Michael “Achieves” Williams has become one of the most analytical Rocket League casters around. The Game Haus’ Connor Sanders spoke with him about his career, his nickname and some of the road bumps and missed flights along the way.
Connor: Four seasons ago you were watching LAN from the stands like the rest of us. Tell me about your ascent through the ranks of Rocket League casting and how that’s led to your position in the RLCS.
Achieves: “It’s a long, but not as long a story as you might think. If you go back to the beginning, I wasn’t really interested in broadcasting at any point, and then I had been playing Rocket League for six or seven months at that point and they announced RLCS. I didn’t really have any aspirations. One day I woke up and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go give casting a shot.’ I went to college for music education. I’m very comfortable with talking in front of people. I was also a [baseball] umpire for ten years, so I’m used to people not like me already. Rocket League comments have their thorns, but there’s nothing like baseball parents.”
C: What level of baseball did you umpire?
A: “I did youth levels through high school. Sometimes you get the parents for the 8 year-olds who really, really care about winning the game. It’s like, ‘Hey, your kid is eight, let’s take two steps back and really evaluate how important this is in the grand scheme of things.’ They just want their kid to do well so, what can you do?”
C: So what was the next step in your casting career?
A: “I started solo casting ESL tournaments every Sunday. It was an all day thing at the time and the most lucrative Rocket League tourney every week. I would solo cast those, I had a few buddies from the team Virtual Rockets and I would follow them around and cast their ESL games every week. Then I started casting VVV, where [Adam “Lawler” Thornton] and [Brody “Liefx” Moore] started. I did one broadcast with those guys. Then I ran VVV for a bit, we set up Shift Pro League with a couple of guys (at Shift Pro League). I ran that, started its first tournament, and then I joined Rocket League Central where I spent the next 10-12 months casting Gfinity [events] every single day. CloudFuel was a big proponent of me. He was very helpful in getting me some of my first opportunities in Rocket League. They announced that Rival Series was gonna be a thing and I thought, ‘Well, if you’re ever going to get your shot, this is going to be it.’ I was very fortunate to be on the short list for that group.”
C: Tell me about when you worked with the RLCS crew for the first time in the Season 4 Promotion Playoff.
A: “I actually missed the first day of that playoff. There was a traffic jam in Kansas City that day, so I missed my flight. The next flight wasn’t until the afternoon so I missed all of Saturday. Not the world’s greatest first impression. I was very angry at myself for missing that flight. The whole time I was driving I was like, ‘It’ll be okay, there’s never traffic in Kansas.’ I’ve lived here for 22 years now, and I remember maybe three traffic jams during that time. So I was just driving, then I realized, ‘Oh my God. It’s been a half an hour, I’m still in this traffic jam. I’m going to keep driving, and if I don’t make it, then I will worry about it.’ I showed up to the airport, I had missed my flight, and I sent a message to James “Jamesbot” Villar, because he was in charge of that stuff then, and said, ‘James, I missed my flight.’ He said, ‘Did you give yourself enough time?’ I told him I thought I did, and he told me to make sure I was there the next day. I was very disappointed.”
C: I remember you really doing well during that tournament. It brings a whole new perspective that you missed the flight.
“It was definitely an awkward walk into the studio Saturday at 2 p.m. I was like, ‘Hey guys, am I gonna work or am I just gonna wait until tomorrow?’ They just had me wait until the next day. What are you gonna do? I just got dressed and tried not to say anything stupid the next day. I still had a lot of fun, even if it didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to.”
C: I talked with Liefx and Lawler and they both mentioned how special the relationship the initial group of casters had with each other was. What was it like coming into such a tight-nit group? How did you find your niche in working on the broadcast?
A: “That is a very interesting question. Doing promotion tournament was okay. I was only there for a couple days, it was nice to meet everyone, but I was going to just return to the Rival Series and everyone would move on with their day. During Universal Open Corey from Psyonix called me with some details and I asked him, ‘What are the dates for the Rival Series?’ and he told me, ‘Don’t worry about Rival Series, you’ll be doing RLCS next season.’ It was this equally elating and gut-wrenching feeling. I was ecstatic I had achieved one of my major goals from when I had started out casting. I always wanted to cast for the RLCS, and to have that goal come to completion was definitely one of my proudest moments. At the same time I realized I was going to leave everyone from the Rival Series that I had spent the last year with. I was going to have to relearn and reintegrate everything and get settled with the RLCS guys. I walked in on day one, and of course they’re all great people, but that was a very interesting first couple of weeks. They would give me the headphones before we went live and I would just sit and listen to some music just to get a feel for what the environment is like in the RLCS. The RLCS guys have a very different way of approaching things than in the Rival Series. I had to keep my head down and figure out what everyone liked. My first weekend of RLCS, Liefx asked me down to the hotel bar and we were just sitting outside next to this little firepit. That was the most tension relieving moments I ever had. Just sitting down and talking, I don’t even remember what we talked about. It was a solid hour and a half maybe two hours of talking and I thought ‘You know what? He’s a weird dude, but God do I love him.’ That first interaction with Lief really helped me, as well as the one on one time I had with everyone.”
C: When you were a kid where did your interest in esports come from?
A: “Back when I was a kid, first and foremost I played a lot of sports. I was a baseball player for 14 or 15 years. I played all the way through high school but wasn’t good enough for college ball. That doesn’t matter. I’ve always been very competitive from playing sports. I played a ton of games, but I really didn’t pick up gaming until elementary school. I had a Gameboy Advance and I would play Pokemon Crystal. Oh boy, Typhlosion. I didn’t have a console until I got a Gamecube, where I played Starfox Adventures, and then came middle school where I met one of my best friends Tyler Miller and his little brother, Cole. Now they had an Xbox, so I would go to their house every single day after school and play Halo and Call of Duty. That’s where competitive gaming really entered the foray of my mind. I spent a lot of time playing those games with those guys. Man, did I learn a lot about how the internet works with each other. I got into PC gaming a year or two after that. I started playing a shooter called War Rock that I just loved. I was a big shooter guy. I dumped easily 2000 hours into that game. I played that for three or four years and that game really showed me what it’s like playing a game and finding a community inside of that game. I played with a group of people known as the Killer Wolves and we were one of the baddest clans to ever roll through O’Hara. O’Hara was our map. No one was going to take that from us. That’s where my love for competitive gaming really started.”
C: How did you find out about Rocket League and what does the game mean to you?
A: “I saw some Reddit post obviously on [r/RocketLeague]. As we all know, the subreddit is a place where we all post gifs of our nutty shots and great saves. I don’t know why but I remember vividly it was a Venom driving into the net, and making a backflip save. That was my first exposure to Rocket League. I didn’t think much of it, because I was 600 hours into Counterstrike CS:GO. Fast forward maybe a month, and I’m scrolling through the Steam store and I see Rocket League on the bestseller list and I say, ‘Hang on a minute! I’ve seen this game before, but I don’t know where. Whatever, it’s cool, it’s soccer and cars, two things I don’t really care about, but it’s $20 and I’m sure I’ll have a great time.’ And let me tell you, that soundtrack is the only reason I am hooked on this game. At that time I was in school for music education at The Kansas University, so boy did I love a great soundtrack. Rocket League had a banger soundtrack. Those first few days [after I bought Rocket League], I would walk around the apartment with Rocket League just open, just blasting the music for the apartment. So I just kept playing it. I skipped class a lot to play Rocket League. The soundtrack got me into it, but the game got me to stay.”
C: Something that’s really unique to esports, and it’s kind of the defining feature of esports, but it’s not something we acknowledge, is the fact you don’t really get to name yourself anywhere outside of esports and like the music industry. You’re given a name, but in esports you get to pick your name and that represents who you are. Tell me about why you picked Achieves and what that means to you.
A: “It’s probably a more interesting story than I give it credit for. It goes all the way back to War Rock. Your first iteration of making a game name is not very creative. I was just MikeWillia, because MikeWilliams wouldn’t fit. I was MikeWillia for seven or eight months. Since that was my first PC shooter game, as we all know keyboard and mouse shooters are really difficult for people who are used to controller, I was getting destroyed by the more experienced KBM players. At the time I was at level 29 and in War Rock your player icon changes as you level up like in Call of Duty. Level 29 is the first one where you get a gold diamond. You should be pretty good at that level. At least not complete trash like me. I got flamed relentlessly in that game for being so bad despite how long I had been playing it.I learn things in a very particular way. I don’t really practice the most effective method or sit down and think about how to improve one aspect of the game or anything like that. I just beat my head against the wall thousands of times and I learn it through doing it enough times over and over. That was my approach to War Rock. Getting flamed after I hit level 29 was one of the hardest moments for me ever as a gamer. It was very close to snuffing the life out of my online gaming [interest]. I really wanted to give up video games, and I said, ‘You know what, not today. I’m going to prove everybody in this stupid game wrong. I’m going to be one of the best goddamn players in the scene.’ I spent the $5 to get the name change and I named myself something that will forever be representative of me being capable. Of accomplishing what I set out to do. That’s where Achieves comes from. It’s not Achieved. It is the progressive form. It doesn’t have an end.
Huge thank you to Achieves for taking the time before the World Championship to do this interview. He and the rest of the broadcast will be in New Jersey this weekend for what should be some amazing Rocket League.
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