In late September Titan announced that the team had let go of veteran Swiss star Mathieu ”Maniac” Quiquerez and in his place Adil ”ScreaM” Benrlitom would settle in with the squad.
Studying psychology, working 50 percent and trying to pursue a career as a professional esport player have taken its toll on Maniac, who despite all of that still knows what he desires the most.
– My professional career is my number one goal by far, he says to Aftonbladet Esport.
A couple of weeks have passed since Titan announced that the French organization would let go of their Swiss lurker and replace him with the headshot machine that is Adil ”ScreaM” Benrlitom. As the best teams in the world are gearing up for the last major of the year, Mathieu ”Maniac” Quiquerez reminisce about times past and what the future might hold as he looks back on a career that has far from ended, but still have taken him through a rollercoaster of emotions, wonderful moments and trials and tribulations.
– I won’t lie. There have been some tough times. I was very anxious for a long time. I think I was pretty close to a burn out at one point, he says to Aftonbladet Esport when asked how he managed to balance a difficult education, working 50 percent at his professor’s company and at the same time playing in the upper echelons of one of the World’s biggest esports.
– I was given a position in my professor’s own company which I had to accept, I couldn’t really turn it down. What would happen was that I turned my brain off and disappeared for one or two days and just hung out with my girlfriend and just tried to restore my energy. But yes, it used to be very tough sometimes.
”I couldn’t diversify my game enough”
Everyone who has undergone the gruelling task that is an education on a university level knows that what spare time you have when the cookie start to crumble needs to be wholeheartedly devoted to the textbooks in front of you. For Maniac, those situations arose at some peculiar moments leading to awkward situations.
– Sometimes it was really hard, but if you really want to have it and you are ready to invest the energy needed – you can do it. I remember when I was going to an ESEA event in Dallas, I was studying towards an exam on the nine hour flight, I was studying at the hotel as well as the flight back.
– I think it takes a lot of energy and a good organization. Some periods are tougher than others, he explains.
A lot of us have been there, studying 100 percent, and though it can have its fair share of downtime, at moments it can also be hectic as fuck?
– Back then in Titan, when we had the lineup with Hovik ”KQLY” Tovmassian and Dan ”apex” Madesclaire, I was going into my last year of the master degree. At that moment it was absolutely clear for them that I had less time than the average player but they also knew that I would do everything I could do. Sometimes I would need a day off or I would need to finish the practice earlier because of my studies. It didn’t happen often, but when I felt that it was basically impossible I would prioritize my university and do what I had to do before I could come back and play. And Titan was always okay with that.
How much did all that affect your play and your individual performance?
– I had less hours than the average player, and I think that my skill level could have been higher if it would have been possible to put more time into the game. During this stretch I was also working 50 percent. My days back then consisted of me going to work, then maybe to the university and after I had dinner, I would be able to practice with the team. So, I do believe it affected my skill, but more importantly I never had the opportunity to watch demos, see the new plays, study the new meta – that lead to me being a bit predicable and I couldn’t diversify my game enough because I hadn’t the time to do so.
”It was very tough”
Maniac’s stint on the French Counter-Strike scene has seen him partake in a semi final of a major, winning Dreamhack Stockholm and numerous titles. Though some of his accomplishments have been tarnished by the VAC-ban KQLY ultimately would receive, the Swiss star still looks back upon many of those moments with joy.
As the major reshuffle of the French scene came to a close in the summer of 2014, Maniac had landed in the hands of Jérôme Sudries, the manager of Titan. Under his wings Maniac was given the opportunity to pursue both a career in CS:GO, as well as working towards the looming master’s degree in psychology. But as February of 2015 approached, Maniac was facing yet an other obstacle in his everyday life: Hate.
– I have a much better relationship with the community right now, but at a moment during the beginning of the year it was very tough. In the spring, probably by February or March, I really hit the bottom, I was on the floor and I had no confidence. But then, I bounced back. I started to play a little bit better and the vicious cycle stopped, he says and continues:
– When you are the target of hate, a part of you just puts it aside like you have to do, and that is true for football or tennis players when they underperform as well and you have to be ready for it to be able to handle it. But even if you try to not care about it, there is always a part of you that becomes a bit affected by it. And I was affected by it because I’m an emotional person. I like to have a good relationship with most people if I can. At the same time it made me harder – tougher, and I stopped to care about the hate and I was able to play without opening the forums where people were talking shit about me. It was a human challenge to be able to handle it.
What was it like then to travel to tournaments, did you ever view them as some ‘time off’ where all you had to focus on was the games and what ever happened in the tourney?
– Competitions where like pure oxygen for me. I could leave all the stress behind and I could just be with my team and enjoy the moment.
As you said, you had a period where you perhaps didn’t perform to the level you expected from yourself. But shortly after that, you became one of the better fraggers on Titan. Would you attribute the harder version of yourself to that bump or was it something else that changed?
– Several factors came in to that. There is a common perception that when you hit the floor, when you are at your lowest, you can only bounce back. And that was relevant for me at that time. Also, the vicious circle when you just go lower and lower can work in the opposite direction. If you start playing better, then you have more confidence, people stop talking shit about you and you become even more confident. And I really had that positive cycle for a moment which I could continue building on giving me more positive emotions. In short, I can’t really explain what happened, just that many things came into play at the right time.
After your departure from Titan, you made it really clear that you would keep on playing and do your best to become a part of an other team. Where are you right now and are you playing as much as you used to?
– There’s not to much I can say right now as there are a lot of things happening ‘under cover’, so to speak. To be frank though, the situation is somewhat difficult right now as all the teams are preparing for the upcoming major. There are teams who are interested in me, but quite logically no teams want to make a move right now as they have a big objective coming up. Before the major, nothing will happen. But I have great hope that I will be able to find a good team which will be able to compete with the very best. Obviously it will be hard and I will need to work a lot.
– What happened with Titan and the fact that I acknowledge all the mistakes I did also made me very motivated to make a fresh start. Right now I’m playing as much as I can individually and I don’t want my skill level to regress and then, at a later stage, be forced to pick it up again. I play a lot of deathmatch and the Faceit Pro League to be able to compete with the very best when I get picked up again.
– My professional career is my number one goal by far. If that was not possible and let’s say I don’t get a spot at the type of team I’d like, I would consider to quit. I’ll rather retire than play with a much lower tier team. If that would happen though, I would reconsider and maybe become a coach, caster or analyst. I would really like to stay within the community, as I feel I have given the community a lot, and the community definitely have given me so much. I’m not really ready to part ways with it.
”I think there is something to develop there”
In late September, Titan made the decision to cut Maniac from the roster. The Belgian superstar ScreaM would take his place in the squad and just a few days after the announcement, Titan qualified for the upcoming major in Cluj-Napoca.
– I don’t have that much contact with them right now. Obviously I was very disappointed with the decision, but me being disappointed doesn’t mean I can’t respect it and I don’t need to bitch about or act like a child because of it. They made the decision and I only had to accept it. I probably won’t be wearing my Titan shirt and cheer for them when they play, but if they succeed I will be happy for them and if they fail ‘that’s too bad’. I don’t want to give too much energy towards that – it was a chapter in my life with both good and bad moments but overall it was a beautiful time in my life.
– I have a really good relationship with everybody in Titan and I didn’t have a problem with anybody on the team. Jerome, the manager, and I talk a lot because he really wants to help me find my way back into the community which is very nice of him.
When the announcement came out especially Reddit was flooded with comments where it seemed as if the community almost had taken you to heart as they did when Fifflaren quit. How did you feel about that?
– The reaction from the community when the announcement came was very surprising. I have to say that I didn’t expect those positive comments in my regard so it was extremely nice. I always tried to stay close with the community and I always tried to be honest, and sometimes that have backfired. I’ve always tried to stay humble and give true answers at all time. If you give people as much as you can, you will be rewarded by the end as in every kind of relationship. The reaction from the community also motivated me to keep on playing and stay in the community because there were so much love and respect in my regard and that was very heartwarming.
– I definitely want to stream a lot, even more now when I have more time to do so. But at the moment I have some technical issues with my PC, it seems to blue screen from time to time. It is really not cooperating right now. As soon as I fix that, I will be very active on Twitch.
Considering your education as a psychologist and the way that esports is growing right now, and the way traditional sports have ventured into having mental coaches available for the professional players, have you ever thought that esports teams would benefit from having someone like that?
– Yes. There have already been people approaching me in that regard. I think that is a lead for the future. According to me, Counter-Strike is as much about individual skill as it is about holding your emotions in check and to be able to stay composed while playing on huge stages. I think there is something to develop there, though I don’t know how much time it would take and how that kind of situation would work out in a practical way but I definitely think that at some point when the pressure will be much higher and the stakes as well, there will be individuals who would benefit from having someone to talk to who could calm them down and help them focus on the right thing and keep their energy going where it is needed.
– I like to compare Counter-Strike to tennis in a lot of ways. Obviously it is a physical game and you really need skill to succeed, but when you look at the guys who are continuously winners, they all stay composed and they are often a bit older than the rest.
– If a team would employ a mental coach, that team would obviously not become the best team in the world over night. However, a coach like that could speed up the process for some players who could mature at a faster pace and in time become a better player because of it.