When Fnatic picked up a little known League of Legends team from myRevenge in March 2010 a lot of heads turned. It was one of the earliest instances of a competitive gaming team picking up League of Legends in their organization. With the game at such an undeveloped stage some doubt was cast over what the future would bring for the players and Fnatic. Sporting a 7 man lineup the team had a lot of personal conflict going into DreamHack, which at that time was the biggest League of Legends event.
The weeks before the event were spent looking for stability in the midst of practice. Eventually the team came up on top winning $50,000 for their efforts and found a lineup which would stick together for years to come. From this prologue begins our journey with Enrique Cedeño-Martinez, better known as “xPeke” to the community. He has been that cornerstone of the team from the start. The 19 year old hailing from Spain believes he is living a dream.
“Since I started playing at the age of 10 I was watching replays or tournaments from big teams like Fnatic, SK, MYM and I always dreamed about joining one of them but never believed I could.”
The team achieved a lot of overnight success with their runaway performances at all 2011 events. “I guess that the year 2011 got us a lot of fame since we won many big tournaments and placed 3rd when we did not win. It is not like I am as famous as other players but at events more and more people know or recognize me,” says Cedeño-Martinez who plays one of the most important roles in the game - the AP Carry. When it comes to the main team fights he has to ‘carry’ his team to the podium. Obviously, that thrusts a lot of weight on his 19 year old shoulders, but the Spaniard revels in challenges that are presented to him.
“You need to know that no matter how good you are, you are not going to be able to win always. Many people quit or stop focusing on getting good when they lose a couple of matches. To get to a pro level you will need to lose quite a lot of matches. You also need a team that you have fun playing with and that's the most important part for me.”
The word pro gamer gets thrown around a lot. Many players fancy themselves to be pro gamers even if they are not entirely devoted to the game. “Yes I consider myself a pro gamer,” says Cedeño-Martinez. “As soon as you can earn money and be recognized by a big part of the community I think you can call yourself a pro gamer.” Wise words from the boy who started gaming at the tender age of 10, playing immortal games such as Counter Strike and WarCraft 3 with friends.
Many gamers in the West are yet to make the transition to “full time” eSports, but for those lucky few who have the luxury of playing the game they love 24/7 there are still some who cannot afford to go full time into eSports. Cedeño-Martinez, who studies at university and simultaneously plays League of Legends, believes he can strike that balance.
“I took only two classes this year instead of ten so I only have to go one day a week to university. This allows me to continue my studies,” says Cedeño-Martinez who still feels he has committed a lot to the game. “I think I have, but that is also because unlike other people that can focus and schedule their times, when I do something I like to do it with 100% concentration, so I had to adjust my schedule at university a bit.”
Cedeño-Martinez states that his days are fairly unconventional. Most people probably assume he leads a rock star life being so famous on the Internet, but he insists that reality is different.
“Normally I wake up and have breakfast while watching TV or reading news on the Internet. I prefer not playing games till after 2 pm. Then I can just sit on the PC and play all afternoon until I get dinner. Weekends are slightly different since I stop playing earlier to go out unless we have some tournaments,” says Cedeño-Martinez who invests anywhere between 6-8 hours a day playing the game.
For the amount of time pro gamers like Cedeño-Martinez invest the right kind of equipment makes the difference and this is not just from the mouse to the mousepad but more importantly to the laptop and the monitors being used.
“I think the best way to compare it is thinking about them like cars. If you have a bad car it can take you anywhere, you are used to it and there will be problems from time to time. If you have a Mercedes of course you will not have any problems. It is more comfortable and you can always rely on it and it will never stop working unlike a cheap one,” says Cedeño-Martinez who uses an EIZO monitor that he admits has helped him a lot with his game thanks to the clarity and precision of colors on the screen.
Investing in so many hours cannot be that easy, especially for a person so young. Cedeño-Martinez admits that at the start his parents were quite wary of his gaming hours.
“At the beginning of course they didn't like it that much since it was taking time from my studies. But now that I have a chance to travel around the world while also earning some money they allow me to do it way more and support me a lot as well.” Cedeño-Martinez's parents were so excited about their son that they even made a trip to Intel Extreme Masters, New York (2011) to watch him in action.
Obviously life on the competitive path is well, hard. Sometimes the team wins tournaments; sometimes a team crashes out of a tournament. Their last outing at CEBIT in Germany was not so successful but Cedeño-Martinez is optimistic about the future.
“I think at this level you lose a game largely due to small mistakes. There are not too many differences between the teams at this level and so if you make a small mistake the other team takes advantage of it and that snowballs out of control.” He maintains that they are a stronger team on LAN than online. “The difference we have is we don't let those [small] mistakes happen when we are offline, we are really focused on playing perfectly.”
The team will be soon aiming to leave their mark in South Korea as they will be participating in the OGN League of Legends Championships. Sporting almost $200,000 in total prize money, the chance to play on television in Korea is an opportunity few receive but Cedeño-Martinez and his team will be cautious about their Korean expedition.
“I always feel a lot of pressure and I think any human being does before playing any important match. Even if you do feel super confident you always feel that pain in the belly before starting a game.”
He believes Korea will definitely make the team stronger, with the kind of competition they will face, living in a new environment and staying at the newly formed Fnatic Korean team house along with the StarCraft 2 team.
“It is slightly different when you are playing an international tournament, when you play outside your comfort zone - your nerves take over you and sometimes you face people you are not used to playing so you are always scared that they might do something you have never played against before. At this point it is important to fight and not let that fear take control of you,” says Cedeño-Martinez as he signs off in preparation for another match.