By Julius Tabios
Counter Strike: Global Offensive and its competitive scene are consistently growing. More and more players are joining the melee, and the prize pool for competitions has reached millions of dollars. MTV Asia spoke with two of Asia's rising CS:GO stars.
First up is Malaysia's Ramona Azween, a professional CS:GO player for all female team Tyloo.fe, who also happens to be a singer-songwriter.
MTV Asia: How did you get your start playing CS:GO and in the CS:GO scene?
Ramona: I've always loved the challenge of competitive gaming. I especially love it when people say that girls can't play games, because I feel like I've got something to prove. I love the grind of trying to become really good at whatever game I pick up and play. I am very competitive!
The main reason I started gaming would be due to my late brother. You know how when you're young and you've an older brother always playing games and enjoying himself, you just want to be part of that. It was our way of bonding. Gaming is just absolutely awesome. I've made many friends (and some frenemies), and I get to compete in front of a crowd every now and then.
Basically, I just really enjoy the adrenaline rush from competition, and if I'm not playing a competitive game at the moment, then I love to unwind by immersing myself in a really good RPG game. It's sort of like reading a fantasy book, but better. You get lost in another world.
How is competing online and competing in a LAN different for you?
It's never the same. The feel and environment of competitive is much better in LAN tournaments, especially when it comes to the female competitive scene. It's much harder online because you never know for sure who's behind the computer.
What's your most memorable in-game CS:GO moment?
Playing with my best friends while representing Invasion Esports. Those were some fun tournaments! Shoutouts to Fluckz, m0n$taR, alecks.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to play and compete in one of the best powerhouse teams in Asia, Tyloo.fe!
You recently competed in Valencia and Shanghai. How was the experience?
It was awesome! Being able to compete at that top level, not just for yourself but also for your family and country, is really amazing. The esports facilities in China are world-class. We were treated not just as players, but also as professional athletes. I think that means a lot for all of us.
Assalamualaikum ????, We are leaving to Valencia, Spain. Pray for our safe journey to @dreamhackcsgo valencia. We will be traveling for 21hours. And our first match will be on the 5th July. Info : https://dreamhack.com/showdown/groups-schedule/ Thank you @teammsia for the jerseys! And lastly thank you Malaysia, Insyallah til we meet again ????. Photo credits : @teammsia #Orange.Sphynx
The opportunity to compete against the world's best in Spain was a valuable experience for me. I've been playing competitive for 15 years, but the learning never stops. It's always been an uphill battle, and that motivates me each and every day. I want to keep working hard to have the chance to compete with the best again.
Interestingly, you play both music and gaming. Tell us about your music. In what ways do you find them complementary to each other?
I never really studied music. My family line comes from the entertainment industry. My mom was an actress back in the 80s, so it definitely runs in the family! :) I have always been passionate about my gaming, and when it comes to music it serves the same feeling each time I pick up my guitar or play the piano.
I write some Dota or CS:GO songs for fun in my free time. I actually have a radio single! I do this from my heart, which is why I only share them on my personal social media and never for the likes and views. Whenever I have the time away from gaming, it's always been music that's been my company.
Oh, of course my mom too!
What's next for you?
Currently my team and I (Tyloo.fe) just qualified for the top 8 (NEST PRO DIVINA Women's CS:GO Pro League); the next qualifier will be 14th October – 24th November, and the winner will represent Asia at the World Grand Finals in China in December.
We're also preparing for WESG China qualifier.
I hope that more female gamers will pick up gaming as their career. It doesn't matter if you compete in the male or female league, as long as you believe in your dreams and work hard towards achieving it, no matter what your effort will be rewarded.
Next, Anthony 'ImpressioN' Lim is a veteran player in the CS:GO scene for nearly five years.
How did you get your start playing CS:GO and in the CS:GO scene?
I first started playing CS:GO back in 2013. I'd been a longtime fan of first-person shooters. My very first game was actually CS 1.3 way back when I was a wee child playing at local LAN centres – this was 18 years ago. I was a nobody when I first started playing CS:GO… I actually just got back into FPS games as I was competing in League of Legends and started playing CS:GO thanks to my elder sister asking me to join her.
I told her I would get the highest matchmaking rank achievable (The Global Elite) within two months, and actually achieved that rank just after one month of playing CS:GO. The game was just so much fun for me, and when the opportunity to play in competitions presented itself I immediately hopped onto it.
I rose to the top of Singapore's competitive scene, being one of the best players outside of the best team in Singapore a few years back. Eventually I joined that team, and after several years of success with them, together we were picked up by a professional esports organisation based in China. That's how I ended up playing for Big Time Regal Gaming as one of the only Singaporean CS:GO players to play professionally outside of Singapore.
How do you see the CS:GO scene progressing in the near future?
I think CS:GO is only gonna grow bigger. After going free to play, the game has garnered even more attention in both player base and viewers. There's plenty of tournaments and a LOT of competition between top-tier teams.
I believe many players are waiting on Valve to host something similar to DotA's The International for CS:GO. If and when that day arrives, CS:GO will truly prove itself as the uncontested, best spectator esport title of the decade, I'm sure of it.
How does it feel being an In-Game Leader? Walk us through the process.
I think as the IGL you're responsible for quite a good amount of things, especially since the CS culture in Asia is very different. There's a good amount of work that you have to put in, to build your team towards your strengths and to mitigate weaknesses. It's a good idea to set down rules, protocols and things to do on default, also known as the default way of playing the game: how to gain map control, get your team in a good position to properly get onto the target objective.
All in all the IGL's role is to ensure that the execution of your team's gameplay is both the most well-drilled one and at the same time the most flexible one – being able to adapt and call in-game strategies, tactics and evolving your game plan is essential to a IGL. There's honestly some additional pressure, you have to think for your team, think for yourself and at the same time focus on making sure your in-game mechanics are well-tuned. It's not super-easy to focus on your aim, take in information as well as process and make a call on that information all within about a minute. Keeping the team on track with mechanics, movement and morale is all a part of the game.
Tell us about your experience playing with Big Time Regal Gaming.
So far in BTRG I've had the pleasure of playing with some EU players, some Chinese and nowadays Indonesians. Playing with all these players has really taught me a lot. In terms of actual gameplay I feel amazing. Integrating playstyles and metagames from various regions, while working with players who all have a hunger to win, has truly been an educating experience.
Integrating myself into another society with a different culture while staying in Hangzhou, China was a really interesting experience as well. Right now I'm just working on stabilizing and improving even further, despite a few setbacks with roster changes and such, I personally won't stop until I've reached my own targets and goals. I believe that's closer to coming true, every day. Just gotta have the right mindset and mentality moving forward!
What's next for you?
Soon we'll have the WESG SEA Finals, OMEN Challenger Series Indonesian Closed Qualifiers, and we have a couple of online tournaments here and there such as NESTPRO and ESL Pro League Asia-Pacific. It's going to be a busy Q4 for us, we're gonna work hard and hope for the very best.
Big shout-out to my family and friends who have been supporting me and my esports career since I started 10 years ago. My beautiful mum, cool dad, amazing sisters and gorgeous girlfriend for their understanding in what I chose to do, what I take pride in, what I've decided to dedicate my early adult years to.
CS:GO has truly been my heart and soul… as I type, I can't wait to get into another game.
Get your CS:GO fix at the Grand Finals of the Asia-Pacific Omen Challenger Series 2019, set to hit Jakarta on November 1–3. The top twelve teams will compete for their share of the US$50,000 prize pool. Visit omengaming.co for more info!