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Monday, February 12, 2024
A Tale of Two Communities
Posted: 3:01:00 AM 0 comments
"If you're a high visibility player, it's on you to move the community in a positive direction." -Jonas Neubauer, 1981-2021, seven-time CTWC champion

This quote by Jonas Neubauer has been engraved on the Classic Tetris World Championship's first and second place trophies since 2021, the year he unexpectedly passed away at the age of 39. I met Jonas and his wife Heather, a Dr. Mario world champion at TwitchCon in 2019. We both happened to cross paths at GDQx 2019. I was doing couch commentary for SpootyBiscuit's Cadence of Hyrule run while Jonas was doing couch commentary for Blink's Tetris 99 run. I got a big hug, a photo I'll cherish forever, and I introduced Jonas and Heather to one of the exhibits on the show floor, which was basically a mind-meld Tetris game. I remember the two of them enjoying themselves and having fun, and their laughter was contageous. Jonas was one of the few people I've met who, online, was pretty much the exact same person he was in real life, one of the most genuine individuals I've ever met. He was graceful in his CTWC defeats, and always worked to build up the community he championed.

Since his last win, there have been 4 other tournament winners. Joseph Saelee won twice. Then, Michael Artiaga (dogplayingtetris), won in back to back years. Eric Tolt (EricICX) defeated Justin Yu (Fractal161), the latter of whom won it a year later. Harry Hong also famously won the tournament back in 2014, interrupting Jonas's seven year streak.

All of these players have made a positive impact on the classic Tetris community in some way. Some have even made contributions to the community, hosting their own events, doing content creation, and genuinely being a good ambassador to the game. I had no idea that one side tournament at SGDQ 2018 would get me involved in a community amazing enough that I now find myself contributing my time to almost every classic Tetris organization. Oh, I suck at the game! But I don't let that stop me from being involved in organizing events, commentating for matches, and playing in the lower tournament levels myself, even if I have taken a bit of a step back from competitive lately to keep my competition anxiety in check.

Sure, Tetris has its bad spots. Players cheat. People get upset at others. People do tasteless things that get them banned. It happens, because people suck. But far and away, the classic Tetris community is wholesome, and I am better for being a part of it.

If only every community was like Tetris.

In the fall of 2021, a player showed up on the Overload Teams League team SpaceCowboys by the name of Zor. He was a pretty decent player. Not quite top 10 in a league of some 60 pilots, but someone seen as dangerous to play against. There was a lot of secrecy around this player. Teammates would often go on mute when talking about Zor's past experience with 6DoF games, or just outright not stream. Someone caught a stream and quickly identified the voice as the Descent pilot - and former OTL pilot - Jediluke. With a DCL record of 5982 wins and 348 losses (1413-117 vs Rethink, 809-33 vs Drakona, and 476-24 vs b2af), Jediluke wasn't just a known quantity, he was the most active competitive player while the DCL was around, between 2013 and 2020. And, as the record indicates, he was pretty good, too: he was ranked first at the end of more DCL seasons (7) than anyone else (Mark392 5, Souljah 3, bahamut 1). What's more, he is unquestionably the most successful D1 pilot on my Twitch series The Observatory, a quarterly tournament open to all Descent 1 pilots where games are broadcast and commentated on, something the community never really had prior to this series, which was founded in 2016. To date, he's won 31 out of 34 seasons, losing only to Mark392 (season 5), Zero (season 12), and Morfod (season 26). We'll talk about Morfod's winning season a bit later. Unfortunately, Jediluke's also got a temper. He gets mad when he loses, and winning your first game over what seems like an impossible opponent usually results in him making you feel like shit, rather than celebrating your momentus victory.

For comparison, here's Jonas's last game at a live CTWC where he was shockingly eliminated in the first round.

Anyway, back to the point, Jediluke decided to compete in the OTL as Zor to "get away" from his Jediluke personality. Thinking it would put less pressure on himself, he adopted the alias and kept his true identity a close secret for a couple weeks. The voice changer was pretty silly, but once the word got out that Zor was Jediluke, he posted something quick in the OTL Discord explaining the name, and barring some critique from some old rivals, that was the end of it. The general vibe was like "yeah, it's weird, but he's got less of an attitude now, so whatever."

Also towards the end of 2021, season 26 of The Observatory occurred. An unknown entrant with the name "Genevieve" (PwnJett in game) showed up for the Finals Tournament as an unqualified player who had to fight from the wildcard anarchy to even get into the knockout bracket. He did so in shocking fashion, taking out Jediluke in the semifinals and Sirius in the finals to win the tournament. And, as the tournament concluded, Morfod revealed that he was in fact Genevieve. It was amusing at the time, and everyone got a good laugh. He had only played under that handle for a couple weeks, enough so that some regulars were aware of the handle. For me, I was kind of kind of amused, but also kind of annoyed that someone would go to such lengths as hide their identity just to gain an advantage. I let it slide, hoping it wouldn't happen again.

Um, remember earlier, when I said that people suck?

Season 35 of The Observatory kicked off this month, and with it Jediluke proclaimed his retirement, supposedly tired of not having a challenge after Mark392 showed up for about a week to play games and then left to become a parent. While Jedi's lack of participation didn't bother me - a more competitive top of the table would benefit the show - a newcomer, Tonka, showed up who had been around since August. Code, a long time Observatory player, did some training with him, and Tonka's skill began to noticeably rise. By the time season 35 began, it was clear that he would be a strong contender, and did in fact win all of his games in the first episode, including against season 34's runner up, terminal.

But something didn't sit right with some pilots, and eventually it was made known to me that he was suspected of cheating. Although there wasn't anything conclusive, and it was later decided that no cheating was involved, it got enough people suspicious that for the second episode, his IP was taken from a game log and compared with some website logs. I noticed that there was a lot of activity with that IP on the Overload game browser that didn't match the player's activity in Overload, which was very low and many months prior. I then decided to compare the IP to logs on the game servers themselves, and that's when the smoking gun was found. That IP was the same IP used by Zor in Overload.

While I had 100% confidence at that point that Tonka was 31-time champion Jediluke, a lot of things didn't add up. This player Tonka showed up in the community about 6 months ago. They were trained on basics like trichording. They had matches with Jediluke. They gave a phone number with a Houston, TX area code. They would chat back and forth with Jediluke, aggressively looking for games. Even now, this whole scheme doesn't make sense to me.

But it was real. Jediluke eventually confessed to the whole thing. And he was totally nonchalant about it. In fact, my current co-commentator, Chillybus, thought it was crazy that he would go through the whole thing. He said on Discord:

"for six months? what do you have to gain against pilots who would take hundreds and hundreds of games to even be competitive with you, let alone take a game? multiboxing discord accounts? faking tracker games? IMO you did competition a disservice and your friends dirty from the sound of it, just chasing shadows of the afternoon someone aliased you to a win. not how a longtime decorated top competitor should compose themselves. it isn't time to go around again, I think it is time to log off. you have shamed yourself here. That's all I'll say in this time and place."

The reply from Jediluke was equally nonchalant: "1 v 1 Chilly?" and "those who don't compete ...commentate".

Is this moving the community in a positive direction? Does he care at all about the community? Is this how a top player is going to treat the community that he represents?

This is literally night and day. In one community, I have players that are leaders, care about the community, and do everything they can to move the community forward. In another, I have players that are selfish, care about themselves, and do everything they can to try to get ahead.

You tell me which community I'm going to put more effort into.

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