Raymond 'Kasing' Tsang is one of, if not the most experienced pro League of Legends player from the UK.
The support player has played for the likes of Dignitas, Splyce as well as at Worlds in 2015 with H2K. Today, he's with UK organisation Excel Esports as team captain.
How did he feel the LEC Spring Split went? How has esports changed since he first went pro - and what's next for him? Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco interviews Kasing at the Wanyoo Esports Studio in London.
Tell us about what you're doing here at the Wanyoo Esports Studio, you've been on the analyst desk, right?
Yeah - they are hosting the Wanyoo Championship Season 1.
Of course, if I'm spending most of my time either playing LEC and UKLC, I don't get time to think about other events.
But I'm happy to help, because there used to be a franchise called Gamerbase before, which was similar to Wanyoo right now: kind of like a PC bang, an esports cafe where people come and play and eat. It's pretty cool from what I've seen so far.
Do you feel like you're inspiring other players here and giving back to the community?
In a way, I am. Even talking to some of the teams playing here, like Shapeless Water. I spoke to the support of that team, he's only Diamond 4 but I can tell that this is a person who looks up to pro players and aspires to be a pro one day maybe.
In the UK scene you don't really see many people that want to become pro, because the path in education is already set up for you. You go from nursery, primary, to secondary, college/sixth form and then you can go on your way to uni.
So everyone is doing the same thing and if you do anything otherwise, you're called lazy or too stupid to make it to a good uni. That's when people can take a gap year, right, and I feel like the term 'gap year' has been quite under-valued. If you're on a gap year people think you're at home doing nothing at all. Maybe that's true for some people, but every individual has their own aspirations.
For me I wanted to become a pro player. At the moment I felt I could become really good at League, I think it was around Season 2 when I got high Diamond - around 2,500 - and I was super happy when I reached it for the first time ever.
"I'm very critical when I judge myself and my own performance. I know I could have done more. That's why I feel like this split has been appalling on my standards."
Esports seems to have become more accepted since then as a viable career option. We have esports degrees at universities, scool, college and university championships and so on. But you didn't have any of that when you wanted to go pro - that must have been harder for you to explain to people what you were trying to do.
Yeah. My parents definitely did not approve of the pro gaming life. They pretty much told me that I'm really fucking stupid (laughs). They compared me to my cousins who are quite successful, going to UCL and Cambridge University.
It's comparisons, right. It kind of runs in like an Asian tradition, where your parents kind of feel the shame because their son is not going to any good uni, while everyone else, my cousins and stuff, were.
For me, I didn't want to have a 9 to 5 office job, I wanted to do something different. If I didn't go for a pro gaming career, I probably would have gone to Queen Mary or King's College doing computer science.
But that's the thing, right. I chose to go for the pro player path and because I was super motivated, I didn't just choose it and sat on my chair doing nothing. I worked hard for it. I watched many VoDs, I played so much solo queue, I asked around a lot and made sure that I as an individual tried my very best to make it.
And eventually I did. I got noticed by Supa Hot Crew and they gave me my first chance on the LCS stage at the time. And ever since then, I've never regretted doing what I do.
When I started Esports News UK, the Worlds 2015 quarter finals were taking place in London. And you inspired me, because you were the only UK player playing in Worlds at that time. Can you reflect on your career? You played in teams like Team Dignitas UK, so now, being in [UK side] Excel Esports, you've kind of gone full circle.
During this off-season, I had some offers in terms of where I could go, but I felt that Excel was the one that I really wanted to try out. First of all, they were a British organisation that I haven't really had before.
If you're from the UK, you would never want to invest into esports, because why would you want to go into something that the UK doesn't even approve of (at the time)? No one really knew about esports at all. So I felt it was a risk.
I wanted to try something new by living outside of Berlin. Excel told me we'd live in London and fly out to Berlin every week and play the games there. I wanted to try that out - and this will be in place for the LEC summer split.
In the spring split, there were visa and housing arrangement issues. Excel got accepted into the LEC late, so it was kind of a hard spring split. Before the LEC we didn't have a chef/nutritionist/sports scientist that other teams had [Excel tells ENUK they had these in place during LEC, but not before].
Despite these complications, I still thought it was something I really wanted to try.
"I have a lot to thank my older brother Eric for. Back when I played Dota, before League, my PC broke down and he bought me a new one with his own money. Without that PC I don't think I'd be where I am today."
Can you reflect on the first LEC split?
The results haven't been the best, right. For me personally, I've never been 9th my entire life. I've never been lower than 7th and it's kind of a shame, because I feel like my career or my brand has kind of gone downhill because of this. I'm not saying I deserved playoffs, because if I did deserve it, I would be there.
All I can say is that for next split, the summer split, that will be the split where I will try for my life, because I know we can make it as Excel.
We have a non star-studded roster [see the full Excel 10-man roster and staff here], with technically two rookies in Caedrel and Jeskla, we came into it new. I just felt it was hard to get through it.
For me from a fan and journalist perspective, I think Excel's first LEC split wasn't bad, considering it was their first and for some of their players it was too. I'm guessing because you have that added experience, you're trying to push the other players [to reach that next level].
I mean, yeah, it's about transitioning my knowledge into words for them to learn. The spring split, honestly, was one of the hardest splits I've ever had in my entire career. I felt like trying to teach one or two rookies how to play in my way, and of course they've learnt their own way of playing so everyone defaults to what they think is the correct play. And it's about getting us on the same page - that's uncomparable to any other thing you can actually learn from each other.
I just feel like this whole split has been a disaster - for me. Even if other people don't think so, they've learnt their own stuff. But for me, I had high expectations. Not to the point where I think I should be pushing number one or anything - that's a bit non-realistic. I'm very critical when I judge myself and my own performance. I know I could have done more. That's why I feel like this split has been appalling on my standards.
It kind of hurts when I read comments on Twitter or Reddit that say 'Kasing's got so bad' or is 'washed up'. These comments don't affect me, but it can affect how my team think of me. And I don't want to be seen as kind of like a dead weight.
I know the idea of having a captain or team leader [is supposed to] make things easier, but personally it's harder. If everyone around you is saying this guy is bad, it makes me and my teammates doubt myself. I don't want it to get to that point where I feel individually I'm not playing well enough for my team. But I don't believe I should retire - I haven't even thought about that.
For me, I still want to grind and achieve something. Going to Worlds once was nice, I loved the whole experience and when you reach Worlds, every game matters.
When I was in Korea back with H2K, the environment of try-hard-ness in that room was just the best feeling ever. I kind of miss that feeling and I want to achieve it, but of course it requires not just myself to work hard, but my team to work hard too.
"I've never been lower than 7th and it's kind of a shame. All I can say is that for next split, the summer split, that will be the split where I will try for my life, because I know we can make it as Excel."
Do you feel like the UK scene has improved, what with the UKLC and so on, and what's it been like playing in that European Regional League?
It's a bit different because when I started in the UK scene, I'd just played LEC that weekend, then I had to fly back and get used to my new team. I felt I had to relearn the game with a new team.
But as the weeks went on, we started to get better. I just wish the schedule was different. Having it on Wednesday and Thursday I feel is not so good, compared to the standard Friday/Saturday.
Aside from the schedule, I think the UKLC has improved a lot. The UK scene back when I played in it was basically just LANs and online tournaments. There were a lot of bad UK players back then.
Our scene is only as good as what we produce, right? And we have obviously had stand-outs like Alphari and Maxlore, and I would say Caedrel has shown to be quite good.
The UK has talent but the exposure we get is nonexistent... other scenes have their own systems like the Spanish Superliga and the German ESL Meisterschaft and the French tournaments. I feel the UK is underdeveloped in that regard.
Not to mention, it feels like if you're from the UK, you're bound to be at one of the universities, so those from 18 to 21 years old [and want to go pro] know exactly how I felt. You're never going to really be a pro player without committing your entire time and that requires sacrifices.
I sacrificed my A Levels for this. I did really bad in my A Levels - I was a model A-star student that turned to pretty bad results after. I don't really want to say what I got (laughs) but it was pretty bad.
But in the end, I say I sacrificed, but I don't regret it. Because I know I enjoyed my past years playing League and I still do today.
You reached your goal. I'm guessing your family have changed their opinion on you since then.
Of course, it's different now. [In Asian families in general] if you earn money, then it's good, but if you're not and you're wasting time, they obviously feel like you're wasting your time.
The only one that kind of like always supported me was my older brother Eric. I have him to thank for, if anything, because back then I didn't have a PC. I had a shit PC that literally broke down and overheated at one point.
Before, I used to play Dota for five or six years. Then the PC broke down and I didn't play anything for a whole two months. But then my brother bought me a PC with his own money. I couldn't thank him enough, because without that PC I don't think I'd be where I am today.
"I sacrificed my A Levels to become a pro gamer. And my parents definitely did not approve of the pro gaming life [in the beginning]. But in the end, I don't regret it. Because I know I enjoyed my past years playing League and I still do today."
So you played Dota before League of Legends existed?
Yeah! My level was pretty high. But that's the thing - PC esports weren't a big thing in the UK. Back then Call of Duty, Halo and FIFA, console games were really big. PC esports have been starting to get bigger since.
Is there anything else you'd like to add, perhaps your views going into the next LEC split?
I think for the summer split there may be some changes in regards to how we're going to work.
All I know is, I will make it to Worlds, for sure. That's my goal - and I think I can make it.
TL;DR: 10 key points from the Kasing interview
- 'It was a hard spring split, one of the hardest I've ever had in my entire career'
- 'I'm very critical judging myself and my own performance, so this split has been appalling on my standards'
- 'I've never been lower than 7th and it's kind of a shame, because I feel like my career or my brand has kind of gone downhill because of this'
- 'I will try for my life in the summer split, we can make it as Excel'
- 'Comments on Reddit saying 'Kasing's got so bad' don't affect me, but it can affect how my team think of me. And I don't want to be seen as a dead weight'
- 'I still want to grind and achieve something, I haven't even thought about retirement'
- 'The UK esports scene has improved a lot but it still doesn't have great exposure'
- 'I sacrificed my A Levels to become a pro player - and my parents did not approve of it at the time. But I don't regret it. Because I know I enjoyed my past years playing League and I still do today.'
- 'I have a lot to thank my older brother Eric for. Back when I played Dota, before League, my PC broke down and he bought me a new one with his own money. Without that PC I don't think I'd be where I am today.'
- 'I will make it to Worlds for sure, that's my goal and I think I can make it'