Team Vitality has long since passed the eye check in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Since the organization entered the CS:GO scene in 2018 with a French lineup, they have soared through the standings and established themselves as perennial contenders for the #1 spot. And after two years, the lineup has remained competitive with a core of Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, Cédric “RpK” Guipouy and AWPer Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut.
Before the team entered the BLAST Fall tournament, Inven Global was able to chat with ZywOo, a few days removed from their finals appearance at the 2020 DreamHack Open Fall. The following transcript was translated from French.
There's something quite special about your background: you went to your first LAN at 9-10 years of age, which is quite crazy, I have to say.
[laughs] Yeah, that's pretty good. In truth, I started going to LANs because I saw my brother and my cousins participating, and I really wanted to see that universe. You see, rather than being at home and playing there, I don't know if you've ever been to a warehouse or at an apartment complex with everyone playing together. It has such a different vibe to it. So, I’ve wanted to go to LANs ever since I was a kid.
So, you felt more in your element in that LAN atmosphere, especially given how different it is from merely being home, being relaxed, and having absolutely nothing happening around you.
Yeah, that's it. When you're at home, you have your slippers and you're there all day. It's completely different at a LAN: you have that whole vibe, people are shouting when they win a game, sometimes even insulting and shouting at each other just like the old days. That's where the fun comes in playing offline.
Yeah, when you say "people shouting at each other”—
People get stressed a bit. And I like that: it's a bit like a spectacle in tournaments, even when I was getting started.
Speaking of that, you started in small LANs at a warehouse [ZyWoo laughs], then it becomes something like the Berlin Major, where was like "Ooookay, I've been to a lot of tournaments, but this is special on its own."
Oh yeah! The atmosphere at a Major can only be different from any other LAN: not the same stakes, not the same scale either. A Major is everything; when you first come into CS, the first thing you hear about is the Major. It's the tournament that you have to win.
All eyes on you during majors, almost as if scrutinizing the slightest flaws, whether it's missing an AWP shot — it just goes haywire, at least from what I'd imagine. Let's go back to last year's Berlin Major: whenever you'd miss a shot, would you sometimes second-guess yourself on the spot at all, or were you just like "go next"?
Usually, whenever I fail, I never ask myself any questions. I'd look more into our teamplay, or on what I did poorly and could do better — and at which point in the game. But individually, I never second-guess myself or go "Damn, why did I fail that?" I just go "too bad, he got me, gg" and move on to the next round, ready to get them.
"They were always there, watching over us as we played, even though they didn't understand much about the game. They were proud of us, too."
Overall, I'm sure that you know that some players do go through that second-guessing spiral, but I'm thinking that your starting to play LANs at such an early age helped you relax in that setting as much as you would be at home, if not feel better.
Yeah, that's it. In an online tournament, whenever a game starts, the only thing on my mind is the screen. And whenever I'm on stage, it's the same thing but with my teammates at my side. It's as if I were at home: no extra pressure.
Then again, I have to look at 2020 with the coronavirus situation, I think that you're definitely missing that atmosphere. Granted, you were in a gaming house recently…
Yeah, I just came back from the gaming house, but it's been two weeks. It's not really a gaming house: we have team premises at the Stade de France [France's national stadium — Ed.]. Whenever we have to practice, we go there. But I miss the times when we used to go to tournaments and go onstage, even if it's for group stages — even without an audience, just being face-to-face with the opponents, I miss that.
I actually miss going to tournaments as well, even as a journalist.
Even traveling. We were used to traveling a few times [per year.] And having all of that stop overnight, you start missing it — the travel, looking at different landscapes. It used to be so much better, and I miss it.
A bit of "world discovery" going on around the tourney…
Yeah. Even though we sometimes don't have days off, being in different surroundings, in different cultures, and how people in other countries live — as opposed to France — only gives you more life experience, and that's good.
Yep. Still, life goes on despite the circumstances, and you're playing tournaments online as is. But it still gets me to think about where you're playing from with your family around you. If I'm not mistaken, your mother and grandmother supported you since you were really young…
From the outset, you could say that. At my first LAN, at age 9-10, my grandmother and my mother were already there. Then again, they might have been required to be there because of how young I was. They were always there, watching over us as we played, even though they didn't understand much about the game. They were proud of us, too.
Still, with them keeping on watching you play, they might have developed an understanding of what's going on in-game…
They struggled at the start, but since then, my mother has been watching every single game we've been playing. Even now, she gets my grandmother home to watch the games together. They understand the game now. I even have my uncles and cousins watching now, [same with] my godfather. Everyone is watching me.
It's as if CS:GO united the family…
We could say that. In truth, nowadays, everyone's chatting daily — and after a while, conversations drift to CS:GO, like "What did Mathieu do in the tournament? Did he win?" It's funny. [laughs]
So they must have chatted during the DreamHack Fall, and they're going to chat some more during BLAST Fall! [laughs]
Yes! Almost every tournament, they're going to talk about it. They were a bit disappointed about the [DreamHack Fall] final, but it is what it is. [laughs]
"My mother has been watching every single game we've been playing. Even now, she gets my grandmother home to watch the games together."
Can't win them all, but as long as you keep pushing, there shouldn't be any issues.
That's exactly it. Even for us, as long as we keep grinding the way we are. Even if we keep finishing second, we'll keep grinding, playing and progressing together, and we'll win a tournament.
As long as you push, that's all that matters. If the results follow, so be it. And from what I can see, you're pushing quite hard.
And right now, the results are following. [laughs] So it's good, but we'll keep playing and smashing everything. We'll keep practicing as much as we are, and let's do this!
But I have to say, you might have dodged a bullet all things considered. Initially, you got a professional baccalaureate in electrotechnology, and I'm thinking: let's be glad you didn't go straight to work on a building site, or an advanced technical certificate [Brevet de technicien supérieur — BTS — in French — Ed.], or for further studies. In hindsight, that was definitely the better move. But in retrospect, what do you think of that situation?
In hindsight, that was a really good move. But I was going for a BTS initially, but that was roughly at the same time as I was getting recognized in CS:GO. That was a very quick choice to make: I saw that my daily dose of enjoyment came from playing CS, and I saw that [the eventuality that] I could reintegrate the professional scene was inching closer and closer. So, I took CS:GO.
Had I started with my BTS, playing at night and all, with all the coursework and work, would have been impossible.
I can relate: I went for further studies within that field, and that was quite tricky to handle — finding time for side activities and all.
[laughs] So you were studying during the day, then studying at night... If I had CS on the side, I wouldn't have been able to pull through. I'd have lost myself way more than I'd have found a footing. I had to make a choice between studying and CS:GO.
It was much easier for you since you were quite highly rated. You'd just go pro, and that'd be it.
Yeah. I finished my baccalaureate, I received offers — as if it was assumed that I would be going pro in CS:GO.
Everyone around you got ready for that…
[laughs] Mentally, everyone was ready for me to join a French team in CS.
With that in mind, let's move to the present: DreamHack is over, and from here we're going for BLAST Fall, and I have to notice with dread that your group is quite tricky…
Yep, this is fine! [laughs]
Good preparation for the rest, at least!
We're playing Complexity first. With their roster change, that's not gonna be easy. Usually, a player change usually gives a bit of a boost within a team. COL was already going to be a tough match, and let's not even talk about BIG and FaZe — two big teams. Those are teams that can destroy you at any point, because they're really strong skill-wise.
"Oh, the Deagle. Source's Deagle wasn't too shabby either! You'd shoot while running around, and you'd kill some guys. It was pretty good!"
That's like a group of death.
I have to admit: I'm looking at the other groups, and even though there are big names, our group is pretty tough. But we're used to it. We like playing big teams; that's why we're here. We're here to show the world that we can compete against — and beat — everybody.
Speaking of roster changes, isn't it jks joining compLexity — unless I'm mistaken? [The interview was conducted before jks’ official signing — Ed.]
Yeah, he's joining them for like a week or so? With jks, I think their team has more oomph now. Even though I think that oBo is strong, jks has way more experience, and with a team like this one, he's going to get the job done thoroughly.
And then there's FaZe who could be playing without NiKo… [Again, NiKo’s signing to G2 was confirmed after the interview — Ed.]
I saw that on HLTV. Without their leader, it's gonna be complicated. They're going to have to play without restraint, just through skill, and hit really hard. That's how they should play.
On your end, you're just going to be doing your thing. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, go next.
Yeah, we'll still be giving it our all. We'll still be playing at 300%. These are still big games, so it's going to be great practice — we just came back from another tournament, tired or whatever, but we're still giving it 300% to win our games.
For some reason, this whole situation has me thinking about something we were speaking of earlier — family. If I'm not wrong, your brother [mass7z] is back to playing CS:GO competitively, right? You played quite a bit with him before he took a break, but I'm wondering: was it before the break that your career started taking off, or after?
No, that was years before. I was 12-13 years old when he took his break. I started grinding on the ladder when I was 16-17, so he took his break three years before I went at it. He has a team right now, and he's still playing daily on ESEA. He's enjoying it.
Didn't your cousins also play? It's like the whole family is in it.
Yeah, even though a lot of my cousins stopped playing. Either they're working, or they have families. But every one of my cousins played CS pretty much — 1.6 or Source. I even made some teams with my brother back in CS:S. That's where I started.
I was going to say good ol' times, but for me, that was 1.6…
[laughs] To each their favorite game!
I'm such a wreck on CS:GO, let's not even talk about that!
[laughs] Phew, CS:S...
A bit of nostalgia at play, or is it better this way since you'd rather have it on CS:GO?
I still prefer CS:GO! When you look at the weapons and how to use them, I'd rather play CS:GO. Given how things are right now, I'd be lost in CS:Source — be it motion, mobility, or weapons. Even 1.6 — you'd go back to it right now... [laughs]
I miss my Deagle. 1.6's Deagle... I miss it.
Oh, the Deagle. Source's Deagle wasn't too shabby either! You'd shoot while running around, and you'd kill some guys. It was pretty good! [laughs] You'd take a Deagle on the second round, and you'd have a 50% chance of winning that round, just chilling.
Why even bother buy a weapon…