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A Career in Review
It's funny. I was planning on writing a big blog after Blizzcon about my last year and a half, from breaking into the HGC to getting to Blizzcon, but I decided against it because "it felt too final and my journey in the scene isn't over." Unfortunately, it's over now whether I like it or not so here we are.

TL:DR: I don't regret joining this scene at all and am grateful for everything it's given me, but sad that it had to end this way and I'm not really sure where to go from here. Future plans and shoutouts at the bottom.

There are a lot of things to say and a lot of feelings to share, but I'll try to keep it short. Note I say "try" because I'm very wordy. You've been warned. 
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How I got into HotS in the first place is the same story you've heard a bunch, came over with friends when they tired of League of Legends and something about the game just clicked. The game rewarded proactive play and, unlike League where I was an ADC main, I found it rewarding to play healers and tanks and DO stuff rather than wait around for it to happen. I did love this game.

But not as much as I would come to love the competitive community. I joined the competitive HotS community on a whim, and was lucky enough to get picked up by Justing and Buds as my first ever team (though I got kicked 3 weeks later lol.) At the time, I had no plans to pursue HotS as anything more than a hobby, something I did for fun while at college. I had no idea then what this community would come to mean to me.

Around my 3rd year at college, my life started taking a downward turn. I won't bore or worry you with the details now, but simply put I was at the lowest point in my life I can remember. At that time, it would not be an exaggeration to say that competitive HotS was the only thing that made me wake up each day instead of just feeling crushed under the weight of everything. Somehow online relationships with random players had come to mean more to me than in-person relationships with my Glee club members who couldn't be bothered to know anything more about me than that I was allergic to just about everything. Somehow, daily practices felt more personal and rewarding than trying to join in with a culture that didn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to drink. 

At the beginning of my 4th year, I was a mess. I ended up quitting HotS altogether after a conversation with my parents and realizing how much stress I had been putting on myself (I was captain of Team Blaze at this point.) In my turmoil, I ended up seeking out on-campus counseling (something I'd suggest to literally anyone struggling with their mental state.) During those sessions, I talked so much that my counselor basically couldn't get a word in edgewise (those who know me won't be surprised,) and, lo and behold, I'd say roughly 70% of what I discussed had to do with my competitive HotS experience: things I'd learned, relationships I'd had, and pressures I put on myself. I came out of these sessions happier and hopeful, though it also had the unexpected result of showing me just how much I missed competitive HotS during my break. 

I picked HotS back up with plans to play fully casual excepting Dorms. I was able to enjoy the game casually and got out my little competitive vibe though micro-ing my dorm players around. Eventually, one of my better players decided that he and a couple of other Masters/GM friends were gonna play Chairleague and needed +1 so I joined and we almost won season 2 (think this was against SpecialTea and FZIgnition with Halorin casting.) We even went on to play an open division cup, though with literally 0 expectations. It was all just for fun at that point. Then something I never expected happened.

People started reaching out to ask if I was rejoining the competitive scene. Even more, people were asking if I wanted tryouts. I had been gone 6+ months after unceremoniously quitting and here I was, after playing 1 tournament with people not just remembering me, but hyping me up. It was gratifying to say the least, and I knew at that time that there was nothing I wanted more to do than to try and pursue HGC for real.

I joined LFM with BBJ and Drated and had a blast playing again. We won our first open division literally 2 weeks after I joined (Handlebars was clearly the problem kappa.) Things were looking great until they weren't. We fell apart at the end for a variety of reasons. I for one was going into open division finals with the plan that, if we made crucible, I would be be missing my graduation in order to play crucible. We didn't make it that far and fell to Even in Death as Homi destroyed us with new Genji (also worth mentioning the game happened on the night I had both a final exam and final paper due lol.) Even still, I wasn't too down. I hadn't felt ready to enter HGC just yet and thought had I joined then that I would have been just a 2nd rate tank.

After that, me and BBJ decided that we weren't taking chances next phase. BBJ somehow put together a god roster (and invited me for some reason lol) and I had to say "this is it, if I can't make it with this roster, I'm never making it. I have 6 months to try, no more." That roster would be BBJ, Khroen, McIntyre, Arthelon, and myself and... well, the rest y'all probably know. 

I worked my ass off. I took as much criticism and critique as I could mentally handle. Each day felt more and more rewarding as I felt myself improving. We (nearly) swept the season and came into crucible knowing we were a match for at least half of the current HGC. I was still super nervous and had heavy flashbacks of the previous crucible, but my team carried me through those parts. In the end, we made it and my fear evaporated. I didn't sleep that night. In fact, I barely slept that entire week. 

Also worth mentioning that that crucible interview was what finally changed my parent's minds. The were never direct or forceful, but they were always worried that my gaming habit was an addiction. They even went so far as to ask about rehab for gaming addicts. That all changed after that interview. My parents knew it was something real. More importantly, they saw me happier than I had been in years. They sent that interview to all their friends, all my family, anyone they could think of. Fast forward a year and my parents scalped tickets to Blizzcon just to see me play. I definitely have some great parents. 

Back to HGC, If you're reading this, you probably follow HGC close enough to know most of the what happened from then on. HeroesHearth, the new kids on the block, started our slow rise to #1 in NA. I also picked up social media for the first time in my life and tried to be pretty transparent with it, so there really isn't too much to say on this end either. Still, there are a few things you should understand to understand why I'm writing this.

For me, this was never about the money or prestige. I legit loved every moment of playing professional HotS since joining HGC. Even games I lost were fun, tense, and exciting. My first game of HGC was me getting bodied by Tempo Storm, and I loved it because it showed me just how far I had to grow. My first LAN was getting bodied by Dignitas, and I loved it because it showed me what playing on a stage was like.

I love learning games. I love knowing there's more to the game than what I already know. And most importantly, I love that moment when you win and finally get rewarded for your effort. My aspirations weren't that grand at first. One goal at a time, I just wanted to know that I could beat whoever was in that lobby on the other side. That started in open division and eventually reached a point where that other side was the likes of Dignitas and Gen.G, the best teams in the world. 

Around Western Clash in Anaheim, I finally started to realize just what made these teams so dominant. I could feel the gap between us slowly closing, but their experience and team cohesion put them out of reach enough that there seemed no way we could reach them by Blizzcon (Arth losing interest in the game didn't help either.) 

I went into Blizzcon with every intention of doing my best, but also knowing my goal was further down the line. I had a goal in sight, I knew what I needed to work on, and all of the hype and fans at Blizzcon had me more motivated than ever to tackle that goal. Then, for the first time my HotS career, my goal was taken from me before I had a chance to reach it. 

With this announcement of the cancellation of the HotS competitive scene comes the realization that I will never have the opportunity to chase that goal in earnest. Cheated. I just feel so cheated it hurts. No sadness, just anger and frustration of having this goal and this community being taken from me. This isn't anger at the devs or HGC crew who were likely just as blindsided as we were. This is just frustration at feeling powerless in all of this. 

I don't feel regret for joining the scene. I feel regret for encouraging players to spend more time on the game and telling open players that there would almost certainly be an HGC next year, but I don't regret joining this scene. It helped me figure out who I am, what I want, and will likely help me find what I want to do next too. For those of you who were worried about me reading the earlier paragraphs, know I'm in a much better place than I was 2 years ago and have no plans of returning. 

With that said, I think this little story has come to a close. All that's left here is shoutouts/thanks and future plans so....


SHOUTOUTS: 

I'm going to do this a little differently than you might be used to. If I were to try and name every single person who's helped me on this journey, this would be longer than old term papers. Instead I'm going to keep this simple. 

To all of my past teammates and companions, anyone I played with or even just anyone who I've talked about the game with, know that you were what kept me here so long and gave me something to work towards. You helped me get to where I am today both as a player and a person. Special shoutouts to Taliant and the Ebros for reaching out to me and bringing me back on the 2 occasions I almost quit for good.

To all of casters, community managers, and other staff both HGC and OD, thank you so much for all your time. Know we don't hold any of this against you and wish you the best of luck in your future pursuits just as you wish the best for us. You did quite a lot considering the limited support you got, and for that, we're grateful. Special shoutouts to Halorin for just generally being an amazing person and to Sophist for putting up with our shit time and time again lol (no really, we appreciate you Sophist.)

The the HotS devs, we as pros were not always easy to work with, but know you made this game we love and for that we'll always be thankful. We didn't always see eye to eye, but you were responsive and helpful and somehow persevered even as people were getting pulled from your project while the competitive community criticized your every move. You have my respect.

To all the fans and people reading this, thank you for your support. You all made all of this possible in the first place. It was easy to feel unwanted through a purely online league, but y'all never failed to show support through coming to our streams, posting on twitter, and the eventual meeting at Blizzcon. Y'all really know how to make us feel loved, and for that, we thank you.

Finally, to my current teammates, HHE staff and HGC contemporaries, y'all deserve a thanks for making this all so special, but I won't say goodbye, because I have no intention of dropping contact or cutting any of you out of my life. I know how important support can be and know I'll need it for whatever I plan to do next. If any of y'all ever need my help or even just want to play games, hit me up and I'll be there as much as I can. If we weren't united already by our love for the game, we are now definitely united by getting screwed by this announcement lol. 

And now, finally what many of you were probably looking for...

FUTURE PLANS:

Hell if I know.

Truth be told, I'm still a little in shock. I'm taking this weekend to full cool my head before making any decisions. I'll be taking next week to do research, ask questions, etc... to try and make as informed a decision as possible.

With that said, I still really want to compete. I was still very motivated and ready to go into this upcoming season and having this all come to a sudden stop has just been, unsettling. Everything I said earlier still stands. I love learning games and want to beat anyone who ends up against me. I had planned to compete in HotS until either my fire died or the scene died, but I expected at least 3 years, not just 1. 

Current options are:

League of Legends: Played this for years before HotS and got mid Diamond at peak, though never really tried for anything competitive. Super saturated but also the natural transition and, hey, I still enjoy the game.

Dragonball Fighterz: Honestly, I suck at this game, but I also have only been playing it like once a week as a break from HotS since launch. I could see myself sinking serious time into this, but not really sure if the FGC is what I want right now. Need to look into this more. 

Smite: I live in Atlanta very close to the new studio already and it's also a MOBA. The thing is, I've never particularly enjoyed this game in my few tries at it, and Hi-Rez also doesn't have the best reputation, especially after Realm Royale. Not sure I could take another heartbreak. Once again, need more research.

Your guess is as good as mine: Not huge into most of the other professional games right now, but still up to take suggestions. For all I know a new game could be on the horizon or I could discover a strange love for an old one. That being said, it's unlikely I will continue with anything Blizzard. The only games I really felt attached to from them were Hearthstone and HotS. The former I've grown tired of and the latter... well, it's just too painful for me to play right now.

These are just the competition options though. I had planned to take my experience and college degree to try and find a job in game development or esports somewhere once my competitive fire died, but this setback might make this an opportune time to start looking. This doesn't FEEL like the right decision right now, but logically, it's probably for the best. As I said, I need this weekend to get priorities in order. I'll definitely be active on twitter once I have my plan in motion.

If you have any suggestions, feedback, or opportunities, I'm grateful for literally any help I can get in making this decision. Thanks!

Anyways, that wraps this up. If you've read this far, you're a trooper and deserve to treat yourself. I'm sad that it ended this way but still grateful for everything this scene has brought me. Thank you for reading and, if you're reading, thank you for supporting the scene and myself in whatever way you have.

Just thank you.

Have a nice day,
-ishb00
 
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Was a pleasure to watch you play and grow as a player on HHE from Open Division to The Crucible to HGC 2018 Season 1 to the Midseason Brawl to becoming top dogs in NA HGC Season 2 to BlizzCon. Best of luck in your future chapters. Forever a fan.
Loved your stream man, learned so much every time I watched.  Wish you the best in whatever you choose to do!