Jussi Jääskeläinen

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Feature Writing Volunteer

 

Feature Writing Volunteer

Growing up, gaming wasn't as universally popular as it is today. Sometimes I feel like my parents felt regret about spending so much money on our first computer. I was usually hogging it. And yet, for some reason, it was my dad who bought me the first StarCraft. I had the version with a Protoss face on it. I was young, and though I'd been an avid gamer for years, including both WarCrafts, I didn't really know much about Blizzard's magnum opus.

HerO celebrating his victory at DreamHack Winter 2012.

There was something magical about the first few years of StarCraft 2. I hadn't really been following esports, though I had always known that it existed. Then, in 2010, with StarCraft 2 imminent, I finally took a real interest in Brood War. I started watching Korean tournaments, back when Tasteless was casting solo. With the sequel, I was hooked. I'd been photographing for a number of years by then, so I figured I could get involved in the scene. There was a real feeling that the world was about to change, that we were working on something groundbreaking. Seeing HerO win against TaeJa at DreamHack Winter 2012 was a watershed moment for me. The amount of joy and excitement contained in the picture is astonishing: they've been waiting for this moment for years.

TaeJa reacting right after winning the finals at Assembly Summer 2013.

In 2013, StarCraft 2 was the top dog in Finland. The biannual Assembly event had decided to follow DreamHack's example, and the finals were played on the Hartwall Arena main stage. For a festival that grew from the demo scene, this was a bold move. TaeJa was playing against San in the finals, and it was my first time on stage as the official photographer. He's just realizing that he's won the set, not yet quite believing it. Just another milestone during his reign.

TLO and Snute practicing before their matches.

After Hartwall Arena, Assembly decided it was again time to switch to larger venue. While StarCraft 2's popularity was slowly waning, a small core fanbase was keeping the scene alive, and tournaments were still attracting foreign players. TLO and Snute were on the road once again, this time visiting the Helsinki Convention Center.

 

Savjz meeting a fan.

Meanwhile, Blizzard had a sleeper hit on their hands with Hearthstone. I was lucky and got into the beta, though I only started playing more once the game was properly out. By early 2015, the game had already garnered a solid fanbase in Finland, and Assembly eagerly picked it up, having both BYOC and non-BYOC tournaments. And by 2015, streaming was a large part of a professional player's life. For Savjz, interacting with fans both online and offline seems to come naturally.