1 Princess Peach is Peak Petty
There is a beautiful moment in competition that cannot be adequately described by a person who slept through high school lit, but I'll try anyway:
It's how I describe that extraordinary moment when you realize you've just won something unbelievable. Could be a championship title, could be a game against a rival you were slated to lose, could be a new personal best record after you thought you'd already hit your peak.
Dennis Fong, Guinness World Records' first professional gamer, said the moment happened for him ten seconds before his first national Quake tournament ended. He realized he'd won when he had the time during his final battle to look at the grand prize Ferrari in the reflection of his monitor.
I've been luckier than most; I can point to twelve moments of fucking awesomeness.
All three times my pro eSports team won our League Championship make the list, because let me tell you, it doesn't matter how many times you win a championship, it's just as good the next time. It may even be better, actually. Your opponents know you better each time, prepare more thoroughly for your destruction. So when you defeat them anyway, wrangle glory from their grasp yet again, it feels so good.
The day I beat the reigning Best Melee Ranger at a televised All-Star event and officially snatched the crown for myself was equally unbelievable.
And though, yes, most of my best moments involve gaming, there are a few other special moments sprinkled in, too. The year I got six more Valentine's chocolates than class golden boy Chaz Beaman hovers nearer the top of the list than I'm comfortable admitting, given we were eleven at the time and most of my chocolates came from my older sister's friends who thought I was "too cuuute omg."
I like to think it still bothers Chaz from time to time, when he's sitting in his mansion surrounded by the other models he works with as the face of Dolce and Gabana. He may have a jaw chiseled by God's master sculptor and aquamarine eyes so vivid they shame the ocean, but I've been told my dimples are charming, so.
Of all twelve spectacular moments of my short life, three stand apart from the rest:
1) Seven years old – Beat my older sister Xiuying at a videogame for the first time. Vintage N64 MarioKart, Toad's Turnpike. The dulcet tones of that high-pitched "Bingo! Bye Bye!" as my Princess Peach red-shelled her DK into oncoming traffic—I still hear it in my dreams, sometimes. (Say what you will about the annoying royal, but Peach has achieved peak petty. I aspire to reach her level one day.)
2) Sixteen years old – Beat out friends, rivals, a couple dicks I hated anyway, and my parents' complete lack of expectations, to win ESPN eSports Rookie of the Year. I thanked my sister during my speech, because I wanted her to know I was grateful, and I told the MarioKart story, because I also wanted to piss her off.
(In fact, my speech even pissed off people who were not my sibling. The old "Bingo! Bye Bye!" soundbite had a short resurgence right after, especially in FPS games with cross-faction audio. You know what's worse than falling to a headshot? Hearing Princess fucking Peach shaming your dead ass as you wait to respawn from said headshot. I think some gamers who died a lot during that period may also hear my beloved Petty Princess in their dreams…or, well, their nightmares.)
Anyway, at least the press thought the story was adorable.
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Smiling, Xiuying waved at the press cameras with her left hand; with her right, she texted me the most impressive thread of expletives and vicious emojis I've ever had the privilege to receive, depicting anatomically-suspect violence involving my shiny new trophy and a number of orifices.
Contrary to her graphic threats, however, I caught her dusting my trophy not two weeks later. She also sent a picture of it and the oversized ceremonial check of championship prize money to our parents, every single day for a year. Each unique picture featured the different rooms of the spacious apartment we could now afford, our fancy af team headquarters, and when she finally ran out of ideas, she just placed the trophy next to plates of expensive food she ordered in high-end restaurants around the city.
Those last two weeks tore through a few months of our food budget, but I didn't have the heart to curb her admirable shamelessness.
Plus, she wasn't the only one still pissed at our parents for kicking me out and then going as far as cutting off Xiuying's university tuition payments to punish her for taking me in.
Seems petty runs in the family.
3) Eighteen years old – Beat a series of insanely OP Asian team lineups (whoever designed the bracket so that we'd have to face Russia, China, and South Korea was clearly drunk) to lead Team USA to Olympic Gold.
Honestly, there were a lot of fucking awesome moments during that whole crazy tournament, but the primo moment was about twelve seconds before the final HP bar disappeared to the sound of thunderous applause. My so-stupid-nobody-could-have-predicted-it last second plan had worked; I had survived a certain death AoE explosion with 4 HP remaining. More importantly, my own AoE skill had landed on the two enemy players, and my skill's stun lasted one second longer than theirs.
I launched forward and used a combo knockback to send them both flying in opposite directions. Then I pounced on the ranged fighter. Before the melee Monk made it halfway back to the fight, I had already delivered the finishing blow to the Mage and spun to face my final opponent. The Monk still had over half his HP. One skill hit, one--maybe two--regular strikes, and I'd be a corpse.
But he'd have to land a hit, first.
I never gave him that chance.
Eight seconds later, I cemented Team USA's first Olympic gold in eSports and cemented my own tournament MVP victory.
My abilities hit an insane peak during that Olympics, and for the first time in eSports history, a single player had three Play of the Year nominations. Surprisingly, that epic eight-second takedown, eventually named the Blade Fury Combo, only managed 2nd Place. To my annoyance, my ultra-stupid move a few seconds earlier ultimately took the top spot.
The impossible-to-replicate life-saving move involved slicing a boulder and essentially juggling hunks of rock on my dual blades, only to use last-second sword skills with one sword to accurately fling half of them at the Falling Starfire explosives directly above me. Near-simultaneously, I used a separate skill with the second sword to release the rest of the stones in an arc. Then I activated Silent Steps to make my steps featherlight and ran from stone to stone, making it to the highest stone at the same time Falling Starfire exploded the ground beneath me, flinging me and my rocks towards my opponents—the direction I'd tilted the final stone.
Kids, don't try that at home.
It was the kind of move desperation inspires, and I was very familiar with desperation. My playstyle has always been a bit insane, dodging within a hairsbreadth as often as possible, letting myself be blown up as long as I think I can use the ensuing dust or smoke cover to make another attack. I'm known as Lunatic Lieu the Reckless Ranger because there's very little difference in my wild play between full health and when my HP dips into the dreaded Red.
The eSports commission actually added a slew of new records to its list because of me:
Longest Time Spent in the Red Zone - Career & Single Tournament
Most Kills while in the Red Zone - Career & Single Tournament
Most Damage Taken by Area of Effect Skills - in a Single Tournament.
(This one truly unlucky healer snagged the Career version of that last title. He does not seem as proud of his record as I am of mine.)
The best thing about all these great moments is that the life led in between each of the greatest moments is full of still-pretty-awesome experiences. The road to every championship is paved with countless smaller victories, harsh defeats that make you appreciate the wins even more, and a passion for pushing forward that nothing can quell.
However, there is one other distinctive moment in competition, one that is as far from awesome as it's possible to be. It's a moment akin to death.
For some, it feels even worse.
It's the moment you realize it's all over.
The moment you realize you will never be the best again.
The moment you realize there will be no more fucking awesome moments.
I must have used up my lifetime luck allotment, experiencing so many glorious moments before I hit twenty, because when that final horrible moment came, it came with fire and blood and haunting screams.
Nineteen years old – The beautiful dream that was my life ended.