had been so nice to me during my stay. I had my last dinner with the team later that night, with yet another dish I fell in love with. I can’t remember the name (once again…), but even though I had such good food, I was feeling quite sad. I never expected saying goodbye and leaving the house would be this hard. But it had to be done.
Ellenkey and I took one last look at our awesome Korean experience, and hopped in a cab to the airport. After about an hour in the taxi (and an annoying 17 hour flight, I arrived back home, after an experience I’d never ever forget.
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