The Apex Legends Global Series (ALGS) Split 2 Playoffs is one of the biggest calendar events for Apex Legends fans. Across four days, it’s brought together some of the best players on the planet in a single venue as they compete in incredibly tense matches where it really is anyone’s game to win. Fans have followed their favorite teams to the event from every corner of the globe, making for an atmosphere that’s as electric as Wattson’s Interception Pylons.
This event is so much more than a game, though. It’s a fan base and community that’s grown beyond anyone’s wildest expectations over the past 4 years. Groups of fans have popped up everywhere, from the US and UK, through Europe to China and Australia. But those communities are fuelled by passionate individuals that loved the game so much they felt the need to establish a central hub for fans to gather in, be it a physical space, website, or Discord server.
One such person, the head of the Chinese Apex Legends community Very Apex, Wenjie ‘Vita’ Shi took things one step further than any other fan for the ALGS Split 2 Playoffs. He drove the distance from Shanghai, China, all the way to London, UK, to attend the competition as a fan. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Vita to ask him a few questions about that epic journey and, among other things, why he did it in the first place.
Specifically, I asked Vita what it is about Apex Legends that drove him to drive the (according to an online route calculator) roughly 7,019 miles to get to this eSports event. He told me, “Many Apex Legends players are part of our community and we all love this game. We knew many of those players would come to London to attend this event, so we came here to support our Chinese teams. We wanted to be here with our Chinese fans to support our Chinese teams.”
I think this is brilliant. Vita loves this game just as much as the fans that are part of the community he founded. It would have been easy to fly over to catch the competition, but he wanted to do something that showcased the dedication of that community. A car covered in ‘Very Apex’ graphics is a statement.
Not only is it a sign to everyone that sees it that these are Apex Legends fans, but it also highlights that community and gives it a physical presence in spaces it would never have reached before. This community, which formed online, is a part of so many people’s lives.
It hosts events with prize pools and brings players together, but until this car drove a line across the surface of the Earth, there was no physical presence, no tangible aspect anyone could grasp. In a way, Vita’s achieved something eerily ethereal, dragging an online entity into the physical realm and marching it across a plane through sheer willpower.
The road trip from Shanghai to London took 20 days in total, most of a month when put into perspective. I asked Vita if he’d recommend anyone else follow in his footsteps, and he said, “No.” More specifically, he explained that, “if you want to make a road trip to London from Shanghai, you need a lot of free time and a lot of money, because it’s very expensive.”
When you think about it, there’s a reason people don’t drive across the world anymore. Planes make it infinitely more feasible by cutting travel costs and time, and as Vita so dryly pointed out through his answer, that’s not something people have a lot of these days.
Still, to me, this makes the achievement a lot more impressive. I love a long drive, though 20 days might be a bit much even for me. Others who understand the appeal of just getting into a car and making progress towards a goal, with nothing but a loose time restraint and plenty of opportunity for adventure along the way, likely also admire the feat. Wishing they had the time and cash to drive a car across an entire continent.
When I requested Vita’s best memories from the trip, I expected him to list off a few attractions or beautiful expanses of countryside. There are so many things that make long drives enjoyable, like new and interesting snacks, strange off-the-beaten-track communities hidden along rarely-used roads, spectacular views that you can’t get anywhere else, and people.
It’s that last item that Vita says was his highlight of the trip. “I think it’s the attention we received along the journey. People saw our car on the road and would come and talk to us. Even though we had a language barrier, I think that was the best bit.” I wholeheartedly agree with Vita on this and see the people you meet and the friends you make along any journey as the best part of all of them.
When I was 14, I went on a 2-week trip around a couple of US states on the back of a motorcycle my dad was driving. We got snowed in when we visited Roswell and saw most of Route 66, but it’s the people I remember. We’d chat to literally anyone we could, be they a Harley Davidson rep while my dad dreamt of the bikes he couldn’t buy, the elderly couple in the diner next to an old jail with bulletholes littering the walls, or the Happy Police that stopped my grumpy dad in the street and forced him to cheer up with stickers and jokes.
Just like me, Vita remembers the people he encountered along this drive, such as the kids in Kazakhstan that recognized Apex Legends on the car and came over to talk to him, or the border officer in Finland who chatted with him about the ALGS Split 2 Playoffs.
But getting to London is only half the journey. Vita’s got to do something with this car from here. I checked what he wanted to do to get back and he has a few potential plans, the most surprising of which was, “I’ll leave the car here and fly back.” Which I wasn’t expecting. But the truth is Vita just isn’t sure what he wants to do now he’s got the car to the UK.
He told me that another idea he had was to take the car to the US. He said, “If I do take my car to the US, I might park my car in front of the headquarters of EA.” This, to me, sounds like the greatest plan and an epic finale for a vehicle that’s come so far in a relatively short space of time.
While not for everyone, there’s a certain appeal to taking nothing but a car and the essentials and just driving. There’s so much potential to that nomadic sort of lifestyle or trip. An enticing invitation to adventure in places you’ve never been before.
In many ways, Apex Legends embodies that sense of adventure. Outside of the pros, very few fans have been to every corner of the map and know every inch of it. Every match holds that same vibration of elation that comes with the prospect of the unknown or an adventure. Opportunities to dive into something blind and see what happens come along so rarely, so I, and I’m sure the Very Apex community, hope that Vita one day posts a picture of his car in front of EA’s headquarters and accepts the invitation Apex Legends has offered him from here.