Of all of the Overwatch league players I have interviewed, Timo "Taimou" Kettunen was the first to ever thank me personally along with his team and sponsors. I chalked this up to his experience working with media and outgoing personality, but it also hints at a part of Taimou's evolving personality I don't think gets acknowledged enough.
Compared to his Overwatch World Cup and EnVyUs days, Taimou channels a humble nature that disperses attention instead of reveling it. Stage 1 was a turbulent time for Dallas Fuel, and no one seemed to take it harder than Taimou. The expectation of greatness combined with the largest Overwatch stage was a hurdle that took the team by surprise and Taimou couldn't flick shot his way out of a demoralizing losing streak.
However, in Stage 2, things seem different. Currently 2-0 and reaping the benefits of signing their core's longtime rival, aKm, Fuel is making the adjustments needed to become the top team everyone wanted them to be. I spoke with Taimou directly after his win against the Shanghai Dragons with the intent of figuring how the former star DPS player is handling the adjustment:
After that last match, I bet you were very pleased with the win.
I mean, we knew we were going to win so... It was odd because I'm playing the main tank now.
Because we can't rely on xQc!
Is thinking you're going to win before the match started part of a renewed confidence in Fuel?
Yeah, If you ever go into a match not thinking you are going to win, that is an instant lose. That is a big advantage to the other team. You always want to, at least in your mind, make sure that you are confident going in and you know you are going to win.
Some of it is practice, some of it is just putting your mind in the right place. I do meditation these days -- it helps.
You are a player that get's a lot of attention online and I know you have refined your own process of preparing for that. Is meditation part of that?
Well with meditation, I just started so I'm pretty basic in it. A big part of it is visualizing your self and what you are going to do in specific situations -- you want to keep your self in a happy place. You prepare your mind going into the game so that you know you are the best. You literally force your self to think you are the best and I think that is a really good mindset.
What does the happy place for Taimou look like?
Right now, my happy place is on the stage winning. I visualize my self and my next opponent. I will visualize all their players, I visualize all my player and visualize my self winning.
You even prepare for the worst thing. The worst case scenario: you are 0-2 and you need to make a comeback. You need to not get panicked and just let it all go. Let the games go and keep going with the winner mindset going into the next match.
"If you just listen to the haters, you ignore all of the positive. You even start hating the positive"
Someone once told me that the emulation of confidence is, essentially, just as valuable as natural confidence.
Yeah, it actually works. It's scientifically proven that, say a person would go to the gym, right? After a month for prepping your self mentally that you can lift weights, it actually increases strength. Even if you don't gain any muscle, you can still improve your lifting by a significant margin. It's been proven like that and it definitely works in the game too.
It's a small advantage, of course, but on the level we are playing right now, I think it is really smart that someone would try to get every single advantage they can. After all, all the teams are really close to each other on skill level. You can only take your self so far with individual play and taking everything like diet, exercise, meditation, prepping your self for the next game, even sleeping well -- all of those things massively affect how you are going to perform every single day.
I think that is what we are trying to do as a team so everybody is in a good place.
In an attempt to improve your in-game performance, it seems as if you have stumbled across a lot of positive personal life changes. This has been a pretty big change for you, no?
I’m still in baby steps starting everything. I’ve gone to the gym for like a month now, I’ve slept pretty well for a month now -- I’m eating pretty healthy. It’s starting to show! I feel a lot better, I’ve gained a bit of muscle, I’m still fat but it’s fine.
It’s going to get a lot better. It’s a marathon, right? I think starting stage 3 or stage 4, everybody is going to be jacked! Everyone is going to feel good going into every match.
So what is your most favorite part of the gym and what is your least favorite?
Least favorite in the gym? Legs for sure. Working on my core -- planking is the worst, I hate planking so much. Our personal trainer makes us do planking a lot because we need to focus on our core. I need to shout out our guy, Paul Buitrago, our personal trainer. He is really funny, always trying to hype us up. He is like -- “Big time!” giving us fist bumps, just really funny.
Planks -- an absolute killer.
Yes, it destroys you.
You are a player in the league I feel gets a whole lot of attention -- as if everyone has an opinion on where Taimou should be, where he is, what his skill level is, what he is feeling -- how do you cope with that?
I know I should never think about what people say on the internet. I’ve always been, especially in the past, a really controversial person. I would have my loyal fans and then I would have my loyal haters. And it would always be a big clash between these people. At some point, if you just listen to the haters, you ignore all of the positive. You even start hating the positive and they get you in a bad mood.
You should never do that -- it is the worst. I know that I can be the center of attention because I used to be the star DPS player for the team, but then EFFECT came and then I changed my playstyle…
"I was playing hitscan in the back. If I am trying to main call from that position, it is insanely hard."
There are a lot of things that, I don’t know if they affected me negatively but, for the team, I had to be in a better role and I’m happy about that. I think my team is doing a really good job right now.
I mean… I love being under the spotlight. I’m just that kind of a person. I love that I get talked about -- there are people babbling about you, they praise you and, of course, I don’t like the hate, but you have to take that in to.
Informative and helpful criticism though, I like reading that. I try not to think of the negative things because they are always going to happen and it is only going to get worse.
Let’s talk about something positive then -- tell me about your new position as Tank.
I switched to main Tank when we started scrimming again last Friday. See, xQc kinda doesn’t want to be the star tank -- he wants to really focus on supporting other people. Especially like right now, he has been a big help to me learning tank, cocco too has been a great help. The thing is, I like the role because I don’t have to think about aiming too much.
It was really hard back in the day because I couldn’t play Genji, I couldn’t really play Tracer, so I was playing hitscan in the back. If I am trying to main call from that position, it is insanely hard. Now, I’m trying to main call, but our backline -- Custa, HarryHook and Chipsshajen, they all do a really good job of calling the enemy ultimates, checking what the enemy has and what we have. We have a lot more people talking now.
"Last meta, it was easy to play monkey. But now, you have to rely on your team."
In the match we played today, I didn’t actually talk that much. It was nice. I still have to really focus on my own play, and of course I do a lot of re-group calling, but I tried to kind of stay in the back. Sometimes I don’t know what to do but, with the information I get, it's ok. We have put a lot of emphasis on scouting because it’s currently a Lucio meta.
We used to scrim with me on monkey (Winston) for a week in the last meta too, and I was actually doing really well. It was really easy -- the game was so static and you could always know where the enemy team was without scouting at all. So our dives were really good even without having a super refined dive. Last meta, it was easy to play monkey.
But now, you have to rely on your team. You can’t take poke before the fight, you have to rely on your D.Va or your Genji or your Tracer giving you information where stuff is, and then you need to ask “ is everyone ready? Ok, this target, here -- three, two, one, go!” and everyone has to just go for it. It is much harder playing monkey now, but I am getting used to it.
Still, I really need to catch up my calling too. I really want to main call for the team again in the main tank position because I feel like it is so much easier to do then on DPS.
Taimou playing a unique style of Winston against Shanghai Dragons
So you think the role of you being the main caller on the team is one of the main strengths you can bring to the team right now?
It’s the best thing, yeah. People have been used to it for a long time and I know how to be really assertive -- people listen to it. Custa has been picking up the slack too, being assertive and it’s really helping that my other teammates are picking up my slack when I miss something.
I think we have a really good thing going on now.
That must be a comforting thought, that you have each other's back like that if someone needs to change roles or learn another one.
It’s very helpful that my team really supports me.
He was kinda doubtful at the start, but then he was like “Ok, Timo. I know you can do it” and everyone is supporting my switching roles. I mean, I don’t really LIKE playing Tank. I would much prefer playing DPS, but then again, I wanted to do something that is best for the team.
What do you think is the one thing people don’t know about you, but you wish they did know? Or, perhaps, what is the one assumption everyone has about you that is wrong?
People said that I can’t learn new heroes, but I’ve never even been allowed to! Before we actually became Dallas Fuel and we got KyKy, I was never allowed learn other heroes -- I was always forced to play hitscan because everyone acknowledged it was so good, I had to play it.
I always thought I could learn Genji, but they never let me play it in scrims. Now, I’m playing Tank so I have only two heroes I need to know. It's fun.
I don’t think there is anything from my personality that people don’t know. I try to stay myself off and on stage. Even on my stream, I am myself. I know I can be ragey and stuff like that, but I don’t mind -- it’s just me. People either like it or they don’t like it.
" aKm is a very blunt person. If he thinks that you suck at something, he tells you."
What is it like having aKm on your team now? How has having such an oppressively efficient Soldier: 76 on your team changed the dynamic?
Yeah, his soldier is oppressive.
He has played Soldier: 76 so much, he is probably the best Soldier in the game right now and he has been for a long time. His knowledge of how they played in Rogue, he brings all of that. How the frontline should play, how the backline should play -- he has brought a lot of insight. Like, how to actually play dive and things like that. It has been very helpful.
I think he also brings a… give me a second to phrase this...
He would realize problems that we kind of knew, but he brings a lot of critiques and he isn’t afraid to speak up. Even when he is really new to the team -- that is such a good thing because our team culture is open and you are allowed to bring up all views. It has been very helpful from a strategic point of view.
Soldier is a really good character, but it is not a must need thing. But aKm, he just plays it so well and he meshes with the backline really well. He kind of controls the backline and it helps a lot.
There are just some things we didn’t know before and he brings those to the team, so shoutouts to him.
I’ve spoken to him twice about it now, and he says that Fuel has the potential to be the best team in the league. He strikes me as someone who would only say that if he meant that. He is so blunt that, if he was on a bad team, he wouldn’t shy away from saying it.
Yeah, he is a very blunt person. If he thinks that you suck at something, he tells you. It is good to have that honest point of view. Everyone on the team is pretty real and that helps.
He is… he is kind of like me with regards to confidence. Especially when we battled Rogue in the early days before the OWL, both of us would be cocky and arrogant to each other. We would still be friends, but we would bash each other and talk sh*it all the time -- just keep going at each other.
For the team though, he is super nice. He loves everyone on the team, he just doesn’t care about other people. Like, the people he hangs out with and cares about -- he is the most lovable person to them. Other people, he doesn’t care at all. It is like his persona, he doesn’t want to divert his attention from you, he just wants to be nice to you and never trouble himself with the useless outside influence.
It sounds like your saying he does a pretty good job of blocking out the haters.
Yeah, he does.
It seems admirable.
Yeah, it is.
Any last words you'd like to give to our readers?
Thanks everyone for reading this, thank you to Nick for the interview. Of course, thank you to Dallas Fuel and Jack In the Box. A big thank you to my team for supporting me and letting me get better at Tank.
All photos inside the Blizzard Arena stadium taken by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment and subsequently released by Blizzard for publication.
Warcraft 3 is my one true love and I will challenge anyone to a game of Super Smash Brothers Melee.