Like all ROG laptops, my life began in a factory. Unlike all ROG laptops, I spent a year on an unparalleled adventure: 12 places in 12 months. I’ve become the worldliest GL502VS, and, in the process, left a lasting impression on everyone who met me. But, beyond expertly surviving long layovers with marathon gaming sessions, I’ve learned more than I ever expected about how die-hard gamers of all stripes practice and play worldwide. From Croatia to Colombia and beyond, here’s a recap of my whirlwind year.

#1: Gaming like the Croatians do

My first true test was traveling from Seattle, Washington, to Split, Croatia. Normally a distance of just over 5,600 miles, I wasn’t so lucky. Instead, I traveled 8,116 miles and 31 hours, through five airports, and four security checkpoints. Luckily, I don’t have shoes and barely tip the scales at just 2.75 kg, so I breezed through security and even squeezed in a couple rounds of DOOM before takeoff.

In Croatia, it was all about gaming local, from Serious Sam with coffee and an ocean view, to a rubbing elbows with the stars (of course referring to Dubrovnik’s ancient walls, well-known for their role in Game of Thrones.) The famous encounters continued when local game development studio Croteam invited me to swing by their Zagreb offices to show off my VR capabilities in a few intense rounds of Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. It was a truly epic kickoff to my round-the-world journey.

#2: Getting a Czech virtual reality check

gl502vs-around-the-world-12Visiting the history-studded Czech Republic wouldn’t be complete without a castle selfie.

A month later and I was back in the air, hoofing it from Split to Prague, where virtual reality is unexpectedly taking over one VR cafe at a time. As gamers are increasingly able to afford their own gaming rigs, public LAN culture is on the decline, and these gaming centers are slowly-but-surely replacing traditional LAN cafes. Demand for VR is high because few have the apartment space or money for it. This explains the rising popularity of VR cafes, where people pay and play for time in virtual worlds. While many of these cafes use full-size desktops, VR-ready laptops like me, the ROG Strix Scar II, and ROG Strix Hero II will soon enable even more streamlined and compact gaming spaces.

#3: Empowering Portugal’s young gamers

Portugal provided a very different gaming scene. In Lisbon and beyond, gamers and esports advocates are still fighting for professional recognition and pay. And in the Marvila neighborhood, one library is turning die-hard local gamers into game industry professionals.

gl502vs-around-the-world-13Young gamers in Lisbon’s Marvila library experience CS:GO on my smooth-as-butter, 120Hz display.

When library coordinator Paulo Jose discovered that kids without computers were coming to his library to play games, he turned it into an opportunity for them to get involved with the game industry. I made an appearance at Marvila library Bibliogamers event. The local kids crowded around with excitement to experience playing CS:GO with me, a totally different gaming machine than your typical library computers.

#4: Living a day as a Bulgarian Assassin

gl502vs-around-the-world-28A real-life assassin gives this GL502VS the experience of a lifetime with a leap of faith from one of Sofia’s abandoned buildings.

Sofia, Bulgaria, is where Ubisoft Sofia developed Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, so practically every local gamer knows it. On arrival, one thing quickly became clear: I needed to find some real-life assassins. And when you’re looking for Bulgarian Assassins, you don’t have to look too hard. With a thriving parkour and freerunning community, there is no shortage of stunt artists who jump, tumble, and sprint across the country’s stunning landscapes and crumbling Communist ruins. Thanks to my small and light footprint, freerunner and parkour stuntman extraordinaire Lubomir Milushev gave this laptop the experience of a lifetime: rather than rendering a digital Assassin, I was a real one for a day with stunts like flips, jumps, and a processor-pounding leap of faith.

gl502vs-around-the-world-29A trip to Bulgaria calls for a visit to one of its most striking abandoned Soviet relics, Buzludzha.

#5: Experiencing Vietnam’s top esports tourny

Everything changed between Europe and Asia, beginning with public gaming spaces. Hanoi’s gaming centers are part stadium, part LAN, all intensity. Gamers packed elbow-to-elbow in smoky, Bladerunner-esque warehouse rooms, alternating between noodle-slurping and sniping, while pros sweated it out in hot and humid gaming boxes.

gl502vs-around-the-world-7The Vikings focus on a CS:GO match on their home turf: Vikings FPS Stadium.

I arrived in time to see the ROG Masters Vietnam, which including both a Dota 2 competition and the country’s biggest CS:GO tourny. As rain pounded Playdota Stadium Internet’s metal roof, Dota 2 teams went head-to-head, battling it out for distinction in the Asia Pacific Regionals. And in nearby Vikings FPS Stadium, CS:GO teams did the same.

#6: Exploring Thailand’s tech wonderlands

gl502vs-around-the-world-3I found some old friends (and made new ones) at a Bangkok’s Pantip Pratunam mall ROG store.

Europe to Asia may have been a big change, but Thailand brought an entirely new world into focus. This a place where entire malls are dedicated to electronics and esports stadiums are opening as integral parts of high-tech shopping centers. There’s even a dedicated ROG store where some of my friends were hanging out. Meanwhile, mobile gamers packed into one store for an RoV (aka: Arena of Valor/King of Glory) tourny, while just around the corner a Point Blank competition’s victors couldn’t conceal their excitement.

gl502vs-around-the-world-2In futuristic Bangkok, a skytrain whizzes by me as surreal statues cast everything in a cyberpunk glow.

#7: Surviving the night in Japan

In this high-tech city, you can’t go more than a few feet without passing a 24-hour cyber cafe. Beloved by travelers and business people alike as cheap accommodations after missing the last train home, these are where gamers, suits, backpackers, and manga fans mingle. Or perhaps not, given the private booths. Regardless, with all-you-can-eat soft-serve and even showers, they’re the perfect place for humans to clock a few hours of gaming. But what about an entire day and night?

My task was surviving 24 hours inside one of these cafes. Though I fell asleep a bit too early without my international adapter, it was still smooth sailing for me thanks to my fold-out Gigabit port (goodbye, lag), adjustable backlit keys, and IPS-type display for great colors and viewing angles. Elsewhere in Tokyo, I also later explored the cutting edge of VR, MR, and AR at Tokyo Game Show 2017.

gl502vs-around-the-world-6At TGS 2017, gamers played dueling Sabertooth tigers in the VR game, Tooth and Claw.

#8: Finding the world’s ROG Masters in Malaysia

The worldwide ROG Masters tournaments came to a head in Kuala Lumpur, a skyscraper-studded metropolis and esports hotspot. Inside the sweeping, 22,659 square meter Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, the very best teams from APAC, EMEA, the Americas, and China advanced from group stages through quarter- and semi-finals for a combined prize pool of $470,000 USD. Teams and players all faced their own unique challenges getting there, but only two teams walked away victorious from four days of grueling Dota 2 and CS:GO brackets.

gl502vs-around-the-world-17After the esports excitement, I relaxed poolside for photo editing and a sunrise view of the famed Petronas Twin Towers.

#9 & 10: Peeking behind the scenes with LA’s Echo Fox

After a short stay in Shanghai, it was on to ritzy Los Angeles. Here I got an exclusive inside look at the world of LCS, the League of Legends championship series. During my behind-the-scenes HQ tour, I learned how the other half of the pro gaming world lives, and said hi to the ROG G20 and ROG Strix GL12 while learning how to configure myself just like the pros do. And at LCS opening weekend, I saw Echo Fox’s new roster defy expectations, rocketing to first place and ultimately grabbing second for the 2018 Spring Season.

#11: Discovering CS:GO pros in Colombia

gl502vs-around-the-world-27VAULT is one of Colombia’s top CS:GO teams (and, surprisingly, managed remotely by a Minnesotan.) Photo credit: Felipe Guerra

From North America to Latin America, the change in both weather and gaming scene was a big adjustment. Colombian gamer culture has been thriving for decades, but esports is a different world entirely. With the country just now emerging from almost 60 years of complicated conflict, the pressure is high for young people to get well-paying jobs.

Pro gaming still isn’t viewed as a legitimate career here. So, I was surprised to discover that one of Latin America’s top CS:GO teams, VAULT, is Colombian. But, even more surprising, they’re being managed remotely by a Minnesotan gamer-turned-esports manager.

colombia-4In Medellin, I got to see some of the city’s famed street art up close.

#12: Creating with Mexico’s maker movement

The final official stop on my worldwide journey was Mexico City, just one of many Mexican locales at the middle of a fast-growing maker movement. Multiple makerspaces have sprung up in Mexico City alone in the last five years, not to mention other areas where makerspaces are quickly becoming educational opportunities for children and their families.

And local makers are set apart by scarcity-driven resourcefulness, undaunted by lack of tools or materials. In this vibrantly creative climate, it only made sense to commemorate my worldwide journey somehow. Some humans get travel tattoos, some laptops get travel mods. I decided to celebrate my official last stop in the best possible way: with a custom laser-cut cover and 3D-printed ROG case mods.

#13: Hanging out with Swedish Ninjas

gl502vs-around-the-world-30GeT_RiGhT and F0rest pose for an ROG commercial shoot.

Although Mexico was the last planned stop, my world tour had one surprise bonus: I jetted from Latin America to Sweden to spend time with one of the oldest and most respected esports teams in the world: Ninjas in Pyjamas. Not only did I see how they run their org like a startup, but I went behind the scenes on an ROG commercial shoot with CS:GO stars F0rest and GeT_RiGhT, and even learned about NiP’s new PUBG team roster.

Around the world in 100 quadrillion clock cycles

At the start of my globetrotting adventure, I was just a regular GL502VS-DS71. Now, with a custom cover and more than a year’s worth of unparalleled experiences, I’m arguably the luckiest laptop in the world. Beyond proving that lightweight VR laptops like me are both portable and powerful enough for truly long-term travel, I discovered incredible new technologies, met amazing people, and saw firsthand the unifying passion of gamers worldwide. ROG super-fans and gamers truly are everywhere, if you just know where to look.