While at the League of Legends [official site] All-Star Event in Los Angeles I was able to get some time with Team SoloMid's former top laner, Marcus 'Dyrus' Hill. Dyrus has retired from professional League of Legends - for the moment, at least. You might have caught his emotional interview after TSM's World Championships exit which marked his final game as part of the roster (although he's staying with the organisation as a streamer).
But a few weeks later here he is, back on the international stage with a home crowd chanting his name as one of the fan favourites voted in to represent Team Fire at the competition. As he puts it, "it reminded me of the joys of if you do really well and make the crowd wild". But the joys are only part of the story and so I asked him to tell me about the process of retiring, what happens next and what wisdom he would pass on the players hoping to turn pro...
Pip: What made you decide this was the time to retire?
Dyrus: To be on a team such as TSM the kind of mentality you need is to go for the top and be at the top, but my mentality was that I was pretty good at the game but I was always okay with getting second place and I realised that at that point I felt like I started to hold my teammates back. When I started feeling like I was holding my teammates back I decided I should step down and give someone else a chance to be on a top-tier team.
Is there a difference between that mentality [of being okay with second place] being harmful to the team and being a helpful way of processing games where you lose?
Dyrus: It got said that apparently it affected the team a little bit. It wasn't– Like, by far it wasn't the reason we lost any of our games. But it was a thing where I said it straight with my team during bootcamp: if I'm bad I'm going to get benched anyways and I'm trying to give it all I've got. When I tried my hardest I would get really, really upset because I cared a lot and it would hurt the team more than help. I had to balance that because I was really trying hard but it was hard too because there are so many good top-laners.
Do you think there was kind of a life on-tilt aspect?
Dyrus: Yeah. It was like, I spent so much time playing League I got all the way up to rank 5 because Reggie told me to and to prove to him that I can be really good and my teammates believe that I can be really good. But I had a lot of personal issues - stage fright – there's a lot of things in the back of my head, a lot of traumas that were there throughout the years of playing League and it was really hard to get rid of, really hard to get past. Even though my teammates believed in me in the end it was really hard because I kept doing these really bad habits I had in the past. In this game you have to adapt. It's the survival environment where if you don't adapt you're going to lose.
Did you think perhaps taking a year off would have been a different way of approaching it or did you need the closure of saying you were done?
Dyrus: As it got towards the end if I played really well I was thinking about taking a year off and coming back to it and I'm still thinking about it now. Maybe if I take a year off and come back to a lower tier team and reset my mindset maybe I could do that. But it's probably better for me to try to strive to be a streamer or a YouTuber. I've always thought about it and missed [pro play] a little bit after playing at All-Stars for a day against a European team. Even though it was for fun it reminded me of the joys of if you do really well and make the crowd wild and have a lot of fun – something Huni's doing right now is what I strive to be in my career. Right now I guess I'm going to see how it will be a year from now but I will probably just be a streamer or a YouTuber.
How has the past month been for you? Has anything about the readjustment been surprisingly hard or surprisingly easy?
Dyrus: So, surprisingly I still work the same amount almost. At the same time I get to choose when to take breaks which is a really nice thing because when you're a pro player you grind, you grind… It's like, 'Oh you can have a day off this day'. Oh sure [but] I'm just going to play anyways because I've nothing better to do because I haven't planned for it, or it's like 'Oh, you have sponsor obligations.' But, as for winding down, I still played a lot at first. Like, 10 hours a day, then I kind of went down to 8 hours and then I started playing other games more. That was the unwinding process and getting into the – 'Oh, you need to upload a video of a certain amount of time, you need to get an editor, you need to get an agent, you need to get a sponsor' I just had to soak up a lot of things and I asked a lot of opinions of a lot of people.
Has it been a process of refinding the joy of gaming? Do you feel like you lost that?
Dyrus: I've lost that in League but when I don't play League for a week – it's such an addicting game even though I love and hate League of Legends that I come back to it and I start to have fun again. Playing on All-Stars made me realise how good all these players are and I could strive to be that good if I really, really put my heart and mind into it but I just didn't have the motivation. But what I do have the motivation for is to show my fans their belief is not misplaced and that I want to do an NA unranked-to-challenger and an EU West unranked to challenger to show them what it means to be a pro and what it means to be really good at the game and how to get there.
Are there many people you can go to to say 'How do I transition from pro to streamer, how do I navigate this?'
Dyrus: I asked other people that are retired like Qtpie. He streamed lot, I asked for his opinion and he told me how a lot of LCS players and pro players are really undervalued and underpaid and all that and he told me about what it means to be a streamer so I learned a lot about that. As for YouTubers, I made a couple of friends with YouTubers on my journey as a pro player, some of them really liked me, some that I was fans of. A good example was HuskyStarcraft. I asked him for Youtube advice and what I should do for Youtube, how I should proceed.
Did you ever think about walking away from gaming entirely, maybe investigating [a different profession] or college?
Dyrus: My parents always told me that maybe I should save money and go to college but at this point with a fanbase like mine it would be a complete waste and very sad thing for me to just completely walk away from it. It's already almost impossible for me to walk away from it because I'll always be very honest with my fans, very close and interactive with them. It would be a shame if I just left them alone or left them in the dark. I could never do that. I would always want to let me fans know what I was doing. That's why I stuck with streaming and YouTube and because I can't imagine myself to do anything but play videogames. There are people that play videogames as entertainers or because they're good or because they want to teach it. Since I play so much videogames I just can't – my whole life has basically been videogames.
You mentioned things you've been through on your way to this point, traumas or situations that have been hard to deal with. Has it left you in a position to give advice to people just starting out in their first team or looking to go pro?
Dyrus: There's a lot of general things I could tell a new player when they join a team. The first and foremost, most important thing to do that's not the hardest to do is become friends. When things get rough, and at a pro level it gets really tight – when things go bad you need to know you have each other's backs. If you don't have each other's backs you're going to think that maybe teammates are talking behind your back: What if you're not good enough? Do your teammates believe in you? Does your coach believe in you? Are you trying your hardest? Are you even good enough for this?
You're going to start questioning yourself if you don't have all those things you need a very solid coaching staff and an authority figure to look up to and talk to and vent to and ask advice from. You can't do this alone with this kind of job. When you go on social media and people call you bad. There's people that are – from other social media and interviewers, not you guys but just in general, like talk shows… You know in sports how people have their talk shows and they talk bad about certain players because they played absolutely horribly? There's people out there with malicious intent to hurt the pro players by just creating drama and by creating that drama it gives them revenue, it gives them attention, popularity, while the pro players just suffer because, one, they can't fight back – not all organisations will stand up for the players or when they do they just tell them to just not look at it or deal with it – 'you're pro players, this is your job.
But the reality is some people can't handle it if they see it or hear about it. Any problems that are around them are just a distraction from their main goal of being a pro player and just doing their job. For those kinds of players who are new and relatively new to hate and maybe have depression problems. Or if you're not outgoing, if you're introverted and passive – you've got to really mentally prepare yourself for that because otherwise when it happens it's not going to go well.
Do you think the community has a responsibility towards pro players, then? To really keep in mind that these are people?
Dyrus: It's a vice-versa kind of thing because us pro players were the ones who kind of built up the community when we get mad at other people in game we set an example for other people to get mad at each other when we do anything that's controversial or drama-related or talk trash... People are going to be people. You can't change every single person. It's a super popular game, you can't really control it. But what you can do is make sure that fans understand what you're doing, how you feel, ask for their opinions.
There's not much we can do about the community because our community is by far the most toxic out of a lot of communities. There's a lot of good in it, there's just so much bad. It's really hard. If you're not winning you're getting bashed on. [The community] hype up the players who are the very best and the ones in the middle that are kind of middle-ground they attack because they don't understand why things happen and there's no-one there to explain it for them, or if there are there are people that are going to act like they already know everything, that they can explain to other people – and everyone has their little groups. It's just a whole big mess.
Is it something you feel like you have any power over? How does it feel to be caught within that?
Dyrus: In this current time period yes there is stuff I can say. I could do research, I can blow it up and make it a huge deal, make a smart, objective argument for the community. But when I look at it the amount of work and stress that puts into it... I retired to get away from it not to bask in it. I think it's really unhealthy to constantly be in drama. You need a mind of steel for that kind of stuff and a real passion for that.
I'm the kind of person where if I call someone out, even if I hate them I won't hold grudges. I'll feel bad if I actually do put someone down. If I were to – just in theory - if I ever hit someone if I was mad at them I would feel bad after because that's the kind of person I am. But at the same time when other pro players are being attacked it's really hard not to have opinions about it and no matter what you say people will always call you out on stuff. I want to say stuff but I keep going back and forth and being like 'It's not worth it'. I've just got to be more mature, and if I do go through I have to put in all the work. There's no point for me to put in all the work because that's just what they want and I'd rather let someone else more qualified – even though if I do have the power I just feel like I'm not smart enough to do it properly.
Does it get to the point where the community version of you or their interpretation of games is so far from reality it doesn't bother you, it's so ridiculous?
Dyrus: All the time. It's not even just for me, it's for a lot of pro players. When they see something so outrageous they just make fun of it and move on. It's very common.
What's the All-Star like in relation to other competitions? Is there a weight off or is it still about trying hard…
Dyrus: What fun is to people is winning so they're going to try and find a mixture of both but as for the weight of pressure I really don't care because if I win or lose it's not going to matter. If I win, sure, it's a bonus – popularity, all that stuff. If I lose it's like whatever, I came here to have fun and did my best to have fun. As long as I have fun I'm the winner in the end.
Thank you for your time.