When you enter the venue for the World Championships the first thing you'll notice are the bright lights and the thrumming bass from the powerful speakers vibrating through your chest.
As striking as these elements are you could expect them from any major tournament in the Call of Duty landscape. It's what you notice next that will stick with you and really marks this out at the "Big One".
It is the atmosphere, a tangible nervous energy that puts you on edge and infiltrates every corner of the venue, it seeps into ever player, caster and spectator. It is an atmosphere that you simply don't get outside of the World's.
For many players this is everything, the culmination of a year's hard work leading up to this, a year spent 'scrimming' (playing other teams), developing strategies and plays, studying the opposition all in preparation for this one event.
This event is talked about by players and fans alike from the second it's announced, no matter how far away in the year it actually is. For some just getting to it is a dream come true, for others the journey just begins when they walk in the door to prove themselves as the best in the world. With so much money, prestige and bragging rights on the line practice for this event has been kicked into overdrive.
For most Pro players practice all year ramps as they approach other events, differing from between 2-10 hours a day with some days off. This event is different, Pro players can expect to be putting in between 8-10 hours a day, plus hours of going over strategies with teammates and watching the gameplay of their rivals.
Eat, Play, Sleep is not a funny slogan but a very real schedule for so many players. I have friends in the Pro community for whom it's difficult to even get a chance to talk to, as they are busy preparing and making sure they really bring the very best they are capable of.
Now for some people "playing" games for 10 hours a day doesn't seem like work but a lot of fun, the truth is that playing at that high a level against the best, and being fully focused for that length of time would tax anyone. The reflexes and concentration these players must put into it can be incredibly stressful, every loss feels personal and they all push each other to do more. Rarely do they feel like they have done enough. You can see evidence of this on some of the player's accounts on Twitter - many talking about how much they have played today or lambasting others for not playing enough.
I think it's all this that brings the heavy atmosphere at these events. Emotions run high and it's not unusual for a tear to be shed after crashing out of the tournament. Every single player at this tournament is a born competitor and is incredibly hungry for the win. It can be hard to watch, even for me as a professional who tries to distance themselves from being emotionally invested in teams, to see these players lose when it means so much to them. Every single player knows that the World Championship is never forgotten, the 11 players who have won this event are permanently immortalised into the minds of every fan, player and caster on the scene.
In case you're wondering, The North American scene and its juggernauts look like the region that will secure first place again this year, with heavy favourites Optic leading the pack. The European scene is sending its best compliment of teams in years to try and find success, and the ANZ region is once again looking to defy the odds and prove they can hang with the best.
The only questions that remains are who wins and who are you cheering for?
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