As the only orgless team to compete in the ESL Impact League Season 3 Finals, North America’s Shimmer had a tough road ahead of them. Not only did they have to face the two of the world’s best teams from the outset, they had to do so with little practice reps under their belt.
In an interview with BLIX following the team’s first match against Nigma Galaxy, Shimmer’s Lisa “lisa” Nguyen explained the rocky road the team endured in the leadup to the event in Dallas, Texas. On top of already being an independent team in a region like North America, lisa and the Shimmer squad essentially saw every scrim request they relayed to other teams within the region get denied.
Despite the circumstances, the team persevered and sought to represent NA in the best way they could, although their journey ultimately ended after their loss to FlyQuest RED in the Group B Decider Match. Still, the team gained crucial experience being in an in-person LAN, which will help them contend for future events.
Taking in the sights and sounds of Dallas
Pedro Romero, BLIX: To start, welcome to Dallas. I believe it's your first-ever appearance in an Impact League Finals event. With the first series down in the books against Nigma, how are you taking in the scenes of being in a LAN?
Lisa "lisa" Nguyen: Honestly, it feels a little unreal. I've never played in a LAN before and there's just so much going on. It's so loud and there are so many people. We're all having fun and we're all doing our best so it's been good.
BLIX: I want to cover the first match you played in this event which included Nigma Galaxy. How was this team approaching this kind of series against the best team in the world?
lisa: We watched a lot of demos and we talked a lot about their playstyles and we were trying to anti-strat them. Compared to our practice, they did what we thought they would do, but for me personally, the nerves got to me. In the beginning, I was having audio issues so it kind of freaked me out a little bit because I thought if that was what I was going to hear for the rest of the game. My anxiety got really bad and I couldn't focus as well, but I think we tried our best and it's okay because we're going to go to the next [match] better prepared.
BLIX: Certainly, it was a different ballgame when you compare playing inside your home with your regular equipment and playing in an actual event. Was dealing with the equipment and your mental the only issues you had to deal with so far in this event or was there anything else besides that?
lisa: I feel it's the mental regarding the experience of getting [those nerves] out of the way. The equipment is different. The setup is different. I have cameras pointing at me. I can hear the noises around me. Even with the noise-canceling headphones, it's just so loud in here. I have people looking at me, I have the noise, the speakers of the casters were right there next to us so it was extremely loud. I tried turning up my volume but I don't know. *laughs* It's just a lot different compared to being at home where you're in your room and it's quiet. Having to play with a different setup and so much distractions like the noise from the people and the cameras makes it so different.
The story of Shimmer
BLIX: Looking at the history of this team, it was formed back in February to compete in ESEA and qualify for the Season 3 NA Division — which you did. How exactly did Shimmer come together?
lisa: I met abby and Vanessa on Please Send Bocks. I had parted ways with Saints and then they were looking for a new fifth so I joined. After we lost to EG Gold at the time, in which empathy was on that team, I think we didn't take the loss well and one of our teammates parted ways and it just broke apart after that. We were just looking for a team and then abby and Vanessa joined a different team and I was just playing casual CS. Then when that didn't work out with that new team, empathy parted ways with EG so we thought we could try with this team and see how it works.
It was me, abby and Vanessa since we had already played together and then empathy, who's a friend of abby, thought she could try. I think abby and empathy were friends with Lx_ and invited her to try out. We all just kind of clicked and we did a lot of scrims in practice and it went off from there. I don't remember the exact date but we did form it this year. For the past few months, we played many ESEA Cash Cups together and we just stuck until now where we're here.
BLIX: Looking at the team, empathy previously played with EG Gold and Lx_ played in Valorant for Gen.G Black. How has their past experience with other teams helped you improve as an individual?
lisa: I've never really played on a team. My first team was Saints. I think we all help each other with a lot of things. There are different things to learn from each other and we take criticism so well that it's such a good environment [to be a part of]. It makes me so happy because, in the past, I've been on teams where it didn't have the best environment for me since there was a lot of clashing of ideas on how to play the game. However, on this team, a lot of the time, we always agree on everything. They help me and I help them. I don't have a lot of team experience but I've played a lot to have an idea on how things should just play, I guess.
BLIX: How has snav's contribution been as the head coach? What are the kind of ideas he brings to the team in terms of strategies and gameplay?
lisa: I think he's a great coach. He has a lot of experience and has been playing for a long time. If we ever need a demo, he watches each person and gives them tips, advice, and a different approach on what they could have done and what they did wrong. He anti-strats other teams for us a lot. He writes papers and papers of what they do and what we should do to counter them.
BLIX: In being in this particular environment, with various other international teams, what’s been your biggest takeaways from observing these teams that you can use for your and the rest of the team's playstyle
Lisa: Looking at the other international-level teams, they have so many events and there are so many teams [in each region] where there's a lot of competition. But then in NA, I feel we only have Cash Cups and Impact and there's not many girls to play against here. For [the international teams], I just see more experience in playing big events and it shows a different type of composure. For me, it's my first time here so I was nervous but I feel [the other teams] came here and were ready.
For example, this isn't the first time for Nigma. They're ready and they know what they want to do. After this first game, I feel I want to be like them. I want to be ready for the next game. Even though the next game is going to be my second-ever game, I'm going to try my best. I think I'm starting to get the feel of it but I just want to be as confident as [Nigma] and just be as ready as they are. We try to play in other events in NA but I honestly feel like there's not much for girls.
Looking at NA women’s CS
BLIX: It's been similar to a revolving door when it comes to looking at NA's history in the Impact League. Besides CLG Red (now FlyQuest RED) regularly appearing in these events, we've seen other orgless teams make their own appearances like Saints, Please Send Bocks and you all. How do you view the current state of NA women's CS with the Impact League entering its second year?
lisa: There's not as many girls that play competitively compared to EU, I feel like, and I think it's because of the lack of orgs. A lot of girls tend to give up because they want to get signed and make it to the top, but there's not a lot of backing for that. There's not a lot of events. There's no push and I think, for a lot of girls, there's not a lot of experience. There's just no orgs here to really support them, but at the same time, I have seen a lot of girls try to compete still. There's even some girls that still play the Cash Cups even though they didn't qualify to Impact in NA, but there weren't lots of teams that could qualify to play for NA, and for LAN, there's only two spots available. We lack experience a bit compared to EU.
In EU, there are so many people that can help [teams]. They try hard in scrims. People are communicating the things they need to do. Over here in NA, in pugs, I get teammates that don't comm and I get teammates that just run in, not talk and do the funniest things for no reason. We barely get scrims. For the past week, I could not schedule a single scrim because it's playoff season now and a lot of teams don't even scrim. Before this LAN, we were trying to get some scrims in on the maps we want to play, but we couldn't even do that. In EU, there's always a reason to scrim because you can always prepare for next season.
It's a way different experience because here, I'm level 10 on FACEIT and rank G and I get teammates that are C's and level six or seven that don't talk especially because I'm a girl. I'll talk and they'll be like, 'oh, you're a woman. I don't want to comm.' I'd ask for a gun and he won't even drop me a gun. It's so hard! I just try and want to play.
I want to practice and I can't get that and I feel the international teams have so much more than NA. They take it so much more seriously, but at the same time, you can see way more orgs in EU than there are in NA. Most of the NA orgs only want Valorant teams. They're not really looking for a CS:GO team especially in Impact. They just want Valorant.
BLIX: With all that said, what keeps you continuing to play CS with this environment in NA being as it is right now?
lisa: I believe there's always a chance that maybe someone is keeping an eye on us. Who knows? But personally, for me, I just love CS:GO so much. I'm literally addicted to the game and I think the rest of my team are as well. We don't sleep for CS:GO sometimes. We have so much hours in this game and we just love it so much. We're so passionate about it that it keeps us going. We want to do something that we love.
I know some of us are busy and yet we're still playing. We're still practicing every night or some of us even, for Season 3, have actually quit their full-time job just to play. We all believe in a chance that maybe someone is going to look for us. I'm in nursing school and I'm still practicing every night even after classes.
lisa and Shimmer exited the ESL Impact Season 3 Finals after two tough losses to Nigma Galaxy and FlyQuest RED.