Rapha: How QuakeCon has Grown

October 31 2018

QuakeCon 2018 may have been back in August, but it's still on Shane 'Rapha' Hendrixson's mind. Rapha and DaHanG infamously took first place in 2v2s, but it's a tournament that goes beyond winning for him. It's a tournament that's defined not only his career as a pro Quake player, but a tournament that has shaped him as a person.

QuakeCon is the most prestigious Quake tournament. Ever. Thousands of gamers come to the four-day event to not only watch the pros do their thing, but participate in North America's Bring Your Own Computer LAN party. This year there were over 4,000 computers set up, with people playing games together for three days straight.

There's community contests for artists and even building your own rig. There's exhibits, demonstrations and sneak peaks. In other words, said Rapha, QuakeCon is not just for the pros. It's the event's community-driven vibe that actually motivated Rapha to pursue Quake to begin with.

The first time Rapha went to QuakeCon was in 2002. His dad took him after showing him recordings of players for over a year. It was the beginning of Quake 3 and there was a lot of money on the line for competitors.

“I got to watch all the top players competing,” recalled Rapha, “and even ended up standing behind Zero Four, who would eventually become my mentor six years later. Nowadays you can't really stand in the rope section. It was so relaxed back then.”

But having that chance to stand right near the action, Rapha could see and feel the true energy of the pro competition. He could hear the urgency in their call outs. See their eyes rapidly flitting back and forth, illuminated by the light of the monitor. It was that competitive spirit that Rapha felt he was missing. A competitiveness he knew could be satisfied with Quake.

“It fueled me to keep trying to get better and see where it could take it,” he said.

So in 2003, at the age of 13, he started competing. He's now gone to QuakeCon 16 times in a row. And he doesn't see himself stopping any time soon.

“QuakeCon is the mecca of Quake. It's where it all started. Year after year. The prestige is there. To win QuakeCon 'x' amount of times... It becomes a race. It's where you prove you're the best. And it'll always be special in that regard.”

The Present

Standing up on stage after taking first in 2v2 with DaHanG, the only word that could appropriately describe how he felt was “satisfied.” Satisfied that they'd achieved their goal after all their hard work, review prep and practice...

“DaHanG said it best during post-finals,” said Rapha. “We knew we could get to the finals. And we knew we had a good shot. But we took it into our hands and made sure it was ours.”

The win was made further satisfying because of QuakeCon's attention to detail when it comes to the pro tournament scene. According to Rapha, there was ample practice time and warm up time, helping all the competitors feel comfortable on stage, which was set with help from partners ESL. The players, in return, all start the tournament on an even playing field.

“It just felt good to know that if anything was going wrong, they would handle it very professionally and come to the best solution,” he admitted. “It helps you, as a player, focus on what you need to do. You don't need to worry about outside stuff. QuakeCon just gets better and better as the years go by.”

The largest improvements he's noticed are the changes to the pro tournaments themselves. Back in 2008, Rapha recalls a lot of “weird stuff happening,” like people waiting for hours and hours to play. After that year, Rapha began noticing a lot of improvements in the tournament's efficiency and management. He couldn't help but repeat, “They keep getting better and better.”

One positive change to QuakeCon's 2018 pro tourney was the focus on 2v2. It was refreshing to many players, including Rapha, who felt it was nice to have a change of pace.

The championship match against Blind Trust's Clawz and Toxjq was definitely a tough one for the Team Liquid duo, but they still ended up with a 4-0 victory. Blind Trust had strong aim and mechanics that proved troublesome for Rapha and DaHanG, but in the end the TL boys had more winning strategies.

“Winning the tournament feels really good. Once it finally set in a few days later,” admitted Rapha. “There's so much energy playing at that high level. But I felt such gratitude for that experience. Being the one that's there holding the trophy.”

The Past

Back in 2003, Rapha was competing in his first QuakeCon after only playing for three months before the event. Despite being new to the scene, he did quite well in the qualifiers, losing by one or two frags in double eliminations to a guy who later lost to ReVeNaNt, who ended up placing third in the tournament.

“Through transitive property,” Rapha explained, “I couldn't be too far behind. I had barely lost to the guy who barely lost to the guy who got in third... I thought to myself that I should take the gamer seriously and fix what needed to be fixed. Even though I had lost, I gained a lot from my first experience playing at QuakeCon.”

When Rapha was up on stage, everything went away. He was able to focus on the game and play to the best of his ability. Being on stage was a good feeling, and he felt the audience made his games more meaningful.

“I was giving people something they can enjoy watching,” Rapha continued. “They want to see the best I can play. That fuels me to play even better.”

Being on the competitive side of QuakeCon felt right. He realized he should keep playing.

In 2009 he had his first championship win at QuakeCon. While every win since has been special, this one still holds a special place in his heart. Rapha's father passed away back in 2007, after years of encouragement and support. It felt momentous to win a tournament at QuakeCon, the event his father had introduced him to with so much excitement and wonder.

“He was the one who brought me into my love for the game.”

The Future

No matter what level of competitiveness you're at – even if you don't even play Quake at all – Rapha said that fans of the game should go to QuakeCon at least once.

“It's quite an experience. There's so many friendly people,” he said. “People will greet you and be friendly. They won't shy away.”

This includes Rapha himself, who tells his Twitch viewers to come say hello if he's free. He loves interacting with people, whether it's just to say a quick 'hey' or answer some questions about the game.

“I look at it like when I was growing up,” said Rapha. “I think, 'What would I have liked to hear when I was younger?' I want to be willing and open to talk with them. Even if it has to be brief.”

While the Quake community consists of many die-hard fans, Rapha is hoping to see some new blood in the game. Team Liquid was the first pro team in any game to start streaming live scrims, and others have since followed suit, exposing fans and mid-tier players to what it takes to play at such a high level. It's that sense of openness that Rapha hopes will draw people in to the Quake community, especially when events like QuakeCon fully embrace this friendly community vibe as well.

“Quake has always been fun for me,” Rapha expressed. “I just get this heightened sense of competition. The combo of mechanics, timing, prediction, thinking ahead... Decision-making... Things have to happen so quickly in this game. But there's a freedom to it, where your own play style can impact the game, which is quite satisfying.”

And when all the intensity is over, it's time to celebrate with a Brazilian steak house. Well, at least that's what Rapha and DaHanG did after taking the championship title at QuakeCon.

The iconic convention will be back next year on July 25, and Rapha will be there to take some W's and answer some community Q's. With the memory of his father cheering with him in the crowd, Rapha knows the impact QuakeCon can have on the people who come to see him play. You never know who is out there watching.

Writer // Olivia Richman

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