US StarCraft 2 champion ViBE on going pro, winning US title, and raising his game

Dan "ViBE" Scherlong enjoyed a convincing victory at the USA Nationals StarCraft 2 tournament at the MLG's Anaheim Championship earlier this month. On his way to finishing first among American StarCraft players, securing a spot in the World Championship, and winning $12,000, Scherlong beat talented American players like fellow Zergs Greg "Idra" Fields and Peter "daisuki" Yoo. In late August, he'll play in the North American Championship.

Scherlong was something of a surprise winner at the USA Nationals, and the North American Championship will put him up against some of the very same players he beat on his way to winning the Nationals, along with the best players from Canada and Mexico. I had the chance to talk to him about his unexpected success in Anaheim, how this has affected his career, his views on the World Championship Series, and where he comes from.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

PCG: So when did you decide you were going to try and make it as a StarCraft 2 pro? Do you have a day job?

Dan "ViBE" Scherlong: I decided I wanted to try and go pro at StarCraft 2 before the game came out. I have been playing games for a very long time and I am a competitive person, but I never invested enough time into one game to play it professionally. I was close to doing that with WarCraft 3 but I got distracted by too many other games so, I just ended up being a pretty good ladder player. So I [gave] myself the goal: the next Blizzard RTS game that came out, I was going to try and go pro at it. And here I am today.

I did have a day job: I worked at a restaurant, P.F. Chang's, and I only quit when I realized that I could actually make a decent living by only playing the game.

What does your family think of what you do? Do they understand SC2?

Scherlong: My family is very supportive, but like any family they were skeptical at first. When StarCraft 2 first came out, I was investing a lot of time into the game and really cutting back my hours at work, which was starting to make my parents nervous. Because in their eyes I was now losing money. Now, my family is a gamer family so my older brother and father were fully aware of what I was doing. My mom, on the other hand, is a workaholic, despite our efforts to convert her. They were always supporting me but the quote I heard a lot was "You should just work a little more than you do right now. Just so you don't run out of money, but you can still play the game almost as much as you do right now." Which to be honest is very good advice, but when I got sponsored by sixjax.NrG and I started getting free travel to events, my family knew I was actually making something of this and were on board 100 percent.

In terms of understanding the game, I would say my brother does because he plays every few days on ladder, but my parents more or less would just look for, "What color is ViBE, and is that color smashing the other one?"

"I do believe I have been an underrated player for quite some time."

Because of the way the WCS groups players by nationality and region, do you feel any differently about these competitions? Will you feel at all like you are representing your country in your upcoming matches?

Scherlong I personally think this is a great spin on a tournament where it brings out national pride in players who represent their respective nations. I love the usual tournaments like MLG or IPL where you get some of the world's best and it's just a free-for-all to the top, but for this game to stay appealing to viewers, I do think having a couple differently-structured tournaments is needed. Just like when GSL had Korea vs the world or team league formats where you have team pride. Those kinds of events are definitely fun to watch and participate in.

The feeling I had going into the initial WCS tournament was more or less just like any other tournament. I didn't necessarily feel like I was representing the USA. But from here on out, I will be mixed with other players who have qualified from their groups and are representing their own countries, and now I definitely have a feeling of pride, just like I would when I want to win matches for my team in a clan match.

For a lot of SC2 fans, the USA Nationals were their first chance to really watch you play. Do you feel like the WCS has let you take your game to the next level of pro competition? Will we see more of you at other pro events?

Scherlong: I really appreciate every opportunity I get to participate in a league or tournament where I can compete with some of the best StarCraft 2 has to offer, and I do hope that the more large scale exposure I get makes more tournament organizers think of me as possible competition. I do believe I have been an underrated player for quite some time, so this is a good step, showing people that I can compete. Hopefully I get more opportunities from future tournaments.

At the North American Finals, you'll be seeing a lot of the same players you beat, and some new ones. Are there any matchups you're hoping for?

Scherlong I'm looking forward to the NA Finals, as I am interested to see which country qualifies more players. Historically, if someone asked me what matchup I was hoping for and why, I would always say Zerg vs Terran because that was my best matchup by far due to practicing it the most and just really understanding it. Lately though, it's a different story because I really feel I have pulled my Zerg vs Protoss and Zerg vs Zerg matchups to be on par with my [ZvT]. I think I proved that by winning WCS USA [without] playing against a single Terran opponent. I am currently feeling like a really strong, well-rounded player.