BlizzCon 2016 Opening Week, and how I got kicked out of the studio

Surprise, I’m going to BlizzCon Opening Week.

Surprise, I'm going to BlizzCon Opening Week

At O'Hare International Airport

Arriving at Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport

Okay, well obviously that’s no longer a surprise, because I arrived in Los Angeles on October 23 and I’ve been regularly sharing photos and other posts on social media. The first photo is my ride to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois; the second photo is when I was at O’Hare waiting to board flight with American Airlines; the third photo is after I landed at Los Angeles International Airport and inhaled the familiar smell of cigarette smoke saturating the air; and the fourth and final photo is at Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport, the hotel at which I stayed during BlizzCon Opening Week.

If you’ve been following me for the past year or so, you probably already know that “Surprise, I’m going to ________” is my signature phrase for traveling. I have a tendency to not really share what I’m doing unless I’m already in the process of doing something, or it already happened – this allows me to avoid situations where people say “wait, but I thought you were going to ________” and I have to explain what happened. A consequence of this is that the stuff that I end up sharing is sometimes unexpected, and it’s particularly surprising when I announce out of nowhere that I’m traveling.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately, mostly for our Heroes of the Storm team. If you only know me for Heroes of the Storm, you may be wondering, “why are you going to BlizzCon Opening Week when your new Korean Heroes of the Storm team didn’t even qualify for BlizzCon?”

With Tempo Storm being a very player-oriented organization, and the fact that I would be traveling to BlizzCon anyway for production work, I decided to book my flight early and be present for Opening Week as well. Although our HotS team might not have seen success this time, our Australian Overwatch team did – we had four people qualify for the Overwatch World Cup. I roomed with one of our players who got his hotel room covered by Blizzard, and stayed around to provide administrative support for our team.

Unfortunately, I personally am not much of an Overwatch player, so it was a bit difficult for me to actually be interested in what was going on. So, I generally only went to the studio to check up on the players and stopped by when I was needed. I spent the rest of my time in the hotel room working, as well as doing genius things, such as eating food from restaurants with two hotel coffee stirrers because they forgot to put chopsticks in my takeout bag.

Chop Coffee Stirrer Sticks

So what was this whole thing about getting kicked out of the studio?

Well you see, esports “managers” haven’t exactly demonstrated themselves to me as the most bright and alert people. They generally just do their minimum duties without actually genuinely caring for the players.

I’ve had experiences with league operations staff members who faced tech problems and just gave up. At ESL, a tech was addressing a “power outage” problem … when all he had to do was flip the power switch on the power supply of the computer tower. He couldn’t figure it out, when I identified the problem within seconds after he left the room to get more help. At DreamHack, our CS:GO coach and in-game leader had some audio problems on his laptop, and the tech couldn’t figure out how to fix it and basically said our team had to play the game with the coach’s volume at 1/5th of everything else. That one took me a little bit longer to fix, but I still managed to work through it myself.

Because I didn’t want stuff like this happening to our players at the hands of underqualified individuals, I decided to take care of stuff myself.

Unfortunately, there was no “official” way to have me be the team’s manager, as a manager was assigned for the Overwatch World Cup teams. The Australian team just happened to have four members of Tempo Storm on it, because we have the best Overwatch team in Australia, but for most other teams, random people came together to form the country’s representing team, so it was reasonable for them to not have a specific esports administrator be their manager from a specific organization.

With that being said, confidence gets you far. Even though I wasn’t exactly allowed inside the studio and practice area (because I was not a player or a registered manager), I just walked into the studio as if I belonged there, and was never questioned. I spoke with Blizzard staff members who were on duty inside the studio, and nobody doubted that I belonged there.

Except one person – Nelson – the person who was assigned to be Team Australia’s manager.

The reason he knew I wasn’t authorized on paper to be there is because I was essentially taking his job and making up for his shortcomings. Apparently he had a problem with that – I guess he put his pride before the actual needs of the players.

On one of the Opening Week game days, the team asked me for Starbucks, so I went over to the studio with coffee in hand. The thing about this day is that I announced in our Twitter group DM that I was on my way in the next shuttle (rather than just showing up and walking in), and that I would be arriving in about half an hour.

Nelson was also in this Twitter group.

Right as I got off the shuttle, there were security guards waiting for me at the entrance letting me know that I was not allowed to enter. To be fair, they weren’t wrong – I wasn’t officially on the list of people who could enter – but I had never had a problem with it before then, seeing as most people realized I was a positive addition to the team’s environment.

I have no proof of it, but surely, the only way this could have happened is that Nelson had reported to security that a “trespasser” would be arriving.

This is usually what happens with stories like this – they’re a lot less exciting than what people expect. No, I did not break someone’s bones to get kicked out. No, I did not hack the broadcast. I simply got told on by our own team’s manager.