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Thanks, Dad

Apr 18 2019
Photo by
ESL/Matthew Truelove
Photo by
ESL/Matthew Truelove
Apr 18 2019
M

y dad was a planner. That’s the way our family operated. We relied on him that way.

 

No matter what was going on at school, or at home, I knew that my dad had my back. He hated leaving things up to chance, and he categorically avoided putting me or my brother in any uncertainty or danger. He was an accountant, after all. That’s part of the job description.

So when I got interested in Counter-Strike, I knew I needed to pass my dad’s test. I first played the game at a friend’s birthday party back in primary school, and was immediately hooked. The problem was I didn’t have a PC at home to play it on, so I started going to youth clubs around Copenhagen, just so I could get a fix. It’s a feeling that should be familiar to any kid who went over to a friend’s house to play their Playstation or whatever. But finally, after months of exile, my dad announced that he would be bringing home a new computer from work.

Yeah, my eyes lit up. Sure it was a “work computer,” but I was also pretty sure that that thing could run Counter-Strike.

But there was a dilemma. Obviously my dad wasn’t thrilled about his kids using his workspace to play a video game, but eventually my brother and I made our case. I remember waiting patiently as my dad studiously read over the terms of service, the system requirements, and the publisher information, just to ensure that Counter-Strike wasn’t about to destroy his machine or install a bunch of viruses. It was a process I’d grow familiar with over the years, as I asked him to install more and more games onto that machine. My brother and I promised him that we’d only use the computer for a little bit of time for a couple hours after school, and he’d be free to kick us off whenever he wanted.

That didn’t end up happening of course. My dad never used that computer, instead became the family gaming machine, and I began what has turned out to be a lifelong love affair with Counter-Strike.

My family still knows me as Peter Rasmussen, but I’m probably better known to you as dupreeh. I’m a professional player on Astralis, an esports team that I co-own with my teammates, along with our organization, RFRSH Entertainment. Over the past two years we’ve had an absolutely magical run, winning major tournaments all over the world, taking home a ton of prize money, and solidifying ourselves as one of the greatest Counter-Strike teams of all time.

It’s funny to think how all of this started from a commandeered work computer.

I know that I didn’t take the most direct route to success. I know that my mom and dad were worried when I was obstinate about trying to play Counter-Strike for a living. I know that they weren’t happy when my grades slipped, or when I decided not to attend college. But for years, my dad would still drive me to weekend tournaments. There wasn’t a moment when he disrespected my dream. That’s just how he was. It’s a faith that stayed with him until the very end.

ESL/Matthew Truelove

I have a picture perfect memory of everything that happened that day. I remember what everyone was wearing, I remember what it felt like outside, it’s burned into my brain. I got home from high school, and I knew that earlier in the day, my dad had gone in for a check-up. It was not something I was worried about. In fact, it was routine. My dad, being my dad, was always quite diligent about keeping up his health.

But I walked into the living room, where my parents were both sitting and eating lunch, and I could tell that something was wrong.

My mom told me to sit down. I did, and she laid everything out to me. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer. To this day, I don’t really know specifically what that cancer was. I just know that it started in his stomach, and later moved to his liver and his spine. His prognosis was unclear. My dad didn’t say much. He sat there and ate his lunch.

I have a picture perfect memory of everything that happened that day.

There’s no right way to react to news like that. At first, I felt more numb than anything. I looked at my dad, and nothing had changed. He looked healthy, he wasn’t stuck in a hospital bed or lying on a gurney. You never would’ve guessed that he had just been hit with some life-threatening news. That’s the weird paradox of cancer; physically, life doesn’t change much, it’s more of an encroaching shadow that slowly blankets the family. There wasn’t a resolution, there can’t be a resolution. It was just … it was just how things were now.

That was 2010. Today, I refer to 2010 as The Dark Year for our family. Dad started treatment, and we all were forced to contend with our new reality in our own ways. It was the hardest thing we ever had to do. My mom was devastated by the news and suffered from the stress, and my passion for school and my social life slowly slipped away. Looking back, I now realize that each of us needed professional help, which we eventually did get in the form of family therapy, but at the time, you’re unable to recognize that. Instead, you’re caught in a malaise, you leave things unsaid, you beat yourself up. My stable background was falling apart — my dad was sick, my mom was struggling … it’s difficult to know where to turn.

Through all that, though, my dad remained the strongest person in the family. Even as he was bearing the brunt of the cancer, he saw himself as the person responsible for the happiness and care of the rest of us. In the years he had left, there wasn’t a moment in which he didn’t take that duty seriously.

Once a planner, always a planner.

Unsurprisingly, I found an outlet in Counter-Strike. That was the one place in my life I could go where life made sense. Maybe it sounds strange that some people get self-care in playing a video game, but well, that was my comfort food. I’d close my bedroom door, get online with my friends, and spend the night forgetting about my problems. You lean on what you’re good at. It was fun, at a time in my life when it was hard to remember what “fun” felt like. When I think back on those years now, I realize that I might not be the Counter-Strike player that I am today if I hadn’t relied on that game so much for emotional support. It’s ironic that The Dark Year laid a foundation for my professional career.

Sure, there were moments when my mother was probably worried about the amount of time I was spending in my room and on my computer. But I do know that when I was playing Counter-Strike, she was able to overhear all of my laughter. All of my victories and defeats. It was reassuring to her, I think, to know that I was able to find some way to be a normal teenager despite my dad’s health. My mother was my biggest supporter and continues to be. She has always been there, not only for me, but for the entire family.

I love you, Mom.

BLAST Pro Series

My dad was sick for a long time. Almost a decade. But the family gradually arrived at a happier place. I think we all knew that cancer was going to be a source of extreme anxiety in the room, but you can make peace with that if you try. Sometimes you need to build a new normal, rather than wait around for that normal to find you.

One thing that helped? My Counter-Strike career started to take off. In 2014 I signed with Dignitas, one of the biggest esports companies in the world. The first people I told were my mom and my dad. I said, “Look guys! I’m going to get a real salary by playing games!” I mean, sure, it wasn’t a great salary, and I could be making a lot more in plenty of other industries, but it was a hell of a lot more than I was making in Counter-Strike before.

I think that was the moment when my family saw that there was a real path forward in esports. You have to remember that 2014 was a lifetime ago in competitive gaming. Esports today is about as close to the mainstream as possible, but back then, it wasn’t an easy sell to people outside of my generation. With my Dignitas deal, though, we were moving to a place where my dad could understand what I wanted to do with my life. In 2016, my teammates and I founded Astralis, which is co-owned by the players on the team. It meant that we were essentially starting a small business.

Who did I go to for advice for a venture like that?

Dad, of course.

Who did I go to for advice for a venture like that? Dad, of course.

Since I was born he had kept a close eye on my financial solvency, my savings, everything. It was in his genes. Whenever I got a new contract, I’d pass it along to him. He was my partner in every new batch of paperwork I encountered in esports.

In 2017, when Astralis was winning its first Majors, and I was bringing home more money than I ever expected to make, who helped balance my budget?

Yep, my dad. (Though I’m pretty sure he was more concerned with me paying my taxes than anything else.) And he had been doing so ever since my first professional contract.

He was a stabilizing force in the wild world of esports. I knew that if anyone tried to take advantage of me, my dad was this impregnable firewall. On top of that, it felt like I was sharing my life, and my culture, with someone I loved who had always been on the outside of it. Yeah, my dad spent my childhood driving me to Counter-Strike tournaments, but now he was actually participating in that grind. My dad might not ever be able to comprehend the finer points of an in-game strategy, but he sure could lend a hand in negotiating a sponsorship deal. I’m eternally grateful that I had the chance to grow up in front of him like that.

Of course, I knew that it wasn’t going to last forever.

It was late 2018, and my family was gearing up to come with me to one of my matches. My dad was taking the train, and he stumbled and broke his arm. It caused him an intense amount of pain. I’m not a medical expert, but the way it was explained to me, the cancer had spread to his spine, and that was putting an obscene amount of pressure on his nerves. I watched my dad fight and live valiantly for his entire time with cancer, and after a decade, he’d gotten used to living with a certain amount of discomfort. But this was different. This felt different.

I remember the doctors telling him that they couldn’t prescribe any more painkillers, and that the agony he was in was going to persist for the rest of his life.

I think that was the moment when he gave up. After that, I knew it was only a matter of time.

I was traveling so much throughout 2018 and into 2019. It’s something I’ve got mixed feelings about. It was sad to be far away from my family when things started to get bad, but at the same time, Counter-Strike was still an escape for me, and it was a relief to have other things to focus on. In 2010, I was a kid dealing with my dad’s cancer with Counter-Strike, and in 2019 I was a grown man dealing with my dad’s cancer with Counter-Strike. So much had changed in the intervening years, but Counter-Strike was always there for me.

Maciej Kolek

I called a meeting with my teammates in Astralis, dev1ce, gla1ve, Xyp9x, Magisk, and zonic. My message was simple; the situation had grown serious with my father, and if they noticed any slip-ups with my play, that was why. Yes, family comes first, but those guys were still relying on me, and it felt like I needed to disclose that to them. I’m truly blessed to have such wonderful, understanding teammates. I’m a talker, that’s how I deal with stuff weighing on me, and they were great listeners.

In February, I was back home, gearing up for IEM Katowice, which is one of the biggest Counter-Strike tournaments in the world, with a $500,000 first-place prize on the line. My dad was in hospice care. We were coming down to the wire. In the week before the show, it felt like he was going to go at any second.

This was a moment my family had been preparing for for a long time. We’d discussed what we were going to do if dad was on his deathbed and I had to leave for a tournament. Still, when we were actually forced to confront it, we weren’t sure what to do. He wasn’t really there for the last few days. My dad was slipping in and out of consciousness, and sometimes he’d think I was my brother, and vice versa. I did have a chance to talk to him one final time though. He laid out his wishes about as clear as possible.

“I want you to go to the tournament,” he said.

“Good luck.”

It was the last thing I ever heard my dad say. On Monday, the day before I was supposed to leave, he passed. I got to be there as he drew his last breath. I was able to sit with him after he went. I got to go home with my family, on our first night without him.

He couldn’t have scheduled it any better. Dad was always a planner, even on the day he died.

Dad was always a planner, even on the day he died.

I wasn’t playing for him at Katowice. When I arrived at the arena, instincts took over. There was nothing in my head but Counter-Strike, and my teammates, and the meta, and our tournament win streak.

But afterward, when we hoisted that trophy, he was the only person I could think about.

All those road-trips to weekend tournaments, all the financial advice, all the times he studied a terms of service before installing a new game for us, every time he swallowed his concerns and graciously allowed me to pursue a passion he didn’t fully understand, but unanimously supported regardless, it all added up to this.

I know he didn’t expect me to become a professional gamer, but I was still able to make him proud. The last few times he saw me, I was on top of the world, doing what I loved. I know he left us with the faith that I was going to be okay. That all of our hard work paid off.

So congratulations, Dad.

We did it.

I love you. Forever.