2022 CTWC Southern Qualifier In Waco, Texas: Ashley’s Experience

Selfie of Eunha and Ashley
Eunha Kim and Ashley Martin in Texas

(This article is a guest post by Ashley Martin, co-host of Tetris Gal Talk.)

I never thought that I would find a group of people that felt like home to me. Strangers from all over the world coming together for a silly game. Who would have known that a game about stacking blocks could turn into an amazing community of people? Definitely not me, seeing as I had never played the game. The Tetris community was everything I never knew I needed. The first time I officially met everyone was at the 2019 CTWC in Portland. The second we boarded our flight home I thought to myself, I can’t wait to come back. Not knowing at the time that it would be over two years before I got to see any of my friends again. Unfortunately, Covid took over and we weren’t able to have our tournaments live again. That is what made the 2022 Southern Qualifier so special. It would be the first live event since 2019! Not only would old friends get to reunite, new Tetris players who have made a connection online get to finally meet in person! This event meant so many things to so many different people.

Our journey started out with picking up our friend Peter aka Muunas. I had reached out to him a few weeks before the event knowing he was interested in making it to Waco but had not heard if he made a final decision. He told me that he was still interested in going but that he didn’t have a good way to get from Dallas to Waco. Well, I don’t know if it was fortunate for him or not because he was going to have to deal with Matthew and me all weekend, but we were already going to be in Dallas since my family lives there! The bad thing was that Peter’s flight landed at 9:30 AM and I am really bad at the concept of time so instead of picking him up by 7 like I told him I would, it was closer to 9:30. Whoops. He was a good sport about it as we picked him up in the middle of the night outside of a dart station.

Selfie with Ashley, Peter, and Matt Martin.
Left to Right: Ashley, Peter (aka Muunas), and Matt.

Once we acquired Peter we stayed the night at my moms (never turn down free places to stay) and we made our way to Waco the next day. Tons of traffic later and we made it to our hotel in Waco, TX. None of us understood why the event was held in Waco. Literally the middle of nowhere. All I knew was that I needed food, and to see my bestie Eunha. She and David let us know everyone was going to try to meet up at a place called “The Union Hall” which was basically a food truck hall. The night was pretty chill, lots of hugs and chats. Matthew finally got to see his bestie Vince and followed him around like a puppy. It was especially funny because Vince is so tall that he made Matthew look tiny.

The Union Hall

Tetris Friends Sitting At Table In The Union Hall

Vince Clemente and Matt Martin meet
Vince Clemente and Matt Martin

We stayed and talked literally until they closed the place down but for some of us, that still wasn’t enough. Matthew had brought down his CRT and NES and we invited people to the hotel to come play some Tetris. So me, Matthew, Eunha, David, our friend Jason, Peter, Thomas (aka Pumpyheart), and his wife Kaci all piled into our hotel room. Peter had the best score of the night around 900k and while everyone left and Peter and I tried to get some sleep, Matthew could not let Peter win the night so he stayed up until he beat his score, then proceeded to eat a chicken sandwich and cookies in bed, I guess everyone has their own way of preparing for a game day.

Peter, Ashley, Thomas (aka Pumpyheart), and David (aGameScout) meet up.
Left to Right: Peter, Ashley, Thomas (aka Pumpyheart), and David (aka aGameScout)

The next morning I was in a lull. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I woke up early and sat downstairs with my breakfast for at least an hour. I had no idea the boys would be so ancy. They were determined to get to the event in a timely manner rushing me out of the door when I barely even had my shoes on. I understood their hurry but I was still not happy. I felt frantic and it induced a sort of mild panic attack. Nothing I’m not used to though. As soon as we walked through the doors to the expo and I saw all my friends my stress was gone. A big hug from Eunha, plus Peter packed my Cheez-Its and my Switch so I would be nice and happy while they tried to qualify for hours. I also had Kaci, Pumpy’s wife who was also not qualifying, to keep me company. It was so refreshing to have someone to chat with amongst the chaos.

At some point, Kaci went off with Thomas and I was sitting alone with my Cheez-Its and at the same time, Keith (Vandweller) was commentating alone. He asked me to join him, and of course, I am not going to pass up on a commentating session with THE Vandy! It was kind of a surreal moment for me. For a year Matthew talked about all the Tetris players and longed to be a part of that community and here we were. The last southern qualifier I was at I was meeting Vandweller for the first time, and now I am sitting next to him commentating on the quals. The stream was pretty laid back seeing as we were just covering those quals but it still felt special to me. I ended up being left alone with the stream while Keith and Thomas wandered off enjoying the Expo. I felt bad for the viewers who most definitely did not come around to listen to me talk. It did give Eunha and me the chance to see if we like commentating. We even got to interview Doge live!

After Quals, Eunha and I snuck away to find food. We scarfed down some quesadillas before heading back in for the matches. Matthew was one of the first matches and of course, I could not watch. I hid behind a door and prayed for the best. Unfortunately, Benjy took him out but I was super proud of how far he made it with rolling! The fact that he completely changed how he plays Tetris and still qualified with a 900k and took a game off of Benjy was impressive in my opinion! Lots of great Tetris play later, Dog won the southern qualifier while also breaking world records, of course.

Once the matches were done no one could really decide what and where we should go. Matthew made the executive decision that we would all go to In-N-Out and eat. We went around making sure that everyone knew where to go. I felt so bad for that In-N-Out, they were already really busy and then we busted in with like 20 people. That was one of my favorite moments though. Imagine taking over an entire fast food place with your favorite people. Eating cheeseburgers, swapping stories, making jokes. It was fantastic. Plus the Artiaga brothers and Doge could not stay long so that was our last chance to get to hang with the champions! It was so nice to sit back and look around and see the smiles on everyone’s faces that none of us could get rid of. It was a contagious and wholesome energy. I sat there soaking up every single moment and all the happy faces.

Thomas, Kaci, Ashley, and Eunha at In-N-Out
Thomas, Kaci, Ashley, and Eunha at In-N-Out.

Group Photo at In-N-Out

Once we left In-N-Out we all went back to the convention center since they were keeping it open until 10pm. We took over a room full of CRTs that had different consoles connected. We had Guitar Hero, Mario Kart: Double Dash, we had Steve’s Shredder out. Even with all the games around us, we just talked. I stood there looking around the room almost ready to cry as I saw, DMJ sitting with his pillow just playing Tetris, Mfrerck pushing Charlie in a gaming chair, DocPi trying out the shredder, Matthew and Joey playing a match, David filming for YouTube, and I stood in a circle with Eunha and Kaci. Just pure happiness in a room. At the end of the night, we all stood in a circle guessing each other’s shoe size. It became the game of the night and surprisingly entertaining. It was getting late and Peter literally had to drag Matthew and me out of the room so that we could head back and get some sleep. It didn’t matter to me though, I didn’t sleep anyways. When we got back to the hotel I just could not stop running all the conversations through my head and looking at pictures wishing the weekend would never end. I already missed everyone and I knew the next day I would have to say goodbye and I wasn’t ready. So I just didn’t sleep.

aGameScout with The Shredder
Mfrerck with The Shredder
DocPi with The Shredder
Steve Deluca and DMJ
Steve Deluca and Matt Martin

The next day at the convention you could tell I didn’t sleep. I was falling asleep all over the place. Luckily Eunha and I ended up commentating the 0-100 sprint match so that kept me up for a majority of the day. We all decided we should have our last lunch and eat at Whataburger (of course a Texas classic). So me, Eunha, David, Matthew, Peter, Vince, Steve, DMJ, Phyro, and her husband all had one last get-together. We definitely left later than we had planned but again, no one wanted to say goodbye.

Hanging out at Whataburger

When we left Whataburger we drove back to Dallas to stay another night at my moms. She was excited to hear about our trip. We sat at her dining table telling her all of our stories. Then Matthew convinced Peter to mind meld with him. They literally had to drag the giant heavy TV into the room. They played mind meld with our talking the entire time. I don’t think that’s the strategy they were going for but it worked out for them. Once again I did not want the next day to come. I honestly got so used to having Peter around that it was going to be weird to not have him complaining in the background all of the time. (Peter always has opinions on everything)

Peter with a cat

Matthew and I woke up and I made breakfast as we let Peter sleep in. We packed up all of our stuff and headed to the airport. We stopped for pizza along the way. Matthew and I are pretty emotional people whereas Peter is not. We were holding back tears and I am pretty sure he was just ready to get away from us. We dropped him off at the airport and said our goodbyes. It was sad. I really have to thank him for taking care of Matthew and me all weekend. We are not good at remembering to eat, sleep, or keep on track. He was always there to keep us going. I appreciate his patience with us as we were always the first to show up and the last to leave everything.

I think that in this life there are people out there that you just have a connection with, like they were always meant to become some part of your life. A predestined friendship or relationship. Some of these people in this community I feel connected to. There is something more like an energy I can feel that I relate to. It is kind of hard to put into words but Eunha, Peter, Vince, and Steve are those people for me (besides my husband obviously). Just being in their presence comforts me and I miss them all so much!

These are the reasons to come to a live event. Sometimes when I think about life I often think, what is the point? What is my purpose? When I am in a group of people in the Tetris community I feel, this is it. These people. I may not have been put here to be something big, but I definitely think I was put here to help those who might be. This does make it hard for me when we get home. I struggle when we get back and I am all alone. I don’t think I am the only one either. I need these live events. They are some of the things I look forward to the most. I think connections like the ones I have made with the Tetris community are so rare and unfortunately, those people live far away. So come say hi on stream, DM me anytime you want, and come to any event you can.

Love you guys, thanks for reading!

Oo- Ashley Martin

Notes from Wingfryer:

This article was originally published in Ashley’s Discord Server, Classic Tetris Daily. She gave me permission to publish it. Learn more about her experience in the podcast, Tetris Gal Talk. I’m happy to feature this as the first guest post on my website.

Previous Post
Gameplay of Classic Score Attack on Tetris Effect: Connected
Classic Tetris

How To Play NES Tetris Without The Original NES

Next Post
Sidnev 2021
Classic Tetris

Sidnev Wins The 2021 Classic Tetris European Championship