With the VCT Game Changers APAC 2023 season starting in just about a week, a new challenger with some pretty well-known names is about to take the stage. This is Global Esports' Game Changers roster: GE Phoenix. GE Phoenix is a project that has been in the works for several months now, with Global Esports hosting open tryouts that the entire country could participate in and watch. After months of tryouts, the roster has finally been decided. FPS veterans Meow16K, Muffinloop, and Rose, who have played together on different teams in the past, will be joined by KiRi and Hyphae. All five of these players have been on different Valorant teams since the game's release and have participated in Game Changers APAC events over the past years. The roster also features Baila as the team's sixth member and substitute.
As for the coaching staff, Global Esports has gone truly global. The assistant coach is Kappa, one of their old players who had been a member of GE's pre-partnership team. For their head coach, they found someone who is good at almost everything she seems to try: a computer science student currently on the track to becoming a neurosurgeon. An Australian currently based in New York City, and a professional coach and caster both, GE's head coach is a savant: Bea "Kraif" Cross. We had a chance to chat with her in this exclusive interview about balancing life and esports, working with GE and the players.
BLIX.GG: Hello Kraif! It’s amazing to be able to interview you today. Could you give us a little background about yourself, and how you got into coaching?
Bea “Kraif” Cross: I'm still adjusting to the right schedule to be able to balance school and work. I'm still studying neurosurgery. I've been buried in books from every specialty within medicine for many years. Even while I was still in high school, I would pull up any medical textbook that I had access to from my fellows and my mentors, and I would completely annotate them to have the biggest head start ever. I was studying for the MCAT before I'd even been admitted to college. And it's been a ride where I'm completely devoted to it.
It's weird because I went into computer science originally. I would stay up until three o'clock to watch the Apple WWDC all the way on the West Coast of America while I was in Australia, and then I switched to coaching. If you had told me four or five years ago that I would be coaching a Valorant team, I wouldn't have believed you, and I wouldn't have known where to start asking questions.
I sort of started as the chief operating officer position for a Filipino organization, which was really interesting. Then I started getting into the strategic sector of Valorant, which really changed the lives of many female gamers. I started coaching to try and help them leverage their career in gaming in general, and it got to professional collegiate teams and VCT teams, and now VCT game changers. So yeah, it's been a ride!
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BLIX: Wow, you really do keep busy. How did you end up working with GE?
Kraif: I'm not going to lie, Twitter is like your LinkedIn for esports. For me, it's how I got my positions. It's how I started with Sanrios. The IGL had put out a tweet saying, "Hey, we need a coach" on really short notice. She already knew me since I'd cast some of their games before. Everything came together in a way that was really shocking for all of us, including myself. The amount of potential they had to quickly adapt and get into really, really difficult compositions and strategies in general, they had managed to adapt to very, very quickly. And I think that was just because they were very open and dedicated.
As for GE, Rushi, the founder of Global Esports, had actually put out a request for a coach. I reached out to him and said, “Hey, I'm in the middle of working with a free-agent team, but I have been speaking to a couple of orgs, and I think it would be a really good expansion to help grow the APAC scene for Game Changers.”
We have so many tournaments happening online and offline every single day in every part of the nation. There are places across the world, such as Asia, Asia Pacific in Australia (where I'm from), and India specifically, where we barely have any in-person events. There aren't as many opportunities compared to North America. So I reached out to Rushi and said, “Okay, I've got some free time.” And he was like, “Yeah, that's wonderful.”
I think they were really impressed with the resources that I had shown them of how I am as a coach and my general background. The fact that I was with Sanrios for a while had also helped because my experience is so diverse, ranging from EU to North America collegiate and Game Changers, and everything in between. This had actually worked out because Rushi had told me that it's a Game Changers team: GE’s first female roster.
BLIX: So, how exactly are you balancing esports with neurosurgery? Your schedule must be jam-packed.
Kraif: Rushi asked me the same thing. I have my priority tiers. It has really helped me properly balance my schedule. I have enough free time for school and esports, but also to be able to go out and see my friends while going to the gym. Yeah, I don’t sleep as much, but it has been really easy to adapt as needed, plus I get enough sleep as well.
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BLIX: What do you like about the APAC GC scene?
Kraif: I think it's a bit of a blessing that everyone is so close-knit in the APAC Game Changers scene. It's impressive that you can know quite a few of the players there. I even went to Twitter and followed some of my players. I noticed that I was already following them, and the fact that it's all pretty close-knit is really impressive. Having that opportunity is going to be good for growing players and helping them individually, and for sharing experiences and coming together as a little mini family in the APAC Game Changes scene. Nevertheless, I think the fact that APAC is rapidly growing is important. The state of gaming itself is expanding to viewers, with millions of viewers watching different video games at once.
It's important to take into account that APAC is one of those places that can still expand, but they haven't had as much development as North America has, because of how many resources there are there. I think specifically, Game Changers in the Asia Pacific Region will definitely be able to grow. Global Esports is able to nurture female players and bring them from the bottom straight up to the top. That's their value, right? They support players from just being in the shadows to being well-known. That's a really good value of theirs because they're able to provide resources and show female gamers who aspire to be in this field that it's possible with the right people and a family that values you, a home away from home. It's very doable.
BLIX: So when are you meeting the team, and are you joining them at the boot camp?
Kraif: I think it's going to be around June when I'll start going over just to hang out with them and see how we synergize and boot camps in general. I know VCT Game Changers APAC is going to have quite a few qualifiers, so we're going to be participating in this week's one, but also many more to come.
Obviously, I have to wrap up some stuff here for the academic year. So that's probably going to be in June when I start going over. It's a little bit daunting because I haven't really been to APAC aside from Australia, but we'll get there when we get there, as I always say. So far, it's been quite an amazing journey, you know. To be able to meet these girls in person is going to be an honor for me, and even just coaching them as such really motivates me. It's awesome to see.
BLIX: Tell us a bit more about your players and what you think about them.
Kraif: Let's start with my IGL, Rose. Rose is very eager and really honing in on that IGL role. She's analytical where possible and very forward, being able to help us all. Mind you, all these players have a little side of humor that makes everything really unforced in a way that feels natural and makes all the players feel comfortable. So, we've managed to channel that to feel like everyone is sort of a mini-family.
Muffin is my duelist/initiator. She's my flash powerhouse. Sometimes the flashes aren't quite there, but other times when they are, they're really amazing.
Everyone's slightly honing in on their roles because I have actually swapped a few that aren't in their normal role. We get there when we get there, and we're working on swapping them around as needed. There are so many extra things that they need to know when they're not in the role they're comfortable with.
We've got Meow16K, who is also my powerhouse. Let her free on Raze or Neon, and she will mow down the entire opposition. Plus, she works with everyone so well. It's just like she's always on top. She's one of the most amazing players I've seen. And of course, we have KiRi, who is very curious. I made her our info initiator and smokes player on some maps. Finally, our sentinel flex player, hyphae. We also have a substitute, Baila. They're all powerhouses, to be honest.
BLIX: What do you think makes them work so well together?
Kraif: The fact that they've known each other prior, and they have many friend groups, even outside of GE, really works for us to be able to synergize as needed. At the boot camp, I'm sure they will all be able to get along and help us get the results that we need in person even better.
As a new team, it's really important to ensure that synergy is present. Yes, you have your friend group outside of this situation, but as long as you're also synergizing in person, it makes for a really valuable experience.
BLIX: What’s something that’s important for players to learn, according to you?
Kraif: One thing that I also make sure my players learn is that they can grow as individuals. So, if there's any value in learning something in-game, I always point it out. You know, there might be something you can apply to your own life or something you can just think about as an individual.
Self reflection is a huge thing to be able to realize what we need to improve on as a team. As individuals too, there are so many performance economical strategic methods that we're using, that they're able to apply to our own lives, and that's really, really strong.
BLIX: Will GE have the team’s boot camp in Mumbai? And will you be traveling to Singapore for the VCT GC APAC qualifiers?
Kraif: So it's going to be in Mumbai. We don't plan to fly to Singapore; we're just going to play from Mumbai and use Singapore servers. The ping is not that bad, I won't lie. We're at about 40 to 50 ping. Yeah, so it's not horrible for them to use, and I think at some point we might fly out to Singapore and do some stuff just to be closer ping-wise.
But for now, being able to boot camp in Mumbai is really powerful for all of us, and for me to be able to go in a few months, it'll be a really good experience for me. To be able to get out of America and just have a bit of a new experience, and given it's in the same region as Australia roughly, I can go and see my family. So yeah, I mean, that's something. I haven't seen them in five years, so hopefully, I can catch a quick flight out there and just fly home to Australia on top of everything else.
BLIX: And how’s it been working with Kappa so far together while coaching your players?
Kraif: Together, Kappa and I have really been able to pinpoint the exact problems. And as long as we keep sort of drilling it into their brains, what's going on and how to fix them, then we've got it. And we've so far been making progress. We keep improving every time we scrim and in general every week, as long as we know as a staff how to improve whatever is wrong with each player's performance. And they can help us to work together, you know, with them extra things as needed to be able to work on their own time, as well as team time to be able to scrim together.
Something I've noticed is how Kappa pulls up the custom game and teaches the many structural parts of players, such as lineups or extra molly utility. That's really powerful because I'm on the side rendering the strategies and finding the problems to be able to fix them, giving the solution. But there are also the actual end-game mechanics, and sometimes they can't screen share. So when I need to show them how to pre-fire angles and stuff, he's able to do it so well. I think we work very well together.
BLIX: So, how do you think this roster will fare in the APAC Game Changers scene, especially considering teams like Alter Ego and X10 Sapphire are no longer together in full?
Kraif: I think only time will tell but in terms of rosters, it’s rather promising for us. We're just focusing on getting the girls into a competitive scene like Game Changers and working on our core concepts. I’m also looking at what specific teams are doing and how we might be able to counter that. I think we're going in anticipating a win. But either way, it's a learning experience that's really going to be able to benefit us and that's the big takeaway.
BLIX: How has your time been with Global Esports so far?
Kraif: It’s nice having people in the same fields as me, gaming and medicine at the same time. (GE’s founder Rushindra Sinha is also a doctor.) Yeah, so I've also spoken to the content team, we actually went out and shot me and a good friend around New York City yesterday to be able to get the announcement and the interview in. We came back to my place and managed to film the interview, which was really, really cool.
Massive props to Ishaan from the content team who managed to actually stay up all night for us to make sure that we could pull it off in New York City, it was absolutely impressive. We were pinging him expecting a response. And it was just bam, two minutes later, and I was very, very shocked. He deserves all the sleep he can get right now.
And, of course, always Vatsal who's been there for helping us with the team, you know, getting scrim setup, being able to manage all the little parts, and boot camps. You know, you can give a tribute to the founders as well, but also the brains behind most of these little intricate operations. All of the staff behind these really intricate things that you don't take a minute to glance about.
BLIX: Anything you’d like to say to the GE fans and people following the team and the scene?
Kraif: So, I’d like to say that only time will tell, right, we're just coming in. This is the first female roster that Global Esports has and it's going to take some time to refine, but so far, the results have been really promising.
I've seen that there's enough potential to be able to really work with these girls in the best way. All I'll say is not only to keep track of us but also to those aspiring to be in this field, once you take that leap it's only onward and upward. That's going to be a really powerful thing to consider, you know results will come. GE Fighting, let’s go!