Hassy Vinod: The Syndrome In Overwatch

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Meet Hassy Vinod Eshan. By day, he spends his time tinkering with airplanes, making sure that they stay up. At 25 years of age and a graduate of Aeronautical Engineering from the General Sir John Kotelawala Defense University, Hassy would fit into the “normal” category of people. Currently employed as an Engineering Intern at Srilankan Airlines, Katunayake, Hassy is actually far from being a normal person.

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Hassy Vinod (L) and his friend Gehan Haushal (R)

You see, by night, Hassy is an avid gamer. Known in the local gaming community under the alias of “SYNDROME”, Hassy is also a senior member of the local professional gaming clan “Xiphos eSports”, formerly known as Death Company or DC.

It all began with a simple game

A casual gamer since his childhood days, Hassy spent most of his time mastering games the like of Super Mario and Commandos. He credits all his gaming prowess to the time he spent with his brother playing almost any and every game that came out for console and PC. “Even then it was always about having fun and enjoying the game as a casual gamer” Hassy says.

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Hamachi made organizing LAN parties a lot easier (Image Credits: TheSmokingMouse)

That all changed in 2008 when a classmate told Hassy that they could play games with each other over the internet. All they needed was a software “Hamachi”. The reaction to Hamachi was huge. Any games that were available in Sri Lanka at the time were usually illegal copies. As such, all multiplayer features were disabled.

But with Hamachi, these possibilities were unlocked. The next thing Hassy knew, he was surfing the internet on how to play multiplayer games. One thing led to another and he discovered Counter Strike 1.6. This was, at the time, one of the most popular and highly competitive games played in the local community.

Hamachi took gaming to new levels

With the knowledge he gained by using Hamachi, Hassy’s views on gaming took a complete turn. He no longer had to wishfully wait to play his favorite games online with his friends. Now, he could jump into the action with no issues. By the time he was playing CS 1.6, the local community was reveling in the awesomeness that was online gaming.

The community saw a staggering number of players and teams who were playing CS 1.6 day in and day out.  With a plethora of public servers and private game servers to host games, this was also a good time for gaming clans to scout around the local scene and recruit players who showed potential.

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Hassy ‘Syndrome’ Vinod racking up kills in CS 1.6

Hassy then learned about Gamer.lk and their involvement in the local gaming community. After creating his first account on GLK, Hassy proceeded to get to know more about CS 1.6 as well as other local players. He also made new friends and slowly started improving his game. He used public matches to test out skills and to practice or just play casually.

Practice indeed made perfect

Within the span of a few months, Hassy perfected his skills and he was able to play at a competitive level. His skill positioned him as an above average player in comparison to other players in the country.

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Hassy leading the pack in Counter-Strike 1.6

Other clans too learned of “the new kid on the block”, as it were, and Hassy went on to be a part of a few leading CS 1.6 teams in the country, namely “Blood Money” and “Deathly Silent”. One day, he was approached by a member of “Xiphos eSports” (previously known as Death Company) in late 2009. Soon enough, Hassy was a fully fledged professional CS 1.6 player taking part in online tournaments for Death Company.

Of course, being the first multiplayer game he laid his hands on, Counter-Strike 1.6 has a special spot in Hassy’s heart. The long hours he spent watching professional matches, improving his own skills, and buying good gaming gear to get every advantage he knew of made this game his all-time favorite.

Launching a global offensive

However, the arrival of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, saw a shift in the masses towards that game, leaving CS 1.6 behind. This led to local tournaments being oriented towards Call of Duty while CS 1.6 faded into the background.

But then in 2012 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was released. And like the children following the pied piper, everyone latched on. Hassy quite happily jumped on the bandwagon with them.

Initially, the game was a little different. For Hassy who was a CS 1.6 veteran, CS:GO had a few differences. But within a few months, he knew what he was doing. The only problem was that the rest of the community was still catching up, so finding local players or tournaments was not an easy task.

“There are ways to achieve something good out of gaming if you do it the right way”, Hassy says. However, doing it the right way was also a challenge in itself. The balance between his gaming life and his studies was a tightrope walk for him. However, he managed it to perfection.

Hassy quickly rose up the ranks in CS:GO

Towards the end of 2015, CS:GO was Hassy’s major competitive title. Playing fast and furiously, he hit the top three ranks within the game in Sri Lanka within the span of a few months. In fact, Hassy was so good at the game that he ranked at Legendary Eagle Master, which is just short of Supreme Master and Global Elite. This was quite a feat by itself.

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The Ranking layout of CS:GO (Image Credits: EdSabLove)

Unfortunately, due to the lack of preventive measures by the game developer, CS:GO became flooded with hackers. One could be the best CS 1.6 player in the world and they wouldn’t stand a chance to be in the top ranks. This made Hassy, and a lot of other gamers, consider other games to play as major titles.

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From CS 1.6 to CS:GO, there was a definite step up in gameplay

Coincidentally, a closed beta version of a new game called Overwatch by Blizzard Games was circulating among certain players at the time. An avid fan of Blizzard and their gaming titles, Hassy wasted no time in signing up for the open beta of Overwatch. He loved the game so much that he went on to pre-order the game and began playing Overwatch on the 24th of May 2016, which was the the same day as the game launch.

Overwatch became Hassy’s new best friend

For Hassy, Overwatch was love at first sight. We even spoke to him and a few other players about what they thought of Overwatch some time ago. As Hassy explained, “Overwatch for me, was basically a combination of CSGO and DOTA 2. It had all the key elements of a first-person shooter and the players had to master main skills of the game such as aim, muscle memory, and movements in order to reach higher levels of the game”.

In addition, Overwatch also has a variety of heroes to select from, each with different abilities, akin to DOTA 2. This was the first time that Hassy had come across a game of this nature. Apart from having different abilities, each hero in Overwatch also had their own backstory and identity.

For example, the hero “McCree” is a gunslinging cowboy. His personality, the way he speaks, his set of abilities and his gameplay style made Hassy invest significantly more hours on him than on other heroes in the game.

All this, Hassy says, were the earmarks of a Blizzard title. The company has a great reputation and history when it comes to developing well designed and well-balanced games, and Overwatch was no different. According to Hassy, this fact alone was sufficient for Overwatch to reach a greater player base.

The journey of a thousand games, all began with one

Hassy, like any gamer, didn’t master the game overnight. In order to get a feel for the game, Hassy spent a lot of time in the Quickplay area of Overwatch. Here, he learned the core mechanics of the game. He also played each available hero for a significant amount of time to get a feel for each of their strengths and weaknesses before selecting a main role or hero for a team composition.

But that wasn’t all. He also spent whatever time he had available watching professional gamers play Overwatch, learning advanced game mechanics, and put them to play in the practice range in Overwatch before jumping straight into the game.

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The characters of Overwatch (Image Credits: Engadget)

The biggest challenge that Hassy faced as a gamer was on maintaining an equilibrium between his studies and finding the time to brush up on his gaming techniques. For Hassy, the equipment was just as important as the skills needed to play the game as well. Unfortunately, save for one or two retailers in Sri Lanka, getting down professional gaming equipment was almost impossible.

Added to that, unstable Internet connections and untimely power outages were also common difficulties that he faced, and we too can attest to this. The next major challenge that Hassy faced was to convince his family members that gaming is not a waste of time and that if done the right way, you can actually achieve something worthwhile out of it.

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Not exactly what you want to see when you’re working your way up the ranks to become the very best (Image Credits: YouTube)

In addition to all these things, Hassy also made sure he dedicated at least an hour each day to maintain the consistency of his gameplay. As stated above, he also invested in professional gaming equipment as well.

Taking things a step further, Hassy even went to the extent of recording his gameplay videos and went over them with a fine tooth comb to see how he could improve his gameplay and get the edge over the opposing team.

The best journeys in life aren’t always planned

Hassy’s journey to be the very best, that no one ever was, wasn’t really planned. All he wanted to do was to get good in terms of mechanics and strategy for a game he loved he loved a lot. As time went on, and with continuous improvement, Hassy was able to climb the proverbial ladder and increase his SR points or Competitive Skill Rating in Overwatch.

Overwatch, by definition, is a team game. This means that each member of the team plays a key role in the team’s composition and communicating your actions is essential if you’re looking to win the match.

A good team is only half the solution

Having said that, even if you have a good team, you’re still going to suffer if you have a laggy internet connection, as Hassy learned the hard way. Additionally, because of Hassy’s high ranking, he found it quite difficult to group up with local players due to SR limitations.

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If you want to win, you have to focus on your team composition (Image Credits: Twitter)

So he made a choice: he would solo queue his way to the top. And reach the top, he did. Upon reaching the rank of Diamond, Hassy took it upon himself as a personal duty and responsibility to do what most other players would consider impossible. Reach the rank of Master and then Grandmaster.

To say that this was not an easy task would be an understatement. He would spend roughly around 3-4 hours from 9 pm to midnight, every day, slowly honing his skills in his quest to reach the top. Little by little, over many hours of gaming and many matches, won and lost, he reached the title of Platinum. But the fight was far from over.

By George, he did it!

Then, on the 11th of February 2017, Hassy did it. What was once his dream, was very well a reality. Hassy’s journey so far had taken him from Platinum to Diamond and then Master. All that was standing between him and becoming a Grandmaster was the victory of one match.

Everything depended on this match. Hassy picked his favorite character, the tank Zarya. He carried the game as much as he could. The opposing team had a grandmaster on their team as well. Through sheer determination and calculated moves, Hassy’s team was able to outmaneuver the enemy team, thus securing victory.

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Hassy became the first Sri Lankan to reach the rank of Grandmaster in Overwatch

Finally, he had done it. With that one match, Hassy’s SR rating reached the level of Grandmaster. He had done what no one else in Sri Lanka could. He was the first Grandmaster in Overwatch in Sri Lanka. In addition to being the first to reach Diamond and Master ranks in Sri Lanka, Hassy was now Sri Lanka’s first Grandmaster as well.

It’s not child’s play either

Just to put things into perspective, reaching Grandmaster is achieved only by the top 1% players worldwide. In addition, Hassy was Grandmaster in the Asian region, which is considered to be the most competitive region and contains some of the most skilled players ever, in comparison to other regions.

Following Hassy’s achievement in Overwatch, he was approached by Nisal ‘Cheezy’ Weerakoon, an admin of Xiphos eSports. This was to spearhead a team to take part in Overwatch tournaments at a competitive level. Throwing caution to the wind, Hassy agreed and made a promise to Nisal, that he would bring home the gold and make his team the number one Overwatch team in Sri Lanka.

There’s more to Hassy than what meets the eye

Meanwhile, apart from playing Overwatch professionally, Hassy was also into making music. He, along with his brother formed a duo who created EDM music and distributed it via the radio, Spotify, and Beatport. As you can imagine, this presented its own set of challenges and hurdles. So while he was managing his time for work, making music and brushing up on his personal skills in game, Hassy was now also responsible for scheduling team practices as well.

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Hassy working his way up the Solo Queue after reaching the rank of Grandmaster

When Hassy kicked off team practices, this was extremely difficult due to commitment issues by other team members. As such, Hassy made sure that he had a fixed time for Overwatch in his daily schedule. For team practices, this followed suit as they had to practice for at least 3 hours a day. As such, their schedule was 9 PM to 12 PM every night. This was to reflect the schedule he himself had followed in his quest to become a Grandmaster.

With a reality check from Hassy, the team members understood that great achievements cannot be achieved if you cannot commit and dedicate your time. The team called themselves “PressQ FTW”. The name was derived from the fact that the “Q” key was used to launch a hero’s ultimate ability.

Hassy and the team went through their fair share of team members. Finally, once a solid team was built up, another challenge presented itself. All the players were at different skill levels. Added to that, building up team chemistry and team strategies also took up a lot of time for both Hassy and the team.

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Team PressQ FTW at the SLT eSports Championship in 2016

PressQ FTW took part in a number of tournaments such as the SLT eSports Championship in 2016 and the Sri Lanka Cyber Games in 2016 as well. With a reshuffling of the team once again under the name of Noobs with Attitude or NWA, the team also took part in the RLG Overwatch Championship 2017. The team won that as well.

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Hassy’s new team x3. Noobs with Attitude at the RLG Overwatch Championship 2017.

As an individual, Hassy held the highest winning record in local tournaments. In addition, Hassy won the coveted MVP award for the year 2017 from SLESA. As a team, PressQ FTW were the undefeated champions of Overwatch,

It’s not only about the game

Upon completing his degree in aeronautical engineering early this year, Hassy also began working as an engineering trainee at Sri Lankan Airlines, a goal that he says he was looking forward to achieving for a very long time.

As an aeronautical engineer, Hassy has also learned a number of things that help him both in the game and in real life. For example, adhering to the motto of “do it right the first time”, Hassy has been able to achieve many things in his day to day life.

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The Sky is the limit when you’re an aeronautical engineer

Furthermore, it has also taught him to be more responsible, how to interact with fellow team members, and to always have a positive outcome. His curiosity about his working environment, as well as planning and time management skills, have also been helpful factors in the game as well, he says, since “whatever we do in our normal life will affect us positively or negatively in our gaming time”.

All good things come to an end

Sadly, SLCG 2017 was the last tournament that Hassy took part in. Since then, he has thrown in the towel on playing professionally. When asked why, Hassy went on to explain that his decision to give up playing Overwatch professionally was simply because it is not rewarding to do so in Sri Lanka.

He proved to himself that he can reach the highest level that was possible. From there, he would have no real reason to stay on as professional gamers in Sri Lanka are yet to be paid a salary per se.

However, all is not lost. Despite Hassy calling it quits with Overwatch, his former passion CS:GO has called out to him. Here his plan is to reach the rank of Global Elite, thus checking that off his list as well.

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Going back to his roots, Hassy’s next goal is to rank Global Elite in CS:GO

For budding gamers out there, Hassy explains that as with anything in life, if you want to achieve something, you have to work for it with full dedication and commitment. You must also never back down and keep trying. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask someone about it. Perhaps more importantly, if you don’t know something, accept the fact that you don’t know and don’t feel ashamed or afraid to ask and learn it.

The most important thing is to always enjoy the game and have fun or try to make it fun because at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that will make you happy.

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