In the second part of BLIX’s interview with Counter-Strike player Ramona "GFi" Azween during the ESL Impact League Season 3 Finals, she talks about the main reason why she plays the game and continues to do so as a professional and her thoughts on potentially continuing her career in CS2. If you missed part one, you can read it here.
BLIX: When it comes to developing and evolving as a player, what was the most important thing that evolved for you throughout your career?
GFi: I've never said this before in an interview, so I'm gonna give you the most inside scoop. I'm never a gamer. I grew up with two brothers. I'm the youngest in the family. When you grow up with two brothers, it's always competitive. If you want to play something, you have to fight for it, so that's always been competitive. My second brother is the one that taught me how to play Counter-Strike 1.6. I hated playing it. I'm like, 'Oh my God. I can't play it because I'm so bad at it., and I played it because he loves it. He loves it so much to the core of his bones, so I played it every day with him.
In 2007, he passed away, and I stopped playing games because for me, I feel I've done everything in my life for him. For me, I felt I didn't need to play, and I didn't need to do all this gaming stuff because I only did it for him. But I felt empty, so it took me about two years to realize that. I couldn't be sad. I couldn't tell my mom because if I lost a brother, she lost her son. It's hard, you see? How can you tell your mom that you miss your brother? So it was hard, and I knew that we needed something. I needed something, so it was CS. I decided to tell myself sometimes we're here for a reason and not for ourselves but for other people. We just don't realize that. For myself, I thought, 'why not?' If he was not given the time—and again, I talk about time—I was given the time for a reason. I didn't have a reason. I found one, and that is to play CS for him.
GFi on CS: “My second brother is the one that taught me how to play Counter-Strike 1.6. I hated playing it. I'm like, 'Oh my God. I can't play it because I'm so bad at it., and I played it because he loves it. He loves it so much to the core of his bones, so I played it every day with him.”
So I said, 'Okay, fine. I'm gonna try,' so every single game of CS—matches, maps, tournaments, helping the community, myself, whoever, whatever—has always not been for me. It has been for him, and that is the reason that nobody knows in the world why I'm so blessed. People look at me and say, "Oh my God, you're 100%. You're like a superhero." I'm not. Ninety-nine percent of human beings would say, 'I choose left' or 'I choose right,' and right is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Doing the right thing is the hardest thing, but I don't have issues with that because of the way he brought me up as a brother.
He was not given enough time to live—and he knew that—and he still lived life. I can't imagine… how hard it is to know that you have this much timeline in your life and you could still live your life to the fullest and not want people to feel sad for you. So I'm here, well and healthy. I could do anything, and I could go anywhere else. I'm in the United States of America playing CS, the dream thing that every gamer in this world would want to have, and I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for him. I'm doing it for my mom. I'm doing it for everyone that is not as fortunate, and if there is any way that I could help anyone, I would choose to help.
It's not because I'm a great person. It's because of how he was for me, so CS has never been about what I want to achieve or how I want to present myself. It has always been for others, and he was one of the reasons. So I still play this game, not for myself but for him. It's to know that if he would have been here, if there would be any choice for him to be doing, he would do CS, and why not?
You only live once, and you want to live it with some meaning that you know that if it's the last day you have to spend on Earth, you have lived your life the way you should be living it, you know? It's what you choose. So, for me, it has always been about him, and I will keep continuing for him. But there's always an exit when it comes to sports. I can't be doing this forever, and that's what I always tell the girls.
GFi: “I'm doing it for him. I'm doing it for my mom. I'm doing it for everyone that is not as fortunate, and if there is any way that I could help anyone, I would choose to help.”
And that is why, if they want to be able to continue the legacy in Asia, they will be the faces that you see who are playing with me right now, and one of them is olga. She's not even Asian. She's South American, but she's very Asian right now because she learns so fast. She can speak, like, a bit of Chinese. She can speak a little bit of Malay. She's very curious. You see, when someone is curious, it's very good because they want to know stuff. She's a very good example of the people that are going to be pioneers in the future, and she's South American. She's going to be showing how it's supposed to be done in Asian CS, and that is something very significant that HSG and my boss has brought up.
To play CS2 or not to play CS2?
BLIX: I appreciate you talking about this with me. Looking ahead to the future, CS2 is going to come up, so have you thought about continuing your career as a player in that game or anything like that?
GFi: Every single player has their plans, but for me right now, it's more towards my boss. I'm 34, and I'm very fortunate that I'm still able to play and compete [at] this level and in my region, where esports and especially CS is not that huge. I have a very good boss who makes sure if I want to retire or leave, it has to be on my own terms. Not everyone is given that opportunity to retire on their own terms. Some people, they are forced to retire early, and others want to retire because there's nothing there for them.
But for me, he makes sure of that, and I'm very blessed and very lucky. As for myself, it's CSGO’s last year. I've not thought of it right now since I'm in Dallas and still in the tournament. Maybe we're not in a good spot yet, but we still have a chance, so I'm still going to look at that. There is no way something like this for an athlete that has been playing the game for the love of the game can be planned.
GFi on retiring: “...if I want to retire or leave, it has to be on my own terms. Not everyone is given the opportunity to retire on their own terms. Some people, they are forced to retire early, and others want to retire because there's nothing there for them.”
"By the end of the year, I'm gonna retire. Maybe I won't play CS2." You see, I don't want to say that because, at the end of the day, maybe if I want to, I should. It doesn't matter if I'm 35 and my boss said, 'CS2. I still want you to play for it if you want to,' and if I want to, I should. We shouldn't limit ourselves from doing anything, but we should know where we stand. In the time given, you might get better at doing something else, like managing a team, being a coach, or organizing an organization or community. If that is what you're good at, you should be doing that, you see? Why would I help four girls when I could help 400 girls? I would choose to help 400 girls.
For me, there's no plan. There is no map to retirement yet. I think retirement comes from that moment you know that that is what is supposed to be, and so far, after 18 years, that moment is still not there yet. You know when you lose, and you didn't perform, and you didn't even get to the level of expectations, you get those questions like, 'Should I retire? Is it my age? I'm getting so old,' but I don't call that a plan, nor do I call that negativity. I see that as doubt. We should have doubts, so when you have doubts and you think more deeply, you'll be more curious, and somehow you will find the right decision about if you're going to move forward.
So I have doubts, and my doubts are about whether I should continue playing. I try to continue playing, and if I still love it, then continue. So doubts are not negativity, you know? I've never lost a tournament or a game where I have some problems, and I'll say, 'F this. I don't want to play. I want to retire.' That word "retirement." It should be a privilege, not an abusive word. You should retire on your terms. Drop the ball, leave the arena, or hang the mouse when you're ready.