During the medal ceremony Alan Karamara—three time world finalist and no stranger to the pressures of a live audience—stands alongside his competitors as the crowd roars. “It was nothing like any other event I’ve been to,” he recalls to me. He stands straight, keeping his eyes fixated in front of him and his hands clasped behind him, Karamara is focused. He’s representing his homeland among 506 other players from 34 countries and the pressure is enormous. “I was more stressed going to get my medal than playing the game,” he would tell me later.
His name is called out as the official stands before him, the heavy silver medal is slipped over his head and around his neck, allowed to rest proudly upon his chest. Photographs are being perpetually snapped everywhere as flags stationed around the room remind everyone how expansive this event truly is—how vast its reach. As the ceremony continues, spectators cheer for the champions of each respective event and the energy in the room is electric.
"I remember reading about it, it being compared to the Olympics and I remember thinking okay that's fine, but... then I got there and well, it really felt like being at the Olympics!" Karamara commented with a laugh when we sat down to speak about the 2019 World Cyber Games hosted July 18 – 21, 2019 in Xi’an Qujiang, China. Recognized as the world’s largest esports competition since its conception in 2000, WCG included the VR RTS title Final Assault from Phaser Lock Interactive as an official game title in the New Horizons Category this year. Team Gravity's very own Alan Karamara aka Dirvel was all over that. Invited to represent Polland in the qualifiers back in May, Karama began to train with zero playtime and no knowledge of the game. Just a few months later he would find himself facing off for the gold against the best of the best.
The competition started July 18th with Dirvel facing his first opponent—Chary from the Netherlands—in a Beaumont mirror matchup. Dirvel’s superior mastery of Beumont secured his victory quickly as the matches on day one were single elimination.
Day two would prove more difficult as Dirvel faced off against Ddolddolddol-e (which I’m told means “crazy genius”) in a best of three. The competition would last all the way until the third game with both players fighting for their lives to stay out of the losers bracket. Ultimately, Dirvel would emerge victorious over the South Korean representative.
On day three he would go on to put the USA native SadleyitsBradley into the losers bracket—ensuring himself at least second place as he advanced to the finals undefeated.
This epic performance was finally interrupted at arguably the worst time possible—mid finals—as the native oculus user playing on tournament provided HTC Vives fumbled a bit with the foreign and hastily learned controls.
“One of my main units [Calliope] was next to his base, destroying his base, and the unit stopped moving. I tried to move on the map to this unit, to have it attack the base, but instead I hit…menu button.” Yikes. For 15 or so seconds Dirvel was locked in unfamiliar menus, helpless, and unsure how to navigate back. “When I got back he had destroyed my unit, and everything had changed so drastically there was nothing I could do to recover, so I lost.”
He's in high spirits as he tells me the tragic tale, and is even laughing as we examine the things he could have done better, “the second one he just crushed me, the second one I have no excuses he was just way better.”
This mental doesn’t surprise me, Dirvel’s a veteran to the esports scene and a seasoned member of Team Gravity—he’s been doing this a long time, and he takes it seriously. Even now he’s training for VRML season 4 and has a match scheduled after our talk for an online league his currently participating in.
Not only that, but second place is nothing to be upset about, especially after a flawless three day ride into finals. It was an awesome series to watch and talk about and I’m excited to see what the rest of this competitive season brings for Dirvel, Team Gravity, and the rest of the competitive VR space.