After leading his team to second place in the 2016 Vainglory World Championship and demolishing the competition along the way, EZL managed to get TSM’s FlashX to take the time out of his schedule to have a chat with us. We wanted to find out who FlashX is behind the screens, what makes him tick, and maybe pick up some tips on how you can git gud and follow in his footsteps too!
What made you choose your IGN?
When I was young, I used to play games and I was the flag runner and was really good so players called me Flash since I was really good at running. When I tried to make an account named Flash in VG, the name was taken, so I thought an X at the end would look cool, so FlashX was born.
Do you call each other by nicknames, IGNs, or real names when you chat?
Sometimes they call me Flash and sometimes Michael, but mostly just Flash.
(Skillz4Killz asks “Can I call you my favorite roamer?” Flash says “Yes!” Queue laughter and the rest of the interview becoming a whole heap of fun!)
If you want to party, have fun, or laugh which one of you do you look to?
How old are you?
Your family is highly supportive of your Vainglory career now, but how did they treat games during your childhood? Did you play games often?
I have always loved games, but my parents did everything they could to try to push me to go outside instead of staying inside. Sometimes I would have to do chores to earn “computer time”. I would constantly ask for chores to do in order to earn more time to play Runescape and other games. But now my parents and siblings support me 100%, and watch all my games that are streamed. They are very happy that I have been able to make a career out of something that I truly enjoy doing.
Did you have any difficulties with respect to academics pursuits?
I think I was Top 10 or maybe Top 5 in high school but in college I would say I was more towards the middle because of it being a pretty hard school and had some of the smartest kids in the country.
You mentioned college, are you still going to college and what was your major?
I graduated from college in August 2015 and majored in biology, minored in business and chemistry.
What career do you intend to pursue in the future, if you ever retire from Vainglory?
That’s a really good question, because I am one of the older players and most of the other professional players in other eSports usually retire by now, and it’s tough to go into a career with a major in biology because it requires doing much more schoolwork like getting a masters.
(Skillz4Killz jumps in saying “By then I should have a place here for you in EZL!” Queue more laughter and general shenanigans.)
Do your friends/classmates/colleagues know about you being a pro-gamer?
Yes, everyone knows about it and a lot of my friends from college watch my games when they are streamed. There is nothing my friends don’t know about me and Vainglory!
How do you deal with emotional stress when you have problems or issues arise?
I would say Vainglory is a good source of stress-relieving for me. I am definitely not the type to just go out and drink away or party away like anyone else.
How did you end up in your current team?
After winning VIPL and beating some of the top teams like GankStars Sirius and Invincible Armada, we started really making a name for ourselves and putting us on the map. I started reaching out to a lot of the big organizations like TSM. The first one to get back to me was TSM and they were interested just as much as me.
Who suggested the team house, you or TSM?
The idea for having the team house came from both sides to be honest. Both myself and TSM wanted to have the team house as it can help immensely.
Your team was known to practice 10 hours a day leading up to the Championships. Do you still train with the same intensity?
It varies a lot. We only practiced 10 hours a day for about a week before the championship, during the boot camp. Recently we have not practiced as much, because after that for almost two entire months, there was not much competition due to off season, so not much practice. We took almost a full month of break to celebrate. About two weeks ago we got back into practicing hard, so we are starting to get the back into it.
You are known to be the one that’s always prepared in draft but besides that what do you contribute to the team?
As I am the oldest one, I also tend to have to have most of the adult responsibilities, like having to go get the groceries and just having the captain role in the team.
How did you discover Vainglory?
I grew up playing Dota and Dota2, and one day during a lecture in college, was watching the Apple Keynote because it was really hyped. I saw Vainglory featured during a September 2014 Apple Keynote. I thought the idea of a MOBA on touchscreen device was really cool and it had awesome graphics. So I downloaded when the beta was released, and have been playing ever since.
What made you decide to be a Vainglory pro player and not any other game?
In October of 2015, during the first ever official SEMC-sanctioned VG competitive play. After we won VIPL in Korea, and TSM came on board was when it really helped push us to make that decision.
Other than Vainglory, what other games do you play/have played competitively?
I have not played any other game competitively, but I do play Overwatch and Counter Strike casually. I have played a lot of other games like Runescape in the past.
Do you play Vainglory as a full-time job?
Yes, I do it as a full-time job and stopped working in sales since joining TSM as a competitive player.
In scrims, how do you improve specific skills or other areas of your game? Do you try to focus on one area at a time, and work through a list of objectives over a training session, or do you prefer to train more generally, focusing on everything at once?
Scrims are more focused on team development as opposed to improving individual mechanical skill. For mechanical development, you really just want to grind as many games as possible and just isolate certain mechanics (blocking for example) and focus on that. To do this, I would prioritize it over everything else. This means that if you have to be late on a fountain just to make sure you get your block off, do that. In time you’ll just learn to do it more naturally and then you can be more proficient at both. For scrims, communication is key, and making sure everyone is on the same page. Learn to identify the win conditions prior to the game starting and play to these conditions. If you have an early game comp, you need to play aggressive early to get an advantage. If you have a late game comp, playing passively to allow players to scale is more important.
What do you think makes your team unique?
We are currently the only team living in a team house and we are by far closer than any other team because of this. Chuck and I always go to the gym together in the mornings (VONC prefers his sleep) and we always eat dinner together. Being able to always be in the same room has helped our coordination tremendously.
With the limelight as pro players, there’s bound to be fans! Who are the funniest, cutest, weirdest or most notable fans you’ve met?
My girlfriend – I would say I am biased because she is my girlfriend and also lives with us. She does all the cooking which is incredibly helpful and we are all very grateful for. (“Notice he didn’t say tasty?” – Skillz4Killz.) The four of us coming from American, Mexican, and Chinese backgrounds means we eat quite a variety of meals which I personally love. A cherished moment was when I first got back from Korea for VIPL, I was absolutely craving Korean barbecue since we had it two times a week when we were there. I found a restaurant in Denver that served it and one of the waiters recognized me and it was a surreal moment.
Is there anyone who you would like to thank for helping you along your journey to this day?
I will always thank both my mom and my dad. They supported me tremendously through college and I was really scared that they would be upset that I wasn’t using the degree that they had paid for. Fortunately they have always promoted me finding a job doing what I love. I am incredibly grateful to be playing Vainglory professionally, and to have had my parents support me through my journey!
While we wish we could have spent the rest of the year chatting with this Paragon of the Vainglory community, sadly we had to draw a close to the interview somewhere! Overall, we’re left with the impression that FlashX isn’t just an immensely talented Captain, but he’s also a solid role model both in and out of the game – certainly a cool, down to earth guy with a level head.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed getting to interview him, so definitely stay tuned for more glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes! And of course, a massive thank you to both FlashX and TSM for the opportunity.
See you all in the Halcyon Fold!