Play hard, game hard

A varsity cross country runner and a lieutenant governor elect for Key Club-two different people that have one thing in common: a passion for video games. Juniors Curtis Trieu and Bill Yen are both part of a five-man “League of Legends” team, SNEKS. They recently won the Youth Esports of America (YEA) Semester Series Fall and each earned $500 toward college.

Both Trieu and Yen have had a passion for gaming since they were young, with Trieu starting at the age of seven and Yen at six years old. Their League of Legends team consists of them and three other people from Diamond Bar. Trieu and Yen are the two highest ranked gamers in the team, both placing within the top 0.2 percent of 1.8 million competitive players in North America.

“I looked up to many of these professional players because they were so much higher ranked than me. Back then, I viewed them as idols, and I always tried to copy their styles of playing. Now I play with some of them, so it’s really inspiring,” Trieu said.

The team decided to test their skills by signing up online for the YEA: Fall Semester Series tournament, which is divided into three rounds: the qualifier, semi-finals and the finals. The top four teams in the qualifier round are allowed into the semi-finals, where they will compete for the top two spots to qualify into the finals. SNEKS passed the qualifier round in second place. After that, they won the semi-finals 2-0 and eventually the finals 3-2.

“Our mindset going [into the tournament] was, ‘We could win this easily, we just need to play correctly throughout the whole game,’” Trieu said. “We were getting tensed as the tournament progressed. During the finals, we were really chill until we started losing some games because we were a little overconfident. We started feeling a little stressed and started feeling the pressure.”

To prepare for this tournament, Trieu spends about two hours everyday improving his skills by playing ranked solo queue, which places him against people the same skill level as him. Trieu also watches streamers to study their techniques. Yen maintains his knowledge of the game by reading the weekly updates and watching online videos.

“It’s different for everyone. For me personally, I play one or two days a week, but I definitely don’t think it’s how much you play. You also have to take in consideration how you keep up with the game because you could learn not just by playing but by keeping track and reading and watching videos online,” Yen said. “I think that’s the most significant part about my playstyle, I think. I’m a pretty objective person, and I take in things just by watching instead of playing intuitively.”

As a Varsity cross country runner, Trieu finds it difficult to manage both lives. He dedicates about two hours a day to running yet has dealt with skepticism from his parents, who were unsure whether playing games professionally is stable. However, Trieu gained the trust of his parents after he started winning tournaments.

“My parents didn’t know what this was. They were skeptical about it because they were like, ‘Is [this] actually stable?’ and [they said that] I shouldn’t be playing that many games and instead I should be focusing more on running,” Trieu said.

Yen also faced struggles with managing his academic and extracurricular life with gaming. Currently, he is a treasurer in Key Club and will be the lieutenant governor elect in April.

“I have a lot of Key Club work and schoolwork to do everyday. There’s not a single day I could go without studying for an AP class, doing homework or writing a Key Club email for another business organization,” Yen said. “That’s why I only find time to play games once or twice a week, and I maintain what I know by keeping up with the weekly updates and YouTube videos.”

Growing up, Yen had to overcome hurdles in his childhood, from peer pressure to the common misconception that gaming is a waste of time and requires no skill.

“It’s a pet peeve to me whenever someone shames the industry or shames the activity as being able to play professionally because it’s hard work, it’s talent. I have so many memories of people telling me you’re wasting your time, you can’t do anything with this,” Yen said. “Now that I’ve seen the industry grow so much, and I’ve proven so many people wrong, it just feels good knowing that you’re right in the end.”

By Raymond Dunn, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Curtis Trieu

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