Photo via Riot Games/Flickr (Licensed)
Bathed in the lights of the stage at TwitchCon, Marcus “Dyrus” Hill has just won the first game in a showmatch in front of thousands of viewers in the convention hall and online. His biggest fan on this particular day, however, is watching from a couch at the back of the stage.
After Dyrus wins, Shaquille O'Neal, the NBA legend, walks up behind him and slaps him on the back, picking up his fist and pumping it up into the air. The former TSM League of Legends pro just retired from esports last year. This is his life now. You could say it's going pretty well.Dyrus operates at a more relaxed level than the average person. From taking his time to walk through a crowd, his 7-foot frame towering above most of the masses at the San Diego Convention Center, or answering a question in his slow, soft-spoken voice, everything he does is calculated, with a purpose.
The 24-year-old played League professionally for over five years, signing with Team SoloMid as a top laner in 2012. He’s at TwitchCon working on his new career. Like a number of retired pro players, he's making the switch to full-time streamer, going from millions of viewers on stage to creating their own community of millions online.
Retiring from pro play is not an easy decision to make, but one Dyrus did with determination in October 2015. His retirement interview on stage at Worlds, after his team was eliminated from the competition by LGD Gaming, was one of the most affecting speeches in League broadcast history. Now, almost a year later, he has over 1.1 million followers on Twitch, with almost 650,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.
Dot Esports sat down with the famously laconic Dyrus on Sunday morning at TwitchCon, where he opened up about his League career, Worlds predictions, what life is like after pro play, and what it was like to compete in the Bud Light showmatch alongside Shaq and Snoop Dogg.
How did the showmatch go?
Shaq was really, really cool. He was very active. When I won the first game he came up and gave me a shoulder rub, which was very surreal for me because it's Shaq, and he asked me "how should I win this?" because he's playing a game he doesn't know about, and I don't either. But I won the thing before him and I was on his team, so we tried to help each other out.
I think Shaq's controller was broken, he was just like "what am I doing?" and the entire time he couldn't figure out which character was his, and neither could I because I have no idea what I was doing. It was really fun. Shaq actually won one of the matches where we were playing Rocket League, he actually scored the goal and I told him, "Hey Shaq, you scored the goal, we won." I don't think he realized, but he was like, "Oh, yeah!" So me and him won and then they handed me the 2016 Bud Light ring, they said it had diamonds in it, it looked really nice.
I got to get a picture with Snoop Dogg, he was really funny. When he lost one of the matches he was like "This is bulls**t," in his Snoop Dogg voice, and he actually got his own ring, because, you know, it's Snoop Dogg.
Who is going to win Worlds?
I want TSM to win Worlds, but I think that ROX Tigers and SKT are favored. But I really do want TSM to win.
What were your thoughts on TSM this split overall?
With the addition of Biofrost—I don't think Yellowstar was quite the problem—I feel like every time a new member joins a team the motivation goes up, and the motivation of the team, working together and doing things, is really important. For example, every time a member was replaced on TSM I felt more motivated, because it would be wrong for you to replace a member and then start doing worse. Now, it would be ok to do worse at first, because that's understandable, but over time some of your fans are going to be like "what's the fix?" and they look for the nearest scapegoat.
When Yellowstar was replaced it feels like they got motivated again and so they started to work better as a team as time went on. I think the best-of-three format made them really good together. They only lost to one team [Phoenix1 in week eight], and I made a bet on that and I lost my hair, so I bet that I would shave my head if they lost to this team, because someone questioned my faith in TSM. So I was like, "You know what, they would never lose this," and then they lost. I’ve already done it [shaving his head], it’s already growing out.
What do you think TSM’s chance is?
North America it's basically all TSM anyways, I would say maybe like 10 or 15 percent. It sounds really low, but if you look at the number of teams that's actually a pretty good chance. Now that they've won two games it might have gone up a little bit, but they are the best hope for NA right now.
I feel like last year our chances of winning, much less getting out of groups, was less than 10 percent because our team synergy was bad, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of things just did not go our way, so we couldn't perform on stage.
This is the best TSM we've ever seen and the meta favors—it's not super complicated where it favors the Koreans, where they're better at two-versus-one macro. One of the reasons why it was so difficult for me is because my mentality was just crushed by the two-versus-one macro, and now that it's just one-versus-one, if it's a test of individual and team play, I feel like the current TSM is very, very good at that.How do you think Biofrost has been holding up under the pressure of being in the LCS for the first time and now through to Worlds?
I think he handled the pressure on stage really, really well for LCS. But as for Worlds, he's looking more like a rookie, I think the pressure is kind of getting to him and I think that might be also affecting Doublelift, vice versa.
Doublelift kind of has to lead him as the veteran player. Something that I failed to do in the last year while I was still playing pro was, being the veteran player on the team, you kind of have to drag everyone along with you and work together, and if you don't it's just going to hurt the team little by little. Because it looks like Sven and Bjerg are doing really, really well, and Hauntzer is doing really well, so if the bottom lane can just fix their minor problems, it should be good.
Do you think EU has any chance?
I thought G2 was going to do a lot better, I'm really surprised that some of the Wildcard teams were doing really well, and it's really good to see them do well because usually you write them of as, "Oh it's a Wildcard team, it's a free win," but they're actually pretty good, one of them beat EDG. It's looking rough for EU, but I've seen from last year that anything can happen.
What does a day look like for you now?
I wake up, sometimes I take a shower the night before or in the morning. My girlfriend actually makes me food, the other day before we left for the convention she made me ribeye steak and eggs and that was really good.
So after I eat, if I do eat, I stream from 10am to 6pm, that's what I'm trying to do because my schedule can be very random. After streaming I look over my social media, YouTube, talk to my editor, my manager, figure out what I can do to maximize what I'm doing, do I need to post any photos, do I need to take any photos, maybe I should look into doing another project for video, and after that I play some Hearthstone, a little bit of Overwatch, and I just play other games in my off time.
The only time I do play League in my offtime is to keep my accounts in Challenger, because no one is going to want to listen to a washed up player who is not even in Challenger. I mean, there still are, but it gives me some credibility as someone who doesn't play pro anymore, it's the only thing I can really strive for in League. Since I'm very lazy at teaching and I just want to chill and have fun with my viewers, I don't really have that much more to offer other than my personality.
That’s a long streaming schedule
Yeah, it's basically the bare minimum, some people stream for six hours. When I was a pro player I used to play for like 12-14 hours of League, whether it's on-stream or off-stream. When I first started streaming out of being pro, it would be like 10-12 hours, and I was like, "Oh, this is pretty easy, just chilling," that's still most of my day, basically. And so my mom told me that I should slow down and not do so many hours, so I tried to go down to 8 hours, that way I don't get burned out from streaming.
What is the biggest difference between being a pro player and streaming?
The mental stress is a lot less, because you don't have the pressure of performing on stage. I was on TSM, which had the most eyes on them, and they [the fans] are always looking for a scapegoat. But as a streamer, there's none of that. You just kind of play to have fun, and there may be some bad moments where it's League of Legends solo queue. Everyone's been toxic once in a while, I've had my moments, and sometimes I'll have moments where it's just an awful experience for me and viewers like to watch it.
It's not less amount of time put in, it's that you get to choose what you do when it comes to your streaming schedule. For example, as a pro player you'd be playing a certain amount of time, but the thing is you don't get to control anything that happens. Like, if something comes up with sponsors you don't have a choice, you just have to be ready to do it and be ready to adapt.
And on the pro stage your free time isn't used for yourself as much, it's to watch other people play League and try to figure out what you're doing wrong. The people that put more time, work, and effort in are usually going to come out on top. And that also comes with working together for your team, you're stuck with your current team so you have to make the best of it. It can either be a great experience, or if you don't get along it can be an awful experience. But alone it's a lot different, it's just a lot more flexible.
What's it like going to League events as a former pro player?
I usually enjoy watching online more than being there, because I feel like I should always be doing something for my brand. I'm always in the mindset of, "How can I get more popular, how can I make my fans happy, and if I'm not growing what am I doing wrong?" so just listening to constructive criticism and trying to think of ideas.
As for going to these pro events, I've never been someone that likes to watch other people, I'd rather be up there playing myself. I'm kind of one of those people that is like, "I don't want to watch this guy, I'm not playing," unless it's like a favorite team, I do like watching TSM because they're my previous team and I want them to do well, but I will probably only go to Worlds finals if TSM is there.
I most likely wouldn't care unless C9 or CLG were, but it's kind of painful to watch other teams other than the one you were previously on, because when they win it's like, "They did what no one else could do!" And it hurts. Every Worlds that I've failed or dropped out of, when the teams are playing, I did not ever watch the full finals, it was just too painful to watch. It might have been better for me to watch it so I could use it as motivation, but you know, I just didn't want to watch it.
How do you bounce back from something like that?
There's been a lot of times in my career where I've been killed the first time on the map. I've had a reputation for tilting I feel like some people see the definition of tilting wrong, but every time I do bad it just seems like the appropriate word for it.
For me, it was just resetting my mindset and trying to tackle my pro play from a new perspective, and sometimes I would get really, really good at the game. But my problem is my efficiency, I couldn't keep it up. Other people were always a step ahead, whether they were putting in more time or more efficient work hours, it was very rough for me where I put as much time as I could in, and I tried to figure out everything I could do, but I wasn't able to do it. So that's when I decided to step down.
Once I did step down I realized a lot of things, outside of being a pro, of what I could have done. And now sometimes I pass some of those tips to the current pros, where I never drank coffee before, I think that would have helped me a lot. If I would've got a back massage, one of the times I got a back massage and I was like, "Wow, I feel like I'm so good at League now because I don't have all these knots in my back, the pressures," so there's a lot of these little tips and tricks. And I feel like the current coach, Weldon [Green], does that really well.
Do you think with the traditional sports investment into the scene, it will help players be better at the game?
I think cooks is a definite plus, but it's not needed. A lot of pros either order food, or they have a cook. As for a psychologist, I think it would be extremely useful. I probably could have used a lot of different resources, because all that burden is on one or two people, the analyst and the coach. People from the NBA that are funding it [esports] that can provide all of that, and have all the experience with sports, could really elevate the pro play.
What do you think of Riot introducing crowdfunding for the LCS next year?
Anything that goes into the LCS and pro players is great in my book, we'll take anything honestly.