Q&Arts: Andy “Smoothie” Ta
Former MRU student making waves in professional League of Legends
Bigoa Machar, Arts Editor
Playing video games for a living may sound strange to most, but for some people it’s the result of thousands of hours of practicing and striving to be the best at what they love doing. Andy Ta is one of those people. Currently playing League of Legends professionally for pro gaming organization Team Liquid, The Reflector caught up with the former Mount Royal University student to see what it’s like to be a professional eSports athlete.
TR: When did you start playing League of Legends and what about the game got you so hooked on it?
AT: I first started playing ‘League’ in 2009, right after the beta ended. I actually didn’t like the game at first, however with some time and playing with my friends it quickly grew on me. I played with a lot of people and made a lot of friends in my time playing ‘League’, that in term made me a lot more competitive. That competitive drive kept me hooked.
TR: The whole aspect of ranked and the challenger ladder makes the game that much more fun. So speaking to the competitiveness of the game, you climbed the ladder and got really good. Was there a particular point in time when you realized that you were really able to turn the game you’re good at into what’s now your profession?
AT: Honestly speaking, the realization of me being good wasn’t there until I was approached by my first team, Team Dragon Knight, who was composed of very competent players who were on prestigious teams in the past, and even then I wasn’t convinced because I only played the game for fun as a pastime. With my time on the team I slowly got better and better and realized that I really could make this my profession.
TR: I can only imagine what being around guys like Seraph or Kez who have been pros for years must feel like. But you guys really worked hard and well together and made it through the Challenger scene to the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), which is so hard to do with the amount of good teams in the NACS. But when you guys did make it in, what kind of emotions were you feeling after making it to the LCS?
AT: When we qualified for the LCS, the realization that I was about to make my hobby my career was really surreal. It was all so crazy to me because just 3 months before qualifying, I was going to school every day, doing the same thing every day in the same place and now, I get to live my life in California playing a video game that somehow I got somewhat good at, while having fun. I was very happy to be doing what I love to do and just wanted to get better at the game, which was possible because I could spend all my time in the game without school or other external factors not allowing me to.
TR: It sounds like the life. Living in Santa Monica and waking up knowing that you’re going to do what you do best and love sounds amazing. Speaking of living in California, one thing that people unfamiliar with eSports don’t really know about is gaming houses. What’s it like living with nine other teammates and most of the support staff all under one roof?
AT: Living in a gaming house is both a lot of fun and hard work. You are surrounded by people with the same interests and it’s easy to get along usually, however at the end of the day it’s still work. Everybody in the house is really passionate at what they do and spend countless hours practicing every day.
TR: It sounds like fun, but it really is work at the end of the day. What are your typical days like in the gaming house?
AT: My daily routine is on weekdays wake up at 10am and get ready for the day. At noon, we scrim other teams (for those that don’t know what scrims are, they’re simply games vs other teams that are around the same skill level for practice) until 7pm and it’s free time from there on, but a big majority of players still invest most of their free time into practicing by just playing the game. On weekends players go and play in the LCS, which is where 10 teams compete for the highest ranking and best 3 teams at the end of the season go play against other top teams around the world.
TR: There’s really a lot of work behind the scenes that people unfamiliar with eSports under-appreciate. Speaking of being unfamiliar, tell me how you explain your job so someone who doesn’t know much about competitive gaming?
AT: If I were to explain my job, it would be simply playing games. It’s just regular people who happen to be really good at a video game, practicing to get better. Sounds pretty easy and dumb but it’s pretty physically and mentally straining because of the amount of hours a professional league player needs to put in to actually yield results. A top team in the LCS usually have players that practice for at least 12 hours a day, as well as look over their games in the past to try to fix their mistakes and learn the game which is always changing. In most aspects aside from physical, professional gaming, eSports in general are very similar to traditional sports, in that they’re extremely tedious and require countless hours of practice to achieve any sort of improvement, and there is a lot of thought that goes into being good at the game.
TR: By the sounds of it, you seem really busy and have your gaming career sorted out as of right now and all of that hard work is bound to lead to success. What do you hope that the future brings, and what are your long term goals?
AT: For the future, I plan on playing the game for as long as I can and trying to slowly get better. I’m doing what I love to do so I really want to keep playing for myself and becoming the best. I hope to be able to compete at an international level and compete with the best players in the world.
Be sure to follow Andy on Twitter (@liquidsmoothiee) and Instagram (liquidsmoothie) to cheer him on and keep up with his journey through the North American LCS.