10 Years of TLO

December 11 2020

Ten years.

That’s how long I’ve been with Team Liquid. Thinking about it now, that’s a third of my life. My life has gone through countless changes during that time. I moved to Korea (and back), competed at Blizzcon, recovered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, become a coach, and even married the love of my life. Through all these ups, downs, and adventures, Team Liquid has been a constant.

Team Liquid became a second family to me, with my friends and teammates always there if I needed them. Those are the relationships that I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life. Sure, it wasn’t always perfect. We had our share of tough times. Still, after ten years, I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I made that got me to where I am today.

I’d like to tell you that it all started ten years ago when I first joined Team Liquid, but it goes back much farther than that.

The year was 2002. Age of Mythology, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, and Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos were all released. It was a great year for video games, and an even better one for Dario Wünsch.

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My brothers and I had been playing RTS’s for years at that point, playing all sorts of crazy RTS games that most people have never heard of. While we were always excited to try the new ones that came out, we always came back to the one and only: Starcraft. That year was when everything changed, when I discovered the Starcraft competitive scene.

I took the first chance I got to attend a tournament. It was small by today’s standards, but back then I couldn’t have been more excited, it was even hosting the German WCG Qualifiers for that year. It just so happens that at this very event, I got to sit behind and watch someone who would later have a huge impact on my life.

Victor ‘Nazgul’ Goossens

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This was my first contact with esports as a person at a venue and I was absolutely blown away. I had such a good time, that feeling has never really left me. It ignited a passion that has kept me going ever since.

This same passion carried me into the professional Starcraft 2 scene eight years later, where I defeated Liquid`Nazgul himself in the first TL SC2 Invitational. It was announced the next day that I would be joining Team Liquid.

That decision to join Team Liquid wasn’t as cut-and-dried as you might expect. I had offers from a few different teams at that time. While other teams were offering me money, say 200 Euros a month, Team Liquid actually offered no salary at all. I asked my brother, known as TBO in the scene, what I should do. He reminded me of what I already knew and helped me have the confidence to go through with it.

I joined Team Liquid because I knew how much it meant to be with Team Liquid.

At the end of the day 200 Euros a month doesn’t really change my life. Not when I had the opportunity to join TEAM LIQUID.

My brother and I celebrated a lot. He knew just how big of a deal it was to join Team Liquid. It sunk in for the rest of my family a few months later when I told them that I was moving to Korea in a couple weeks. It was pretty crazy because the first GSL had just been announced.

I went from “I’ve never lived away from my parents” to “I am moving to Korea in two weeks.”

That time in Korea was unlike anything I’ve experienced. There were some difficulties, but it was made easier by the two people that I went with, Nazgul and Jinro. It wasn’t easy moving to such a different country, especially before any of us had smartphones. It was certainly daunting, but the biggest difficulty was the living arrangement.

A month into being in Korea, we moved into a big team house and lived together with seventeen other people at the oGs house. I was in a room with four bunk beds, so I had seven roommates. Some people can handle those conditions better than others, a bedroom with the lights going on and off all night or people staying up until 4AM.

As hard as it was at times, it was still a great experience. Nothing can break the bonds I built with Nazgul and Jinro during that time.

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And honestly it’s those relationships that made those early years at TL so special. It was just the Starcraft 2 players and the few people that were working on the site - R1ch, Nazgul, HotBid, etc. Everyone knew each other so well, it felt more like a group of friends playing a game together than anything else. I have a lot of nostalgia for those early days, it was a lot more personal.

It was like having a second family.

Having such close ties helped create a lot of special moments for us. One moment that I’ll never forget was when HerO won Dreamhack. It was such an incredible, emotional moment for the team because HerO was one of the most emotional players we had. He was extremely talented, playing weird crazy styles and doing stuff that you’re not really supposed to do, but he made it work anyway. Finally at Dreamhack he managed to take out some of the best players on the planet and eventually won the finals against EG’s PuMa. That was at a peak time for the Team Liquid-EG rivalry, making that moment even more special.

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Unfortunately we lost some of that as things grew, as they became more professional. Still, I think that’s a process that is inevitable. There are now over 200 people at Team Liquid working as players, staff, and everything else. So obviously not everyone is going to know each other on a super personal basis anymore and while that is different, it certainly comes with its benefits.

TL now has infrastructure that would have been unimaginable ten years ago. Players are being supported in ways that just wouldn’t be possible because we didn’t use to have the staff available for those tasks. We’ve got managers, psychologists, even full training facilities. The European AWTF (Alienware Training Facility) is actually a fantastic facility because it gives the Starcraft 2 team a great place to properly bootcamp. This ends up being really huge for the Starcraft team because of how much in-person bootcamps help the players and how few Starcraft teams have this kind of opportunity available to them.

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Having your teammate there in the room with you is a bigger deal than you could possibly imagine.

That’s one of the biggest things that I took away from working the bootcamp with our Starcraft team as a coach. I got to work in-person with all of our players on an individual level and then at a team level. We even had a call with all the players at the end to talk about what went well at the bootcamp and how to move forward.

I was really glad to finally get the chance to share the benefits of my experience with other players.

Still, though, as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with Team Liquid, it is time for me to move forward on my own. To say moving on from TL was a difficult decision would be quite the understatement. I’ve got a strong bond with TL and especially the SC2 team, so it took a lot of thinking to come to this decision.

I was very nervous about this decision. After all, I have been with TL for practically my whole adult life. Thankfully, my wife was incredibly supportive. She always stressed that I should make whatever decision will make me happy. Victor was also supportive, when I finally talked to him about it. He was proud that I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned from my 10 years with TL to keep building my career in esports.

While there is a certain amount of sadness from finally leaving TL, there’s also much to look forward to in the future. It’s hard to describe just how excited I am. Shopify is one of the rare companies that gives their employees a lot of freedom and the space to think creatively.

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Even as a new chapter of my life begins, I know that my time at TL will never leave me.

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