As the days pass from the horrific right-wing terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, communities and families have only just begun to come to grips with the damage done. And over the weekend, the Australian and New Zealand Counter-Strike communities, with the support of the international scene, began marshalling their support after learning that 33-year-old Atta Elayyan, one of the most prominent players in New Zealand's Counter-Strike: Source teams, was killed in the attacks.
Elayyan, who went by the name "[email protected]", was a regular name around the New Zealand Counter-Strike 1.5, 1.6 and CS: Source community from 2002 to 2008. The nature of the scenes meant that teams from the two countries practised frequently online - and still do so today - and as a result, many Australians bumped into Elayyan and his team in pick-up games and more organised online play.
It wasn't until the introduction of Counter-Strike: Source, which fractured the local Counter-Strike community in Australia and New Zealand, that Elayyan began to rise to prominence a little more. Most New Zealand players and competitions were focusing on 1.6 at the time - as was the case in Australia - and this opened the door for fresher players to emerge.
After gruelling months of practising Australian teams, Elayyan found success in CS: Source with NewType, which began dominating local New Zealand CS:S competitions. The team began stringing together consecutive wins at xLAN, the largest BYOC event in New Zealand at the time, as well as putting their stamp on Oceanic online events.
Some footage of one tournament is still available online, featuring some snippets of audio from NewType's Ventrilo chat (a precursor to Discord, without as much functionality).
A small history of the team still exists over on the GamePlanet forums, which also touched on the lives of the players at the time and also their approach to the game:
After creaming the majority of New Zealand clans in the Esports Summer Jam tournament, we knew we were set for the competition at Xlan, and decided to not play for a month before. After again rolling all the source teams at Xlan 2006 we had a brief hiatus with Atvar's net going to shit for 2 months, Chief going emo over his girlfriend and grudge moving out of his shitty house into another not quite so shitty house.
With this amazing level of preparation team Newtype rolled into the GotGames Invite comp, winning the first 5 games without much prac at all.. then the shock loss on cbble lead us to actually start practising more!... for a while, defeating f4f on dust2 and then going back to a period of complacency winning the rest of our league matches and then going inactive before the playoffs where we dropped 1 map to 2 against encore.
Elayyan made a quick return to competition in 2009, before finally leaving the game behind for good to pursue what would be a successful career in business and computing. After a brief stint on his own projects and working as a UX designer, Daily Esports noted that him and his friend Mike Choeung founded a firm that would develop apps for the Windows Store, Lazyworm Apps.
The company would go on to develop MetroTube, a better alternative to the official YouTube app on Windows Phone (which, at the time, was nothing more than a browser redirect to the YouTube page). "[The lack of a proper YouTube app] was actually one of the first things I noticed when I picked up the very first Windows Phone," Elayyan said in an interview with The Verge at Microsoft's 2012 Build conference.
The success of MetroTube, as well as Tweetro, helped Lazyworm grow enough to where Elayyan could launch LWA Solutions, a services arm of the business that would develop white-label apps for Microsoft and government departments like Ports of Auckland. He was profiled by Microsoft themselves during the Microsoft Ignite keynote, featured in a video showcasing some New Zealand developers who were creating apps for Windows 8.
Elayyan's success in business grew to the point where, last year, he was recognised as one of New Zealand's top 100 chief information officers.
Nigel Parker, a principal software engineer at Microsoft New Zealand, praised Elayyan for the purity of his design. "He wanted to build consumer apps that delighted people and attempted to reach as many people as possible," Parker wrote in a Medium post.
"He didn’t want to sell users to advertisers or build platforms that prayed on people’s needs to pay for the best experiences. Instead he poured everything into the software he created, made it available for free without ads or tracking data and then invited people to pay if they liked the experience."
Elayyan's competitive streak continued outside of gaming, though. Alongside his work in coding and business, he began playing for New Zealand's international futsal team, known as the Fustal Whites. He represented his country 19 times, according to Fox Sports, and was named New Zealand Football's fustal player of the year in 2014.
Understandably, there was an outpouring of tributes for Elayyan and his family over the weekend from not just gaming but also the tech and the sporting world. A crowdfunding page has also been established for Elayyan's family, which has currently raised just over $NZD90,000 at the time of writing.
Absolutely devastated with Christchurch events. The CSNZ community has lost a brother, crazyarab who played in New Type. Every time you talked to him he was positive, friendly and insirpirational.
— Nick Shaw (@n1cknz) March 16, 2019
QUOTE | @NZ_Football Futsal Development Manager @margetts_josh: “To Atta’s family, we are deeply sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine what you are going through, but please know we love you and we are here for you during this incredibly difficult time.” #RIPAtta @MainlandFooty pic.twitter.com/tCcileWiUK
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) March 17, 2019
Just a pathetic, disgusting attack. Thinking of everyone in NZ mate.
I remember playing PUGs with him in Source and had many battles with New Type over the years. My condolences.
— Havoc (@LukeHavocPaton) March 17, 2019
So deeply shocked to hear that @attaelayyan lost his life in the New Zealand terrorist attack. He was a talented Windows Phone developer who created Metrotube. He was only 33, and was such a caring and talented young man. RIP Atta pic.twitter.com/UoYYYInSB9
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 16, 2019
I didn't follow CS:S, but watched an old highlight (GotGames Invite) where crazyarab vs. the likes of topguN and ap0c in his days. Rest in peace and Kia Kaha Aotearoa. ???????? https://t.co/BhTzhb76j1 pic.twitter.com/TG7QOY8bKs
— Alex Deng (@flam3zFPS) March 17, 2019
Elayyan is survived by his two-year-old daughter Aya and his wife Farah. A friend and Elayyan's former fustal coach in Canterbury described the former Counter-Strike player, goalkeeper and technology giant in perhaps the most fitting of terms, as one of the best humans one could hope to know.
"He never asked for anything in return. He was a truly exceptional human being," Ronan Naicker told Stuff.co.nz.