Diego "Stormsoldat" Corea playing during a Rutgers Esports LAN (Credit: Diego Corea)
For most of us, gaming is introduced by a friend, a sibling, or maybe just discovered by chance. For Diego “Stormsoldat” Corea, it was his father, Victor, allowing him to play Half-Life 1 at the age of two. However, this wasn’t a case of parental naivety. Victor had been playing games his entire life, notably playing Quake 3 at a very high level, something Diego looked up to as a child and is proud of to this day. Gaming would persist throughout Diego’s childhood, discovering more games through his father and uncle like Halo, World of Warcraft, and eventually Warcraft III, a game with heaps of custom mods created by other players.
A popular mod in the game was called Defense of the Ancients, one Diego “f***ing hated” due to being flamed in a lobby made for new players learning it. This hatred persisted, and not long after, he quit playing the mod entirely. He put the early MOBA genre on hold, switching to FPS titles like Counter-Strike: Source and Team Fortress 2 for a short while. It was around this time where Diego discovered his love for playing games competitively, having played a competitive scrimmage in Team Fortress 2, the first time he had taken a match in a game seriously. But, he wouldn’t go on to lead a career in competitive Team Fortress 2, instead shifting his focus towards a beta for the sequel to a mod he had much disdain for, Dota 2. The original hatred towards the beta’s predecessor would fade as he put more time into the new game, becoming hooked almost immediately. His love for Dota would only grow from there, becoming enamored by the emerging competitive scene around it, notably The International 2.
It wasn’t long before Diego made his way onto a team consisting of his friends. This team, while not serious, was created to compete in open online tournaments, which gave the young Stormsoldat an opportunity to practice in an environment differing from what he was used to. An environment enabling him to learn the nuances of the game and improve significantly in a short amount of time. However, the rate of improvement would crawl to a stop as he was approaching one of the biggest events in a high school senior’s life: the beginning of college.
The first months, weeks, and days of college are usually the scariest. You’re in a new environment, surrounded by new people and with new responsibilities. It’s not uncommon to search for others who have the same hobbies, like those who watch the same show or who play the same games. Diego, lacking a stable group of friends to play Dota with, started searching around campus when he stumbled upon Rutgers’ Dota club. The club was a small group that regularly competed in the CSL, fielding Division 1 and Division 2 teams. With the fear of being outcast for not having enough skill, it took Diego some time to build up the confidence to approach them. However, once he did, it would be a decision that would change the rest of his time at Rutgers, and the course of his life.
He had joined the club late into the season, meaning the Division 1 roster was already finalized. Instead, he was made the captain of the Division 2 team as he had the second-highest MMR in the entire club, a revelation which made those feelings of fear and nervousness dissipate. This newly assigned role of team captain would play a large part in his development as a player, coach, and person.
“[...] it helped me go from an annoying eighteen-year-old kid who couldn’t take care of himself, to a little bit less annoying kid who can somewhat take care of himself,” Diego laughed while reflecting on his time during those first two years. However, the Rutgers’ Dota club didn’t just give him a team to play with or a new role to learn, it also helped him find his first friend group in college. His grades started to improve and the stress of college life went away, something he attributes to his new friends.
Diego and the DOTA Club E-Board. (Credit: Diego Corea)
After a positive year with the Division 2 team, Diego moved up to the main roster, regularly filling in as team captain. But, while the next season had decent results, conflicting goals and mentalities within the team strained friendships and inevitably meant change was needed. Eventually, Diego would step up to become president of the Dota 2 club, playing a part in the formation of Rutgers Esports, a small organization unifying each of the school’s gaming clubs.
As with any grassroots esports organization, the number of responsibilities each member has may vary depending on what’s needed. In the beginning, Rutgers Esports was no different. Diego was now handling social media, club scheduling, and event coordination while playing for the Division 1 team. Luckily, he wasn’t alone in sharing these responsibilities as his teammates on the Division 1 squad were also part of the organization. All of them were trying to create a better, family-like environment for the players and community at Rutgers. For a short time, they put Dota on the back burner as they tried to bootstrap the young organization.
“If we focused solely on Dota, I’m pretty sure we would’ve won at least one of the years. We were just more focused on Rutgers Esports as a whole and trying to grow it into the biggest collegiate esports organization. Not only on our side of the country but throughout the entire United States. [...] We’re definitely the biggest [collegiate esports organization] on the east coast, and definitely top three in the rest of the country,” he explained.
Having now graduated, he proudly looks back at how he and the other members built Rutgers Esports. For him, it’s gratifying to see how a small club of five grew into an organization of fifty staff members and a Discord community of over three thousand members. The various skills he learned throughout his time at the club would eventually help him find work outside of school, a management position for a professional Dota team. This venture, however, would initially bring back the fear and stress of his freshman year.
Stormsoldat with club members at a Rutgers University Esports summer outing. (Credit: Diego Corea)
Application after application, interview after interview, the life of a new graduate can be a demoralizing one. Similarly, Diego’s early life after college was difficult. He knew he wanted to continue playing Dota competitively, even wanting to set aside a year to focus on joining a pro team. However, life can sometimes move faster than the plans we have for ourselves. Like most, he had student loans and bills, which changed his focus from playing Dota to finding a job in its competitive ecosystem. He saw a social media position for a Dota team, something he had experience in, but after what he thought was a good interview, he did not receive the position. That was, until a year later when he received a call from J.Storm about a new position opening up, a position that would utilize most, if not all, of his skills from his time at Rutgers.
Diego coaching RIT earlier this year. (Credit: Diego Corea)
After an intimidating interview with Fear and DeMoN, two prominent figures in the Dota scene, Diego accepted the job and immediately went to work, moving into J.Storm’s team house the following weekend. The first night in the team house was by his words, “Hell on Earth.” Cold, blanketless, and under the weather. He was miserable and unable to sleep. To make it worse, he was now in a new environment surrounded by new people with new responsibilities. It was a feeling reminiscent of his first week at Rutgers.
However, with the help of his boss, members of the team, and blankets, he found his footing and the nerves slowly went away. It’s a familiar but different feeling for him as the daily responsibilities at J.Storm are similar to that of Rutgers Esports: he checks emails, handles team scheduling, and even posts on social media. Of course, the differences are also apparent: managing team boot camps, working in foreign timezones, and even taking care of visas and immigration. It, however, doesn’t change the fact that he still loves the game and esports as a whole. He finds time to play a game or two of Dota when he gets the chance.
When asked about his future, Diego has many aspirations. If not playing competitively again, he’s toyed with the idea of starting an organization with friends from Rutgers, or even on his own. However, he says his time at J.Storm has been amazing and would like to stay with the organization long term.