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So Close Yet So Far
Posted on December 15, 2008 by Oscar Gonzalez

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, I was going to talk about how close I was to continuing on to the Halo National Championship in 2002. Prior to this tournament, I had participated in other smaller tournament, most notably the Blockbuster Video Game tournament that they had in 1995 I believe. That tournament I won the store tournament but missed out on advancing any further within the city. I did get a year of free rentals so I got something of value.

For me, Halo was not a big deal. I purchased an Xbox and Halo because Resident Evil Remake was delayed by a month on the Gamecube. So I got Halo with the Xbox, played it over the weekend, and didn't care much for it. The epic storyline took a backseat to the goddamn level design that Bungie still has never learned their lesson. How they thought the Library was level was fun at all is beyond me. Anyways, a buddy I worked with at Circuit City heard I had Halo and asked me over to his dorm to play some multiplayer. I did, and although I sucked, it was a lot of fun with just us three. So I knew I should keep the game for the multiplayer.

When checking out some forums, I read about Xbconnect. A program that acted like a big link cable, it brought gamers from all over the country together on a makeshift Halo online mode. Sadly, being that I played by myself a lot, I couldn't get into many rooms. The rooms were created by players that demanded a minimum of two players per Xbox. While my buddy would occasionally come over to play, I was usually stuck trying over and over again to play one game. Some days I would get nothing, other days I would get into some major action with the best being a 5vs5 CTF that lasted well over an hour. It was this constant online playing that improved my skill greatly from a scrub to a pretty good player, surpassing my buddy pretty easily. So when the announcement came in July 2002 about the National Halo Tournament, I figured this was going to be my time to either put up or shut up.

The tournament location was going to be in Austin (of course since San Antonio is so far behind technology-wise). It was on a Saturday and I had asked for the day off which is a big deal at Circuit City. So early Saturday morning, after a night of restless sleep, I had my directions and off I was to Austin in my '93 Chevy S-10. My match was one of the first ones of the day so I was there right after the mall opened. The location was in one of the Austin malls, and it was a new LAN center. LAN centers were knew to me, and the idea of going to the mall just to play games on a PC was absolutely foreign in my mind but that's how advanced Austin was in compared to San Antonio.

It was the two owners who were running everything and began the process of getting everything setup. At this time, some guys brought their Xboxes and were setting them up doing a little practice. One guy even showed off his modded Xbox by playing some old arcade games on it. It was at this time, I would meet up with my nemesis. If you do a search for the finals for the Halo tournament, you would see one of the players named DM.

Surprisingly, his buddy was another nemesis of mine in a way. Being a Tekken Tag player in San Antonio, I traveled from arcade and I met his buddy at one arcade. Safe to say, he beat the crap out of me. He used a character that barely anyone used, Julia Chang, and I had no defense to his moves. It took some time and practice but eventually I was able to beat him with both of us being pretty equal.

In my match, DM was one of us and we both ran over the other guys. Matches were 8 man matches, playing 2 games, and points would be given to whatever you placed with first getting 10 points, 2nd getting 8 points and so on. There were two big screen TVs and two Xboxes with four controllers. People brought in their own controllers (of course I didn't), and one guy brought in a PS2 controller with an Xbox adapter. He said he preferred the PS2 controller rather than the Xbox controller which no one understood.

While playing the match, I noticed that DM was big on the sniper which I sucked with at the time, but I could tell that I can outdo him with the pistol. For those who played Halo 1, the pistol was the important weapon to learn and was the key to winning. With me and him being in the top 2, we both advanced while the rest were sent home. It took a few hours before the next round so I watched the other guys; played some America's Army on the PC they had there, and walked around the mall. The second round came and I played against a kid who talked about how he traveled from some small hick town with his parents just for this tournament. He was a solid player but we didn't tangle with each other with pistols. Instead, our round had King of the Hill as a match type, and he was in possession of a Ghost, small one person ship in Halo, controlling a spot very easily. So he came in first and again, I was second making my way to the finals.

It was at this time that I came to a realization. How the fuck was I going to be in the Finals since I was scheduled to work on Sunday. Not only that, I was low on cash and money since I clearly didn't plan for this to be an entire weekend event. So it was time for me to come up with a plan. My first priority was to get someone to work for me on Sunday. I called up one guy at work who was always off on Sunday because of "church" (total BS I found out but he convinced the bosses). Before I left home, I brought some games with me since I figured there was an EB games at the mall, and I wanted to trade in some older games. This guy who I wanted to work for me played some games so I offered him a free game to work for me. That quickly won him over and he asked for the new UFC game that ended up being just horrible. With that out of the way, I had to think about whether going back to San Antonio or trying to stay in Austin.

My worries were that my truck was pretty crappy and on the way over, I had already seen a check engine light. With that in the back of my mind, I didn't want to take the chance of ruining my only form of transportation at the time. A buddy of mine who I worked with at Circuit City lived in Austin and he didn't mind having me over for the night. We met up, hung out for a bit, headed to his place and played some games for most of the night. In the morning, I was awoken to the news that I would have to leave because the family was heading to church (ugh, you churchy goers are annoying). I left to the mall and waited for it to open. There was still some matches to be played and I wouldn't be up until 2pm or so. With my lack of cash, I decided to try and get this problem figured out. I called up my buddy who played a lot of Halo, and told him my situation. He was stoked about how far I was in the tourney and was happy to lend me $30 for gas and some food. Back to the mall I went and ready for the finals.

The final 8 consisted of me, DM, the kid from out of town, this other guy that came from another hick town, and some other guys who didn't impress me. The final game was going to be a deathmatch. The top 4 were going to go onto the next round and play in the regional in New Orleans. So here we were setting up, and then I made the move that would screw me up that I couldn't recover from. When playing a link game, any person can start the game and guess who was the idiot that started it? Yup, it was me. The reason this screwed me up was that I just wasn't ready. I was so concerned that I had screwed up by starting the match, and was wondering if I should raise my hand then tons of thoughts raced through my mind thinking that me jumping the gun like that could have me disqualified. My nerves were fried, and I couldn't catch up. I placed 6th and the guy who won was DM, with me being five or six kills away from being in the top 4. That was it and it was a long drive home.

I thought about the mistake for awhile and was for sure I could make it. When I found out that this guy DM made it to the finals, that irked me so damn much I couldn't take it. Another weird coincidence was that the champion, hp Darkman, was a guy who I played with on Xbconnect. I remember his clan tag specifically because I wondered why the hell someone would put Hewlett Packard in their name. So that was the closest I came but I tried for glory one more time.

A year or so later, I learned about a tournament taking place in San Antonio. There were going to be a few games being played, with the big one being Halo 1. I took part in the tournament and in the first and second round, I was taking down everyone. This event ran more smoothly and quicker than the national tournament so I was playing the third round the same day. This round was one of my proudest moments in gaming. Each round consisted of a 4 man match playing three games rather than two, all being deathmatches. While I had beaten up the scrubs in the first two rounds, the third round had me starting out at dead last after the first game. Next game, I nutted up and placed second. The final game, at just the right time, I went into a tear taking first place and just getting enough points to make it to the final round. I knew it was a big accomplishment when the guy taking down the scores was surprised I survived after I had such a terrible first game.

My pride then went to another level when I was congratulated by other players. Usually when I do these tournaments, I'm on my own, checking out other players but mainly sticking to myself. Some guys came with their crew who were cheering them on but I always liked being the loner taking down everyone in my way, having everyone whispering who the hell this O.G. was. So when I was eating at Dairy Queen in the food court of the mall, I was shocked when some kids came by my table and said how they watched me played impressed with how good I was. It blew me away that someone was paying attention to me since I was barely even talking, let alone causing me to be noticed other than how good I was playing. I thanked the guys for noticing and they wished me luck. I was pretty happy then until I played the final match.

This time, I was clearly outmatched. These guys in the finals were playing on a different level. Granted, I didn't play much Halo after the national tournament, but these guys were using tactics I wasn't familiar with. The combo of grenade tosses and pistols was too much for me, and I ended up sucked. Overall, I came in 8th; once again receiving no prize and taking a long drive home.

Like I said, I've come close but still not good enough to win it. But this shows one thing about this blog. I am the Original Gamer. In the spectrum of types of gamers out there, the two kinds that would be considered "hardcore" are the competitive players that can go pro and play at the highest level, or the students of the games that play games the same ways a scholar studies a subject. These second group are ones that play a lot of games, know a lot about games, but overall, they're just not that good at them and really don't want to be. Then there's me. A guy who's played on the highest level of competition, and plays a lot of games studying them with a passion. I'm not like the game journalists that aren't gamers, and I'm not a guy who plays a few games for a long time. I'm the best out there, and that's why I started this blog.

Oscar Gonzalez - Editor-in-Chief og (@) original-gamer.com | all author's articles

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