I have a DreamHack, that one day, all men and women will have a blazing fast Internet connection, One Piece Pajama, and a case of Coke for non-stop LAN gaming around the clock. DreamHack Winter 2012 finally culminated in Day 3 of finals play for all the major titles. Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012, the sole fighting game in an otherwise FPS- and MOBA-centric festival, attracted players from all over Europe and Asia. The pack of Western Wolves initially ran amok the competition, but as the number of contestants were whittled down in the deep brackets, fellow MCZ.WW clan members unfortunately needed to face their teammates in elimination matches. When the dust settled, the two reigning champions of the past were left standing like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart, who has dominated the competition since 2009, faced off against his Korean protege and reigning two-time DreamHack champion Seonwoo “INFILTRATION” Lee, arguably the best Street Fighter player in the world at the moment.

Clawing his way from the losers bracket, Ryan displayed his secret counterpick weapon Yun, who had not seen much action after a gameplay patch from Capcom severely weakened the character a year ago. However, the surprise move paid off as Ryan was able to reset the bracket and take the first set against INFILTRATION’s hitherto near-invincible Akuma, much to the delight of raucous crowd who wanted an encore performance from the duo.

The mark of a true champion is the ability to evolve mid-match and adapt under duress. INFILTRATION, who had not lost a single set as he trampled over the competition at EVOLUTION 2012, finally found himself in a precarious situation against Ryan after losing by the closest of margins. It was not the first time he had faced off against a high caliber Yun, having faced Daigo “The Beast” Umehara at SoCal Regionals 2011, and most recently losing to Kazunoko’s Yun at Canada Cup 2012. These tournament records suggest perhaps that Yun is a natural predator of Akuma, but INFILTRATION was able to nullify these natural advantages with immaculate spacing and perfectly placed fireballs without resorting to a counterpick of his own. It is generally agreed upon that Yun also holds an slight matchup advantage against most of INFILTRATION’s known pocket sub-characters Gouken, Ryu, and Hakan, so perhaps we can expect the multi-character expert to train an anti-Yun character for the next major tournament.

Facing elimination in the last match of the second set, Ryan returned back to his main character, Sagat, but by then his opponent had the tactical momentum and could not be stopped on his path to victory. Aside from the usual pile of Swedish Kronor, INFILTRATION returns home with a survival pack of Energizer batteries and flashlights, a fitting prize as his stellar play keeps winning and winning and winning, his flawless strategies and impeccable reactions a shining light no matter how grim and dark the circumstances.

Over at the AMD Sapphire booth, the Team X-Fi from Finland and Team Epsilon waged war at Battlefield 3 with no cease-fire in sight. The match was an epic struggle between the non-sponsored team of X-Fi, who cosplayed as female cops, pitted against the sponsored Team Epsilon, who looked very smart in their professional eSports jerseys. Epsilon is a very rare case of an eSports team sponsored directly by Nike Sportswear. The gravity of this monumental achievement is not lost and we envision a future where world-class gamers are treated like professional athletes and lavish in concomitant perks. Perhaps aided by their Nike sneakers and Dri-fit jerseys, Team Epsilon eventually prevailed when the final score was chalked on the board. However, X-Fi’s valiant effort to secure a 2nd place finish in a stacked international tournament will surely catch the eye of shrewd sponsors.

In summation, DreamHack is nothing short of the world’s eighth great wonder. The event undermines the pervasive idea that gaming is an anti-social practice as the entire youth of Sweden along with their European neighbors flock down, 20,000 strong, to an otherwise sleepy town of Jönköping to revel in gaming companionship. The camaraderie among professional eSports teammates combined with the fraternity developed between strangers seated next to one another over four days of gaming indulgence create a warm-hearted kumbaya atmosphere. If you game religiously, then you too must one day make the pilgrimage to the eSports mecca that is DreamHack.

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