Some people don’t need an introduction. In the world of competitive Counter-Strike, Adam “friberg” Friberg is one of those people. The 28-year-old Swede, currently playing for Dignitas, has been competing for over a decade becoming one of the most successful players of his generation.
In January, Friberg opened a new chapter of his career, when he reunited with his former Ninjas in Pyjamas teammates in Dignitas. It has been hard work past few months for the team, struggling to get back in the groove and start winning. The players are ready to give it their all with their organization fully supporting them.
Just today, Dignitas announced that VIE.gg joined their CS:GO division as a title sponsor and will further support the Swedish team on their way back to the top.
I sat down with Friberg to discuss his career in esports, troubles at Dignitas, how the band got back together, and what’s their plan for the future.
Do you remember your first LAN?
My first LAN tournament was in Denmark, I think the year was 2008 and I was denied permission from my parents to go, I was still pretty young back then. But eventually, it was okay for me to go to Copenhagen. We went by bus and brought air mattresses with us to sleep on. It was a cheap internet cafe, only PCs right there and we slept on the floor in the other room, next to where everyone was playing. It was very different from how it is today.
But we won that tournament, so I have very fond memories of it. It was a bit lower level and esports wasn’t as big back then, it was more for fun, you get to travel with your teammates, meet up, enjoy your time and the result was good.
Was there money on the line?
Yeah, I think we won 5,000 Danish Krone which was like 700 US dollars. I remember coming home to my parents, saying ‘thank you for letting me go, look what I have,’ showing like a thousand worth of Danish cash I brought back home. But that was the start for me, it was so much, especially since we’ve won. I just wanted to get to more events after that.
It was in CS:Source, right?
Was Source your first CS?
Yeah, I bought Half-Life 2 cause a friend of mine recommended it. We played the game, my brother and I, and with it in the disk came Counter-Strike: Source. I installed it, had no idea what it was. That was back in 2005. I was playing for half a year before I even realized you could compete in it.
So the game that changed your life you didn’t even buy, it just came as a freebie with Half Life 2?
Exactly. It just was there, it was never intended to happen.
Have you tried 1.6?
I tried it, but Source was the one I tried to compete and improve in.
When do you consider you went “pro”?
I think 2009 was the year that I went to bigger events and we got signed by a bigger organization that would cover our costs to go to more events. We went a lot to Denmark back then, CS:Source was big there. I wouldn’t say I went “professional”, because I still worked or studied at that time but that was the point that I really started pushing and tried to make something in CS.
So when did you go full-time with CS?
Only when I joined NiP back in 2012, when CS:GO was released. We created what is now the legendary roster and I would say I went pro from that time, cause it was the first time in my life that I was paid to play CS.
You didn’t have to rely on tournament winnings to pay the bills anymore?
I worked from 2010, had a “normal” job. I lived in Dublin, Ireland and worked for IBM. And when I got the chance to join, I had to say yes. It was a dream of mine, competing in CS. I’ve been playing the game for 7 years at that time when I finally got this chance. That’s all I wanted during those 7 years, especially in the last few years.
I really felt like I wanted to compete at the top level. I never had that opportunity in Source. I knew some 1.6 players were playing fulltime and that was like an unattainable dream for me back then. So when I finally got the offer it was very easy for me to go tell my boss that I quit. That was a really cool day.
Was it a difficult switch from Source to CS:GO?
I think the switch was harder for 1.6 players. CS:GO is using the Source Engine. I felt like movement and recoil felt a lot more similar to Source. For me it was easy. I also played a lot of it when it came out. I had the beta for 4-5 months and I played as much as I could. I would go to work at 6 am, return at 4 pm and every hour I was awake I was playing CS:GO. That was all I was doing. I saw it as my opportunity. If all CS:S and 1.6 players are going to merge into CS:GO I wanted to be as prepared as I can be. I’m glad I spent all that time playing CS:GO, it was a big gamble but it paid off.
It did, didn’t it? You played together for five years.
I played with the boys for almost five years and now we decided to recreate that team at the start of 2020.
Whose idea was it?
It came from our side. It was an idea from myself and Fifflaren, I remember talking to Robin after I left Heroic which was last summer. My contract was ending and I didn’t want to extend it. My goal was to start a Swedish team, though I wasn’t planning on it being this team at first. It seemed like it just wouldn’t be possible to get these players.
It was going to be more like getting some young Swedish talents and grow from there. But eventually, the more I talked to other guys, we were noticing that it could actually be possible to recreate this roster which we once had. It was f0rest that we tried really hard to get at first but eventually, he said that he wanted to play with us. Then we talked to Dignitas and they were really fond of the idea and here we are.
And you’ve been playing together for a few months now.
Yeah, we started playing a bit in January, we had a really good start, we beat a lot of teams and qualified for tournaments. And then we had some hiccups going into Flashpoint. We were in the US for a month in March but we weren’t able to have hallzerk with us because he had a visa problem. We had to use a stand-in and that hurt us a lot. The flow that we had before ended when we had to play with a stand-in for over a month. We got out of sync as a team. Since then we’ve just been trying to work hard on restarting everything.
Are you about where you expected to be performance wise when you started the team?
When we started we all knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. We would have to spend a lot of time working hard. I didn’t expect us to go on and win tournaments off the bat the first couple of months but honestly, I would’ve thought that we would be higher than we are today. We’re struggling to get all the maps going and with the consistency. We can go on and play with really good teams but then turn around and lose against teams that we should be winning against on paper.
We are working really hard and just trying to get that flow back that we had before. We are trying a different approach where we play a lot of tournaments online, instead of sitting and practicing on the server. What we need is to get our confidence back as well.
Do you think the situation would be different if there were offline events?
I think it would be better for us. We are much more comfortable playing offline events than online from home. We would probably have better results, that’s for sure. I think there are teams and players who benefit from playing online matches. There’s less pressure, it’s very different playing online and on LAN.
And then playing online all the time starts catching up with you mentally?
I guess in a way, yeah. You’re sitting on the same chair, at the same PC, in the same room, it affects you for sure. And we’re used to playing events. It’s also much more fun traveling, playing, and being together with the team.
What expectations do you have for the rest of the season?
The goal is to steadily improve. We want to raise a trophy again one day, every single one of us. We want to attend as many events as we can, get our map pool and we want to come to a point where we feel that we belong in the big tournaments again, that we deserve our spot there. I don’t think we’re far from there, we just need to look at why we are losing games, how can we improve and we’re doing that every week, in and out. There’s still a lot of hard work ahead of us but the goal is definitely to win a tournament.
Do you feel fully comfortable playing with hallzerk yet?
Yeah, I mean there is no language barrier or anything and we are improving on some maps. We are playing these tournaments just to practice. It’s good practice but obviously, it’s never fun losing.
What advice do you have for aspiring esports athletes?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s really hard to become a professional in CS:GO, you would probably have a better chance to make a living playing football or any other traditional sport. There’re too many young players coming into the scene and not enough teams with spots to play the game full-time. Don’t drop out of school, don’t quit your job to play CS all day. If you really feel that you want to compete you can still do it, you don’t have to do it all the time. And if you’re good enough then it’s only a matter of time. You don’t have to rush or force it, just know that it might take time.
Since you brought it up… Do you think someone would have a better chance at going pro in VALORANT right now?
It’s such a new game. CS:GO has been around for a long time, while in VALORANT you can come in with a fresh outlook. Of course, it has a smaller player base but it’s still hard to become a professional. You still need to be smart about it.
What can you say to your fans?
I want to thank our fans for believing in us. We are working really hard and we want to win as much as you guys want us to win. Don’t lose faith in us, even though we don’t get the results that you guys wanted. Rome wasn’t built in one day.