PC Zone August 1998: A Day in the Life of a Quake Addict
NAME Sujoy Roy
OCCUPATION Physics student and one of the best Quake players in the world
OBSESSION Amassing frags in online Quake
CONDITION BEGAN Sometime back in 1994
HISTORY OF CONDITION Obsessive compulsion to kill people in a virtual sense, derives self-esteem from said act, exhibits physiological and psychological distress during withdrawal
OUTLOOK Terminal but lucrative. Computers mean different things to different people. To most, a computer’s a scary box of wires within which ‘magic’ things happen. To others it’s a functional device, a tool used to perform a variety of helpful tasks. To a growing number of people it’s an entertainment system, for playing games and socially interacting on the Net. And then there’s another group entirely: to them the PC is everything. Without it they would be lost. It is the centre of their world. And with it as a springboard, they have propelled themselves from casual use to an all- consuming passion…
The time is 9:45am. Sujoy Roy wakes from a catatonic slumber and, in one swift movement, is sitting at his PC, typing. His desk is a graveyard of empty Coke cans and Wheat Crunchy wrappers. He bounces merrily into an IRC online chat room and is welcomed by the 20 or so grizzled veterans who are already there, busily swapping expletives. In the background, Sujoy fires up Quake and the morning air is suddenly filled with the beautiful song of rocket launchers and shotguns.
UNHEALTHY ADDICTION It’s just a morning like many others for one of the best Quake players in the world. At lunchtime, he’ll maybe stop to grab a shower and something to eat. At six o’clock he’ll still be at his PC to welcome phone bill watchers and a new wave of gamers who have finished work for die day with his rocket launcher. And by diree or four in the morning, as the UK winds down, he’ll be ambushing fresh young Americans as they log on, oblivious to the danger. “I love it. I just can’t stop playing it.”
At 22, Sujoy Roy looks like a normal Cambridge student He’s friendly, softly spoken, mild-mannered and very modest. Bump into him online, however, and he’ll probably shoot you in the face with a double-barrelled shotgun, and then use a rocket against your carbonised corpse to explode what’s left of you into a pack of squealing newbies, lightning-gun blazing. By the time your bloodied, decapitated head bounces on the cobblestones, he will have executed a good five Quake players and blurred off in search of fresh blood.
Sujoy is studying physics at Downing College, Cambridge – a demanding four-year course for the greatest aspirant intellects in the country, requiring immense study, scholastic endurance and discipline. Not a course for a Quakehead. “I got a First in my first-year exams,” says Sujoy with a giggle. ‘Then I discovered Doom and got a Second. The next year I was playing Quake and got a Third. This year I’ll just pass. Just.” When Sujoy started playing Doom, he didn’t even use a mouse and is quite happy to admit he was “awful”. Rubbish, even. The next year he and his pals got hold of Quake at the Cambridge University: a picturesque backdrop – for mass slaughter. At the same time that the delightful Cambridge college authorities decided to instigate their ‘port per dorm’ policy. The result was – as Max from Hart To Hart would tell you – “murder”. “We got back from holiday and every room had a direct connection to the Internet,” remembers Sujoy. “It was great. You could just plug your machine into the wall and you had the fastest connection possible.”
The Cambridge dons didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for. By providing every room with a fast Internet connection they weren’t broadening their students’ horizons or giving them seamless access to unlimited resource tools – they were spawning a generation of terrifying QuakeLords, UberFragMeisters who would roam the electronic wilderness, obliterating and pillaging any Quake server they could find. Or something like that. Sujoy spent many evenings homicidally touring the country’s servers killing thousands, but it wasn’t until the first version of QuakeWorld came out that Sujoy began to realise he was “quite good”.
“Everyone in the world was ranked,” he recalls. “The more you played, the more people you killed, the less you were killed – it all added up to your overall score on this huge scoreboard.” The scoring system stoked the embers of competitiveness on the UK Quake scene. Literally overnight, a helpful chatty community which had previously lent a hand to newbies and trained up the less skilful, had become a murderous free-for-all, a ruthless bloodbath, a mindless quest for frags. And, after three or four months and nearly 10,000 kills, Sujoy found himself ranked Number One in Europe.
People started taking interest. “So, what’s your name?” “Sujoy Roy.” “And your real name?” “Sujoy.” “No, no. In real life.” “Yeah, it’s Sujoy. Sujoy Roy.” “Yeah, of course it is. What is it – Barry or something?” “No, it’s Sujoy Roy.” “Jesus.” Sujoy had a genuine name to match his abilities. Others, alas, were not so fortunate; the names Ben, Mike and Sharon were unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. “Oh no, it’s Cameron and Nigel! Run!” is not a cry you hear very often in sci-fi films. As a result, nicknames like Coerj, Ettu, Fragger, Reaper, Lord DeathAngel Of The Planet Ikillyou became common.
UNITED EUROPE? NO CLAN DO It was at about this time that the clan scene sprung up. Even- night, on thousands of servers around the world, armies of Quake nutters gathered to kill and be killed. And the fibre-optic Super Janet network – supposedly providing the academic world with fast access to the Internet – became the backbone of the UK Quake scene. Sujoy has his own clan, called Demonic Core – although he insists he’s no star player. “Team play is all about tactics and strategies, area domination and being clever.”
The ten-strong outfit practises twice a week against a rival ‘ally’ team, and is up there in the UK clan league alongside other five star clans such as QPD and Fallen Angels. It’s all delightfully competitive and tribal. The kind of issues governments used to send naive young men to fight over and be slaughtered for have now been transplanted to the ‘electronic battlefield’ (note: please only use that phrase if you want to be labelled a ponce).
Take, for instance, last year’s clash – UK versus Sweden – a kind of Eurovision Quake Contest. It was technically the first war between two European countries since 1945. A true battle of blood, sweat and tears. Like a fleet of rusty battleships amassing to take on the Deathstar, the UK team had fielded a ragtag group of obsessives, connecting variously via modem, ISDN and the Super Janet academic network. It was a chance for the UK to get their own back on Sweden for Aqua. And maybe A-ha as well. But everything went wrong.
“We should have played on a neutral server in Germany or something,” commented one player after the match. “A lot of stuff happened, but it wasn’t what you’d call blatant cheating,” Sujoy explains graciously. It had been arranged to start at 8pm GMT. Two hours had been wasted while referees at both ends tried desperately to remove cheats from the Swedish players, who had hacked the game code to make themselves invisible – all bar a pair of floating eyes. Stylish. Then, five minutes into the game, Sujoy was mysteriously kicked out and the connection became terrible. The UK team’s ping times sky-rocketed. The off-shoot: the UK was hammered, 1250 kills to 312.
There was plenty of bad feeling both on and off the ‘pitch’ and much heated discussion afterwards on IRC, but on the whole most people felt the game had been won fairly and squarely – technology obstacles aside. Nevertheless, there still remains a special reserve of ‘bad feeling’ for the “cheating Swedes” – something which may be rectified when the first global Net meet happens this summer in Sweden. Until then, the UK’s sterling Quake force has gone on to be a major contender in the unofficial ‘Five Nations’
ONLINE QUAKE OBSESSED Hey, 24-hour death and destruction is thirsty work, as Sujoy’s extensive collection of beer cans testifies. tournament currently going on around you while you browse the Internet. Scotland, Wales, France, England and Ireland are fielding their best ninjas to compete – and in the pre-tournament friendlies, England are looking good. Most of this summer’s weekends are going to be taken up by Net meets, gatherings of young, pale Quake obsessives in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton and Ireland.
Sujoy recently attended one at The Playing Fields, a gaming cafe in London’s West End. He had turned up to organise a Quake tournament but found himself, as per usual, dragged into playing by his adoring fans, many of whom look like their mums would burst in at any minute and tow them away by the ear. “Hah, not quite,” he laughs. “Some people do come up to you nervously and are like: ‘Oh, it’s you.’ But, despite all the petty squabbling online, I’ve never met anyone in real life I haven’t liked.”
INTRODUCING THRESH… Sujoy versus Thresh – the world-beating Quake clash we’re all waiting for? The first time Thresh played in a tournament he made someone cry. High up on a flood-lit stage in the Microsoft ballroom in Redmond in 1995, he was smacking someone around on network Doom. Solid, expressionless and powerful, he had silenced the drunken microserfs in the audience with his relentless reflexes.
On two huge video walls, he steadily pummelled Merlock, a moccasin-wearing Doom player from Minneapolis, into submission. Predictably, over in the States entrepreneurial enthusiasts have taken what we treat as a hobby, shined it and renamed it a “sport” – or worse, a “cybersport”. Sponsored leagues like the PGL (Professional Gamers League) and the Cyber Athletes have kick-started with $1000 prizes and various commercial tie-ins. Iwenty-year-old Thresh (real name: Dennis Fong) is a star player for the PGL and last year won John Carmack’s red Ferrari Testarossa in a competition.
Thresh is considered to be the best Quake player in the world – despite the fact he’s never played in Europe. However, he’s planning to attend a massive Net meet in Sweden. He’d better watch out – Sujoy is already in training…
REALITY BITES But the obsessive spirit of the community has not been without its casualties. The legendary, mysterious Fragger, one of the best Quake players of his generation, abruptly disappeared from the scene last year. Everyone was puzzled until the story came out: the 17-year-old gamesplaying savant had apparently racked up an enormous £1300 quarterly phone bill from his habit and his parents had banned him from playing.
“Yeah, I’ve had £500 phone bills when I’ve been using my modem at home,” says Sujoy. “But I’ve got it down to about £150 per month now, which isn’t too bad.” And if it isn’t a telephone number-sized telephone bill which thwarts your online Quake obsession, it’s perhaps that other time-guzzling pastime, the girlfriend. Not an imaginary one who lives in Canada’, but a real one. Contrary to the stereotype, Sujoy Roy has a nice, real girlfriend. “She hates Quake. She hates me playing it. Luckily though, she’s a lawyer in London, so I only see her once every 2 weeks, so I sometimes have to pretend I don’t play as much Quake as I do.”
With college about to terminate, Sujoy already has an IT job lined up in a posh bank in London. Obviously, he’d prefer to play games for a living, and he’s already on the way to getting sponsorship interest from modem manufacturer Pace, and others. “The dreams have stopped now,” says Sujoy. “When I first started playing Quake I would dream about it all the time. But they disappear after a while, don’t they?” Do they?
Bump into Sujoy online and he’ll probably shoot you in the face with a double- barrelled shotgun, and then use a rocket against your carbonised corpse to explode what’s left of you into a pack of squealing newbies, lightning-gun blazing.
QUAKE LINGO To be considered a true practitioner of Quake art, commit the following phrases to memory and use them liberally in polite conversation
CAMPER Someone who simply lurks around a powerful weapon picking up easy kills.
FRAG A kill, a death – the only currency of any worth in Quake.
HPB (HIGH PING BASTARD) Someone who moans constantly about the slowness of their Internet connection and blames all their mistakes on it.
LAMER A general term of derision.
LPB (LOW PING BASTARD) Someone who has a very fast connection to the Internet and so dominates a game
ROCKET JUMP A trick worked out by avid Quake players which even surprised the makers of the game. By firing the rocket at the ground and jumping, players can propel themselves to impossible heights, defying the architecture by taking massive shortcuts.
QUAD WHORE Someone who hangs around the Quad damage power-up, grabs it, goes on a riot of destruction, then returns just in time to pick it up again ad nauseam.
INTERNET ADDRESSES Quench your thirst for online gaming by checking these out:
THE PLAYING FIELDS www.theplayingfields.co.uk
SUJOY’S HOMEPAGE www.sujoy.com
DEMONIC CORE www.demonic.demon.co.uk
FALLEN ANGELS www.fallenangels.co.uk
Public Health Warning: playing too much online Quake can seriously damage your social life (and your chances of passing your exams). ■ Watch out if you’re online – Sujoy’s ready for you with his own clan called Demonic Core. He claims to be “no star player” but we wouldn’t trust him for a minute – this is the guy who’s been ranked Number One in Europe, for heaven’s sake.
WORDS by David McCandless PHOTOS by Simon Clay
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A QUAKE ADDICT