Living Up To The Hype

Every day I get into an Uber and the driver will often ask me what I do for a living. I have to explain that I’m a pro gamer and more often than not they want to know if I make any money. I always tell them:
“Yeah, a lot.”

The game that made me want to become a professional esports player was Halo 3. It was my first game and I was very good at it; I was in the top 50 for Team Slayer, Team Doubles, and Team Snipers. I watched all the tournaments, all of the MLG events – Final Boss vs. Status Quo still sticks in my mind to this day – that’s where it all began for me. I’ve been all about esports ever since.

I was notorious for my ‘trickshots’ on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which I’m not proud of now, but I definitely was back then. It wasn’t until Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 came out that I finally stopped goofing around and started playing competitively. I played Call of Duty on console though and that came with limitations.

All of the pros are on PC and anyone trying to go pro has to play on PC if they want to get noticed. Games are just infinitely better on PC when it comes to mechanical prowess and functionality, this is true for Overwatch especially.

My first PC game was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which I played for about a year. I only played 3 seasons of ESEA, but still managed to climb pretty high in that time. I started in Open – the lowest rung – next season I played Intermediate and then the season after I played in Main. I climbed pretty fast and played in a lot of tournaments; I was pretty good. It got me comfortable with the mouse and keyboard too.

My friends in high school knew I was going to go pro the moment they saw I was playing CS:GO. They know me – they knew I was insane when it came to video games, I was infinitely better than they were – they just knew it was a matter of time before I turned pro.

In the first season of Overwatch, I got on to a semi-pro team. We weren’t sponsored or anything, but we were doing okay. We played in tournaments against the likes of FaZe Clan, and I was managing to hold my own against them – a lot of the pro players took notice.

I finished Rank 2 on the ladder during Overwatch Season 2 and realized that it might be time for me to start looking for a serious team. Eventually, I was given the opportunity to try out for Selfless Gaming and I became a professional Overwatch player at the age of 16.

When I first joined Selfless at the beginning of Overwatch’s competitive scene, we had only heard about Overwatch League as a distant future. We were trying to perform well in tournaments in the hope that a partnered organization would pick us up – it always felt like such a long road. Overwatch League had always felt very far away, but when it finally came, we found ourselves representing NRG Esports as the San Francisco Shock.

Before Super and I were old enough to play in the Overwatch League, we would sometimes go to practice and watch scrims. We’d watch the whole block, take notes, and learn by shadowing our counterparts. Super would watch NoMy, and I would watch Babybay or Danteh, using their points of view to get familiar with how the other players in the Overwatch League play.

Overwatch League is the pinnacle of competitive play and I had never played at that standard before Shock. It helped me realize how people play against each other at this level. It prepared me for my eventual debut.

I couldn’t help but get frustrated. Just sitting there, watching our team lose – I couldn’t do anything about it. The worst part, though, was the anticipation that had built up between my signing and my debut. There was so much hype around me.

On my debut, I let the nerves get to me and I choked really hard. I was a nervous wreck; I felt a weight of expectation, that I was expected to come in and carry a struggling team single-handedly. It messed with me a bit.

It felt like everyone expected me to ‘save’ the team and that I had to do well no matter what. It got to me and I played poorly, but honestly, I’m not sure I could have lived up to the expectations no matter how well I performed.

The nerves got to me in my first couple of games, but by my third outing, I had got used to it. I knew then that I belonged here, and I just tuned out the hate.

With myself and the other players that have joined the Shock, we now have a lot more flexibility. In the beginning, we didn’t have anybody to sub in, our hero pool wasn’t very big and that led to us sacrificing optimal hero picks.

With our new additions, however, we can play literally anything we want. We can swap in players whenever we need to play stuff like McCree or Widowmaker, but also have the luxury of multiple players who can play the same hero in different situations.

It’s nice to have teammates at such a high skill level, it means I don’t have to ‘hard carry’ individually, as I was originally expected to do, instead, I can just focus on playing my role in the team.

I’m not much of a leader and I’m not really trying to do anything big; I’m just here to play. I’ll leave the big picture stuff to those more suited to it, like JAKE.

I want the public to recognize me as one of the best players in the league, but for my teammates, I want to be known as a really good friend that you can have fun with and be yourself around. So far, balancing out those things is going pretty well and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Image Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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