Matt Leto always knew he was better at Halo than his friends, but he was as surprised as anyone when he suddenly started winning tournament after tournament. Now, under the gamer alias Zyos, hes the number one Halo player in the United States. And this week, at the World Cyber Games 2004 in San Francisco, hes preparing to take his game to the world stage.
Leto, 20, made his way to the WCG Finals from Allen, Texas, which is right outside the unofficial hometown of first-person shooters, Dallas. His parents, sister, and brother are all flying in to cheer him on when his matches start Friday. Theyve always been supportive of his competitive gaming career, he says. And its a big commitment. It interferes a lot with college, admits Leto, a student at Collin County Community College near Dallas. I had to take this semester off to just focus on these tournaments.
As far as training regimens go, Leto is pretty informal for a national champion. He doesnt maintain a regular practice schedule; instead, When I feel like it, I just give someone a call and say You wanna play? and thats practice.
Does that practice give him the confidence he needs in competition? Actually, I get kind of nervous before competitions, chuckles Leto, indeed a bit nervously. I just play hard and hope to win.
As far as strategy goes, I adapt to my opponents style of play, says Leto. He spent Thursday watching some of the other players hell face when his matches start Friday. Ill see how they play against other people. I might practice a few games against them, and Ill throw in some random things I might not normally do in tournament play, and see how they react.
Learning about his opponents pays off for Leto. Some players have a lot of skill at the game, but theyre just not very smart. They can shoot very well, but they cant think under pressure. Leto looks for ways to exploit those weaknesses in his opponents.
His advice for others who think they can crack the world of competitive gaming? Number one is to practice, he says emphatically. Number two is to go to at least two or three tournaments. Dont give up if you place poorly in your first one. I lost several of my first tournaments before I started winning.
To escape the pressures of competitive Halo, Leto unwinds by playing RPGs. Games like that can totally take me out of my world, he remarks wistfully. And while in San Francisco, he and the other WCG competitors have enjoyed playing poker at night. After-hours gaming practice isnt allowed, but poker gives the players something else to do, and everybody knows the rules no matter what country theyre from. I havent won any money yet. Ive actually lost money, laments Leto. Fortunately for him, if he focuses on Halo, the WCGs top prize could net him $25,000 on Sunday.
Track Letos tournament progress, as well as that of hundreds of other competitors, at the World Cyber Games 2004 official Web site.