With the advent of the Halo Minor League coming this Monday, several semi-professional Halo players are gearing up to play some competitive Halo from late November to mid-February, filling in the competitive void that the HCS will leave open for their offseason.
One of those players is Robert “ROB THE TURTLE” O’Connor, known for being a well-seasoned veteran of the amateur Halo scene and a member of the Halo Minor League team Dynasty. His team, which also includes Joseph “TiZoXiC” Capetillo, Hunter “BxbyJ” Schline, and Ian “Chaser” Contorelli will compete against other strong semi-pro teams like Most Wanted, PNDA Gaming, and 3sUp, with the latter of the three having a shot at the Pro League in the Relegation Tournament.
Although the competition is stiff, O’Connor still has plenty of faith in his team, as he said over Skype while running some scrimmages with his teammate BxbyJ.
“I feel really confident. I mean, the #1 seed was PNDA and we beat them at Las Vegas 3-1 in the Open Circuit Finals,” said ROB THE TURTLE. “3sUp is also in there, and they 3-0’d us at the event. So they’ll definitely be one of the best teams in it. Besides that, I’m definitely very confident about playing against any of those other teams, and I’m confident as well against those teams. I just know that they’ll be the biggest threats.”
ROB THE TURTLE has been on the Halo semi-professional scene ever since Halo: Reach, and his love for Halo stemmed from going over to his friend’s houses to play Halo 2. His first break came in Halo 4, where he wound up teaming with current pro Visal “eL TowN” Mohanan and took home first at AGL 4 New Jersey.
From there, he bounced around with a few current pro players, including Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali and Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, however after Iron Games Daytona, he had some trouble getting into the online qualifiers for the Halo World Championships.
“Those online qualifiers for Worlds were everything essentially, and if you didn’t do well there, you kind of screwed yourself,” ROB THE TURTLE said. “So I didn’t end up playing in the first two, which kind of put a giant brick wall in front of my career. But I kept grinding.”
That grind wound up paying off for ROB THE TURTLE, as he eventually teamed with TiZoXic, and found his two current teammates after placing top-six in Chattanooga.
“It was kind of throwing four talented players together that would work and it did,” he said.
O’Connor still holds a full time job as a social worker, with a graduate degree in his field, and describes the balance between his work and the rest of his life as “very hard.”
“When I’m grinding, it’s literally picking up, going to work all day, coming home and grinding until you go to bed,” O’Connor said. “It’s a challenge without a doubt, but it’s definitely a challenge worth undertaking, because I really love my career and what I do and I have to work. I love doing that, but I also love competing in Halo. It’s in my blood and I’m totally happy. Even though I do work full-time, I have the ability to compete. And as long as I have the ability to compete and Halo is there, I’m going to continue doing it because I love doing it.”
Because he still grinds like a Halo professional, he is completely aware of what Halo 5 and the professional scene needs to do. For instance, he’s not a fan of everyone’s (least) favorite feature in the current competitive scene: radar.
“I think taking out radar will 100 percent benefit the game,” O’Connor said. “I think if they took out every single automatic (AR, storm rifle, SMG), took out radar, and took out Splinter Grenades or nerfed them to some capacity, this game would be 20 times more competitive.”
Although he has many grievances that most of the community shares, and advocates for more events in central locations like Dallas and Columbus, he still credits HCS for holding very organized events that gave him and other players a bang for their buck.
“They technically had four tournaments in Vegas between the Free-For-All, the Open Circuit, the Open Circuit Finals and the Pro Bracket,” ROB THE TURTLE said. “It was a lot of Halo to be played, and sometimes you go to events and you don’t get to play that much, especially if you aren’t good and get knocked out early. But for me, I played in the FFA, then played in the Open Bracket all the way through and then the Open Bracket Circuit Finals all the way through, and then got to play in the Pro Bracket. I got to play a lot of competitive Halo at Vegas, and I enjoyed that.”
With Rob and his team having a “big let-down” by narrowly missing the Pro League Relegation Tournament in Vegas after finishing third at the event, he said that the Esports Minor League is going to provide competition for him while he looks forward to the next opportunity to turn pro.
“I’m really excited to see what (Platinum 5’s) Proverb can do about it, and if he can get money for amateur players that’s awesome,” ROB THE TURTLE said. “That definitely will make it competitive and for people to take it seriously. I mean, I watch the Pro League every week, and maybe people will be watching us in the Minor League every week too.”
Not only that, but the Esports Minor League may be what the scene needs to cater to those semi-pro players currently in limbo.
“Being an amateur player has been a huge struggle in Halo 5,” O’Connor said. “There’s been so little to play for, they just gave us open events and they are all on the West Coast.”
All-in-all, it seems like everyone, fans and players alike, have something to look forward to with the start of the Esports Minor League.
“For there to be an online incentive and bringing back that idea of semi-pro that was so big in Halo 2 and 3 – y’know the idea that you go to an event, play as a semi-pro, and that could kind of be your ticket to making it pro – I think that’s huge with keeping the dream alive of being a pro gamer,” ROB THE TURTLE said.
That dream is strong with ROB THE TURTLE, and the Esports Minor League may just be the answer, as well as the place where the 31 other players playing in this year’s inaugural season can keep their pro gamer dream alive.
James Mattone is a journalist for GAMURS and can be contacted on Twitter –@TheJamesMattone.