A Lottery of Sorts
Heading into the new millenium, Marcus was at a crossroads. He had to decide whether he was going to grab a 9-5 after finishing college, or take this rare opportunity to work for a generous salary.
It was during his time at the bank that he realized he was gifted in casting games, once thought of as just a hobby.
He would come home from work, unwind, and cast games repeatedly to hone his skill. This was a rigorous period of dedicating himself to a craft he had deep-seated belief in. After being gently pushed by fellow 519ers, he took a dive and tried it out in a more serious fashion. Eventually, that would lead to forming his own show, with a familiar face we all know and love.
So for someone coming out of college, reading this, they’re going to wonder which path to take; all-in on broadcasting and gaming [or whatever field their dream is in], or secure a 9-5.
I didn’t finish college. That is not a recommendation I would make to others. Let me explain how I approached and came to that situation.
I feel in life that I have gotten very lucky. My parents got me a computer, I had a family that introduced me to video games. You can say all these things were little cosmic pots of gold that kind of let me to be where I was at.
I believe this one might be the biggest one I’m about to tell you.
In 1997, during my second year at the university, I worked at the university computer store and took a job at a place called Computer Renaissance. It was at that point where I just didn’t feel like I was learning what I wanted to learn in college, and I ended up getting an offer because Y2K [the year 2000] was rapidly approaching, and suddenly all of these banking companies were looking for “sharp, young, and knowledgeable computer guys and gals” who could convert entire networks, and pull 10-base T, and set up legitimate Windows networks that would interface with the bank’s proprietary software, right?
Imagine, I’m two and a half years through school and this company comes to me and is like, “Hey, you want this $60,000/year job? You work 5 days a week and do some travel, and learn this stuff, and we’ll pay for your MCSE training also.”
I was like “Fuck. Yes.”
It’s like hitting the lottery.
It’s like hitting the lottery, and it was only because of Y2K, and we’re not going to have another one, so I just got lucky.
I loved this job, I was on the help desk for a year, then I ran that help desk because I loved it so much that I still worked on the help desk and joined the server team following that. We did deployments of entire networks at banks, and I worked with these 20 guys and gals that basically filled in all my knowledge gaps which I didn’t have filled, and they were helping me understand concepts of networking I wasn’t introduced to, and helped me set things up for testing I didn’t know how to. I was a sponge, and this was the perfect job.
This also allowed me, with a 9-5 job, to then use this now sort of injection of money I’d been getting, and I would buy computers and buy better equipment. I would pay for more DSL’s to my house so I could have more bandwidth, and broadcast at higher bit rates, so that’s how my route went.
What I say to everyone who hasn’t gotten to that point yet, or is in school right now, is, “No, man.” [don’t drop out]
College offers a really interesting opportunity for people to experiment. To not only focus on the school work, but to also find out what you truly are passionate about, and what you want to spend the rest of your life doing, and exploring different things. That should be something everyone does, because you’re less likely to come across that aforementioned cosmic pot of gold. The job I secured set me up to not need an education; I still have enough experience to this day, from that company, that I feel confident I could still go get an IT job today. I really, really do believe that.
I don’t regret not finishing school, but I do know that there was a period in my life where I was still in that early esports phase, where I know not having an education affected my ability to get hired. I knew some people wouldn’t take me seriously because even though I had 7 years, reputable years, at this computer company, I lacked a completed education. It’s my advice to many… stay in school.
Making Bread with djWHEAT
Where does that bring you in your life? What’s your mental space like at this point in time? You have 7 years of experience so far.
I worked under a manager named Dayle, she taught me an awful lot about the corporate world and how to succeed in that environment. A great manager. I loved to work; there’s a certain sense of accomplishment that you get. It wasn’t hard to be a model employee a lot of times, but what ultimately made me leave, and this might be a real fast forward, but while all this was happening, that’s when I was still playing Quake 3 professionally.
I started just saying to myself, “I don’t have as much time to play Quake because of this job,” and I didn’t want to stop being involved with Quake and involved with 519, and involved with the community, and that’s when I decided that I’m going to start looking at all of this from the broadcasting side.
The original story was that I was recording commentary only for our team, to tell them when they fucked up. I would watch their demos and record over them.
You guys, quad is supposed to spawn in 20 seconds.
Gator spammed everything but no one was even close to where they were supposed to be even on DM6 when quad spawned.
Look, they grabbed it, they got 9 frags after it.
You’re all fuckin’ terrible!
God damn it, this better not happen next week!
It all evolved from there, until someone suggested that get a microphone and do it live.
Who was that someone?
I’ve narrowed it down to two people. I believe that it was either RDW519 or airdave519.
It was during our meetings on Roger Wilco [software], and dude… we were a nerdy group, because many of us were local. Not only did we have our team, but we had the clan groupies. Not in a female sexual way, but just literally people wanting to play with us, that were local and wanting to get better.
Which was cool, I love that.
Contrary to popular belief, the software called Roger Wilco which Marcus mentions was not named after a person. It’s actually a phrase, which derives from the “roger” which is a known colloquialism for affirming something, and “wilco” which means “will comply”.
It was one of the first ever VOIP (voice-over-IP clients) developed around the idea of utilizing it for multiplayer games, online. Created in a cliche bedroom startup, the company eventually ran out of steam. The final version was released in 2003, but the program was still being used by 5 million people worldwide.
Like many things that become phased out or forgotten within the ebb and flow of technology, Roger Wilco eventually faded out… sort of.
They were acquired by MPath Interactive for $23 million, which subsequently sold the core technology to Microsoft, who still uses remnants to this day, shipped in every Microsoft game. Note that sister MPlayer would be bought out by GameSpy, ballooning cumulatively as a brand to 10 million registered members. HearMe would launch as its spiritual successor, and would be integrated into GameSpy Arcade after a deal with PalTalk to acquire licensing rights.
Touch on how 519 [pronounced ‘five-nineteen’ not ‘five-one-nine’] came together. You’ve repped them religiously for two decades; that’s the group, right?
It is the group, yeah.
It started in that gamer house in college that I mentioned. It was 519 North 35th Street. 519 was just the house number, man. It was just that silly. We always talked about not wanting to be the “Dragonslayers” or something, so we just started going as 519. It started as the original 5 people in the house. We would all tag up, join a server, fuck some people up, and I’d like to think that we were pretty good.
Then people would say we were good, they wanted to join which led to tryouts, then we’d try to have people local. All 519 really represented was a bunch of guys that just wanted to have a good time, and happened to be pretty good at games. I think that, right now, in our ranks, some of the greatest Quake 3 players will still identify with 519.
That means a lot to me, right? They didn’t live in that house, but that number transcended the house. It represented a sense of brotherhood, and a sense of comradery, and a sense of striving to improve.
We did some things other teams hadn’t done; we won a trip to compete at LAN Arena [Paris, France], where we got our asses handed to us by the Europeans.
It’s a really special legacy to me, because not only is it the place where I did my first broadcast [at the house], or the place where I spent my Ultima Online years; what I’m most proud of is that I went, and did Quake Con this past year , and John ‘zero4’ Hill, he was not on 519 first but he ended up 519, and still identifies with it.
Even two decades later, 20 years later, it’s kind of amazing that this little thing that started in a house in Lincoln, Nebraska, still has a part of history in esports. In other games, there’s still 519, you may see it as VXIX; if we couldn’t put numbers in, we’d replace it with Roman numerals.
519 would be the origin of this second-family mentality which served to further their causes; something with more texture to it. Marcus became more adamant about following his dream, still unsure himself of what exactly that was, and letting nothing stop him. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he would indeed be inching closer to finally realizing what his dream was.
Broadcasting was always on the back burner in Marcus’ mind. Something he had a penchant for, but never really invested time into past listening to a car radio. It wasn’t until a fellow 519er suggested taking the craft more serious, and seeing where it could go.
Where’s that bring you broadcasting-wise? Let’s rewind.
Sure, so going back to my first broadcast, that’s when I was like, “Oh shit, people will listen, and this is where I can unleash my passion.”
So, that’s what I’d do.
I’d come home from my job, 8-5, broadcast Quake for 3 or 4 hours. We left RealAudio at this point for ShoutCast, and I’d just do that over and over and over again. What I realized, at that point, is that it was not very smart for me to do it on my own when there were other groups out there who were already kind of creating these networks to become the home of what this thing was.
What I started doing, was I started looking for a network where I could take my Quake commentary to. That ended up being TSN [Teams Sportscast Network]. One of the more famous stories about me and TSN is that…
I didn’t realize at that time that I had talent; I just thought I was a guy yelling into a microphone yelling about Quake.
People were telling me I had a knack; let me tell you, one of the most nervous times I was in my career was applying to TSN. They had a level of polish and professionalism that I was not necessarily putting myself up to those standards. I could say whatever the fuck I wanted, and do whatever the fuck I wanted, because there were no ToS strikes or whatever… but I needed to show these people that I can be a good contribution to the network.
Man. I fuckin’ lied out of my ass on this application.
I just wanted them to listen to my recording; if they listened in my mind, they’d be sold. Claims of going to local LANs, doing coverage there, and and then attaching samples claiming I had been doing it for a year or longer were my approach.
I would have done anything, because I needed to get to the next step.
A stepping stone, sort of.
At the time I didn’t know it, but it was a necessary step, for sure.
I got in.
I was their Quake person, and befriended a guy named Chad Budd, AKA Blankz. This guy would be integral to my growth within TSN. He had a lot of radio experience; he still to this day, has one of the most buttery radio voices I have ever heard. He was a muse, motivator, and inspiration. He helped me become better and find motivation. He pushed me to become the best commentator I could be, alongside others in TSN. He helped me develop some of the earliest talent. Trillian, Deeya, Syn, Lun, Quake 3 casters of old.
[recollects and shakes his head in thought of everything that’s happened throughout the years]
As I’m recounting this, it’s just so much.
The Birth of Inside The Game
It’s a rush, isn’t it?
I’m trying to get to the point where I left this job; I ended up leaving TSN and starting my own station because I didn’t necessarily agree with how they were running the station [TSN] and their own aspirations, and how they wanted to run it.
Everything that happened; I also attribute my success in esports to this time period; I tried to be a visionary, per se, but was blocked by someone with a different vision. I refused to let that dictate my ability to succeed or not. I left that network, I took about a third of their staff (those who agreed), and I essentially said that I believed that this was the best course of action and I wanted them to come along with me for the ride if they were willing to. Otherwise, I was going to do it regardless.
That’s when we started Inside The Game, radio ITG.
As Marcus titles this picture at ATI EverLAN, “Before There Was VIDEO”
…and so, ITG was born. This would be the first large independent project which Marcus would take on. The first opportunity Marcus had in his career to build his own entity.
The migration towards ITG would include pulling along fellow top-tier analysts, casters, and all-around figures within the esports scene at the time with him, to help establish a solid base.
The very beginning
esports was here, and John Carmack played a role in that:
Considered by some industry pioneers to be the Second Era of esports (following the First Era of arcade games), this would act as a foothold for years to come. The journey was everything but easy, considering sprouting broadcast outfits within esports stateside, while South Korea had an entire scene bustling.
Marcus needed the upper hand, and he was going to achieve that by any means necessary, even if that meant hopping on a plane for 16 hours to get to the source.Realization