The IEM Oakland Experience

For all of those who couldn’t make it or have never been to a LAN event live before, here’s what it looks like:

You wake up at 9 a.m. A lot of time to get ready. You plan to leave at 9:40. In the meantime, you turn on ELEAGUE and watch EnVyUs vs OpTic. The game draws you in and before you know it, it is 10 a.m. Shit.

You hurry out and get on your way. For once in your life, you’re praying for technical delays from ESL. The drive is dreary, and it starts raining. In a sardonic mood, you think “Even Oakland cries tears for NA CS.”

On your way through, you see the gate and hope leaps into your throat. You’re almost there. Fuck, that gate is closed. The next three gates are closed, but you see cars parked on the other side and for one mad moment you think of driving through the fence. You follow the press of cars, hand over your cash. Goodbye, $40. Your sacrifice will not be in vain. You get a ticket and park. The chill of the air hits you. The rain falls in small droplets. The air fills your lungs. For one serendipitous second, you think of living life as one with nature.

Then you step in a puddle. Your socks are wet. Fuck nature. You get your bag and go line up. You get to the front and are told you need to go check the bag in as it’s too big. You go to that line and repeat it again. You get to the front and are told you need to go buy a card before dropping it off.

Oh so that’s what that table was in front of the room was for. Oops. You go into that line. There are two guys in front. The attendant asks if “together.” The two look at each other and you think “God damnit, can they not have this emotional life-changing moment when I just want to drop my bag?” They continue to look puzzled. The attendant asks again, “Are you two friends?” They say yes, and she intimates that they only need one card to drop both their bags. The first guy picks up on it, and the second guy is in a daze from this life-altering question or more probably thinking about some sick League or Counter-Strike he is missing. He robotically hands over money before being told he doesn’t have to.

He flushes in shame, looks around and hopes that no notices. Hah, sucker. You never forget about other people’s petty pains. Anyway, you drop off your bag and have to relinquish your water bottle. Don’t these people know that water makes up more than 60 percent of our bodies. That’s your life blood. That water had so much to live for by becoming one with you. Goodbye, water bottle. I will always remember thee in the darkest times.

You finally get back into line and go through the queue to get into the arena. They handcuff you on one hand with a wrist bracelet thing and you are told you cannot let it go if you want to get back inside tomorrow. The cold turns into the heat from the press of bodies heats up the room. The noise is flooding in from people bullshitting, you can hear the squeak of shoes on floors, and an attendant at the oculus rift thingamajig says it “Smells like teen spirit.” You’d always suspected teen spirit smelled a bit like fanaticism, sweat, body odor and dried rain.

Entering the arena proper is the same as entering a new world. The fluorescent lights end to be greeted by a dark room with flaring lights of blue, orange, red. There is a scrolling bar of sponsored companies whirling around the arena, is this supposed to be some dark meta talk about the situation of today’s societies of money and corporations over the common man? God damnit, you came here to be entertained and distracted from society’s ills not to think about this.

Each step is a careful measured step as you walk down in the cramped space. All of the annoyances of the past hour is blown away as you can feel the very pressure of the crowd wash over you, press into you as they roar for a round win by G2. You suspect the crowd is a bit G2 favored as SK wins are met with a milder cheer and polite applause. Everyone loves an underdog. You kinda feel sad for goliath before remembering that sucker got beat by a rock. Despite the small favoritism, no one can stop the “OHHH”s that pass by whenever a sick play or sick round is made by either team. No one can stop the roars of approval when TACO wins a 1-v-2 clutch.

You finally sit down in a cramped seat and like everyone else in the aisle, angle your knees out a bit to get that premium extra space those suckers in the middle can’t enjoy. There are a bunch of PCs on the ground floor and a couch. An attendant explains to you that the goal is to try to get as many kills as possible while the couch throws you off. You nod sagely. So basically the same as matchmaking with a shitty feeding teammate who walks around like an ATM for the other team to cash in on.

As you watch, you realize how impossible it is to remember anything in this atmosphere. The past rounds are drowned out by the noise, the smells, the heat. The future rounds seem so distant and unimportant. You live in this one moment, second by second. For the next few hours, this is all that matters.

Cover photo by Adela Sznajder/ESL, eslaming.com

Slingshot senior columnist. StarCraft and CS:GO expert who pushes narratives over numbers. You can reach him at Stephen@Slingshotesports.com

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