Crazy as Me

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Little Prince with Three Sisters

One day when I was about four, my heart was stolen by a broken tricycle abandoned in an alley. It was split in half between the seat and the handlebars. With the one wheel attached to the handlebar, I could have fun all day. I ran until the end with only the one wheel. Until the end of the road I know… .

“Yo-Hwan, Yo-Hwan!”

When the sun set my mom wandered the neighborhood looking for me. When I was into something, I became a child with a lost sense of time and space. That day my mother couldn’t find me in that neighborhood alley. Clutching her scalding chest, she went around the neighborhood multiple times, calling out my name. Even after the sun set and the darkness fell, my mother could not find me anywhere. Crying, she roamed the streets and soon went all the way to the police office in the nearby neighborhood; there she finally found me. Me, not even crying and smiling brightly as I ate the bread the policeman gave me; me, holding the broken tricycle wheel.

Why I kept the broken wheel and did not throw it away, or how I ended up at the neighborhood police office, I cannot remember at all. I only remember very clearly that since I was young, I had to do what I liked or wanted no matter what. I was a very stubborn kid.

I pause for a moment when people ask me, “how many siblings do you have?” It’s because when I say “only three sisters,” the response is usually “I bet you were treated royally.” What kind of parents would raise their child thoughtlessly? Just as there are no fingers at don’t hurt when bitten, all of us grew up receiving lots of love from our parents. When I was born my youngest sister was seven, so I guess the age gap was too great for us to play together. They were too old to find me irresistibly cute, and too young to carry the burden of taking care of the youngest one. Also, perhaps they were a bit spiteful of me since the attention of our parents and others around were focused on me.

There is another reaction to “I have three sisters;” that I probably grew up reasonably femininely. It’s because of the idea that I was influenced to an extent by my sisters’ tastes. People don’t say it just based on their biases on how a boy or a girl should grow up. Seems like they think that I got used to the feminine look without realization as I wore pink t-shirts and flower button-up shirts handed down by my three sisters. But from the outset, I did not join my sisters’ tea parties or doll games. And since there was such a big age difference I did not inherit their old clothes. Moreover, even if I didn’t say anything the household was always uproarious and my sisters never included when they were gossiping. Rather, I was the silent type. I was also the youngest one, but they never sent little old me on errands. In that way my sisters and I lived in two separate worlds.

However, to me my sisters were still essential, precious people. Since both my parents worked, they were constantly busy and the time we spent together was little. As I grew older, my sisters became responsible for my education. Perhaps briefly they harbored childhood jealousy and envy, but when I ran around outside until sunset, my sisters were the ones who sat me down and taught me letters or read me fairytale books. They were at times like friends, sometimes like mothers, and other times like teachers to me. I was a ‘Little Prince’ with three sisters.

The Birth of the Emperor

I haven’t slept for four days. I can’t lie down in comfort. Fortunately, my mind is as clear as the autumn sky. The mighty opponent most likely to defeat me is not the player sitting across from me. It’s me. If I give it my best I will not lose this game. My laziness is my most fearful enemy. Defeat is acceptance of my own laziness. I practiced without regard to day or night for today’s game. I pushed onward until my practice partners collapsed, begging to stop playing. In the game, only the last man standing has the privilege of making the victory toast.

I’m now sitting on the player’s seat. The blinding lights shining and the cameras fixed on me. “YEAH~~ YEAH~~” I can hear the cries. They are the cheers of the countless fans surrounding me. Even more fans are watching me in front of their television. Everyone is waiting to see what kind of game I will play today. Why am I sitting here? There’s only one answer—for victory.

I input the alias “SLayerS_ ‘BoxeR’” and await my adversary’s entrance. The lights and cameras vanish far away and even the fans’ cries are now inaudible. Instantaneously I’m alone in the complete tranquility. Soon the curtains will rise. I am the protagonist and I am the victor, and the stage for the game that only I can finish will open.

The momentarily darkened monitor soon shows my position. The game has begun. My heart rate begins to gradually rise and my hands, my eyes, and my whole body is moving towards only one thing. I have to strike before my opponent deduces my cards. A bit more… a bit more… . But at the same time I gather myself. Because of the ambition to seize victory, I had once lost everything I had prepared so long for in an instant. I cannot commit another painful instance to my memory. The moment of victory approaches me. 10, 9…2, 1. Finally the dropship revealed itself.

I load the troops already standing by. And I fly the dropship to the spot unexpected by the opponent. Of course this too was a route discovered through practice. It passes through the areas where the opponent never scouts and infiltrate where the defense is weakest. The dropship flies. To prepare for the possible counter-attack I check my main base restlessly as well. I construct a defensive line difficult to penetrate. Now all that’s left is for the units to unload safely from the dropship.

Between the already scoped out buildings, the covert dropship exposes itself in the enemy base, after having taken the unrevealed route at an unexpected moment. Even if the opponent had predicted it, he cannot stop me. That is my strategy. Using the enemy buildings as shields, I destroy the units and buildings one by one, but quickly, even before his reinforcements arrive. I still have a second force left even if my tired units are taken care of by the reinforcements. I have to defend my base as perfectly as I execute the attack.

The outcome hinges on this. If I’m hurt as much as I damaged the enemy, then the strategy has failed. Even as I assault the enemy base my eyes are always observing my base. In the end I have built a new squad of units.

This is the most critical moment. I have to steal even the time my opponent has to breath. If left alone, the enemy will revitalize. I must constrict him completely. At the last instant, I must not have even a modicum of hesitation. Hesitation about the road I’m taking, the choices I’m making, the future… . As I hesitate the opponent will find my weakness. Until the enemy completely acknowledges defeat, Nike, the goddess of victory, does not raise my hand. Thus I cannot stop.

With a final attack as sharp as a sword and as swift as a flash, I must completely dominate the opponent. Precise timing! A moment I cannot pass by, my units tramples over the enemy base. I set ablaze everything to make restoration impossible, and pressure him to admit defeat. However the opponent cannot let go of even the thin thread of a hope. Coldly I must crush even that hope. After all the fibers of hope have been severed the opponent gives up everything and announces GG. At last the goddess Nike timidly gives me a kiss. Slowly I lift my eyes from the monitor and look at the fans. I take off my headphones and listen to the cries of the fans.

Today I sit again on this seat. Tomorrow I will sit here again. I will be standing on the stage for the game until the day I declare GG to myself.

Chapter 1 - The Game-crazed Kid

Cutie and rascal, my two childhood nicknames.

When my bright round eyes and thick lips harmoniously created a million dollar smile, the neighborhood adults couldn’t handle the cuteness.

If only I could have remained a cutie.

I wonder how upset my parents were since I blew off studying and was mad about games.

Still, mesmerized by gaming, I couldn’t trade it for all the world and gave it all of my teen years.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Hope on the Road Not Taken

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Every time I read Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” I feel a twinge in one side of my heart. Six years after my transformation from ‘Internet Café bum’ to ‘progamer,’ I look back at myself from where I am now more and more often. I look back at the road that I took, quietly examining the footsteps I left behind. As there are footsteps that lead in one direction, there are also interrupted ones. These footsteps make me think with satisfaction, ‘I’ve walked many difficult paths.’ At the same time, I also feel traces of altruism when I think ‘I’d like the footsteps I left to be someone’s guiding light when he is lost.’

That satisfaction and altruism made me mature as a ‘progamer.’ When I first began playing, I played only for myself. Like a 100m sprinter who only looks forward, becoming the champion was my only and final goal. I could not even hear the voices of my fans, my unwavering supporters. Then, one day, I realized that the satisfaction that I took pride in planted there by the people cheering me on for taking “the road not taken;” that the ones who did not leave but watched silently even if I lost were the “guides” who encouraged me on to keep going down the road as a ‘progamer…’. Now I play for the ones who enjoy my games, the ones who come to watch my games. Maybe this is why I try even harder to do my best than when I ‘only played for myself.’

Through this book, I want to convey how someone worthless like me was able to stand up to the world; my own ‘dreams and hopes’ that I never gave up even when everyone underestimated me. I want to share my bloody tears with those who cry because the road they chose was too difficult, or gave up their dreams to take the easy way out.

Thank you to my manager Joo Hoon, coach Sung Sang-Hoon, Seo Yoon-Heui (writer), Chairman Sim Hyun, Seo Min-Cheol from BookCare, BookRoad PD Choi Boh-Yoon and others for helping me write this book.

On fall’s doorstep in 2004
Lim Yo-Hwan