In the early 2000s, Jimmy Lin was painting fences at a local community centre in Hillhurst with the goal of saving up enough money to build a computer. Each paycheque would be a reminder for him to go to Memory Express — a Canadian computer retailer — and pick up a new part for his rig.
The computer he was building would change the trajectory of his life, and allow him to be a trailblazer in the Calgary Esports community.
Always a gamer, Lin grew up playing Mario Kart and Mortal Kombat. In his early teenage years, he discovered Counter-Strike — a first-person shooter game.
“It was in beta at the time. I think I played it for 10 minutes at my friend’s house and I was hooked,” says Lin.
After using his fence-painting money to build a computer so he could have his own place to play, Lin quickly became good enough to start competing in local tournaments, including LANageddon, which was specific to Calgary.
Back in the early 2000s, the Esports scene was vastly different. Without the technology available today, many tournaments were what gamers referred to as a LAN — a Local Area Network — event that connected the different computers together in the same space.
Lin and his teammates were still young and in school full-time, so they had to use their evenings to practice together.
“Basically it was five days a week. We would do Sunday to Thursday. From what I remember we would get on at around 5 p.m. and stay on until 9 or 10 p.m.”
The training paid off as Lin and his team went on to place third in a LAN tournament. After seeing continued success locally, Lin was eventually signed by a team that is now one of largest in the industry, the Evil Geniuses.
Together, the team prepped for the World Cyber Games — an international Esports competition that pits countries against each other, like the Olympics.
Through the Evil Geniuses, Lin had the opportunity to travel to places like Singapore and Italy to compete. He says today’s Esports landscape has become more mainstream, with the prize pools now substantially larger.
“Before, when I was playing, it was kind of ‘I really like playing this, but I’m not making a living doing it.’ So it’s great to see people actually make a living.”
Eventually Lin’s Counter-Strike career came to an end, as he attempted to settle for something with more stability where he could still use the skills he had gained through Esports.
“I found my way to IT because if you’re a gamer back in the day, you needed to know how to reformat your computer,” says Lin.
From 2008 to 2017, Lin didn’t game at all. But, while on vacation in Japan, friend and former teammate Kyle “Ksharp” Miller reached out to Lin and asked to meet up.
“He said, ‘Oh, gaming is so crazy now, there’s Twitch, there’s streamers, there’s huge prize pools for tournaments now….’ So I came back and I instantly bought a computer,” says Lin.
Once Lin got back into gaming, he discovered Valorant, another first-person shooter game that has become popular in recent years. He began to play competitively once again, seeing success early on.
“I tossed a team together with people I knew from Counter-Strike and we actually had pretty good placements in the tournaments,” says Lin.
Ultimately, the time commitments for the Esports industry had changed over the years, and Lin realized it was time for a change.
“I can’t play 10 hours a day. I don’t even think I could sit here for 10 hours a day anymore,” says Lin.
But he wasn’t done with Esports. He has since transitioned into a coaching role.
“I made an Instagram and I started posting clips. The feedback that I got from that was really good, so I kept doing it,” says Lin.
Today, Lin does work for Aim Lab — a company that helps train a player’s aim — and is their Valorant expert. He continues to upload clips on Instagram and TikTokin hopes to help the Valorant community progress and get better at the game.
“It was the only time that I could bring together all of my skill sets,” says Lin. “I was playing Valorant, I was competing in Valorant for a bit, so I’m very familiar with how it should be played.”