OpTic Gaming signed an Indian CS:GO team earlier this month and to find out more about this project, we sat down with one of the players, Nikhil ‘forsaken’ Kumawat.

In just one month, OpTic managed to announce the open tryouts for their Indian squad, go through the applications, hold all the events, and sign their new team. More than 1400 players signed up to join the Green Wall, but at the end, only five were chosen.

With this move, OpTic aim to become the pioneers in the massive Indian market and to nurture the young players by providing them the highest level of support. For forsaken and his teammates, it means an opportunity to prove their worth to the world.

The 21-year-old just received his degree in Civil Engineering, but instead of putting on a suit and joining a company, he opted for a career in video gaming. A move that did not sit well with his family.

Kumawat opened up about having to hide his passion for gaming from his parents, rising to the top of Indian esports in less than a year, and how OpTic Gaming helped him find comfort in playing the game again.

Vie: How did you decide that this was what you wanted to do with your time? Did you just wake up one day and thought — I want to play this game for a living?

forsaken: It all started in College when my friends, my seniors and I would have daily ten-man mix nights over LAN. That was the first time I played this game. As a beginner, I was pretty bad so I wanted to improve as fast as I could and beat my seniors, so I started watching YouTube videos, playing this game whole day with bots just to improve my mechanics and knowledge. I could see I improved really fast when in nearly a month or two, my seniors started picking me first over some of their own teammates for our mix games.

But due to our university internet having limited connectivity to Steam client we could never play online for more exposure. As soon as I had the opportunity to play online in late 2016, I started playing on SoStronk (a third party service in India, as FaceIT, ESEA etc.). After nearly a month or so, I caught the attention of SoStronk admin Akshay Singh. He praised me for my fundamentals and that boosted my confidence. After 3-4 months, I was approached by a mix team and we went on a good semifinal run on our first India based tournament. So it all started from there and after one and half years of playing, I have been selected for OpTic India squad.

Vie: How hard was it to explain it to your family, friends? Were they accepting of your choice, or was there mistrust?

forsaken: It was pretty hard, for the first year of my competitive gaming career I didn’t tell them about it at all, but after another 2-3 months it was hard to stall as my Engineering degree was complete and I had to start working, but that wasn’t something I wanted to do. I told them that I didn’t want to join that job, but I wanted to prepare for an entrance exam for IES (Indian Engineering Services) so I could get a great government job. That way I was able to play competitive CS for another ten months without telling them, but sooner or later they had to find out and they did.

It was pretty bad at first, but when I told them about OpTic Gaming and how it would make me happy, I was able to convince them. There was a lot of mistrust regarding the job because in India there is no such thing as making money by playing games. Our relatives would throw weird glances after hearing I would be making money playing games but all of my friends understood and congratulated me, so it’s changing with the new generation.

Vie: Let’s get right to it then — tell me about the state of the game in India. How would you introduce it to someone completely unfamiliar with the CS scene there?

forsaken: I would say it could be pretty solid given the opportunity, proper guidance, and coaching, but let’s just say there are opportunities but no guidance and coaching. So without proper guidance teams shuffle every six months and that leads to them underperforming. Players don’t believe in themselves and their team after a certain period of time and thus they underperform in SEA qualifiers.

What we need is a group of knowledgeable people, international coaches, a professional ecosystem that would guide the players to believe in themselves, the process and learning the right way. And Optic Gaming are giving us exactly that.

Vie: What does it mean for you guys to be playing for OpTic? Representing a world-famous team must be great, but there’s probably a lot of pressure there, too?

forsaken: Playing for OpTic is exactly like a dream come true, not because how great the organisation is but also because now I will finally be playing with a bunch of players who are willing to give their 100% on and off the field for the team, as well as take advantage of their professional ecosystem, their massively knowledgeable coaches etc.

Playing for OpTic is like playing in the best way possible. Representing OpTic is certainly an honor for each one of us, but there is close to no pressure. I will be playing this game in the most comfortable way possible and if you can’t perform at the highest level in your comfort zone, then you shouldn’t be competing at all. OpTic have taken care of every little detail for us, both as gamers and as people.

Vie: OpTic are basically infamous for having some of the most passionate fans out there. Did you already get an opportunity to experience their support?

forsaken: When the official OpTic Gaming twitter handle announced our lineup, I got a massive boost in my following on Twitter, many of the OpTic fans are already here supporting and congratulating us. Some were not [as welcoming] but we are super stocked to prove our capabilities.

Vie: Tell me more about the OpTic India project. What’s it about, where is this heading?

forsaken: OpTic India project came all of a sudden when they announced their interest in having an all India lineup for the project. Almost every other CS:GO player in India was excited about the project just like I was. India is a huge country and OpTic believed that in population so large there are definitely super talented players and OpTic are known to enter spaces and give a chance for that space to grow and develop with the power of their brand. We are getting every resource and tools that a professional team anywhere else in the world might have.

Vie: Tell us more about the process. How did they determine the best talents in India?

forsaken: So OpTic announced the project, partnered with SoStronk and AFK and they assigned SoStronk to do the tryouts. So there was a registration link to apply for the tryouts, almost 1400 players registered. Then, they conducted an online theory test (related to the in-game knowledge of an individual) for every role a CS player may have (Entry, Support, Lurker, Awper, and IGL), and according to every individual’s answers, they selected 80 people out of 1400 registered for the LAN tryouts. After almost a week, they conducted the LAN tryouts with SoStronk Admins analyzing and measuring every individual. On top of that, an OpTic representative observed everything.

They set up many different teams with each team having every role player, then the matches were done and each player was thoroughly observed for their game-sense, mechanics, decision making, leadership quality etc. After full 2 days of offline tryouts, eight people were selected for the primary list, out of which they selected The Final 5.

Vie: Being selected out of 1400 applicants must feel great.

forsaken: I was one of the five, I felt great. After a year of struggles, I was finally able to find a team that has every quality of a winning team. I was selected for the role of support player, that’s the role I have been working on for quite a long time now and I am glad that I will finally have the opportunity to showcase every support quality I have on and off the game.

Vie:  So what are the long-term goals for your team? India today, the world tomorrow? Or are you taking it one step at a time?

forsaken: Well yes, we are taking one step at a time. Having said that, our first goal would be to mold each one of us into a different piece of a puzzle and find our place in the team, act like a team, perform like a team. Then we will be looking to dominate Indian scene and maintain at least a Top-5 ranking in South East Asia within the first 8 months.

Vie: It’s been emphasized how gaining international experience is important for any team. Do you think being in a relatively closed off region will keep you behind? 

forsaken: It has always been said that if you compete with the better you become better because you learn those things that make the other team better. Top Indian teams practice with South East Asian teams most of the time but we are far away from being a stable Top-5 in the region. Any Indian team right now needs a better professional guidance and coaching. I can’t comment on the ceiling of the team right now because we are far away but I definitely believe given the proper system, practice and international experience we as a team are going to prosper into a solid unit.

Vie: Where and when will we first see you guys compete? 

forsaken: Our first tournament will most likely be ESL India Premiership Fall season but before any tournament comes a lot of practice (laughs) So we are focusing on that for now.

Vie: There have been some talks about a $300k tournament coming to India, is that still on the horizon?

forsaken: I really don’t have any knowledge as of now but I have heard there are some tournament organizers in India working with PGL, so that’s something to look forward to.

Vie: Thanks so much for talking with us. Any parting words?

forsaken: I really want to thank all the great people that have always been there for me, including my parents, Anissa, Akshay, Prashant, and everyone.

Photo credit: OpTic India

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