With an eventful 2020 season behind it, in spite of the COVID-19 circumstances, the Evil Geniuses squad is preparing for a year of growth — one of many for Tarik “tarik” Celik, a six-year veteran in the North American scene.
At BLAST Spring Groups, Inven Global spoke with tarik, touching base on his dynamic with longtime teammate Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, the North American scene’s struggles, EG’s arrival on European soil, and that one time when he played on 90 ping in a tournament.
Organization name and coaching changes aside, the squad stayed the same for the most part for the entirety of its run, which I feel is pretty interesting in CS:GO nowadays. What can you tell me on that front?
We've been trying to stick it through together because we feel like longevity is important in a CS team. We know that we're really good, and we've already seen our peaks, so it's just about maintaining consistency. One thing that, even for me, was pretty important, was to make sure that we don't do any roster changes because we know how good we can be.
There's also the matter of pre-established trust.
That, and also that we've known each other for a while. I think we just believed in the project.
Speaking of knowing each other for a while, I'm looking at stanislaw and I can see that you've been going at it together for a while, way back. I feel like you grew together as competitors. There's quite a lot that went on, but what can you tell me about your growth?
Peter has definitely grown a lot since I first played with him not only as a player but in his personality and leadership. It's a big difference from back in 2015 and 2016 — I think it's 2016 when we played together on OpTic.
The same goes for me as well: I've also come a long way in terms of experience, learning how to work with a team and the system. It's been a very long time, and five-six years is a very long time in esports.
"We know that we're really good, and we've already seen our peaks, so it's just about maintaining consistency."
Yes, especially in CS:GO, seeing how players that were dominant that long ago facing a level of play that was much higher than back then.
Yeah. A lot of the new kids these days are mechanically gifted, and they're also picking up the game very quickly in terms of how to play it at a high level. Some of the older guys that have been competing for a long time have been having a harder time. There are still some of the guys that have been around for a long time that can hang with the boys. It's cool to see f0rest, for example. He's been playing professionally for 15 years, and he's still able to hold his own.
As far as you're concerned, you and stanislaw and a lot of others have been holding your own for a while. Looking at your career, especially looking at the Cloud9 stretch, teams from NA were struggling to find a foothold in CS:GO, but that was the moment when they broke out.
I think we had a pretty decent run on Cloud9 for a bit there, getting Top 4’s and obviously the Major win. Then Liquid having the Grand Slam run later on was also big for the NA scene. In these last few years, NA has really shown what it's capable of. In recent times, it's been a bit more of a struggle, but hopefully, as COVID passes on and as things start to get better, the NA scene begins to recover as well. But I think we always bounce back somehow, so let's see what happens.
You were talking about the COVID situation and I think of the separation between regions given the inability to travel for a while to tournaments. Before, you would go to Majors for example - there was interplay between the regions.
That, and also VALORANT as well.
Interesting that you bring up VALORANT!
A lot of the upcoming players in our scene sort of switched over. Even prospects that we didn't know if they were going to [become] really good but were showing potential, we never got to see because a lot of them went to VALORANT, and I can't blame them for it. I think it's a huge opportunity, and it's not a bad decision to take, but it definitely hurt the scene along with COVID.
"There's a lot of options for us to go through; it just comes down to figuring out the best ones. But I think there are ways for us to recover the [NA] scene."
That is a fair point to bring out. Even in EU, the more “neglected” scenes like the UK fully hopped onto VALORANT. But there are also a few old figures who switched over. But it still didn't diminish the level of play in the region, with Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, and FURIA battling it out for quite a long time.
For a while there, when NA was at its strongest, we had 8-10 domestically strong teams that maybe weren't going to be the best internationally but still had potential. We don't really have as much of that right now, and it sucks for the top teams in NA because you can't really get good practice now. If we go back home, it's pretty hard to find teams to practice against — a night and day difference compared to Europe, where there are even Tier 2 teams that are really good.
It's a huge difference in terms of the competition available, but hopefully, it gets better. Hopefully, the organizers set up formats to help newer players get notice, or training programs, or some sort of academy teams. There's a lot of options for us to go through; it just comes down to figuring out the best ones. But I think there are ways for us to recover the scene.
For the time being, at the very least for BLAST teams and teams competing in other tournaments, it's been either much about traveling to Europe or missing out. For EG, it felt like the decision made itself at some point. Please walk me through some of the difficulties before you got to Europe.
It's basically the COVID travel restrictions. Last year, we worried about coming here because it was at its peak for a while [in NA], and it was getting pretty bad. We were worried that we would get stuck [in Europe] for a while, so we made the decision not to come. We're here this year, and we were able to plan around everything that's going on and set up everything accordingly, make sure the circumstances were good. But this year, it's looking like we're gonna be here most of the time. For now, we have a 50-day trip, then we'll be back home for 10 days, then we'll be back for another 50 days. It will be probably more than half a year that we'll be spending in Europe the way it's looking right now.
It will be another year of growth for EG: trials, improvement, kind of like in 2020.
Yeah. We were stuck at home in 2020, and this year it looks like we'll be stuck in Europe. It sucks for the American teams, because you have to come here. For European teams, it's easier since most of them are probably playing from home. For any team outside of Europe that wants to compete with the best, it's going to be a crazy year for you.
On the flip side, I'm thinking about the guys that you played with on Team Turkey and being able to be closer to them at this point…
From New York, I get like 90 ping to the Germany server. We pulled it off [at the time], but I don't think that's very viable. Let's say you want to play from NA in Europe. I wish the ping difference wasn't there, but I did do that. I don't think you can do that consistently at a high level.
90 ping... I'm trying to imagine playing the game on 90 ping.
I think it was even higher, 110. But it was definitely brutal to play on high ping, especially when everyone else on the server had 5 to 30 ping.