When PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) first came out and the scene was new, there were a couple of people who reached out to us like “Hey, PUBG Online just came out – are you looking to be represented?”
The organisation didn’t start taking the game entirely seriously until March or April in 2018. I advertised that we were looking for a team to compete in Global Loot League, Auzom, and PUBG Online and I interviewed maybe thirty teams. We received a lot of applications.
I was a big fan of PUBG, playing with a few friends and hosting our own tournament. I really like the game, the more realistic style appeals to me.
I wanted a game where the players were playing four times a week, five or six games a night. Producing constant content for people who were interested in watching them. They could watch them every night. It would always be on, it’d be like watching your favourite sports team, just more often.
For me, it was finding a team that followed my philosophy going forward – they wanted to build themselves into professionals and turn this into a living, but step by step.
I was also a big advocate of bringing in North American players because we’re a North American organisation, I wanted to give them the opportunity to represent the country they come from.
When we finalised the roster, the players were doing well – everybody was listening to calls and we were probably one of the better teams in terms of actual teamwork. We rotated better and founds gaps better than others, we turned bad situations into good and that’s why we were winning.
We always flew under the radar with commentators and the public. They would never acknowledge or recognise us, we were never the talking point. Everybody was interested in the big names, but we kept plugging away.
The team was working very hard, the in-game leader was watching VODs and communicating. An analyst that broke down numbers and picked up roadmaps used by other teams. We were just performing well, and consistently.
We had a goal of qualifying for a LAN, and within the first month or two of assembling this team, we ended up qualifying for four majors LANs and three leagues. Our first LAN was the PUBG Global Invitational 2018 North America Qualifier in Burbank.
Prior to the qualifier, I told the team “Listen, guys, this is your first LAN. You know you have more in the pipeline. Use this as practice.” I told them if we finished Top 10, it’d have been amazing. If we finished in last place, that’d be fine too. There was no pressure from me. I wanted them to enjoy the experience and learn from it.
I gave them some space, I didn’t want to add any more pressure. I was superstitious too, I would go to the event every morning then I’d go back to the hotel and watch from there. It’s stupid but it worked.
After day one, we were ninth. Day two was when it all kicked off. We had gotten used to the area and the setups. We had become known as a loud team. You could hear us shouting from outside of the arena, even in games where we finished fifth or sixth.
It was the team’s first LAN and, instead of crawling into their shells, the players jumped into it headfirst. They were so driven to do well.
In the very last game, we outplaced Ghost Gaming to win the entire tournament. Myself and Ghost Gaming’s coach, Jabroni, were standing next to each other. Our analyst gave me the thumbs up and we didn’t believe him, but we did it!
It didn’t sink in for a while. It’s not like we went back to the hotel room and popped champagne. It took a while for it to set in.
I remember calling the owner of Team Gates. She didn’t believe me. It was very emotional as we had all put a lot of time and effort into it. To have it pay off was incredible.
Winning PGI North America was great – it was like claiming the North American championship – but with that brought a lot more pressure. We were now expected to perform.
I was realistic and I wanted the players to enjoy the success, but I had to make them realise this is just the first step. You can’t take your foot off the gas after one win.
If you would have told me in April last year that we’d go to four major tournaments, we’re going to win one, and we’re going to what’s basically the World Championship, there’s no way I’d have been disappointed – no matter the results we got along the way. That victory was the icing on the cake.
We should have received more recognition. We weren’t invited, we did things the hard way. We did it in the leagues, grinding out six or seven games – week in, week out.
Now, my eyes are firmly on the Pro League because, with how PUBG has involved, I think it’s going to be great.
I want to keep building players and giving them every opportunity to succeed.