n0thing's dream(hack) come true, NA pipeline, and coaching future

n0thing's dream(hack) come true, NA pipeline, and coaching future
Image via Beyond The Summit

Written by 

Jack Marsh

Last updated 

2nd Jun 2024 17:00


Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert is a Major winner, a studious Counter-Strike veteran, and a romanticist of the great game and every little slice of nuance that comes with it.

A near-two-decade-long career in the public eye has seen n0thing move from an iceman to a born leader to an analyst at some of the biggest events in the world, breaking down events with ease, including a handful of Intel Extreme Masters tournaments.

There's a great relationship between n0thing, IEM, and Dreamhack, and as we come full circle at IEM Dallas, the three spokes of this love story have combined.

As we watch Dreamhack Dallas play host to IEM in North America, GGRecon sat down with n0thing.

In this interview, we head down memory lane to unravel how these events birthed one of the best leaders that Counter-Strike has ever seen, before diving head-first into the current North American landscape, the still-looming impacts of the pandemic and VALORANT on the player pipeline, and whether he wants to continue pushing his mind to the limit by starting a coaching project.

Living the kids dream(hack)

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n0thing hasn't always been a global superstar. It wasn't a one-way ticket to the mainstage like the Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov's and Danil "donk" Kryshkovets' of the Counter-Strike world. Instead, back as esports began to grow, it was local LANs where he made his name.

Now, at Dreamhack Dallas - the biggest local LAN that there is - and the 100th Intel Extreme Masters event, n0thing spent some time reflecting back on his stomping grounds where he changed his status from a youngster to a someone who "smashes heads", and onwards to being one of the best players to touch the game. 

"Local LANs were just a big part of my upcoming Counter-Strike because it was the best way to get on a team in the most efficient manner," n0thing said.

"When you were online back in the day, you weren't video calling people, you didn't know who you were dealing with. That was a big part of it. I didn't really get exposure to IEM-level events until I started really dabbling in local and national-level competitions.

"But Southern California was fortunate that we had some of the best players in the country. Players Michael "method" So and the old NOA team -  teams that people probably don't even know of these days.

"There are a couple of places in SoCal where some good players would show up and compete or just hang out and that is definitely the way that I started getting to my start.

"Online, opponents would be like, 'Oh, that is actually a young little kid, because online they would hear my voice and say it sounds like a little girl', and 'Is this kid cheating?' But in person, I started smashing heads as a kid and that's when I earned actual respect."

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Image via Adela Sznajder

It's a story that might be more familiar with the old-but-gold stars of Counter-Strike, but the juxtaposition to sitting in the middle of a Dreamhack arena with early 50,000 gaming enthusiasts was quite a polarising difference.

Then we moved forward, step by step down this memory lane, continuing to reflect on the past that quickly unravelled in his head.

"Going to the initial Dreamhack in Jönköping, Sweden, and going to the actual founding ground was so cool to me because I remember watching Bass Hunter perform there back in the day - The Dota song and Bota Anna - that will always be a memory for me," he continued.

"The scale of the BYOC section: that was the first time I'd ever seen anything like it. I've been to LANs where there were several hundred people BYOC, but to see thousands, hall after hall, then also just the age range, and just the amount of culture there, to me, were some fond memories of this experience."

Then there's the pinnacle of his career. From a young lad who was suspected to be a girl, to someone fragging his way to national events, moving from a BYOC player to seeing thousands of others trying to form that same dream, there are a number of highlights that stand out.

"San Jose, where I'm freestyle rapping on stage," was his instant go-to for his favourite IEM moment. "It seemed like a wall of people supporting me because the crowd and the stage were pushed up right in front of each other. Everyone giving me love there, that's what it's all about, isn't it?"

"It's the biggest honour, because, at the end of the day, we're all just real. We're just people. It sounds super cliche to say that, but it's fun to show people that. Most of the time people see me either behind a screen or behind a desk. Most people don't get a chance to even see my body language. So to have a chance at IEMs, one of the coolest things is the scale of fans that they can fit into the experience," n0thing concluded.

NA's deep-rooted leadership issues and generating the new Donk of USA

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Image via ESL | Helena Kristiansson

IEM Dallas was very much built up to be a celebration of the finest that North America has to offer, but it quickly unravelled as a collection of fairytales.

Although America's teams were all eliminated before the crowds arrived, the American Dream that is so often prophesied has been on full display with the open-circuit bracket making for 9z to harness momentum to the once-in-a-lifetime run and for one Captain Marvel to stand up against the rest of the world: Jacky "Stewie2K" Yip.

Together, we spoke about Stewie's influence on G2 Esports and how the counter-intuitive playstyle of this unorthodox stand-in has actually been a stroke of genius, combined with the crowd being all-in for this roster, pushing them over the line.

But it did highlight a flaw in NA's infrastructure, and n0thing explained that the region is still feeling the effects of the pandemic spreading talent nationwide and the VALORANT influx which stole a chunk of the talent pipeline, such as Tyson "TenZ" Ngo.

"From a very straightforward sense, our best players are spread out. There are new teams - the M80 guys - and there are these players who are circling just beneath the surface a little, but the stars are spread around" n0thing pointed out. 

"I think we need some better cultures top-down from the leadership too," he continued. We looked at the implosion of Liquid, as n0thing held Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Keith "NAF" Markovic responsible for not keeping that core together, either by adding Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz back alongside Russel "Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken" Van Dulken.

Evil Geniuses and even his own Cloud9 team also "imploded" out of nothing, and he claims that there's a habit of allowing "silly" things to get in between some of America's greatest groups of players. 

"We fought through a lot of stuff that we didn't let the public see because that's part of the culture I tried to bring to the team. It's a 'hey, let's keep this in the locker room and grow as a team' ethos. But, some of the stuff I hear - I'm not going to quote directly in an interview, but just for example - about these NA teams and the problems they have, I don't know if childish is the word, but it's silly.

"NA is a popular region in terms of sponsorships and fans, but I would love it if we reflected that with professionalism and leadership as well."

In terms of catching up with the rest of Europe, and even South America / LATAM now, there's also the issue in harbouring new talent like the two Russian teenage superstars donk and m0NESY.

"We've actually done a decent job in terms of the FACEIT Pro League," he continued. "In Europe, these stars come out in their respective regional communities. There are so many teams that come out of each region, and I think that limits people gatekeeping roster slots a little bit.

"But with our FPL, people get hungry when you have enough teams. I'm sure Ropz, who at a certain point was dominating FPL, started to say, 'I don't know if I'm gonna get on a team or not, but I'm ripping these guys up right now. So something's going to come'. I think in NA we have that attitude in the FPL."

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Image via ESL | Viola Schuldner

The player pipeline suffered at the hands of VALORANT too, as n0thing shifted the blame onto the haemorrhaging of the tier-two scene who opted for a quick route to fame in VALORANT rather than biding their time in Counter-Strike and becoming the next star.

"I think VALORANT definitely created a dichotomy that caused this effect to where some of those kids that might have been just around the corner said, 'Oh, I could just jump a step by switching to VALORANT.

"Even TenZ. He didn't really establish the presence that he has when you watch him in VALORANT right now, where he's comming and leading. He's now doing a lot of talking through the round. He never had that presence in CS that he has now - he was building it up because he was a rookie. If he had found his voice, presence, and playstyle more on a team - he came into C9 with Automatic in them and played with some great players who were his guides - he could have been one of those players who could have been just around the corner from blossoming."

Coaching is all or n0thing

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Many of the problems in North America appear to be quite menial. The pipeline of players is recovering, Ropz has already proven that and many others will soon follow suit. 

But for the leadership groups and the core veterans that can initiate these breakthrough players, n0thing says that a good coach, like himself, could keep them together through thick and thin to begin working on some superteams.

"When I'm not competing - this is sometimes a conversation I have in my stream - sometimes I just want to come in and coach or GM a team," he said.

"A lot of coaches aren't able to command the ability to tell one of the best players that you're f'ing up, or your energy is off for the team. EliGe had that problem for a while. He was one of the best players in the world, and his desire for perfection would almost see him breathing down everyone's neck. Even if he thinks 'Hey, I'm not doing that'.

"Everyone's looking for this leadership, and some of the players in our region would resent that or wouldn't embrace it properly and wouldn't guide the youth, so we need a little bit more of that, I think."

So, would he actually step into coaching? 

"I've obviously never put an actual announcement out that's what I want to do, but I have more thought about it," he said.

"The one thing that's awesome and dangerous about my current situation is because I've awarded myself the ability with a lot of connections to do different things, sometimes it gives me analysis paralysis. I could be in my comfort zone - I have my kids and can control what I'm doing a little bit more, and part of me knows if I join a team and get into that the side of me wants to go all in and it will definitely just put a lot more on my plate."

"Eventually, if I really want to do it, I'm going to just have to take another leap of faith and try to take a chance on a project and go from there."

For n0thing, there's a fire inside that strives for perfection, and it is clear to see from just a 15-minute conversation that there's an analytical mind that just craves challenge and stimulation in the most intense form.

But as for what's next in this legacy, it remains unwritten. 

Jack Marsh
About the author
Jack Marsh
Jack is an Esports Journalist at GGRecon. Graduating from the University of Chester, with a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Jack is an avid esports enthusiast and specialises in Rocket League, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and trending gaming news.
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