By Angel "Prometheus" Munoz
t was December 24, 1995 a little after 2 AM, and I can clearly remember everything about that moment, the smells, the temperature, the lights, the pulsating rate of my heart, my thoughts and the myriad of overwhelming emotions, it was the birth of my son, Alexander. A few seconds after his birth, I was told that he was not breathing and was choking on amniotic fluid. The nurses and doctors rushed to assist him and he immediately started breathing, but his birth has since remained a vivid symbol in my mind of the unexpected pain that can quickly follow the exhilaration of birth.
In this article, I will share with you some of the pain that followed the birth of the Cyberathlete Professional League. But first, here is how it all got started.
Why not approach the tournaments from a professional stance? Why not bring well deserved recognition to those gamers that had excelled in skill and performance? I can clearly remember the day I created the word Cyberathlete. The only person that was excited about the word was our trademark attorney: "This word is good, easy to trademark." Everyone else was skeptical, I should have taken that as a sign.
I had a general concept, but how do I launch this new concept and attract gamers to join? That question took a lot of strategic thinking. The first decision I made was to integrate the new concept into our existing marketing budget. To attract the top gamers I thought it would be best to sponsor them. We picked ten of the best Quake players we could find, including two phenomenal female players: Killcreek and Kornelia, and officially launched the Cyberathlete Organization on July 6, 1997. I was clearly not prepared for what was about to happen.
It all started with a bet between Jason Hall (CEO of Monolith) and myself. In his .plan file on August 11, 1997, he posted the following:
"You know, I never figured that a casual comment like 'I believe that Craig Hubbard can WHOOP Thresh' would generate the kind of interest that it has. For those of you that are wondering what the response has been like, it has been fairly interesting!
I never realized how much damage that single event would cause to my public image and the image of the CPL. All of a sudden the perception that the CPL was only after money and cheap publicity stunts propagated to all corners of the Net. While Jason and I never really intended to bet that kind of money, the entire gaming community was in an uproar. Sites were launched to track the bet, emails started flying in and there was a general distaste in the gaming community for the entire affair.
Then I heard from Thresh's "agent", he told me that they had "put together the money" and wanted me to step aside and allow them to place the bet. I said "Sure go ahead. Jason and I are friends and this entire affair has been blown completely out of proportion anyway." This was happening while TEN was quietly planning to launch the PGL and Thresh had committed to be a part of the new league.
A few months later, Greg Miller, an LA Times staff writer, contacted me right before The FRAG, our first official event, and said he wanted to chat about my sports agency: the Cyberathlete Organization. Uh? Where did you get that information? We are not a sports agency!, I replied. I spent an hour on the phone with him explaining our concept and the fact that we were also launching the CPL as a LAN based gamers league.
On November 3rd, he published an article in the LA Times called: The Cutting Edge, and in it he described me as "the Don King of online gaming." I was furious and called him up right away. This dialog is based on my personal notes and my recollection of that conversation:
Greg - I am sorry I never meant to insult you.
This article was a strong blow to the CPL. After working so hard in planning and putting together the FRAG event, this was the first broad media article published about us, and it was clearly negative. The CPL organizers and players were all disappointed.
On another front it became obvious to us that if we continued to pay the top gamers to play on our league, it would only perpetuate the wrong idea about the CPL. I then decided that no one would be paid to play at our events and we would instead concentrate on cash prizes. This caused another uproar in certain circles, and the number one rumor floating around the Internet at that time was: the CPL is out of money and going down fast.
People continued to speculate about our imminent demise but in March, 1998 we announced that John Romero was voted Chairman of the CPL. John was a big supporter of the CPL and totally embraced some of the new ideas I was formulating, like: moving the LAN events around the country, launching cyberdomes for the events and doubling these as PC-based playgrounds for hard-core gamers. Having John Romero as Chairman gave us all renewed energy and he fired up the entire team with his powerful enthusiasm. But lurking in the dark was a new deadly critic, which would launch a four month attack on the CPL.
It started on March 12, 1998 and my life has never been quite the same. BitchX, the anonymous publisher of a site called Gaming Insider, hosted by PlanetQuake, (a community Quake site that has declined to report on the CPL events, while giving the PGL extensive coverage) published the following remarks about me:
"the decidedly unsavory
Then on June 6, 1998 "she" referred to me as "the Pimp."
OUCH! Talk about pain. Her column became a weekly attack session on the CPL that shook our very foundation. Friends and family were calling and asking me why I was being referred to as "the pimp," I was at a loss for words. Some existing sponsors became leery and new sponsors were skeptical to join the CPL.
Then something odd happened, the more "she" bashed the CPL, the more emails I received expressing support and asking me to ignore "her" accusations and continue doing what I was doing. Some people offered to work for the CPL for free, others took it upon themselves to email industry companies and tell them that those articles were unfounded and did not represent the feelings of the gaming community at large. I was truly touched by the support.
The following experience really made an impact on me. During the summer CPL tournament, I spoke to a man that told me the following story: "My 15 year old son was supposed to be here today. He was excited about coming to this event but a few weeks ago he died in a car accident. The driver was drunk, he was hanging around with the wrong people... What you are doing is good, you give young people an opportunity to share their passion for these computer games, and it keeps them out of trouble. Don't stop, you hear me? You just keep doing this." It was a very touching moment and both him and I had tears in our eyes.
I decided to ignore the remarks of BitchX and to continue expanding our concepts. Some of the creative ideas I was tossing around in my head at the time were: Let's do several different tournaments with prizes at our events. Workshops and conferences are good. Developer booths are also good, so that people could get live sneak previews of upcoming games and technologies. Most importantly, let's recapture the original LAN party feeling at our events. Each of these ideas presented new challenges for us but we decided that we would attempt to realize them at The FRAG 2.
An unexpected jab came from Thresh, when in his weekly column he referred to me as "the pimp." Josh Forman, in his editorial at Gamer's Alliance, dated August 24, 1998, wrote a strong response:
"Thresh has taken it upon himself to launch a marketing strategy against Angel Munoz of the CPL. Don't get me wrong here, the CPL certainly has its own set of problems, but to me when I go to the PGL site and read an editorial by a Dennis Fong who pretends not be affiliated with Death Row and Gamer's Extreme and the PGL at the same time and calls Angel Munoz a "pimp" while laying down his own load of bias, I get depressed and remember the Dennis Fong of old, playing in T3 like the rest and having a good time."
And on October 25, 1998 Josh Forman again made another strong comment on the same issue:
I was hanging out in Dallas, and I whip up a page from Thresh's Frontline. In it, Thresh makes reference to "Angel 'the pimp' Munoz", and then he adds in a "(just kidding, heh)" or something. Now, Thresh has always been a great guy to me. He's almost always nice, ready to help, and considerate. But when I read that article I was a little dismayed that he would try and get away with a jab like that (everybody knows Angel really dislikes people calling him that), and that he assumed that a (just kidding, heh) would erase the offense. The only purpose of it in the first place was to make Angel feel uncomfortable, anyway, there isn't any other reason for it.
Light at the end of the tunnel
The FRAG 2 turned out to be a major success. Our sponsors, which include companies like: Babbages, Logitech, Viewsonics, Cisco Systems, Nike, ACT LABS, BSG Labs, Canopus, Mad Catz and others, were all very pleased with the exposure they received, both live and online. The CPL organizers: Jerry, Mike, Tim and Monte all worked non-stop to make the FRAG 2 a success. The 18 volunteers were absolutely incredible and dedicated themselves to helping us in any possible way they could. The staff from AVault was also very helpful, Karin, Kimberly and Jaye were busy registering people, while Brian, Rex and David provided the online world with live coverage.
Having MSNBC filming live for an upcoming show with John Stossel was a nice highlight. The Game Time and Shooters live coverage was a clear symbol to us that the events have gained popular acceptance. The Doom II competition was a total blast to watch and the ACT Labs racing tournament was the most popular competition of the show. BSG, the makers of the ultra-cool Intensor, hosted a Sin competition and Levelord, kindly donated a signed magazine as part of the first prize.
In general, everyone seemed relaxed at the FRAG 2. Blue and loonyboi (the nut that asked me to write this) were both very complimentary of the "general feel" of the event. I think that The FRAG 2 was more of a community event that any other live event this year, but that of course, is just my opinion.
The only negativity we experienced was the PGL calling themselves "the only pro sports league for computer game enthusiasts" and timing that statement to be released right before our FRAG 2 event. sCary, of sCary's Shuga Shack wrote: "PGL's silly claims of being the 'only pro computer gaming league' sound a bit spiteful to you? Perhaps the PGL press office should grow up a little bit." And Blue, wrote in Blue's News: "...though calling themselves 'The only pro sports league for computer game enthusiasts' doesn't seem accurate in light of the existence of the CPL"
I feel that all of this nonsense has to stop at some point. A few months back we removed from the CPL press kit, website and literature any references that could be deemed as negative by any one of our competitors, I hope that our competitors can someday do the same. And in spite of all the name calling and unfounded accusations, I have no resentful feelings towards anyone. Life is too short to carry negativity around.
As far as the future? Expect more events, more cities and other fun stuff from the CPL. Our next two events will be in Dallas, followed by San Diego, followed by New York and followed by Dallas again. More than ever, I totally believe in the concept of professional gaming and I only hope that the rest of this adventure is as interesting and colorful as the first year.
- Angel Munoz is the founder of the Cyberathlete Professional League.
|Credits: Guest Editorial logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. This Guest Editorial is © 1998 Angel Munoz. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and not nice.|