If you were to ask any Dota 2 player what their definition of success was, they’d probably say that winning The International was everything.
Before winning the International in 2015, I had the same ambition, the same goal. I put everything into winning; I was full-throttle Dota 2. I didn’t think about or focus on anything other than winning The International.
I can look back on the tournaments I competed at with Evil Geniuses and say that it was our singular focus that made us the best in the world, but it was also that singular focus that led to an unhealthy mindset. We had to place first at tournaments because anything less than that was no longer acceptable to us.
Initially, that singular focus led us to be the best team in the world and gave us the best feeling in the world. That drive, that ambition and that obsession helped us become world champions.
But after becoming a world champion I started to question what I wanted to do now that I had achieved my initial goal.
What do you do when you finally achieve “success”?
I had to set new goals for myself.
I had always been interested in growing my brand, especially now that I was being presented with opportunities that allow me to do that. Being among the top players in Dota 2 gave me the ability to chase my ambitions, to focus on what drives me.
And for a long time, being on stage competing for millions was a hard feeling to match. My heart was still in the competition so I continued to play knowing that eventually, I would want to transition into a role that was more than just a player.
The opportunity to make a difference with Evil Geniuses came along after EG separated from Twitch.
Alongside my best friend Kodiak Shroyer, we became the upper management of EG and became the company’s accounts, talent scouts, player managers, and social media managers. The work that I did with the now-current CEO Phil Aram led to EG’s change from being a corporately-owned organization to a player-owned organization.
Along with the long-term plans of the organization, I was making decisions about sponsors, scouting for players, and which games EG would expand into. It was an incredible experience being able to be a part of the revolutionary work I was doing at EG.
As a player, you’re not a part of the bigger conversations that come with running an organization. I learned a lot from those conversations and they really helped me develop a better understanding of the business side of esports.
I wouldn’t consider trying to be successful my motivation for my time at EG, I was mainly looking to learn. That’s why, when I made the decision to take a break, it was time to look for the next opportunity.
I decided to refocus on my ambition to become a world champion Dota 2 player once again. I wanted to create a team whose focus was on playing without the high pressure that I had with EG.
Like other players, my intentions were winning the Aegis again but this time we were enjoying just getting to play. This time we were playing just to play, to enjoy the game and compete at the highest levels.
Whether we placed first, fourth or eighth, we would take our experience and learn from it. We didn’t have any expectations going into a tournament or particular qualifiers, it was simply about playing our best.
Several months before The International, I started searching for what came next.
There was a lack of support, especially in North America, for players who wanted to turn professional. That’s one of the problems that spurred my decision to create the North American Dota Challenger League.
I wanted to build my brand and put my name on something that I was passionate about. When I was working with EG and later, when I played for OpTic Gaming, I saw that there was a real need for a semi-professional Dota 2 league.
No one else was making a semi-professional league for NA and no one wanted to support players that had the drive to become professional players. So making the NADCL seemed like the right next step for me.
I think throughout my professional Dota 2 career, I’ve achieved the quintessential definition of what success looks like for a Dota 2 player or it’s at least what fans consider success to look like.
But I’m not sure if I believe in that definition of success anymore, since then things have gotten a lot blurrier.
I’m at the point where I question exactly what the point of defining success is. I don’t think success is a completion of something or a particular tournament win, I now look at success as a state of being or a drive within myself.
This year my obvious goals as a player are to get to The International which involves us qualifying for multiple majors and securing DPC points to get an invite.
If I went to a major and finished in last place that could be a short-term failure, but how upset am I supposed to be about failure and how focused am I supposed to be on success?
The way I see it, as long as I’m doing my best, I’m being successful.
Image Credit: Valve & Starladder