“Initiation Sequence Activated”
“Don’t tell me you are playing that stupid game again Thomas!” my mother shouted from down the hallway. “Five more minutes mom!” I rallied back at her, hoping she would understand that I have a huge clan match to win! How was I ever going to become one of the “Pros”, when I was always in a constant tug of war with my parents? I must admit; this was a nightly struggle of which my folks wanted no part.
Keep in mind this wasn’t just any game we were talking about, this was “Cyber-Strike”. The biggest came of the century and competition was growing faster and faster by the minute. While getting ready for school one morning, I found myself obsessively scanning over the ranks for the CS team standings. I kept having this vivid thought run through my mind, thinking; “This was going to be our year! We finally had a steady roster and we were ready to fight!”
DeathZone – Team Roster:
1.Leader/Team Captain (“PrAnKzStir”)
5.Demolition/Bomb Planter (“WezeL”)
Let me take you back to the roots first. It all started when I was recruited early on by a player named PrAnKzStir. This all happened in the front hallway of North Dames High. First let me explain that this was my junior year and I was swimming at the bottom of the totem pole. This meant having to witness a variety of the “Initiations” that happen to the 9th graders. Some of these included; pushing a penny with your nose across the dirty hallway floor, or something as refreshing as a swirly in a toilet, that has yet had the privilege of a good flush. Fortunately for me, I dodged a bullet. I was only chosen to sing, “I’m a little tea pot” accompanied by some goofy theatrical dance in the cafeteria. I was already a pale ginger with a great case of acne; I sure as hell didn’t think this was going to be the reason I struck out with the ladies.
Speaking of the cafeteria, did I happen to mention I developed a minor obsession with the some of the items on the lunchtime menu; some of my favorites being the gravy and cheese smothered poutine, the tender rib on a bun dripping with warm BBQ sauce and okay, okay, please… lets not forget about the Mexican style fries supreme. If you actually take a minute to stop and think about it, it’s really not my fault that everything they served was so damn delicious. This may have been the reason my clothes stopped fitting so well… I guess we’ll all agree that it was just a heavy bulking season. I must say the though the real MVP is my mother, Liz. She was the one who would without fail, hook her boy up with just enough money for lunch everyday. I was determined to become the best Cyber-Strike player in hopes that someday I would be able to pay my parents back.
So by this point your probably wondering who the hell is this “PrAnKzStir” character? Well “Mathew Mizher” was his name; another freshmen marching to the beat of the ninth grade struggle. Mathew and I had a bit of history at the time; we had both gone to the same grade school together so we were already on decent terms. “Hey rookie… a group of us are logging on tonight and wondered if you would like to join us in a few matches of Cyber-Strike?” Mat asked. “How the hell did you know I play CS?” I thought. I was feeling a bit hesitant at first thinking this might be some stupid prank but regardless of my paranoia I was definitely not passing up on this opportunity. After taking a moment to respond, I gladly accepted his invite and we both slapped high fives and took off in different directions headed to our next class. You see PrAnKzStir held a bit of a reputation in the cyber space. He was known for being one of the best squad leaders around. Part of it was how well he was able to orchestrate the perfect team strategy in any given scenario. This was my chance to shine, an opportunity to prove myself.
Night after night consisted of non-stop practice and scrimmages. This became more than just a game for all of us. This was a brotherhood. We spent more time in the deep dark cyber space together, than we did with our own damn families. Sacrifices were being made but we were on a mission and nothing was going to stand in the way of that. “Okay, I swear this is my last game!” A common phrase I would repeat before realizing that the sun is coming up and I’ve got short of an hour before my class starts. This went on for many months as we now had something big to work towards. 24 regular season games later, we officially qualified for the upcoming Western Cyber-Faction Championships being held in Colorado; this dome style arena was located right smack down center in a town called “Burlington”.
This event was huge and every team from the US was going to be in our presence. This was my chance to prove that I was a force to be reckoned with. Dates were set and plans were made. I will admit it took a lot of convincing, but after sharing with them the prize pool of $1,000,000 dollars; my parents eventually decided to let me go for the weekend. I think I had told them Mat’s mom was going to drive us but in reality, Mat had just gotten his license and this was going to be one hell of a road trip.
“Hello Denver!” I yelled, as we sped away from my house!
Mat’s mother drove a 92’ Dedji Santaro van, which meant one thing and one thing only; room, baby! I’m talking a wrap around couch with a flip out table, bed and TV. This was the Inspector Gadget of vans. Some kids from school didn’t see it that way though and would refer to it as the “Scooby Van” or “Shaggin’ Wagon’”. Call it what you want but this van had character, not to mention it was the sole reason that we were able to compete in LAN tournaments at all! You can imagine how interesting it would have looked trying to cram six young men who just hit puberty in a car with intentions on travelling miles from one tournament to the next through the scorching desert heat. Nope, not going to happen.
I remember one time we were headed to a LAN tournament we heard about through another rival team. They initially challenged us online with words a manor I feel is best to leave out of this story, sorry everyone… it’s really just for the kids.
After travelling through places like Calgary, Boston, New York, and even Niagara Falls; we all quickly realized how important it was that we keep this van running in tip top shape, because after all our whole dreams were practically riding on this one majestic pile of metal. That is ultimately how the name “The LAN Van” was coined; but I’ll explain more on that later. The term LAN is referring to the use of a Local Area Network. In layman’s terms this essentially meant hooking up tons of computers to the same network with intentions on being able to play the entire tournament with as little to no lag as possible.
When everything goes right and the stars align for a LIVE CS tournament, that’s when things start to get really interesting…
We pulled up to the Z hotel and the site was spectacular. Literally a row of fountains shooting streams of water over top of us, with live exotic animals on both sides of the roadway; in cages of course. Our eyes were glued to the wonders in front of us, so much so that out of nowhere we hear a super loud “BANG” & “SMASH”! “Ouch! What the hell was that?” yelled most of the guys. This was a complete disaster. “This cannot be happening” I yelled. Let just say things got off to a rough start when Sam rear ended a taxi out front. He swears it wasn’t his fault but that didn’t stop the 4 of us from razzing him about it. Mat said that would have never happened if he didn’t need to take a nap after driving for so long, I agreed.
Heroes and villains filled the lobby of the Starlight Mega Dome. Upon entering the lobby doors we were greeted by Yoda waving frantically at the overwhelming number of teens rushing the door. Beyond Yoda was literally a sea of teenagers as far as the eye could see. That’s the exact moment Roaki asked “Ugh, where the hell are we?”. This is the part where I started to freak out inside. “Dude, tell me you got the dates right?” added Wezel. Could I really blame the team for being pissed off, I mean I too was pretty confused at what I was witnessing in front of me. Characters such as the heroic “Zelda”, all the way down to the devil himself, “Spawn”. We didn’t realize it at the time but we were actually sharing the venue with the Denver Comic-Con Festival. For a minute I forgot the reason we were even here in the first place, I think we all did. Lets just say we temporarily became what some people would refer to as “Fan Boys”.
“All right guys, snap out of it, we have business to take care of” Phokizz shouted. Phokizz was our manager and he always did a great job of rallying up the troops, he knew that we needed to be focused and sometimes it wasn’t that hard for us to stray. He pointed to the elevator and shortly after we all made our way up to our hotel floor. We were on the 59th floor so it was a bit of a hike but nobody seemed to mind, I think we were all too excited about the view.
We arrived in our hotel rooms shortly after 3 pm, and our rooms were friggen gorgeous! We had just about everything a kid could want, from a mini bar (with snacks only of course) to a Jacuzzi. We were living the good life. We all immediately whipped out our laptops and fired up the tapes. “The tapes” is essentially each player reviewing previous matches to iron out any mistakes or downfalls. This felt like homework at times but it was the only way we were going to have a shot at winning the Million dollar prize. After a couple hours of warming up and going over last minute strategies we decided to order some pizza to the room. The schedule had just come out and we were seeded 32nd, this meant one terrible thing… we were playing the number one seeded team in our very first match. This wasn’t round robin either, in everyone’s eyes we were about to be sent back home before even making it to the second round. I knew that if I went home empty handed and especially this quickly, that my mother would never let me go back to another one of these tournaments.
Hatclan (1) VS DeathZone (32)
Insults and hate littered the forums and gaming websites. Everybody was talking about how Hatclan, the number one team in North America was about to stomp the life out of some unknown team made up of nobodies. I must admit, reading these comments tend to sting a little but this only fueled our fire that much more!
“Ring, Ring, Ring” rang the phone on the desk. Everyone just about jumped off the bed in a quick panic. Phokizz grabbed his phone and murmured a few “yes’s” and “no’s” and then hung up, then he slowly looked up at us with a nervous look on his face and said “Boys, it’s time to go, match goes live in 15 minutes!”.
It’s show time baby!
To be continued…