Why I Play

The most important thing you can have is motivation and passion.

Those are two things I have in abundance, even after all these years of playing. Even after a terrible year on 100 Thieves where we didn’t accomplish much of what we set out to accomplish.

A lot of the esports world only remembers your last performance. The recency bias is just something you have to deal with. It certainly hit me hard this past year on 100 Thieves.

People just need to remember that when you have a long career you’re not going to win a championship every season. You’re going to have your ups and downs just like players do in other sports like the NBA. In 2018, I won the Spring Split MVP award, the first support to do so.

Then 2019 happened.

I still have the passion to continue on this career I chose. As for teams, they’ll either want what I am able to provide, or they don’t. It’s as simple as that. The fans can have whatever opinion they want. As they should. That’s just sports.

But the moment I realize I’m playing this game for a paycheck is the day I quit being a professional player, because if you have something else you enjoy doing more than LCS, then what the hell are you doing here?

I dropped out of college to play League of Legends. I was going to school and found myself wanting to play games like World of Warcraft more than anything else. Then League of Legends came out and I had the goal of getting to rank 1 and streaming.

I, of course, had to convince my parents. They were skeptical, as I’m sure many parents of future esports athletes were at the time. But I decided that this was a chance I needed to take.

I made around $8000 in my first month streaming and that was the end of that. That was back around 2011-2012. Now, my parents are my biggest fans and are often there cheering for me at the studio and teaching others how the game works.

There wasn’t much to it at the beginning. I wanted to play so I went wherever I could. You Yoloed with people for one tournament and then Yoloed with a whole different group of people for the next. That’s how it was back then. I joined V8 Esports because someone wanted me to play and I just said: “Yeah, let’s do it!”

In late 2012, I was looking for a team to play with in the League Championship Series. At the time, only three teams had qualified for a guaranteed spot in the LCS: Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, and Team SoloMid.

Problem was, none of them needed an ADC. CLG, however, did need someone to play support. It was then that I decided to swap roles.

Thinking back on it now, I probably could have qualified with one of the other seven teams as an ADC, but the thing that was most important to me was having that spot in LCS.

The decision to swap roles wasn’t hard to make. It played into my core philosophy on how I play this game. It’s about being organic. Being whatever the team needs me to be at the time. I can be super vocal for my team or not; I can focus on individual play or be the main engager; I can play ranged or tank support; whatever they need, I’ll do it. It may not always be clear at first, but after a bit of time it will usually flesh itself out.

That’s been my attitude from the beginning, all the way back to that first team, V8 Esports.

As much as I’m happy being what the team needs, I’ll always be adamant about voicing my opinion when needed. It’s just as important that players be able to have that discourse with coaches on everything from macro play to the direction of the team.

That defined a lot of my time on 100 Thieves. Being vocal about the decisions that were being made. It’s important to have those conversations and not just follow one guys’ call during games or strategy sessions, doing so is a quick way to lose.

But when I think back on my time at 100 Thieves, it’s not what I think about. I took a chance on a brand new organization back in 2018. When I was considering my options during that offseason, 100 Thieves just struck me the right way. I liked their mentality and their attitude on what an esports team should be.

I didn’t know much about Nadeshot going in to 100T, but he was unlike any other team owner I’ve known. He always wanted to do something with the team. Going out to dinner or to do random things. I never really expected that and until I experienced it I didn’t realize just how awesome he was.

The other things that really stick out to me… playing with Meteos. He’s one of my favorite players to play with. The moment that sticks out most is during this one scrim block where I just had this massive headache. I said something about it and then all of a sudden Meteos is there next to me with a glass of water for me. I was like: “What the fuck?”

No one had ever done something like that before. That kind of action really says a lot about the kind of person someone is. That one simple act made me realize how much I love playing with him. Even on the Rift the dude is super selfless. Playing with Will is such a pleasure.

There are other moments, like one time when Ryu teleported during an Elder Dragon contest at around 50-minutes. We all just abandoned him as he is calling for help. We had to have laughed for 10-minutes straight when watching that replay. Thankfully, we still won that game.

Just, in the end, it didn’t work out.

Roster swaps, playing the game wrong… it was a culmination of a lot of different things. I enjoyed playing and working with everyone on 100 Thieves: coaches, staff, players, and I wish them all the best. Some of them are even back on the team now, which is crazy.

Which brings me to Dignitas. It’s a new start for me. Like I’ve done on previous teams, I’m filling in the role that needs to be filled. Right now, it’s a tank support meta so I’m engaging and being on the front line a lot.

I’m also learning a lot about my teammates right now and how they want to play — honestly, my team is fucking awesome.

I chose Dignitas mainly because of the roster that they had assembled. I look at players like Huni and Froggen who have always been problems whenever I’ve played against them. Huni just dominates top and Froggen dominates because he can play every champion in the history of the league. Like who just picks Anivia randomly? Now I don’t have to worry about that.

And now I’ve been playing with our rookie, Johnsun. He ended up with four top ten accounts from last season and I’ve quickly found out why. The dude is an absolute monster. He just needs the stage experience.

Dignitas is still the fighting team from last year (as Clutch Gaming) and as we go into this year, our main challenge is going to be staying disciplined and calm.

I’ve had a good and long career to this point, and it’s not over yet. Not as long as I have passion for the game.

Jeff Yabumoto assisted in the creation of this article

Photo Credit: Riot Games, Team Dignitas

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