One of South Africa’s top Dota 2 players, Travis ‘Castaway’ Waters, is off to Southeast Asia (SEA) to ply his trade of being able to walk to the centre of Dota’s map and slay anyone who wants to stand there with him.
Asking the important questions
Naturally, we had a lot of questions. The first, and most obvious one, being: What colour will you be dying your hair when you get to Southeast Asia?
“Haha, I don’t think I’ll be joining the anime life again any time soon, although I am looking to battle EE-sama soon.”
Castaway has already climbed to some pretty great heights of the Dota matchmaking system, so the chances of him facing off against players like EternalEnvy (EE-sama), a pro player known for his love of anime, are highly likely. He’s already battled the likes of Arteezy and Dendi with some amusing results.
“I once killed Dendi’s Queen of Pain as Shadow Fiend and he called me a dog in all chat, which I had a nice laugh at.
Arteezy called me a useless retard and muted me on stream back in Team Secret days, which made my life 🙂 (I’m a big Arteezy fan).”
But that’s a story from a previous time. Right now, we’re interested in Castaway’s new adventure – where exactly he’s going and why he’s decided now is the time to take his game overseas.
“I’ll be staying with my best friend and his girlfriend in Cambodia. I’ll be living in a nice two bedroom apartment, playing Dota from my room. I’m going to grind Dota daily and then maybe live in a gaming house when I join a team.
All my close friends and family who I’ve been in contact with have helped me in some sort of way. My family are very supportive of the decision, which helps a lot. And I am very fortunate to have been given a financial sponsorship from a private family member in order to pursue my dreams.”
There’s one more reason. It’s going to be tough to hear.
“I felt the SA dota scene ‘dying’ in a way (lack of new players, fewer tournaments, low viewership, etc), so I told myself I had to leave to pursue my goals.
Plus, if Doni, Frank and I get to a high enough MMR or place well in tournaments, we can get more exposure for South Africa. Like paiN did for Brazil.”
Please hold off on the ‘dead game’ comments – ZDrag, we’re looking at you. Pretty much the entire local esports scene has a bit of a hangover from 2017 and it’s struggling to get out of bed. We’ve got some work to do to get it up and running again.
So where does that leave Castaway? He wants to keep climbing to reach new heights, but the summits in South Africa just got smaller. Understandably, he’s going in search of a new mountain top.
A new path
In a previous article we spoke to Anthony ‘scant’ Hodgson about the benefits of SEA as a stepping stone for South African esports stars wanting to make a name for themselves on the global stage. One of his major reasons was that, compared to Europe or the USA, SEA is affordable.
Obviously Castaway read that article and it changed the direction of his entire life – he may not admit this, but we know it’s true. And that means he has us thank for everything that happens to his esports career from here on out. You’re probably wondering: How on earth will he ever be able to thank them enough? It’s a good question. We don’t know either, but we’ll let you know if he ever manages to pay off this hefty debt.
For now, let’s just talk about the reasons he’s going to SEA that he will admit to.
“Firstly I’d say it’s about the financial viability of the decision. It’s a region where the living expenses/costs are relatively cheap to my budget and the currency difference isn’t bad.
Secondly it’s a competitive region globally but also not too ‘stacked’ compared to Europe. It gives you a platform to work from in order to launch into the scene of dota players in SEA and around the world. And playing pubs all day on low ping versus high level players from SEA will only better my gameplay.
Lastly I’ll be living with my best friend there, so it should be cool.”
Living with your best friend in a foreign country and playing games? Ah, yes please. Castaway mentioned his best friend quite a few times in the interview we did, so we need to give a shout out to the man himself, Malan Grobler. You sir, are a true support player (GLHF: Dota reference to show you all we know what we’re talking about.).
So we know where Castaway is going, but what’s his plan when he gets there? How do you even begin the daunting task of trying to make it as a professional Dota player?
“My first goal is to get into the top 200 players in SEA, then top 100. Although I have had quite a nice break from playing Dota, I’m itching to get back to grinding ranked. Then I would like to look for a team to play qualifiers with and start improving in more areas of the game (not just myself).
I’ve done a bit of networking with players while going overseas for WESG and have some contacts within the scene. Combine that with a high MMR (Matchmaking Rating) and I have the potential to join good teams.”
Castaway’s goals just go to show how much bigger and better the Dota scene is in Southeast Asia. Here, he was the best player in the country. There, he’s going to be working his ass off to get to the top 200. Testing himself against players of that calibre day after day is obviously going to teach him a thing or two and help him improve as a player.
What gets left behind
Earlier in this piece, Castaway mentioned that he felt he had to leave South Africa to progress his career, because he thought the local Dota scene was dying. That sounds pretty doom and gloomy for the Dota players who aren’t going anywhere, so we asked him to elaborate a bit.
“Looking at the past 1-2 years in South Africa, the Dota scene has been on a slow but steady decline. I believe there are plenty of factors and I don’t think it’s just a simple fix, but I think when more people invest time/finances/etc into the scene, it can lead to a more developed structure, which will lead to growth.
So I’d say it’s been dying, but you never know what a few tournaments can do. I think we’ll be a competitive scene again one day. There is always hope.”
We think he’s hit on a big issue with the local esports scene, not just the Dota one. Structure. In our attempts to be like the rest of the world, who are years ahead of us in their esports development, we’ve built an unstable structure that doesn’t provide for players and teams as well as we all hoped it would.
But all is not lost, not by any means. The groundwork is being done. We’ve got some really passionate and well run tournament organisers who are solidifying the foundations. And as Castaway says, a few events in the calendar and we’ll be building once again.
Be like Waters
Castaway undoubtedly has some exciting times ahead of him. Setting off to a new land, finally getting to compete on an even playing field (GLHF: Or ping-field.) and trying to turn the thing we all love (playing games) into a full time career. We’ll be sure to keep in touch and let you know all the things he learns along the way, for better or worse.
But for now, he has some advice for people looking to follow in his footsteps.
“I’ve listened to what a lot of people have to say about moving your life overseas, especially for your career. I’d say budget correctly and have an understanding in mind of what you’re going there to do and how you’re going to do it. Be specific and I guess you have to be ready to learn, haha.”
Which leaves us with just one thing to say. You’re welcome. We could have made hundreds, nay thousands, of bad puns throughout this article. With a headline like ‘Castaway off to SEA’, it’s actually a miracle we didn’t make any. Sailing puns, pirate puns, stranded on an island puns. So many puns. But we restrained ourselves. Much like Castaway, we’ve grown. (GLHF: Not really.)