One of the most prominent names in League of Legends streaming, Marcus "Dyrus" Hill made a name for himself as a legendary top laner in North America. Before his retirement at the end of the 2015 season, Dyrus had attended every World Championship, attending the Season 1 World Championship on Epik Gamer and Team SoloMid the following four years. Speaking with theScore esports, Dyrus talked at length about the strain of being a professional player and what North American teams need to do to become international threats.
What are the differences between being a streamer and a pro?
The thing about streaming and being a pro is it's not about having more time to yourself, it's about how much time you actually put in to it. Streaming and YouTube can be just as time consuming as being a pro, it's just being a pro can be a little bit more stressful because you're expected to perform.
What are your thoughts on the state of the game?
Since I left ... it seems like the same stuff every year. Maybe different rosters, I guess this year there's more Korean imports, [but] it's just the general idea of League of Legends every year. Koreans dominating, China's runner-up, and Europe and North America are always fighting for third. But then there's like the other regions that are also really good, too.
At the start of the season, it's always exciting because there's all these roster changes and it's like, "Oh wow, this is a dream team, they're going to be so good!" And then it goes toward the end of the year and it's like, "Oh wait, they're not that good, they can't make their team godly just because of one or two players. It's actually a team game." It's just a cycle of new fans coming in and saying dumb stuff and older fans seeing it's the same stuff. The only time anything exciting happens is either when it's a roster change or it's the quarters, semis and World Finals.
Right now, the stereotype for that is World Finals is probably going to be Korean versus Korean teams so people kind of — for me, it just feels the same. I enjoy watching some of the matches, I enjoy watching TSM and supporting them because they're actually so good as a team right now, so it makes me really happy that all the things I've done in the past have built up as a learning experience for what they have today, but it's just kind of weird watching instead of playing.
What are your thoughts on Doublelift coming back to competitive play with Team Liquid?
I think what he did was very smart. It was good for me because me and him stream at the same time but, at the same time, I should still just compete with myself for streaming. I think that, if he does carry Team Liquid, that raises his net worth as a player — [his success] wasn't just a fluke because he was on TSM with four other really great players. It doesn't mean he can't join Team Liquid. If he can shot call or maybe if it was the coaching, I guess we'll see within the next two or three weeks. But, if he wins, then when he decides to come back to pro play, which is what he's expressed in the past, he'll have more leverage. I'm sure that will probably affect his salary and affect what he wants in a team for him to try to succeed in his interests.
Is there anything that could bring you back to professional play?
When I first started into the pro scene I was like, "Wow, I get to play against all these good players, I get to improve, I get to have so much fun, I can practice with my team." But over time, it just became the same thing every year without actually succeeding at winning the whole thing. Whether the region was too weak or we couldn't learn fast enough or you know, something went wrong in a high-pressure situation it was just something that wasn't for me after a while. So, I would probably never go back unless my streaming career died.
Burnout is more of a topic nowadays as the LCS gets older. Do you think the stress felt by a professional player allows for a long career?
My problem as a pro player was that I started when it wasn't like this super serious thing. We would stream scrimmages. We just went to out first gaming house, we didn't know how big League was going to get. It was just for fun then it turned into something serious where it's like, "Alright, we're going to work hard to win Worlds." ... So I transitioned from some random kid playing solo queue on stream to an actual pro player. I didn't even realize I was a pro player until Season 3 ... It became a legitimate thing where LCS and League and Twitch viewership was a big thing, where if you're successful and you do good you can make a lot of money.
It went from fun to serious to way too serious to the point where I was... Basically, what happened for me, I would practice really hard and get really good and then I'd be like, "I'm pretty damn good, I'm going to go play some Counter-Strike in my off time." A good example of that was last last year, MSI in Florida where we won IEM before that and then we went to MSI. I played more Counter-Strike than I played League.
After we lost at MSI, I played an unreal amount of League. I got really good again, and what happens when you put too much time into League is you get really good and when you become really good at the game, you expect your teammates to do the same. So what would happen on TSM is I'd be doing really good in practice and I would expect my teammates to do certain things and when they didn't I would get upset and that would lead to arguments, passive aggressive remarks. That's where coaching would come in, that's when player synergy comes in, working as a team. I was the kind of person where, if I was the oldest person on the team, then I probably wouldn't be doing too good because I'm not too good in a leadership role. I wasn't able to lead my fellow teammates and so that leads to being burnt out — why even try?
It's just a really, really hard grind and I feel like with different people or different aged teammates or a different aged coach it would be different for me, but overall there just needs to be a really balanced system and the player has to want to play.
If you would have had that support, do you think you would you have remained a player for longer?
The thing is, I played the game for so long that I don't really, I didn't feel the motivation to go for it again because I've tried so hard so many times. It doesn't always work out the way you want.
Another example of that is, so Doublelift is one of those players that has played as long as me. But the difference between me and him is that I've gotten to go to Worlds more and he's been on more unsuccessful teams and he hasn't been expected to perform at the very top for every single year while the team I was on always had the best players, always was the best team in NA except for that one time Cloud9 came on top.
I burned out from every time that I went to Worlds. I was always trying to practice hard and I was always trying to do my best but I always choked in the end because, there's always a lot of unforeseen and unlucky circumstances that happened. But, I never talk about it because it looks like excuses and it just looks bad so, I mean, I would just have to work harder and make it work. So after all the times that I've went, it's just the one time I took a break which was after Season 4, which was probably my best season, I became really bad at the game because I completely stopped playing League for two weeks then I had to relearn it and for that year, it was just awful for me. I just was like, "Alright, I can't do this any more." Because it's just too taxing mentally and I need to have a different kind of lifestyle.
I feel like if I went back to pro play today, I would not burn out as easily because I'd probably have a mindset and goal but I don't think I would do it for very long. I'd probably just do it for like one or two years.
Do you feel that support staff will help players pursue a pro career in esports?
Any kind of help, whether it's a coach, or analyst, or just having someone giving them a second opinion or reassuring them of their confidence — it would definitely, 100 percent help. The thing is, TSM always offered that but the players themselves don't even know if they need it or not.
When I was on TSM it was like, "Alright, if you guys need a psychologist or whatever you need, we'll provide it." But the thing is, as a player, I didn't even know what I wanted so I think any kind of support helps. It's not only how much you want it but how comfortable are you with your team? Whether everyone speaks English or everyone shares the same views for having fun and stuff. Getting along is super important because when things come down to the wire and it's super high pressure, that's going to mean a lot when you know you can have each others' backs so definitely, any kind of support really, really does help.
What do you think the NA teams need to do in order to catch up to Korea?
I feel like Korea is starting to implement subs more, and I feel like North American teams don't put every single bit of resources into trying to win Worlds. I feel like a lot of North American teams are there just for the benefit of being a pro team and that, while they do want to win, it's not on the same level as in Korea. Korea's just had a better infrastructure for a long time because they had StarCraft back then. I can't really say for sure on why just because of the players and infrastructure, there's so many things that people can blame.
Honestly, if I knew the solution then we probably wouldn't even be having this conversation and even if the solution is known, it's just business for a lot of people, you know?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Interview conducted by Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales. You can follow him on Twitter.
Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.