Martin "Rekkles" Larsson has been a starting AD carry for Fnatic for over six splits. Some of those ended on high notes, like the team's summer 2015 campaign that saw them crack Top 4 at Worlds before a 3-0 loss to the Koo Tigers. Others, like the 2016 season, saw the team fail to make Worlds.
After Fnatic's loss to Unicorns of Love in Week 7, Rekkles posted a series of tweets that discussed how he felt about the loss and wanting to end his career on one of those high notes.
theScore esports sat down with Rekkles to ask him more about the team's struggles, the three-year contract that he has yet to sign and whether he would actually consider retirement after this split.
Fnatic is now on a two-week skid, and your last win came against Origen. You've got a couple of weeks ahead of you that your team is expected to win, so how do you maintain the right mentality in situations like that?
Basically, after we got back from the break ... we went home for a week after we played against Origen. Which, in hindsight, was quite a mistake and I went out on Twitter and said that it was one, as well. And actually I made a similar mistake back in 2014 when we were going to play All-Stars in Paris. After the split was done, we had three or four weeks before the event, and I just thought like, this was one of my few opportunities to go home, so I'm going to take it.
After that I remember that I went out and said that it was a mistake, because I ended up not catching up on the patch as well as other teams and I felt like, this time around, it was a very similar story where H2K and other top teams went to IEM, and generally just practiced and got a lot of insight on the international scene more generally. Like, how the best teams in the world play the current patch.
And we were so far behind when we got back, so we just told ourselves that there's probably going to be a lot of games right now, both in scrims and in the LCS, where we don't get the results that we want. And that might actually include playing against worse teams as well. Even though it's not a fun thing to lose against ROCCAT and Giants when you, after all, are a team like Fnatic and you're supposed to be fighting for the top spots in Europe, at least, to begin with.
I guess we kind of just accepted that the situation is what it is, and that we're probably going to drop some games, and we're focusing on just improving as much as we can for playoffs. Because even if we were to lose to ROCCAT or Giants, as long as we get a win or two we'll still be fine and still end up third in our group. We haven't put too much emphasis, and I don't think the panic has struck yet, but if we were to drop a couple of games and if ROCCAT were to win a couple, maybe we would have to reconsider our current goals.
But for now we don't really put too much emphasis on perfecting the patch or anything like that. We're just trying to work out the basics so that we can be the best team that we've been together so far, when playoffs comes around.
How did the vacation come about? Were you hesitant beforehand or did that reaction only come afterward?
We all kind of agreed that we would go home, and practice from there. So it wasn't like we were just home and not playing the game, or not talking to each other for a complete week. We actually just had two days off, I think. One of them was a travel day. We didn't really think beforehand that it would have too much of an impact, but the difference of being here and working together from the office, seeing each other on a daily basis ... to just kind of chilling at home, and everyone not giving it their all.
It just ended up with the practice not being as good as it should have been. We were just sort of playing and going through the motions. And it didn't really feel like we were getting anywhere, and that, kind of, week was wasted. When, as I said before, the other teams were improving at a much higher rate than before, because of IEM.
I've heard from a lot of organizations and players that one of the most difficult parts of the LCS system is that you get into the split, and you have to build chemistry right away. It doesn't feel like there's a lot of time to build chemistry, and in your case, you had the team basically rebuilt around you. Is it as difficult as they say to build that kind of chemistry, and could this be part of the issues we see with Fnatic?
I think it's actually really difficult to build chemistry. We were striving to get it, I guess from the base of it, because we were going for a European roster. We thought it was more likely that we would get a synergistic roster if we were to go for that, rather than just bringing in imports once again and just coin tossing if we were to get motivated Koreans that maybe were there to stay for a longer time, or if we'd just get another couple that would just pass by.
I think, in hindsight, it's actually hard to tell if we made the right choice or not. But at the time it just felt like, going through the year with Spirit and Gamsu — even though they were like legit good players in their individual roles, it just didn't work out together — we thought that, "okay, we'll just build a European roster now and we have this chemistry already from the get-go, so we can work on all the in-depth stuff, and we kind of already have the base in place."
But then, after going into the season and having some struggles and replacing a player, we had to start over, it felt like. Just as it was last year, it was us falling behind and not being able to catch up to other teams, it feels a bit similar this year. And it feels like we're always on the back foot and always a patch behind, if that makes sense. And we don't really know before other teams what is to be played, and what's actually to be done to be a top team.
Many times it feels like we're tripping on the finish line, in a way. It's definitely a frustrating feeling, especially for myself. And that's actually connected to the stuff I commented about after our game against Unicorns. I went from basically being Top 4 at Worlds in 2015, and having so many expectations going into 2016, to having a pretty lacklustre year all in all. Even though we had an IEM performance, we just really didn't reach our expectations.
And then going into another year, it's pretty much the same, it feels. It feels really tough and really frustrating, because we're all putting our complete lives into it. There's not much else to it than sleeping, eating and playing the game. So it's definitely frustrating to not feel like we're getting anywhere, or like, feel like we're getting a step ahead of the others, and always on the back foot.
This is your sixth split starting for Fnatic, and you've been with the organization a while. Certainly you have a legacy in this game, and you spoke in your comments about potentially ending on a high note. Was that just frustration on Twitter after the loss to Unicorns of Love, or are you legitimately considering retirement sooner rather than later?
Honestly, at the beginning of the year, I thought that I had a lot more to give. So I was about to sign a three-year contract, which I've actually put on hold for now because, as I mentioned as well on Twitter, I haven't been feeling that well personally. I've been having a lot of individual struggles, and a lot of this frustration that's coming from the team side of things as well, it's kind of just adding up. At some point throughout the split now, where things weren't going my way, I kind of just like, wasn't able to hold up the individual wall anymore. Usually that's how I try to explain it.
Usually how I try to see it is that there's a wall of how much I can take, as a person. And on one side of the wall there's all the team stuff, you know, like all the issues you're having as a team and how things are just generally working at your job, I guess, if you want to make it simple. And then on the other side, there's your personal life. Even though there's not much to it, there's always you giving yourself some space at times. And it felt like many of the issues that were on the team side of the wall kind of went around it, and started influencing my individual life. And I guess at that point I wasn't able to keep all the balls in the air, any more.
And I kind of went into a slight depression, I would say. I went through a similar thing back in school, where I also spoke to a therapist, and it felt very similar in many ways. And it kind of scared me, and also went as far as me putting the contract on hold, actually, because I wasn't sure if I was able to continue any longer.
Obviously I would never leave my team behind, and I would always finish this split out no matter what. Even if I were to feel the worst ever, I would still finish it out, because I wouldn't be able to live with myself, giving up on my teammates and letting them finish out the split by finding a random AD from solo queue. So that was the only thing I was sure about, that I wanted to finish out the split at the time. And I kind of just told myself that I'd do that first, and I'll just take one thing at a time. And then once the split is over, I'll reconsider if I want to continue or not.
But it's definitely getting better by the day, and I'm actually meeting up with a therapist on Thursday, which I have really high hopes for. If things go my way, I'll get out of this in one piece, and I'll actually get stronger from it. But there's always the possibility that I'm not able to pick it up again, and that's why I decided to not lock myself in under a three-year contract which I might not be able to fulfill.
But I didn't really have any plans at the beginning of the year at all, actually, at quitting. I thought I had at least three years, or even more, to give. I wanted, as I said on Twitter, to end my career on a high note, in a similar fashion to how for example our 2015 run was. And just seeing last year and this year, I don't think I'll ever feel satisfied or proud to leave that kind of mark on my career behind.
So to clarify, the three-year contract was an option at the beginning of this split, and you decided not to do it?
It still is, actually. Basically I have the contract ready to sign, because we were negotiating a lot between the seasons. Since we were home early last year we had a lot of negotiations and talks with Fnatic on what we wanted to do together in the future. And equally as much as they wanted to work with me, I wanted to work with them as well. And yet to this day I wouldn't see myself going to any other team.
Regardless of how things work out in the end, I want to continue playing for Fnatic for as long as I'm at least playing the game.
If you were given an opportunity to end on a high-note somewhere else, like a top-tier NA team or even in the LPL, would you go? Or are you determined to finish with Fnatic?
I'm pretty determined that I want to finish with Fnatic one way or another. Leaving at the end of Season 4 was a mistake as it was, and I learned from it, and I don't want to repeat it again. They have been really good to me pretty much throughout my whole career. So I don't want to let them down one more time, and I want to end things here.
But it's been a tough couple weeks for sure, and this whole three year contract has been on the table ever since, and it's still going to be on the table between the splits but I just don't want to put them in a position where I sign a contract for them, but I'm not able to fulfill it. Like I would rather talk it out again, and perhaps even shorten it to be sure that we don't end in an awkward situation where I'm not going to continue playing and they are having me under a three-year contract.
Very few players I've interviewed have been as candid about topics like depression and mindset issues as you're being right now. Is this something that players are starting to talk to each other about more? Have you spoken to other players about these sorts of things?
Not necessarily, no. I think I've just kind of matured over the years, and I feel like I'm more accepting toward the truth, these days, and toward my own feelings. Rather than, back when I started playing, where I would just kind of like force myself to feel away, rather than actually feeling the way I feel, and saying the stuff I have on my mind.
I think I just kind of matured in that way, and I feel more mature and more able to move forward, I guess, and improve. Not only on a professional level, but also on a personal one.
For example, take the step to actually talk to a therapist when I feel like I'm in need of one.
It feels pretty difficult in esports for someone to say, "I was in a place where I just couldn't keep going, and I needed someone to help me." It feels like more often the mindset is "just power through it, you're living the dream, you have to do this." It feels like this kind of conversation is a change from what we've seen in the past.
Yeah, I think as I mentioned, at the beginning of my career this would never have come into question. I would never actually accept that I didn't feel 110 percent, and I think that's how many players feel as well. They kind of just like, come into it, and they "live the dream." They're so extremely motivated that they're almost shaking from it, you know?
And it would never come to mind that they don't feel 110 percent. So I don't think it's until the later parts of your career, when you've played the game for a longer time, that you will actually face these issues. Where it's more realistic than in the beginning.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.