Writer(s): Nick Von Foerster
As Eric Wrona sets up to play the video game Halo, anyone would be able to tell at first glance that this wasnt his first rodeo. He puts in Halo: Reach, the fourth edition of the game, steadily grabs the controller and sits down in his personally molded chair. Nailed into the wall behind him are his Halo tournament jerseys. All of them have the back showing his Halo tag name, Snip3down. They surround an oversized $100,000 check.
They remind me of where I started and where I am at now, Wrona, a Ball State junior, says.
Wrona patiently waits as the game begins to load. He gets into game play mode as he scoots to the front of his chair, locked and loaded. Wrona immediately shows no mercy as he runs to pick up a sniper rifle, his signature weapon. He creeps through the level making direct contact with his first victim across the Halo map.
Within the first two minutes of the Halo game, a voice creeps out of the television, killing spree, signifying that he has killed five opponents in a row.
Wrona continues his dominance, obliterating his competition. The Halo narrator says, killing frenzy. Wrona has now killed 10 enemies in a row. A belt of laughter streams through the room from Wronas friend Conner DeLong.
I wish I could do that; you know, think that quickly, DeLong, a junior, says.
As the excitement grows in his room, Wrona begins to take his game to his professional potential. With 29 kills and no deaths, he aims down scope and steadily puts his cursor on an opponents head.
Invincible, the television says. He has killed 30 opponents in a row without dying. When the game ends, Wrona looks at his statistics from the game: 31 kills, 30 of them with precise headshots, and not dying once.
Wrona grew up in Zionsville, Ind. During his sophomore year in 2002, some friends told him about a local Halo video game tournament in Zionsville.
I didnt even own an Xbox but it didnt sound so hard, so I decided to give it a shot, the business major says.
When Wrona showed up at the tournament he described it as a nerd fest.
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, he says.
The rules of the tournament were to play a game of Halo, a first person shooting game, in a game type called free-for-all, which is an every man for themselves gameplay. In free-for-all, the player with the most kills advances to the next round of the tournament. At the end of Wronas first Halo tournament, he placed third, stunning the regular attendees of the local Halo tournaments.
One statistic that caught the attention of other Halo players was Wronas hit percentage, the number of times on average you shoot your opponent. While the average percentage of the other players was 40 to 45 percent, Wrona was averaging 60 to 65 percent.
Impressed by his performance, one of his friends approached him after the tournament and suggested he should buy an Xbox.
From there, Wrona began to practice and prepare for his next local tournament. As he began playing and becoming more familiar with the game, Wrona realized that he was damn good at this game.
Two weeks later, Wrona attended the next Halo tournament with different predictions. He swept through his competition and walked out champion of his second Halo tournament ever.
As he continued expanding his knowledge, he came across Major League Gaming (MLG). He found that each MLG season consists of five regular season tournaments and a national championship. While previous tournaments that Wrona played in used a free-for-all game play, the championships use a team slayer game play. Each team consists of four players working together to have the highest team kill count. The winners of the regular season tournaments win $5,000 while the winnings of the national championship are $100,000.
Wronas career started in Meadow Lands, N.J., where the tournament took place. The tournament had 255 teams and sold out the convention center.
Wronas team, Ambush, came from all over the country and Canada, while other players in the tournament came from all over the world.
When you first experience a tournament you ask yourself, Where am I? says Wrona. But then as you begin to feel more comfortable you start realizing everyone is there for the same reason.
When the tournament ended, the ranking board placed Ambush seventh. While the team didnt break any barriers that tournament, the evolution of the Snip3down tag name began.
For Scottie Holste, Wronas current teammate, it was the first time he came across what would turn out to be the best shooter he has ever seen.
I didnt really recognize it too much at the time but as the 2008 season progressed I really started to recognize that he is a rarity, Holste says. He can take out a whole team in a blink of an eye.
After the Meadow Lands tournament, Snip3down established his prominence in the MLG world and as a professional gamer. Videos of Snip3downs gameplay at tournaments were posted on YouTube and fan mail began to fill Wronas inbox.
I started getting emails from kids and other players telling me that I was their influence for playing video games, Wrona says. I never thought that I was an influence, I was just playing video games.
In the rest of the regular season tournaments in 2008, the lowest Wrona placed was second. His top performance throughout the 2008 season qualified him for the national championship in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas tournament is an invitation only tournament. Only eight teams are invited and there is a double elimination bracket in the finals. This means that if a team qualified for the finals on the last day then they would be able to lose twice and still have a chance of winning the tournament.
After winning 3-0, Wronas team Str8 Rippin qualified for the finals the next day.
At this point in the tournament, you know you have to win because the pressure is intense. You have to prove yourself game by game, Wrona says.
The finals were set up as a best-of-11 series, because of the teams playing previously, Wrona says that his instincts came alive.
Hes a slayer, Holste says. He kills everything he sees and pulls through with those kills in clutch situations.
As the games and kills passed, it came down to one last game. With the score 5-3, Str8 Rippin showed no mercy to his opponent, pulling out the victory and winning the MLG National Championship 6-3.
When we won, we all took our jerseys and threw them into the stands, Wrona says. It is the greatest accomplishment in my professional video gaming days.
Halo wont always be here, says Wrona. In his first year of playing in tournaments, there were 255 teams. Today, tournaments only have 80 to 100 teams because of the release of more advanced shooting games.
Eventually, Halo will die out. Wrona says eventually he will have to move onto another game; however, this doesnt seem to disappoint him.
When I started, I thought that Halo was the best video game out there, Wrona says. Now with the release of other games, the Halo game has decreased tremendously. Sure, it is still fun, but now it is just so natural that I like to play other games.
Today, Wrona still maintains his well-established figure in the video game world. On Nov.18, Wrona attempted to redeem his championship belt from 2008.
According to the MLG website, Snip3down was among the top players to watch in the years national championship in Providence. His team, Believe the Hype, finished third.
Although he wasnt completely satisfied with the overall outcome, he was still satisfied with the money he won.