Clinton "Fear" Loomis retired at the age of 28. Not many people can say that, and Fear laughs when he thinks about it.
“Yeah, it's a little strange, but esports works a little differently,” Fear told me several weeks ago at the Northern Arena BEAT Invitational. “It's like, you retire from playing, but there's a lot of great opportunities outside of playing.”
In August, after over 10 years of professional Dota, Fear decided it was time to hang up his mouse. As the longest-serving member of Evil Geniuses, he was one of the first American players to win The International, and has placed in Top 3 at dozens of other premier and major events. He retires as one of the best and most successful players in esports history.
But Fear's not done with Dota — or EG — just yet. Since he stepped down from the roster, he has been a guiding force behind the team's latest incarnation, coaching them at the MarsTV Dota 2 League, Northern Arena and most recently The Summit 6. It's not his first time in the coach's seat; he briefly served in the role in 2014, coaching his teammates to a first place finish at The (original) Summit, as well as a strong third place at TI4.
Fear said that despite the chronic arm injury that was one of the main reasons for his retirement, he still regularly plays two games a day to keep up with the meta and remain knowledgeable. "[It's] a lot of research, a lot of just analyzing opponents," he said. "I still did it a bit as a player, but that's all you do as a coach, so it's expected that you do more of that type of work. There's a lot of analytical stuff involved. Just more work, I guess."
Fear's retirement wasn't the only big change for EG ahead of the 2017 season. Artour "Arteezy" Babaev rejoined the team for the third time and long-time captain Peter "ppd" Dager stepped down from active duty, leaving newcomer and former OG support Andreas "Cr1t-" Nielsen to lead them in-game. Working through the changes, EG won MDL, the first LAN after TI6, then placed in Top 4 at Northern Arena and The Summit.
Fear said the MDL result was a good start, though the roster changes of other teams leave him unsure of where EG stands in comparison. "Until the year settles down we're not going to know exactly where we stand, but as of right now we're definitely one of the stronger teams and the team to beat," he said.
To those who follow Fear, the announcement of his retirement this fall did not come as a surprise. His arm injury has dogged him throughout his career — as far back as March 2014, shortly after winning his first LAN, Fear had to take an extended hiatus from EG in order to recover and prepare for later tournaments. Mason "mason" Venne stood in for him at The Summit, ESL One Frankfurt 2014 and TI4, and it was only after the conclusion of TI4, where EG placed third, that Fear was able to return to the starting lineup.
"I decided to retire well before TI6. I kind of wanted to retire after TI5 but I figured I could go one more year," he told me.
Though he has had to cope with it for years, Fear still does not know what his injury actually is. “I've been to doctors and I've asked and I've never really had a direct diagnosis,” he said. “Dota's a lot of clicking — you have to click to move, you have to click everywhere. When I click too much, my hand gets swollen.”
For much of the 2015-2016 season Fear did not play his signature carry role, instead switching to the team's support position after Arteezy rejoined and Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling was dropped from the roster. While talented as a support, Fear was never comfortable in the role due to his years of practice and experience as a carry, and was overshadowed by his teammates. It was only after EG's dismal last-place finish at The Manila Major that Fear returned to playing carry — but with his final few games at TI6, he gave one of the best performances of his career. After making the first comeback from Mega Creeps at TI, EG finished third and added another $2.1 million to their already impressive career earnings.
Fear said that after TI6, a lot of people tried to convince him to keep playing Dota, but he felt stepping down was the best move for EG. He believes that the newest iteration of EG, with Cr1t-, Arteezy and himself coaching, "will do far better than any other version."
"I could still play professionally, but it's just one of those things where if you don't play consistently long enough, I don't think I'm gonna have as big of a impact for the organization as I would coaching a player," he said. "Like Arteezy taking my spot. He will outperform me in pretty much every aspect as a player, and I can just teach him the things that I bring to the game. I'm just interested in the organization growing at this point."
Fear was one of the subjects of Valve's 2014 documentary Free to Play, which focused on three players in the leadup to the inaugural International in Cologne, Germany. In the film, Fear talks about how hard it is to support himself financially, and is forced to play on an old CRT monitor.
When he retired, Fear had earned over $2 million in prize money, most of it in the latter half of his career with EG. His first LAN win came in 2014, eight years after he began playing Dota professionally.
Looking back, he's surprised at how his career turned out. "There's no way I would've predicted I would have been as successful as I was," he said. "To be honest, I am very happy with how my playing career ended. Obviously I would have wished to play longer and continue, but I have nothing to complain about, really, as far as how my career went."
For Fear, there are two victories that stand above all the rest, and neither of them were TI5. "A lot of people think it was TI but it wasn't," he said. "One of them was going to be at StarLadder, when we played Secret in a best-of-five and it went to Game 5. Obviously, it was a grudge match against Secret, as usual, and we won in Game 5. It was a very close game so that one was very memorable."
The other? EG's win at the Dota 2 Asia Championships in February 2015, 3-0 over Vici Gaming. "That was my first huge tournament win," he explained. "For me, it was kind of like TI in a way, because most of the other TI's I guess were [close to] the same prize pool. It just felt like a TI, so that win was huge for me."
Fear has always been a foundation for EG to build on, whether as carry, support or coach. While other players came and went, Fear remained. Even now that he's no longer playing, he still feels the same loyalty, and the drive to share his experience with the next generation of EG players.
“The only way I see myself leaving the team is if everything just dissolves and EG isn't a thing anymore," he said. "So I doubt it."
Preston Dosza is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.