Athletes from around the globe are gathered in China once more to celebrate competition and sportsmanship, with contenders from a variety of countries and vast crowds in attendance to bear witness. This is not a repeat of the 2008 Summer Olympics however, but an event that is quickly drawing more and more countries, participants and spectators for a perhaps unlikely new sport.
The World Cyber Games (WCG) is an international event for cyber athletes (video game players who compete at a professional level) to pit their skills against one another for glory and prizes. It just so happens that one supremely swift-fingered Tech student is going along for the ride to represent the U.S.
Robert Michaels, second- year NRE, has earned the right to take a place among 20 other video game players from the U.S. to attend this year’s WCG in Chengdu, China. Michaels and one other player will be competing in the Guitar Hero: World Tour Tournament against 23 other players from countries.
“I started off on the PlayStation One with classics like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and from there it’s something I’ve always done to blow off steam,” said Michaels about his first gaming experiences.
He doesn’t see himself as being a hard core gamer and started playing the Guitar Hero series right before the second installment Guitar Hero 2 was released in Nov. 2006.
“I actually started off with some skill in the game. When I started the first game [Guitar Hero 2], I beat it on Expert mode in the first three days of playing. I was classically trained in piano for seven years before doing any of this and I think that’s the single factor that made it so that I was any good at this,” said Michaels.
Michaels tried out for the qualifying rounds last year, but did not move on to the regional tournament.
When asked about why he attempted again this year, Michaels said, “One of my friends online sent me an e-mail saying they were qualifying for the World Tour competition and might as well sign up. I hadn’t played World Tour at all until that point, so I had to learn all the songs, but apparently it didn’t turn out too poorly.”
More than 10,000 players in the U.S. attempted to quality for the USA National Final held in New York City, with only 150 reaching that point. From there only 20 players remained to represent the U.S. at the WCG.
“It was kind of surreal. I was still coming to grips with the fact that I was getting flown up to NYC to stay in a three star hotel for a weekend just to play fake guitars, essentially. I wasn’t really planning on winning or anything, I was just going up there for fun. If all else fails, I’d meet some cool people and have a fun time, though it turned out better than that,” Michaels said.
When Michaels won a spot on Team USA however, his reaction was anything but casual. He has never been anywhere outside of the U.S. other than Canada, and has found some amusement with the reactions of his friends, family and professors.
“I’m still not over the novelty of being able to tell professors that, ‘Oh, I’m sorry that I’m missing class for a week because I have to go to China to play video games.’ As for my friends and family, there are two reactions. The first party thinks it’s the coolest thing ever, while the second party thinks I’m the biggest nerd ever. But I’ve come to terms with that because I’m in Tech,” said Michaels. While practicing about an hour a day in the past couple of weeks, and balancing his gaming and schoolwork, Michaels left for Chengdu on Wednesday morning.
By the time this article prints Michaels will being competing among 30 matches for the title of champion in Guitar Hero: World Tour and part of a $500,000 total prize to be awarded among the finalists. Updates and match tracking can be found at the .