Your friendly neighborhood tank, skipjack

 

Three quick dashes by SoOn's Tracer get him over Dorado's second checkpoint without dropping to the ground level. Then, the French quickly follows up with a Pulse Bomb on the enemy Reinhardt and hits the Recall button before anyone on Fnatic catches him with a crowd control ability.

The bomb goes off and -- even though it scores no kills and Misfits still got two more minutes on the clock -- this serves as their 'Go!' signal. Several seconds later the frags start coming for everyone on the team as they wipe their opponents without losing anyone themselves. All of the characters jump on the payload and moments later a flame and DreamHack's logo flash over the screen to mark Misfits' victory and reveal the sight of the ecstatic squad members embracing each other amidst the loud bangs of dubstep and golden confetti.

A multitude of storylines intertwined in a happy ending for Misfits' side as the they won their second event in a row, albeit with a slightly tweaked roster. Yet, even though the win was a herculean effort from the whole team, it was one man who lifted the cup, Nicholas "skipjack" Rosada. As the second wave of glittering pieces rained on them, it was only the squad's main tank player lifting the cup under the crowd's boisterous applause. It made little impression on me at the time, but fast-forward about a year and skipjack explained to me that it was a mindful gesture from the rest of the guys. Just as they had worn black ribbons at Overwatch Open to support him during the passing of his mother, they wanted him to be the first one to lift the trophy, in her memory. It didn't come up in the conversation because I asked, or as a result of us going on a tangent. Rather, skipjack wanted me to understand how accommodating  the organization and his teammates were to him during those hard times. He called me specifically a day after the interview and shared these details as he was concerned he didn't portray his teammates in a nice enough way, when we talked the first time.

Even though this was the last part our talk, the anecdote summarizes perfectly my initial impression of the German main tank. skipjack's amiable nature is the first thing one will notice about him. Only after several minutes of talking to him I came to realization that he is the type of overly nice and friendly person whom everyone enjoys to spend their time with. The same type that might cause cynics to question the concept of evolution and wonder whether it's possible for a human to be the descendant of rainbow unicorns.

 

Already 28, he is on the older end of professional gamer and he's certainly been playing for a while as his first competitive game was Natural Selection, released in the distant 2003; however, he has not grown past having fun with video games. Getting into Overwatch, Nicholas wasn't looking to earn money or become famous, but rather to have fun in the genre of games he enjoys most. He found new friends and, in the process of doing so, distinguished himself as one of the best tank players in the world. As some of the Eccentric players had to dial back on Overwatch, due to work, school, or other obligations, causing the squad fall apart, the German tank player got invited to the team that would eventually contend for one of the best in the world. Even though a steady roster of six was never maintained for long during his time on Misfits, it was the most successful period for the organization's Overwatch division.

On their first offline event, under the name 'Graviton Surge', skipjack comments “We didn't have enough practice time together to be good at TakeOver ... I don't think we could've won it at that point of time.”. Whereas some other players may have proclaimed the team could have finished even better -- as their only two losses were to the eventual winner, Rogue -- Nicholas is quite reserved and realistic about the situations. Not only was the team still green behind the ears as a unit of six, but also lacked the support from an organization that the French-Swedish mix had. When asked about it skipjack admits that factor certainly played a part in their loss, but is also quick to point out that Rogue was already an incredibly skilled team. This emerges as a trend in my talk with him.

Throughout the whole interview he is quick to give praise and compliments to others, be it opponents, allies, or anyone else he's come into contact with. When it comes to others he is far from sparing with the commendations.

 

Nadir, a player who is now long-retired, gets called out for his excellent English -- particularly for a French speaker -- as well as his ability on the server.

TviQ, who was eventually involved in the three-way shuffle that got the German out of Misfits, draws praise not only for his superb skills and versatility, but also the ability to communicate in a particularly effective manner even on a brand new lineup.

COOLLER gets commended for the extraordinary dedication to whatever game he's playing, fitting seamlessly in an already established lineup, and maintaining a fiery passion for competition -- the kind of which few ever experience -- past the age of thirty.

Ben Spoont, Misfits' owner, has his respect for making sure all of his eventually former players landed on a team, during the three-way trade with Rogue and Luminosity.

However, despite his almost overly positive attitude, skipjack is far from unable to look at things in a critical manner. When I ask about ANOX, a CIS squad his teams faced on multiple occasions, even though he sneaks in a compliment for Cypher's prowess on projectile heroes, skipjack doesn't shy away from criticizing them for the lack of consistency. Nicholas is also able to recognize when certain teammates had problems performing in the offline environment, instead of blaming it on poor luck or an off day. He understands that not everyone -- especially without the prior experience -- can play in front of a huge crowd, with thousands of eyeballs on them, as well as they do online. Along the same lines, he is impartial when it comes to all of the teams he's been on. The fond memories with the more so friendly as opposed to professional atmosphere in Eccentric don't make him put on rose-colored glasses as he says that if they were to remain one of the best in Europe, they'd have needed TviQ or someone of his caliber to join. Similarly, he is quick to point out that just because Misfits beating Rogue at ELEAGUE's Overwatch Open doesn't mean they could have also done it earlier in the year as well.

 

It could be the business education in him showing up, the wisdom that comes with life experience, or perhaps this is simply who he is, but skipjack's comity and cordiality aren't signs of naivety or blind optimism. Whilst his criticism concerning others can be scarce, the German presents a different side of himself when asked about his team's performances and his own play in particular. In those cases, skipjack's assessments tend to cut through the niceties and comments on the issue at hand in an explicit, almost blunt, manner. Whereas most professional players will often overplay their own and teammates' strengths, at the very least in front of audience, Nicholas saves that for others. When it comes to himself and his teams though, he reveals to me a startlingly realistic evaluation, in some cases harsher than that of analysts and pundits. This pragmatic approach, as opposed to simply providing me with a list of excuses, may be a requirement to be successful in the business world, but definitely isn't the norm among professional gamers -- at the very least in my own experience. After all, what kind of person decides to earn their living by playing more video games?

Dreamers, rebels, and a healthy dose of naives. Youngsters with the often irrational self-confidence that they can be the very best among millions of others.

Not skipjack though. He has both of his feet firmly on the ground. This is why initially he looked on Overwatch as an opportunity to have a lot of fun with a game from a reputable developer in his favorite genre and not one to go all in on what many consider a dream career. Eventually, he had to embrace it as a significant part of his life and decrease the amount of classes he was taking at the time. However -- knowing that Overwatch's nascent scene is young and volatile -- he never fully gave up on his studies. Even when Misfits was one of the best teams in the world and won two major events in a row, he continued taking classes.

 

As we continue talking, it becomes more and more clear that being paid to play video games hasn't made the activity lose its glimmer to the Nicholas. His aim may be to get better at it, but that isn't the case because the job requires it, it's just what makes games fun for skipjack. Viewing on the team as a business venture between several parties, as opposed to a bunch of friends playing together, was one of the aspects he didn't enjoy about 'the job' but had to get accustomed to. This is part of the reason why he also didn't enjoy the solo quque in Korea. The more competitive environment was rendered a lot less fun by the inablity to communicate properly with teammates.

As the conversation continues I ask him whether he'd be interested to play in OWL and he's more reluctant than I assumed he would. He answers that he'd be open to the right opportunity, but definitely doesn't sound ready to swim across the Atlantic for it. One of the main reasons is as obvious as it is pragmatic. Uprooting one’s entire life to play video games simply doesn’t sound as appealing when you’re no longer fresh out of high school. Furthermore, with players’ future always being uncertain -- arguably to an even greater degree in Overwatch right now -- and Nicholas having other options at hand, an offer that would have him consider joining leaving everything behind would have to be quite a lucrative one.

Some of the reasons are a bit more romantic: in his words “The official season starts next year, and then the [playoffs] are in July. So you are practicing hard for months before you get to play any matches. And then half a year until you get to play in a tournament...”. Whereas others would be thrilled by an opportunity to participate in the inaugural season of “the most ambitious project in esports history”, he is reluctant -- as a result of how distant the next opportunity to lift a trophy will be. When it comes to playing, skipjack appears to be primarily concerned with competing in high-stakes matches, against the best in the world, and having fun more than anything else. This is why he is concerned that the level in Contenders will drop past Season 1, with the best teams -- or at least some of their players -- being lost to OWL and whoever is left lacking established organizations and big-name sponsors to back them. On top of that, he isn't particularly enamored with the idea that non-OWL teams will have to wait until the summer to play participants in Blizzard's league in official matches.

 

My guess is that this played significant part in his decision to all but give up on competing in Overwatch and focus in full on finishing his business information systems degree. Regardless, he remains fascinated by the burgeoning esports industry and states that he'd be interested in working within it after graduation. This time the answer is noticeably more enthusiastic, compared to when I asked him about playing in future seasons of OWL or Contenders.

After our conversation, the statement that he's likely not going to return to Overwatch as a player came as a little surprise to me. Even though Nicholas is one of the more successful Western pros, proven in offline environment, someone others enjoy playing with and could still offer a lot as a player-- particularly to the right team -- he seems to be at peace with leaving the scene before we've seen the first game in Blizzard's League. Considering his interest in esports and the fact that we are in a period of growth -- both for Overwatch and the industry as a whole -- as well as his mindset, education and experience, we are likely to see him return to esports sooner rather than later.

For now, however, the scene waives goodbye to its friendly neighborhood main tank, skipjack.

 

You can keep up with Nicholas’ activities on twitter at @skipjackow.

(Photo credits: Monika Urbanczak, DreamHack, ESL, Blizzard)

Disclaimer : The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance. 


About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! I’ve been following different games within the esports industry ever since finding out about it in 2009. The titles that I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake, while occasionally dabbling in some other games as well. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on twitter at @RadoNonfire.

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