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A 25 year old Senior Accountant making $71,000 in New York City spends money on Bumble premium.
*mental health, body image and food discussed\*
Section One: Assets and Debt Use this section to explain your current financial picture at large.
- Retirement Balance and Investments: 4000
- Equity if you're a homeowner: None, hoping to someday buy outside NY.
- Savings account balance: 24,000
- Checking account balance: 27,000
- Credit card debt: -80 (Autopay 250 every two weeks, paused the autopay bc I lost the card oops, so now I have a debit of 80)
- Student loan debt : merit scholarship for undergrad, family and I paid for grad school. (I handled living expenses by working as a TA, lab tech, tutoring...)
- Expectation for Higher Education: Yes, both of my parents have masters degrees and covered the bulk of graduate school tuition. They think of children as a long term investment. To them, the long term security of having a child that is self reliant and can be a source of care and comfort later on was worth more than the short term gratification of buying a boat or a fancy car. They also don’t really live to project a certain image, though that may be the puritan upbringing talking.
- Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parents educate you about finances? They talked to me about saving and not getting a credit card until I was a junior in college.
- What was your first job and why did you get it? My first job was working at a cafe on campus freshman year. I usually had 2 or 3 jobs on campus after that first semester. You can’t TA class or lab until you’ve passed the course yourself.
- Did you worry about money growing up? Did you worry about money growing up? I never worried about money growing up, but I was very conscious about spending it.
- At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net? I became financially independent when I graduated from grad school.
- Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? if yes, please explain. I think so. I know my grandmother earmarked money for tuition, but I never saw the specific numbers because my parents were in charge of whatever she left when she passed.
Main Job Monthly Current Take Home:
- Pre tax income: 5440
- 401k contribution: 3260
- Tax and other deductions such as medical insurance: (includes Federal, state and city) ~730
- Take home pay: ~1450
- Side Gig Monthly Take Home
- No side gig, but last year I thrifted and sold the pieces that didn’t fit me. Designer, and sold to therealreal. Just for fun. My favorite find was a black Fendi dress that still lives in my closet.
- No other income, although my friends and I toyed with the idea of an Only Fans. I would attach a wish list that’s just cleaning supplies, brita filters and a printer ink cartridges.
- Rent: 1875 (I live alone in a one bedroom apartment in LIC)
- Renters / home insurance: None, my building doesn’t require it. (Why don’t they though…my Ukranian landlord has many secrets.)
- Retirement contribution: I’m playing catch up on retirement savings by contributing the max percentage I can until further notice. To be honest I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay with my current employer or current location until my recent promotion so most of my money went to savings instead of retirement. Our match is bad.
- Savings contribution: Please see above.
- Investment contribution: Please see above. I have a pretty low risk profile so the investments I do make are along the line of ETFs at most. No day trading going on here. Wash sale rules exist. To be honest it is my worst nightmare to get a firm email saying that I traded something that was a conflict of interest. Fines and a hold on promotion have happened to others. It goes on your perm record.
- Debt payments: No debt.
- Donations (please specify if monthly or annual): No consistent monthly or annual donations. I think my most recent donations were to a friend’s leukemia marathon, Brooklyn Bail and random Goodwills around the city.
- Electric+gas: 70
- Wifi/Cable/Landline: 50
- Cellphone: 26
- Subscriptions: Netflix (family account) + Amazon prime, annual 119. The two day delivery saves me on toilet paper, dish soap and other items I buy in bulk. Have you ever tried taking the subway with a year’s worth of paper towels, laundry detergent and tampons? I remind myself that I really made someone laugh that day. Now half of the 6 train knows I prefer a regular tampon and liner combo.
- Gym membership: I recently canceled my gym pass since I haven’t taken a class since early March. Through the firm’s health initiative I bought a Pilates mat, resistance bands and a set of free weights for home workouts. I’m keeping my current measurements, covid be damned.
- Pet expenses: No pets. It just isn’t in my budget right now. I die of jealousy when I see other people’s pets though. A elderly chihuahua mix in Brooklyn, chunky B&W cat in Rochester and evil tabby on vacation at Hilton Head comes to mind.
- Car payment / insurance: No car.
- Regular therapy: No therapy. I’ve never formally looked into it, but my coworkers said that they couldn’t get the firm’s health insurance to cover or have a decent co pay on it. A shame, really. Maybe if we all got therapy we would mass exodus the firm? The one coworker who started going to therapy straight up left and moved to Omaha. I suppose there’s less stress if half the population is just scarecrows. These days I think the majority of the population is somewhat mentally ill, but only the privileged get it diagnosed and treated, while the vulnerable just struggle unknowingly or strapped for resources. And the severely mentally ill and vulnerable just get gunned down by the police. Hopefully someday we will make the jump from therapy as an health add-on/splurge to a health necessity.
- Paid hobbies: Does dating count as a hobby? I’m paid in free drinks.
8:30AM: I wake up and make coffee out of my two year old coffee maker. I use trader joe’s light roast ground coffee. I finish the last of the oat milk. I need to pick up more milk/milk substitute.
9:00AM: Work. I can’t tell if I’m rested or not. I woke up in a panic around 3 AM two nights in a row. It’s probably my period hormones. I’m also wearing bikini bottoms as underwear.
11:30AM: Leftover chicken and couscous that I made last night. Fried some chilis in oil and added a runny egg on top.
5:00PM: Do I dare nip out and pick up some milk? I do it and bring my work phone. Almond breeze is on sale for $3.99.
6:00PM: I am technically not on a client today, so I sign off.
6:30PM: Dinner is frozen trader joe’s meatballs and asparagus and some noodles I found in my fridge. I really, really love trader joe’s. Their wine store should have a punch card. One free bottle every ten bottles purchased. I have a glass of sonoma valley chardonnay.
7:30PM: I drop to the mat and do 50 reps on each side of my favorite abs, legs/glutes and arms moves. Accouterments include resistance bands and free weights. Takes about 30 minutes.
8:30PM: Someone asks me out for Thursday. I text back yes. While we’re on this dating topic, have you noticed that Bumble removed their two free advanced filters? I cave and get the lifetime premium version. $149.99. I don’t think I’ll disclose what two filters I care about, but feel free to guess and judge. laughing crying emoji
9:00AM: Cold snap last night, and my forgiving bed is oh so forgiving.
9:30AM: Coffee with almond milk and work. But first, I order tea tree oil from amazon with a gift card. $9.00 It’s my antiseptic of choice (diluted) when something isn’t severe enough for neosporin.
12:30PM Lunch is chicken and couscous again. Today I add parm to the whole mess.
3:00PM Stretch break. I drink water and eat strawberries. Is health and wellness my passion now?
5:00PM Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Time for BBQ salmon and asparagus. Also time for wine. I shoot a quick email even though it’s annoying to be emailing after 5pm.
7:30PM I half heartedly workout but I’m a little distracted. My friend got stood up by a first date today. I was skeptical about this prospective date, but I’m glad my friend didn’t waste any more time on this person. Better luck next time!
10:00PM Bedtime. Asparagus makes my pee smell weird.
8:30AM: Up and at them. Coffee with almond milk in hand.
9:00AM: I moved up today’s first meeting so that I can…
9:30AM: ...also attend a second meeting for another team.
1:00PM: Third meeting of the day. I’m basically late because I got distracted making a flowchart of first date protocols. I guess my friend getting stood up yesterday really ticked me off. The flowchart walks you through everything from matching to walking into your first date venue. My neurosis has no bounds. The flowchart is shared in the group chat. I eat lunch.
2:00PM: I signed up for a professional organization talk on epidemiology. The registration fee is $25 but the firm will pay for it.
3:30PM: Trading desk calls me and I accidentally hang up the first time because I didn’t save their number. I call back and work ensues. I thank him for calling and he says it’s nice to talk on the phone now (wfh problems). I say that it’s better than mumbling to yourself which I do nowadays. We laugh.
4:00PM: A different friend refuses to cut things off with an awful ex. She has previously admitted she is terrified of being alone. I beg her to focus on studying for her certs. She’s a grown woman with a full time job and volunteering hours. She doesn’t work for Teaching A Grown Man How to Act, Incorporated. I offer to slap her for free, friends and family discount.
6:00PM: It is time to venture out and get some vegetables. I have one more serving of asparagus, but I just can’t. Can’t. Not tonight. I buy four small tomatoes on the vine, one large green bell pepper and one jumbo eggplant. $4.59
6:30PM: Dinner is the remaining trader joe’s turkey meatballs and roasted eggplant. I don’t know what liquid smoke is (lol a chemical) but it makes the smoked paprika smell SO good. Also a glass of wine. The chardonnay is now kicked.
9:00PM: Early bedtime.
9:00AM: And my friend (birthday girl) invites me to go to the Hamptons with her and three others this weekend. It is technically a kidnapping since they’re whisking the girl clowning over her ex out of the city so she physically cannot go see him. I have such intense FOMO I can feel my eye twitching. One of the few blessings of wfh. Birthday girl is doing remote law school with Cornell and Clown girl is taking a firm sabbatical to study. And I suppose I shall wither away in my apartment - Whiny girl. There are too many variables for me to be comfortable going (people and location wise), and I don’t want to be holding everyone back or bringing people down. A friendship that insists upon agreement on all things is not worth its name.
2:00PM: Eating leftover meatballs and eggplant. Got a surprise email that I’ve been awarded a monetary performance bonus. This could be in increments of a couple hundred dollars up to maybe a thousand. I’ve received 2 grand this year. (Not included in the salary above, but I utilize it as part of my salary since it’s a known fact my line of work is underpaid compared to industry.)
4:00PM: Date asks to reschedule for tomorrow. Apologizes profusely but I’m annoyed...maybe? To be completely honest, I’m too giddy over the surprise $600 to be anything but :p!
6:00PM: I heat up chicken shumai and have a tomato. I can’t explain my meals today.
7:00PM: Seltzer, strawberries and raw thai chilis. It’s a virgin cocktail! With a bite.
7:30PM: Workout time! I have my favorite videos for abs and lower body. Arms and shoulders are the bane of my existence, but that’s when I use the free weights and just count reps as I watch Netflix.
10:00PM: I fall asleep rewatching old episodes of Madam Secretary. Ah, to imagine a parallel universe...
9:00AM: Today is payday. I check and see that my 401k max deduction has kicked in. Guess who now has a bi weekly take home of ~700? This girl. I’ll be close to my max contribution by 12/31. I don’t have many feelings about it, since math wise it’s just a rebalancing between my checking and retirement and a bit of tax deferral. However, This does mean that next I have to keep an eye on interest rates and get firm pre-approval for HYSAs that I’m interested in. Independence is paramount but sucky. Please leave your recommendations below! I’ll check to see if I’m able to open an account with them. Fingers crossed interest rates recover by next year.
12:30PM: Work is slow today. I heat up the rest of the chicken shumai and roast another batch of eggplant. Since I’m already there, I make another batch of chicken/tomato/couscous/parm. This will be dinner and probably lunch at some point.
*Fridge report: we now have one tomato and one green bell pepper left! I am very good with my protein, fat and fiber. But I struggle with adding carbs because I used to count macros in my “dua lipa is my religion” phase in school. Have you seen her arms? Her abs? Her voice? I made it to 130 lbs but it wasn’t sustainable since my natural state is around 120 lbs. I was eating peanut butter at midnight just to make my goals. And there were never enough carbs or sugar allotted for the day, so I became very stingy with them. Now I remind myself that at least one meal a day has to have some sort of rice, couscous, pasta, potato or farro base. Still not a fan of sugar. Dessert, in my opinion, is a wellness/mental health/social thing. Not really a part of my food pyramid since I get enough sugar from my fruit and vegetables. *
7:00PM: I walk to my date. It is so windy by the water that the menu is torn from the laminate and I watch as the next table’s burrata rolls off their plate. Date walks me home.
9:00PM: I group facetime with my college friends. We debrief on a weekly basis. The Seattle engineer sends us a link of a 25 year old Youtuber closing on a place in Palm Springs and how much she spent in a week. $400 on plants!? The one in med school invites us to come visit, although she warns that her rotations take up the bulk of her time. The civil engineer in LA brainstorms ways to get out of chit chatting with her housemates when she gets home. I do an OOTD of my old reformation dress that I wore that day.
9:00AM: I have a headache. Might have been the wind last night or the fact that I kept my bedroom window wide open. I read emails in bed. No work fires. I think about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What an exceptional woman. There is no room for mediocre women in the world, but so much room for mediocre men.
12:00PM: I get up. Chug water, coffee and take Advil. The day will come when this post hangover checklist no longer works. I pick up large brown eggs on sale for $2.99, Eggos - two boxes on sale for $4 and two packs of ramen. Total: $11. I eat my eggos with butter and honey. I glance at the nutrient breakdown - it’s almost real food. I clean the apartment.
6:30PM: I call my parents. Mom rambles on about orchids and my dad asks whether or not you could get addicted to workout endorphins. I send my dad a couple of medical journals with contradicting opinions. That’ll keep him occupied for the night.
7:30PM: I put on a jacket and meet my date. I’m still wearing the same dress. Have you seen the Netflix show, Dating Around? There’s live music at the venue. The server shows us exactly how they want us to sit so we’re far enough from the other outdoor diners. It is cold. I ponder on how well the 25% indoor capacity will work come 9/30.
10:00AM: I get up and respond to texts. I feel so lame compared to some of my friends. How are people awake at 2AM? It throws off the next day for me. I take my multivitamins and brush my teeth with my troll’s toothbrush. (Kid toothbrushes are smaller and they’re easier on my gums.) Am I both a child and grandmother in a singular flesh prison?
1PM: Scavenge my own leftovers. I will have to do another big food shop next week. I usually spend $100 every two weeks on groceries. It is strategic. Think staples of frozen chicken tenderloin, seafood, veggies and fruit. I usually have two types of liquor and either wine/hard seltzer on hand. My alcohol budget is $100/month.
2:30PM: I order shampoo from Amazon with my gift card. What shampoos do you like? I got the Ren Pure biotin and collagen one, a staple since school. No sodium chloride, sulfates or dyes. Very bland packaging, just the way I like it. (*$7 for 32oz.) I have stubborn hair. She wears me - I don’t style her.
6:00PM: I head to my date downtown. We walk the dog. Talk about pet insurance.
10:00PM: I mentally go through my work checklist for the upcoming week as I wind down. I sleep better when I can visualize what is ahead. Uncertainty is not exciting for me, although I dare say learning to manage uncertainty will be one of my major plot lines in this lifetime.
Food + Drink : $19.6
Fun / Entertainment : $150
Home + Health: $10(gift card)
Clothes + Beauty: $7.6 (gift card)
Transport: prepaid metro card $0
Other: My monthly home expenses were also charged this week. Please see above. ~$150
I am so excited. It’s not every day I allow myself to fight with strangers on the internet. But now that I am the subject matter, takes earrings off
This was a standard week for me. I enjoy the pendulum metaphor, where you don’t try to pit priorities against each other or try to cover all bases all the time, but try to swing back and forth as needed. Some weeks are work heavy, some weeks are dedicated to family or friends, some weeks I’m helping with firm volunteer targets. It is a privilege to be able to swing back and forth without consequence. I also received confirmation from NY Division of Housing that my apartment is in fact rent stabilized. I also see the rent charged for tenants dating back to 1990. This is fascinating.
Friendship time: 1.5 hr facetime. 1 hr phone call.
Dating time: Three evenings.
Family time: 2 phone calls.
Education time: 1 professional talk, half a book. The book had a sensitive subject matter that still lingers, albeit negatively, in my mind.
Career time: Standard. Positively recognized.
Social justice/Volunteer time: Lacking this week. I would like to donate something in memory of RBG, please recommend? Doesn’t have to be political, but female empowerment would be nice.
All in all, good hustle out there! Grab an orange slice, walk it off. Onto the next.
Memories of an EULCS manager: “How it was to live in the UOL gaming house and other anecdotes on team performance and daily life training philosophy”
Last year I did an interview for Paul “Redeye” Chaloner’s book “This is esports”. Paul gave me a really good set of questions which triggered a lot of memories and I ended up writing loooong answers. Now that the book is out, I wanted to share some of those answers with the community as not everything could make it into the book.
Topic was “Gaming houses” and “How do you live and work with pro players”. I talk about my past years with Unicorns of Love and a bit about Optic Gaming.
- 2014/2015 - Esport specialist Europe for Razer : sponsoring teams (Titan, EG, Mouz, Method, UOL) and event (Dreamhack, ESL, PGL)
- 2015/2016/2017 - Manager for Unicorns of Love (EULCS LoL team) : contracts, logistic, performance management, social media, sponsorship
- 2018 - Director for OpTic Gaming LoL (NALCS LoL team) : creating the LoL department in the newly franchised NA ecosystem (recruiting staff, players, setting up training facilities, branding, content, strategy, international representation in China, India and Europe)
- 2019/2020 - Business Dev Manager for Riot Europe : monetisation of the LEC (sponsoring, marketing offer, relationship with pro teams and broadcast partners, local vs European approach)
When did you first visit a team house? What was your impression?My first time in a gaming house was in 2016 for my hiring interview with Sheepy (UOL coach and owner). It was like walking inside a temple, entering the place where legends are made. I felt like a kid, watching the posters on the wall and the little pink details everywhere. I was there, walking in this magical place and it was a beautiful mess. I remember wearing a pink onesie and players looked at me like if I was an alien. Vizicsacsi, Kikis, PowerOfEvil, Vardags, Hylissang, Sheepy in the same place. Good times.
Tell me about Unicorns of Love's team house set up when you worked for them. What was it, what did it offer, did you live there yourself?After they qualified for EULCS (end 2014), UOL had to find a place in Berlin able to host 6 people (5 players + 1 coach). Lucky for them, Sheepy’s father (Jos) is an accomplished polyvalent businessman and he always has solutions for every kind of problem. I say “lucky” because they only had 2 months to do everything, from the day they beat Millenium 3-2 to the first day of EULCS, and without Jos this would have turned into a nightmare.
They ended up in an apartment not too far from the EULCS Studio (where you have to drive twice a week to play on stage), with a decent internet connexion and enough beds and computers for everyone. To be honest, that's all you need when you are a geek. I joined a few months after.
The apartment/house was in the middle of nowhere, which I realised later was an advantage. On the paper our address was “Berlin”, but we were a few streets away from being considered in another city. Being 45min away from the town centre and all the clubs is good in Berlin, where the night is dark and full of fun. 45min might sound like nothing for Americans but it's a world in Europe, and enough to make you stay home if you are a bit tired after a long day. Keeping our players away from temptation was much easier that way. We were chilling in our own world, spending most of the time inside the gaming house, playing video games for a living.
The apartment had 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, a toilet room and a big “basement” (connected to the garden so not really a “basement”). We did a tour if you wanna see how it looked. This video was a parody of the Origen gaming house tour. Same music, same concept, no budget.
5 players + 1 coach = 6 people for 3 rooms. 2 people per room and everything is good to go. Where do you put the manager tho? Easy: on the couch. I slept in the middle of the basement for my first 6 months, with earplugs at night because of the players practising a few meters away. The only thing I could really hear was Vizicsacsi training Ryze because he was spamming his combos like a maniac. It sounds a bit hard to live like that but I truly loved it. It lasted until we rented another apartment in the same building. Sheepy moved there with his girlfriend and I moved in with a player.
I lived for almost 3 years in the gaming house, and it was an incredible experience. I was the mum and the dad, the brother and the manager, but I tried hard to never be a “friend”. As much as I value friendship, this is a job, and the core foundation should be "respect" and not "friendship". It's a nice bonus when players develop it between themselves, but it can lead to complicated situations during off-seasons when you do roster changes.
The schedule was always the same: 1 day off where players usually stay home and play, 4 days of training, 2 days of show. There is no "Monday" or "Sunday" in league of legends, there is only "Game day" or "Scrim day". The day started at 8h for me, direction gym, usually with 1-2 brave players, the rest stayed in bed till 11/12h. At 13h we had some food, I was usually cooking for those who were angry. Then we had a good afternoon of practice, dinner at 19h, more practice and then free play. During the practice I was either watching, doing emails for logistic/business/social media/sponsors or taking care of the house.
Players had no computers in their room, so the whole life of the GH was happening downstairs. We only used the first floor as "life support", for food, sleep, shower etc. The atmosphere was focused during the afternoon and light-hearted in the evening. At night, players would practice together or call/play with their friends/girlfriends. The beauty of Europe is all the languages. With no native speaker, English gets butchered a lot but it's our only common language. In the evening, you could hear every language as everyone got back into their own bubble. German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Russian, Korean.... I believe this cosmopolicy also brings a lot of value to a training environment. Different tastes and habits help to open the mind. Korean don't eat too salty or sugary. German love their potatoes. French like cheese. Clichés? yeah - usually with a taste of truth. Worst case it is the opener for a good talk where you’ll learn new things about a different culture. We all have different opinions on what's “good food” or “bad food”. Being from different origins can also be a problem during fights - language barrier is a pain in the ass when you meant "I'm 50% angry" but the guy you're talking to understood "95% angry" because you picked the wrong word.
Living all together forces you to share moments of your life. We watched horror movies all together, and it was hilarious. We shared the joy and pains together, breakups, new born, good news, all those emotional moments of life you wanna share with someone. You always have someone to talk to. Which can be a challenge for some players as well. Most of those young geniuses are THAT good at video games because they spend the last 10 years of their life alone in their room playing. Sometimes they really suck at communicating their feelings because of that. Being in an environment with other "geeks", able to just shut up and play for hours, is for them a good transition to the real world with other humans. A potential issue could be a player with a strong personality, talking a lot and “stealing” all the energy/time from others. To those players, you have to explain that they need to respect boundaries. It’s part of living together as humans. You can usually spot who grew up with siblings or not.
Was the gaming effective at building bonds between players? What about improving the team's overall performance?Yes it was, especially for young players. A really young player is usually coming straight from home and doesn't see this new life as a job, more like a weird holiday camp with a weekly dose of adrenaline. And to be fair this is the reality of LoL esport: days and days of training in a room with your team, and only sometimes, a big stage. When you play high level LoL, you need to be the very best to attend a big offline event with a crowd. Only the top 3 teams get to walk on a stage. Only the best do it repeatedly. It means most players have quite a limited physical access to their fans and never benefit the fame of “being a proplayer”. The truth behind a LoL pro is not made of glitters and parties, it's living with other dudes and playing video games a lot. Making it hard sometimes to remember why you're there, and what you're doing. The biggest struggle is not the lack of skill, it is the long term motivation. This energy you had when you started. Everyone wants to “be the best player”, but our tournament is 9 months long and only ends up at Worlds - who has the guts and the mental strength to sacrifice everything for months and months and months? In LoL, only 5 players per year are “the best”. A reality difficult to accept for hyper-competitive young players. And if you are not playing, it means you suck because you were not good enough to qualify for playoffs, finals, roadshows or worlds. If you are a pro, watching a tournament from home when you missed the qualification is sad. Being a pro player is one of the most beautiful jobs in the world tho. It doesn't mean it’s easy, as it is extremely unforgiving and the sand in your hand can quickly turn into ashes.
I believe living in a gaming house is good to create bonds if you can control and work hard on the environment. It also creates a fragile ecosystem and it can lead to really bad things if the conflicts are not defused ASAP via active communication (regular 1o1, regular structured team meetings, etc)
I think travelling together is also really good for team bonding but it's quite rare in LoL. Discovering places together and creating memories is probably the best way to establish a good relationship. It is the job of the management to make sure players are not “passive witnesses” of those events but “active actors” by creating a safe communication environment.
What problems as manager come up in a team house that fans would never imagine?Pros are gaming masterminds with incredible analytic brains. They can focus for hours and crack complicated problems like nuts. They are also, for most, inapt at real life. Drop them alone in the middle of a city and they'll just get a cab back home. Of course I’m exaggerating - I worked with 30+ pros over the last years, and a few could give a good run to Huber Grylls. But if you are a team manager and you are reading those words, you know what I mean and I can see your smile.
I used to tell players : "the biggest difference between a hotel, your home and a gaming house is the speed a piece of trash takes to travel from the floor of your room to the bin. In a hotel, someone is paid to clean. At home, your parents will probably do it. In a gaming house, no one will." This is an education process. When you live on site, a big part of your daily tasks is to assist your players and to make sure everyone survives the day. Administrative paperwork, food, simple logistics, daily needs, you have to help for most things. Usually, as a young human in the western world, once you are done with high school, you leave home and you go to study or to your first job. It is the moment in life where you’ll have to start taking care of yourself. Once you are in your new place, you’ll go do your first shopping, and you’ll get only the wrong stuff (probably alcohol and candies). You eat/drink it all, you get sick, it's expensive. Quickly enough you’ll learn about budgeting, planning, life. Well, pro-players don't experience that. And it's not their fault, they're so good at gaming that they went straight from home to another home with people paid to take care of them. Now that you have that context in mind, you can imagine how living with pros is an incredible experience. Any real-life activity can become an adventure. Withdrawing money, ordering in a restaurant, walking through a mall, cooking pasta, building a bed, changing a bulb… It's sometimes frustrating or funny, it never gets boring.
Fans see only the public face of their idols. I believe a team works like a relationship: because 2 humans look happy in public or on social media does not mean it's sun and flowers once the doors are closed. Because a team looks great and happy does not mean it’s the same once everyone is back at the GH. Public doesn't see their idols in the morning, when he had a bad day or when he is eating. They don't really know why a team is good or bad because they don't see the daily life of the relationship. Maybe this player is only 70/100 on the Rift, but his mindset allows his 4 teammates to be 120/100 on the Rift. What is also interesting is the in-house perception of a proplayer by his teammates can be really different from the public perception of a player. It is usually correlated to his fame, but to an extent only. If an old experienced player joins the GH, he should instantly get more respect than a rookie. But I saw “rookies” coming in new and instantly gaining respect because they were polite and clever. I saw “stars” coming and behaving like assholes.
Food and management are to me the core foundation of a good training environment. Management because it's the cement of everything. A good management has to make sure everyone has enough time to exist in the relationship, by speaking and expressing themselves. You have to make sure everyone respects one another. Like a family I would say, with the difference that you don’t have contracts in a family. A team is an illusion of a family with a job framework. At the end of the day, you're here to perform and to win. Players are never really at home, they're here in transit. A transit which lasts for months and months, but this is still a transit. Once the season is over, everyone goes back home. You're not always “working”, especially because a part of your job is to “play”, but you're always “at work”, and you are definitely never at home. Like a soldier. I think it takes a toll on the long run, and this need to have a home not too far is probably one of the reasons behind the transition from a Gaming House to facilities/apartments. A good way to "reset" for a pro is to go back home with friends and family during the season. There, they will have time to explain what they do in life and the crazy schedule they have. Unless they closely follow the league, you friends and family don't know if you're having a win streak or if you are at the bottom of the standings. They are just happy for you that you're living this exotic life, and it's refreshing.
A huge difference between sport and LoL esport is the mental tall taken on players: we don't have a tool to train one specific in-game action. If you want to train “mid game nashor”, you have to play a full game and hope to have a decent Nashor setup. In traditional sport, if you are a goalie, you’ll train being a goalie for hours. After a good day of training in sport, you are exhausted but not mentally broken. In League, let’s say you have a good week of scrims and you only have stronger opponents: at the end of 4 practice days with 5/6 scrims per day, maybe you are 0-22. That’s a LOT of losses. That’s a lot “end of the day” where you feel like shit. Ok, you practised really well, but it has such a hard psychological impact. It makes management even more important to help the players to get back into good mental condition.
Food is usually the moment when players sit together around a table. We avoided phones and focused on talking to one another. To achieve that it's easier to eat around a table rather than sitting behind your desk. It's good when everyone talks. I used to ask each player how the afternoon was, what champions they played, or to tell us stories. It creates a “home” feeling. If the afternoon was a long strain of losses, the dinner is gonna be an unpleasant moment and you'll need a couple of stupid jokes to lift up the mood. Food can also turn into a difficult time if players dont like the meal. No one likes to eat bad food. Before teams had in-house cooks, meals were cooked by managers, making it really easy to channel your mood on the team by blaming the environment. It makes food time a double-edged sword: burger day is happy day, vegetables days is…. ok we never had vegetables. Unless crepes count as one.
When you moved to Optic, what were the training facilities and accommodation set up there? What was it like, did you have any input or vision for it?I was the first LoL hire and general manager for Optic LoL as they were setting up their League department, and my job was to come up with a plan for the training facilities. With Zaboutine (the coach), we wanted a gaming house for the new players and apartments for the old one. A gaming house would provide young players with a good setup, and apartments for the older players because they are more experienced and need more freedom. Our plan was to create a training room with a small replica of the LCS stage in the middle, to prepare players for the weekend when they play LCS and help them in "stage mindset". I still have the stage blueprints somewhere. We ended up doing apartments for everyone with all players coming daily to a really small office, because we couldn't find the training facilities we wanted. Optic was based in Texas and the LoL team was practising in Los Angeles, making a lot of things challenging and leaving us a bit alone. Knowing how different the US is compared to Europe, I should have done things differently. The training conditions were complicated to say the least. For Summer Split, with a bit more time and NA experience under our belt, we moved to a much bigger facility. The new office was a great place, top of a building, panoramic view of LA, nice setup with a lot of space in a nice neighbourhood. For players, "going to the office" was not a nightmare anymore, and it changed the way we all trained and practised. Players perceived it more like a job and took training more seriously. It allowed us to unlock a new approach by using “10 players on site”. A ten man setup makes the relationship healthier between coach and players if used properly. I think in the future, once management and coaching are mature enough, esport teams will work with a multi-players setup like traditional sport does.
We're seeing some teams, mostly ones that have seen heavy investment, move towards a training facility model. Do you think that's a good thing? Will we see this happen more and more in your view?To me the ranking would be something like :
3.Bootcamp (temporary place) -> 2.Gaming houses -> 1.Team facilities + Players apartments.
I think gaming houses are a model from the past, the best solution we could come up with back in the day. It doesn't mean it is a bad system, it has some clear strengths. They are not optimised for the long term. It's great if you don't have enough staff, as you all live on site so you can do everything faster. It's awesome for young players. It can be a problem for older players with already an experience of life.
The model facilities+apartments should happen more often in the future as teams are getting more professional with more resources available.
Whatever the format you choose, I believe good teams are made by humans and not systems - if you share the same vision and the same goals, you'll make it work. At the end of the day, this is a competition and you can not win by copying someone, you have to identify and work around your own strengths. It doesn't matter if you are 5 players living in the same room or 15 players living in different apartments, you have to base your system on the people you're working with. You're a commando of legends crafted together by a coach to perform and win, and the key to your success will be the human bond between your players. The rest is “just” a tool.
Thank you for walking with me through those memories For more interviews and insights into the esports world, do take a look at Redeye’s book :) Have a good day and long live esport!