The back to back TI winner, Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka has recently been on the Finish podcast of Pelaajat.com to discuss his personal life in relation to his professional career, also the pre and post-TI victory feelings. It’s a long and very interesting discussion, from which we took some of the main talking points and transcribed them below. However, the podcast is extremely interesting and very insightful into the OG mentality, so we recommend you to take the time and watch the entire video.
Starting days, role models
“About 10 years ago I used to watch Niko “naSu” Kovanen and Joona “natu” Leppänen play CS 1.6 and I thought about them as legends. And later own, I have kind of gone past them in a sense, which is pretty interesting. I used to play a lot of CS 1.6 as a kid, and I was absolutely horrible, 1K level Clan Base, but I was watching some of naSu’s games, and back then Team Roccat used to be huge.”
“In 2012 I was in the Finish Navy on a multipurpose vessel, Louhi. We were the second batch of recruits there. At that time, that ship was Finland’s biggest investment for the Navy, and we got to sail around on that. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to tell.
I can tell that we had a night watch, 4 hours every single night. And they basically assume that you are responsible for the safety onboard. You walk around the ship and make sure nothing happens, but some few individuals might have been playing video games instead.
I served for 9 months from which about 3 of them were basic training, then a few months of specialization and then I got on the fleet. We were on the ship for 3 or 4 months.
I did get to play a bit of Dota while I was serving in the Navy, but back then I was actually playing Heroes of the Newerth (HoN).”
The pro career before Dota 2
“In 2010 or 2011, we were in a tournament in Sweden near the end of the year, but our team got broken. We were at DreamHack then and finished fourth. I actually think it was 2011 because right after that I went to the Navy. I had prepared myself mentally for the military service. I knew that it was going to happen and I didn’t think about my career because it wasn’t really a career back then. It wasn’t anything special back then, it was just fun to compete. It was something I liked doing but it wasn’t something I thought it would be something I would earn money from or anything.”
“Pretty much after my service, I started to play Dota 2 and I felt that a lot of other players had transitioned as well. It was just about the time Dota 2 was exiting the beta, or the open beta at least. When a game launches there is a better chance to make a breakout as a player, and I felt that that’s a very typical way of getting into the competitive scene. Maybe the easiest way is when a game breaks out. You are in it right from the start and you get to be in groups with others that are also playing the game a lot, you get inside the scene and play and discuss with others.”
“If you start playing Dota right now, you have no chance. I don’t mean to crush any dreams, but you will need to play quite some time to get your mechanics on the same level as the current pros. Additionally, there are some pros that have been playing for 10-15 years, since DotA 1, and that’s quite some experience.
There are some old meta games that are still happening in today’s matches. It’s very difficult to stand out with just your individual skills nowadays. It’s more of a team effort and the tactics that garner success.
For example, I was talking to Ana. He’s been playing Dota 2 since he was 12 years’ old, but he made his breakout when he was 16-17 years old. He was also quite devoted through all those years. Most of the general public doesn’t understand that the players who have started at a very young age, might have been playing the game for 10-12 hours a day every single day, basically.
There’s not really a shortcut to fame or that you can get there through connections.”
“In the early days, I felt that I needed to be strong individually. It’s been my biggest interest for many years. Back then, I hadn’t understood that it wasn’t really important. And maybe, I was also missing the people telling (showing) me the bigger picture, so I just used to focus on myself, and I feel like I had a pretty slow trajectory to the top.
On my individual form, I was maybe even lacking in some aspects when compared to others. That’s how I felt, at least. I’ve always felt that things take more time with me than with the others. But then, eventually, when I give myself time, I start getting results.
Before TI8 I had a better understanding of the bigger picture and I started to think about it a lot more, because I have that kind of a role in the game that demands it a lot. For example, if you die at a specific time, your team will fall behind considerably. Your teammates can’t really act on the map and there’s also so many small things that can have a huge effect. Those are some of the things I’ve been focusing on these past couple of years. The most important thing for me lately was to do the right things at the right time with my team’s interest in my mind.”
Friendship and having fun
“Our main goal is to improve as a team and play together as well as possible, and at certain times we aim to win. We try to achieve that through improvement. We don’t really tell ourselves “let’s have some fun now,” but it pretty much happens by itself and I feel like most of it is based on what OG is to us.
Our team is solely based on honesty, openness and enabling the individuals, so we are aiming to give the chance to all the players on the team to be who they are. Then we’ve chosen different people that we want to work with, and when everyone is encouraged to be their true self, that led to people being very free and they don’t feel bad about mistakes and no one is getting offended if we’re having a bit of fun and maybe that’s the kind of thing that makes us a bit different from other teams.
Dota is the big combining factor for our team. We are not the world’s best friends outside the game, but we do get along very well and I think that’s very important. I also think it would be silly to assume that everyone is being best friends.”
“When it comes to taking risks and things like that, we actually take a lot more of them than other trams in general, and I feel like that’s a bit of a bad habit for us. However, when we are in very important situations and the players feel like taking a risk is more relevant, we go for it. For example, in out TI games. That’s when people would normally take more risks but in those moments they actually tend to withhold because they understand that there is a lot more at stake. It’s a natural reaction, and that means that at TI they’re taking even fewer or no risks at all. In general, I feel like on a team level, people know when to take risks and when not to, but from an individual standpoint, players are not willing to go for risky plays that much.
In OG, we don’t have that problem. No one is afraid of “what if I do something wrong” or things like that. We are aware of what kind of risks we’re taking in some moments. We are very lucky that we have such confident players, which allows us to take even more risks.”
The feeling after winning TI8
“I personally felt that the first TI win was a lot more emotional and heavier. I thought that my life kind of stopped. We talked about having a 4 month break and I was telling myself, “well, what the hell am I supposed to do during it?” We had a very long break, and now we are basically doing the same thing again.
So, it felt a lot like the ground fell from underneath my feet as a result of winning TI. I wasn’t really keeping in touch with my friends or with my family. Perhaps I didn’t see other things as important as Dota, and when you have only one important thing in your life and that gets taken away, you are left only with emptiness. I think that’s what many players go through because they put so much emphasis on the game, understandably why, but it’s not really healthy.
I also had no motivation anymore back then, I couldn’t really grasp on why I would still want to play this game. So, I spent time thinking about what could motivate me again.”
Mia Stellberg’s contribution at TI9
Before getting Mia Stellberg to OG, we thought that there is a very strong mental side in this game. We also felt that there are some things that us, as people, don’t like inside the team, we don’t know how to solve them or how to act sometimes. We are just some players after all, we don’t have a degree in psychology, so we thought that a professional could guide us into the right direction in certain situations, so we brought Mia Stellberg in.
In the beginning, we mostly focused on the individuals and what was important to each of us, what kind of goals we have, individually, what motivates every one of us, what we think of our teammates, what do we think of OG as a team, how have we gotten to this point. We thought about all these on a very individual level. Then we focused on how we can share all these thoughts with all our teammates. You can motivate others a lot by just telling them what motivates you and when you have teammates that have been specifically chosen on the team, and you like being with them, of course, you listen to what they say and you get a lot out of it.
Maybe the biggest thought about having a sports psychologist with us was that the players would be able to focus specifically on playing. Before we had Mia, we pushed the importance of mental energy away and we maybe didn’t think about how important it was during tournaments, how to work well under pressure, how to make the stadium your own home. We didn’t know how big of an impact can all these things have on our performance on stage and Mia was definitely a good option for this. She was there to prepare us mentally for the big games, she gave us some great points that specifically helped us, and I definitely liked what was our mental strength in the latest TI.”
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