Over the past few years, pro teams have started looking more towards high MMR players to fill slots in their rosters. Miracle was the most prominent recent example, a player who stood out as a pubstar and made the jump to two times Major winner. He’s now a TI champion.
As much as we do know about Miracle’s rise from pubstomper to TI champion--his journey with OG, winning 2 Majors, becoming the first player to reach 9k MMR--there’s just as much we don’t know. The long journey from the first ranked match to going pro is a story not often talked about. Pro players aren’t necessarily the most talkative when it comes to such topics--it is quite difficult to put into words after all. Peruvian midlaner, Timado, may just shake up the system, in more ways than just one.
At just 16 years of age, Timado qualified for The International 2017, the biggest esports event of its time, and placed 13th-16th. In times where other youngsters such as SumaiL already have numerous titles to their name, Timado’s story almost pales in comparison, though it is still nothing short of amazing what he has achieved, especially considering that he almost ended up in a different game.
In 2012, Timado looked to becoming a StarCraft II pro player. It’s not unusual for esports pros to have a history within other titles. Many of today’s Dota 2 pros have a long history in Heroes of Newerth. C9’s EternaLEnVy also dabbled with StarCraft prior to his Dota 2 commitment. As for Timado, after about a year of improving and honing is skill, he soon realized that the SC2 scene wasn’t what he was looking for and decided to invest his time into Dota, as he had played DotA:Allstars for years already. Studying and analyzing replays from The International 2013, most notably those of superstars such as Dendi and Mushi, Timado soon climbed the MMR ladder. Calibrated at 3.9k MMR, the Peruvian kept grinding the ladder, with support of his father.
“He told me I could do whatever I wanted, and he’d support me, as long as I did the minimum, passing exams and doing chores around the house” says Timado, cherishing the support he has received from his father, something that isn’t as common as one would like it to be.
From various player profiles at Majors and past Internationals, we’ve seen that players often needed to prove that gaming was a viable career first, before receiving the support Timado has had his entire life. It helped of course that it was Timado’s father who introduced him into DotA:Allstars in the first place, or that he was the one to buy him StarCraft II at the time.
Though as any teenager his age, Timado found himself absorbed in the game and began neglecting his duties, failing on the promise he made his father.
“It got a bit extreme at some point,” Timado said, as he found himself spending hours playing the game without doing the bare minimum he was supposed to do.
Timado ended up failing exams, forcing his father to do the only thing he could: forbidding him from playing Dota until Timado could prove he could shoulder his responsibilities.
“It made me more responsible. I learned that I needed to put in the effort and show him that I really wanted it.” It helped that his father was well versed in the gaming world, as he was more diligent in keeping his son in check than non-gaming parents would. “[My dad] would add me on Steam to check if I was online or not. I used new accounts but he still caught me about 3 times.”
Finding the right balance between education and gaming isn’t an easy task. But it is widely regarded that a solid educational foundation is important, as gaming is such a new and unstable industry that often doesn’t have reliable fallbacks for pros who don’t reach the top. It is why established pro Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg decided to take an entire year off in 2015 to finish his high school degree before committing full-time to his esports career. Swedish youngster xcalibur chose a similar route and laid low after his short engagement with Fnatic in 2014 with only minor appearances since. There are also other examples: EG’s SumaiL decided to go full-time into gaming without finishing his high school degree, and with over 2 Million in prizemoney earned, made the list of Time Magazine’s most influential teens of 2016.
Timado is at a crossroad in his life right now, he’s reached a stage where his gaming career has the potential to take off significantly, but he’s only a year away from finishing his high school education. Gaming as a career path is still something new, as such there is no right answer. For SumaiL it was probably worth it to dedicate his time to gaming, but such a move is risky, especially for players that haven’t established themselves at the absolute top. It wouldn’t be such a black and white decision in traditional sports, but esports demands a lot of travelling, with events spread across the globe all year around as opposed to across the country.
While this balancing act of education and gaming is a hurdle for many, it doesn’t apply to everyone, as some have finished their education before even entering the competitive scene. What does apply to every aspiring competitor is the ever ruthless competition, but also the harsh environments in which players have to forge themselves. When asked about the hardest part of becoming the player he is today, Timado said that “putting up with all the flaming” made his progression difficult and frustrating. For any player, Dota can be a very unpleasant experience sometimes, even more so in in-houses, where expectations are that players and matches are of higher quality than normal ranked matchmaking. If those expectations aren’t met, players often face scrutiny.
“I used to play NEL. When I joined, I had barely reached the required MMR of about 5k MMR. So I was a decent, mechanical player when I got in. Everybody else was ahead of me in terms of mechanical skill and game sense. You need a strong attitude to pull through when everybody else tells you “you’re so bad” and that you suck for losing your lane. You have to be strong enough to look at it and say: “Okay, I’m shit at this game, I’ve lost my lane, I don’t understand the game that much, so what do I do?”. I believe that is the hardest part. It becomes very frustrating.”
Learning from those frustrations is what sets good players apart from the bad ones, but no matter how good you are, you still need that moment, an opportunity to prove yourself. While luck is a factor here, it is up to every player himself to create more chances for these opportunities to arise. Pub players like Miracle or now Timado got recognized by being consistently good in high MMR games. At the end of the day, there is no easy answer to the question of how to become a pro player. The journey is filled with obstacles, from one’s personal environment to that in-game, and growing a thick skin is far from enough to weather it all. But if everything falls into place, the attitude, the performance and a drop of luck, you may just follow the footsteps of the likes of Arteezy, Miracle or now Timado.