Earlier this week, I talked to Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau about League of Legends and his path to becoming a Pro Gamer. In Part 1 we discussed his recent games on the LCS stage and the game in general. In Part 2, we delve a little deeper into his history as a gamer and how he got here.
Have you always been a gamer? What was the first game that you fell in love with and worked hard to get better at?
So, let me think. When I was a kid, like really young, my dad would always end up playing video games as a release. He had a hospital job working as something like a physiotherapist, so he was working 9-5. When he got home, he would play on PS2, or GameCube, or whatever. And he would play with us kids, we were like 5 or 6 at the time, me and my older brother. We got all the Nintendo stuff, played Pokemon and all that, and then we finally got our own PCs. I started off playing Runescape, and eventually World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft was actually the first game that I tried – hard – to get good at. So I ended up playing – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with World of Warcraft Arenas and raiding, but mainly Arenas. I tried really hard. I grinded that game out for full year, 12 hours a day. And I loved doing it, don’t get me wrong it was very fun playing my Warrior. I ended up getting relatively high on the ladder, I think 2200 MMR the first year. And then the next year we got to 2500, which I think percentage wise was like top 2%. We weren’t bad at the game basically, but it wasn’t anything good enough to go pro. Near the end of that, we had a group of friends, and we weren’t sure what to play next because World of Warcraft was starting to get kind of boring. Someone said ‘What if we tried League?.’
What champion did you play when you first started?
I started as a Gragas one trick pony. That’s how I really got into the game. My brother was playing Gragas, and I saw him use his ultimate, and from my point of view I thought he threw a glue bomb or something. It was awesome because I thought he was going to root everybody to the floor or whatever. I soon realized that, no, he does not do that, he in fact throws them away, but I still loved Gragas. Leveling up, levels 1-30, I just played Gragas almost exclusively, along with a little Lee Sin and Blitzcrank.
Once I hit level 30, I just played the entire season through, something like 1500 ranked games. I just grinded, I liked it so much. I felt like every game I played I could do something better. That’s what really got me hooked, what kept me coming back for more. I ended up Diamond 1-ish, which was pretty respectable at the time. I got there and I was really proud of myself. That was really a special moment for me, because I didn’t just start and jump into Diamond 1. It took me just as long as everyone else to get to get to Gold, to get to Platinum.
And you just kept rising from there?
I took a break from League in Season 4 actually, until Yasuo was released. I had a friend who was still playing, and he was convinced I had to play Yasuo. He had to convince me to come back to League of Legends just to play Yasuo, because it was a new release and he was like ‘You have to play it!’ We would play normal games and no matter what he would pick that champ for me because he wanted to see me play it. I still don’t know why he did that really, but it got me back into League. I felt at that point the gap between me and Challenger players was too big for me, I didn’t think I could make it. But thanks to him, he convinced me to just keep playing, and I actually got to Challenger for the first time in Season 4 by playing Yasuo. At that point I was a one-trick. I could still play all the champions I had practiced in Season 3, but at the end of the day, I was the Yasuo one-trick.
Is that when you decided you could make this into a career?
Even though I hit Challenger, I still wasn’t convinced I could go pro. I didn’t think ‘Yeah, there’s a career here for me.’ I was really just playing the game, and focusing on school, since I had failed a year at school before that because of World of Warcraft. That wasn’t really a shocker, because I understood that I had really messed up by not taking school seriously. So then I made sure that I at least passed in school.
Somewhere in early Season 5, after the ladder reset, I was able to hit Challenger in the matter of like, a week. So I was suddenly like ‘Wait a minute, I’m actually pretty good at this game.’ School was really not going that well, and I was really struggling to balance the game and my studies, and I needed to make a decision. I’m the type of person that really struggles at focusing on two things at the same time. It just doesn’t feel right. If I’m going to school and I’m not committed to studying, then I feel like I shouldn’t be going. If I’m failing my classes, my grades are all bad, then I’m just making my parents pay for my school when I’m not even taking it seriously. It doesn’t feel right to me.
So you decided to leave school to pursue an esports career?
At that point, I went to my mother one morning and was like, ‘I can keep going to school, but for me personally, if I could try and go pro in this game, it would mean a lot more to me.’ At this point I had been Challenger for a long time, and I felt like it was appropriate to make a decision. I had to not feel like I would be disappointing anybody. Not myself, not my parents, not my brother. I needed to make a decision and stick with it as fast as possible, and the first thing that came to mind was ‘I’m going to go pro with this game.’
So I went to my mom, and at the time, she was recovering from cancer, which was really tough on her. She was working full hours and dealing with these health problems, but it was her decision that led me to actually do this. I made sure that she accepted that I could. I asked her ‘Can I quit school to pursue this?’ It was important that I didn’t just quit and be like, yeah, deal with it. I made sure my mother agreed with me quitting school, and was OK with me going after this opportunity.
And she was supportive?
Yes, absolutely. She has been so supportive from day 1, it’s incredible really. By the time things were really underway, it was a good few years in already. It was really impressive that she was doing all that for me. She could have just said ‘No, I just want you to go to school and have a normal life.’ but she saw it as an opportunity for me to shine, to be different from other people, to be myself. To do what I wanted to do.
And the beautiful thing is that she had no idea what I was doing. I was on the computer all day, but she wasn’t very good with computers. She had no idea what was going on. I could have been playing Tetris for 24 hours a day and she wouldn’t have known. But despite that, she had the blind faith of ‘My son is doing what he wants to be doing, and I want to give him this chance.’
That’s really what sparked this opportunity, and gave me the time that I needed to develop myself through some coaching from a very good friend of mine. That’s really what ignited it, was my mother saying yes. That’s what made me want to push myself. As I said, my mom was recovering from cancer, and that’s an ordeal. But despite that, she said ‘Yes, you can do that.’ So being that person that gets that permission, there is naturally an obligation to do your best. Because she is, right? She’s trying her hardest to make sure that I have the room to try. That alone is very impressive to me already.
That’s really inspirational.
Absolutely. I think what she did for me and still does for me, although to a lesser extent now that I’m living in Berlin. She took care of me every day, made sure there was food on the table, made sure my bed sheets were clean. And I was in the room while she was doing my bed sheets, you know? I was sitting on my computer, and it’s not like she would say ‘Yeah yeah, do your sheets, it’s not like you’re doing anything anyway.’ She treated it as if it was my dream, my job. I stress this so much, because THE most important thing in my career, by miles, is the fact that she treated it as if this was equally as important as school.
It’s hard for me to explain. She doesn’t know what I’m doing, she has no idea. But despite that, she’s working every day, she never complains, she makes sure everything is ready for me. Just imagine, having that kind of support is magical. I think I’m the luckiest pro player in that sense, because I don’t know of any other pro player that had that kind of luck. And that’s the only word I can think of to describe it. My mom was giving me this freedom, and I wanted to make something of it because of that.
So this is where you really committed to being a Pro Gamer?
So in Season 5, I hit Challenger, 400 or 500 LP. A regional Dutch team with former pro players from Season 2 was looking for a Top Laner. I stuck with that team for about a year, it was an amateur team, and we were trying to get into the Challenger Series. Though it’s pretty apparent now that that doesn’t matter to get signed. What did matter was the amount of experience I got playing with that team.
Because of that, I think most people considered me to be a little bit ahead of the other rookies in terms of understanding the game and communication skills, at least that’s how it seems. People are saying that Broxah is playing around me, blah blah blah, but I’m making sure that he knows he can. That’s something I’m very focused on, to make sure that I’m setting up something for my Jungler. To me it feels terrible as a Laner to not be able to set anything up for my Jungler. If he is coming to my lane at any point, he is getting something out of it. At least that’s my goal.
What did you learn in those two years before joining Fnatic?
You have to be incredibly high on the Solo Queue ladder. I really wasted a year when it comes to exposure. I was only 500 or 600 LP and that’s just not enough. Nobody looks that far down on the ladder, realistically speaking. I was playing in the Turkish League and the Russian League. I played on stage, I got used to the white noise, all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I needed to be Top 10, consistently. That’s what got me there, and for anyone who wants to be pro level – get there. Be Top 10, for a month, a year, however long it takes.
What do you think gave you the edge to get noticed by Fnatic?
During all of this Solo Queue time, I have this friend called Shaves, and he coached me every day. He was always making sure that I understood what I was doing. He taught me how to play the game, really. I still think to this day that if you watch me play and you think I’m good at the game, or that I’m a smart player, that’s him. This guy is really smart. You give him time and someone that’s really committed, and he will make LCS caliber talent out of that player.
And I’m looking to prove that right? I want to be the living proof that he can do that, because at the end of the day, he is the one who taught me. Not necessarily how to play the match ups, but the idea behind the match up. What I want to do and when I want to do it, and how to play the map. A lot of people are saying that I’m smart in the way I play the map, and that is what he gave me.
What advice to you have to players that are trying to improve?
The way I like to think, is that if you’re listening to somebody talk, and let’s say they make 10 different points of criticism on your gameplay. Maybe 9 of those things are complete bullshit, and you know it. Most people would get frustrated and annoyed, like ‘Why are they pointing all this stuff out? It’s useless.’ But there’s a good chance that out of those 10 things, there will be at least one thing that will be right. So instead of focusing on the 9 things that are wrong, I try to listen and incorporate the one thing they were right about. If they point out one mistake, I will take that advice and be happy that I listened to this person. Because at the end of the day, I just got better, you know?
What a lot of people forget – because tilt is a real thing – is that when you press play on the League of Legends client, you’re trying to win this game. And that’s what I’m basically looking at, is ‘How do I win this game?’ My mind is constantly busy with how do I win, and what can I learn from other people? Now I’m not saying you should take every piece of advice and criticism 100% seriously, but just listen. If someone is very smart, but you disagree, that is the best type of person you can learn from. That’s why I’ve learned so much from sOAZ, because we disagree on almost everything.
A lot of this game is asking yourself ‘Can I do this?’ and if your answer is yes, the odds of you doing it are much higher. If you go into the game with the mindset ‘I’m going to lose this lane,’ I firmly believe that the odds of you losing that lane are a little higher. I do think believing in yourself is rather important.
I would like to sincerely thank Bwipo for taking the time to answer my questions. Make sure you catch Part 1 of the interview here.
Find the rest of my articles here. If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @_mrdantes. For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!