We lost players, we recruited more, we upgraded to broadband, we mastered new maps and new techniques. We won Razer mice and GeForce graphics cards - we even designed our own tournament-level map.
Eventually, we elected one player to be a full-time in-game coach. Inventive modders had created the possibility for one player to spectate four or five other gamers' views on his screen at any one time. Immediately, all pro Quake teams adopted it, and we had to have a coach to compete. Adapting to a constant stream of verbal information from a single player who could see it all was bizarre and to this day unparalleled in my gaming experience. It was also the moment when I realized just how far we had come: Nothing else was like this, anywhere in history, and we were at the heart of it.
After many months of gaming, we eventually found our highest achievements in the second division of the European leagues. We were, perhaps, in the top 1,000 players in Western Europe. It was almost too much for us, and each match was a 40-minute ordeal of split-second timing and agonizing combat management. Every victory was a triumph and every loss a disaster. Exhausted, we took a voluntary drop in league placing in the next season and never quite recovered. People slowly dispersed into other games, and, eventually, I closed the books.
And all this lost me my job.
Was it worth it? Giving up gainful employment to not even be a significant success in a gaming scene that would dissolve into nothing with the passing years? Hard to say, but I eventually told this story to stubble-faced men in a room full of gaming paraphernalia in the west of England. A week later, they called to offer me a job as a game journalist. Not everyone would call that a happy ending, but it was good enough for me.
Jim Rossignol is a writer and editor based in the South West of England. He writes about videogames, fiction and science.