kioShiMa: "Cloud9? It was a big mess, to be honest; I think we did good, given the circumstances"
Being on the sidelines is by now a familiar story for kioShiMa, who has spent a large part of the last two years waiting for offers to get back into the game. Once a key member of the French team that won a series of international titles between 2014 and 2016 under LDLC and Envy, most notably two Major crowns, he has struggled to find the same level of success since his career took him to international projects.
After a disappointing period with FaZe during which the team won just one title and he found himself in and out of the starting lineup, and a short-lived stint back home with Envy, the offer to play for Cloud9 - even if temporarily - was an enticing prospect for kioShiMa, who had earlier in his career passed up on the chance to move to North America.
The romance quickly became serious as he was offered a permanent contract after just one event as a stand-in, but it came to an abrupt end following the IEM Katowice Major. His time with the North American team was not always smooth - he attended his first four events with as many different lineup combinations -, but there were still positives to take, such as a second place at the ELEAGUE Invitational and a top-14 finish at the IEM Katowice Major after the team had to adapt to a new in-game system under Robin "flusha" Rönnquist.
"I think we did good, given the circumstances," kioShiMa told HLTV.org in an interview conducted last month. "It was a big mess, to be honest, from having to change players every tournament because of stand-in issues to Golden being out for medical issues. We never really knew what was going on and how the future would be so we did the best we could.
"I liked the way of discovering new things, living in North America for a little bit was for sure an experience. I had to balance the gaming aspect and the life that had stayed in Europe. The hardest part was the time zone difference when I had to communicate with my family and my girlfriend."
Under normal circumstances, the placing in Katowice meant that Cloud9 would have a spot at the following Major. However, with kioShiMa’s removal, the team could no longer field the majority of the roster that had competed in Poland (Jordan "Zellsis" Montemurro and flusha had previously departed the squad), forcing them to go through the grueling qualifying stages.
Many times, we have seen teams keep players just for the sake of Major spots, so I asked kioShiMa if he was surprised at the timing of his dismissal as the team risked missing out on a Major. “I do not know if it surprised me, but it was an interesting decision as why would you keep playing if the players did not believe that the roster would be good enough?,” he said. “If they are going for the win, why not take the risk to go through the Minor as you should, if your mentality is to win the tournament? You need to deserve to be there, so going through the Minor will be the ‘deserving factor’." (The North Americans have since failed to qualify for the Minor after being eliminated in the closed bracket).
Cloud9 eventually completed their roster with Daniel "vice" Kim and René "cajunb" Borg, but before that they were reportedly keen on signing Danish duo Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and Jakob "JUGi" Hansen. The uncertainty surrounding the team was experienced by kioShiMa himself, who claims that he was left in the dark during the whole process.
“It was a big cloud, I did not have many conversations with the team,” he explained. “I was left in a place where I never knew what was happening. It went back and forth, someone would tell me that I could be flying on this date, and one day later someone else would tell me that we were talking to this person and that person. So it was a big mess from my point of view.
“Even now we can see that they are still looking for what is best for them, they still do not know. They still haven't found the right balance and that was the biggest issue that we had. We kept trying new people - players and coaches -, it was never-ending. It feels like you are going nowhere as you do not have a stable roster to build [upon].”
The decision-making process behind Cloud9’s revamping has reignited the discussion about whether players have too big a say when it comes to making lineup decisions - something that current FaZe coach Janko "YNk" Paunović had complained about in an interview with HLTV.org during his final days with MIBR.
Following the announcement of his departure, kioShiMa wrote on Twitter that an "organisation does not always agree with the players’ choice" - comments that were construed as criticism of his former teammates, especially as he was publicly praised by Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne for being a “true professional in an industry that often lacks character.”
“I will not go too much into detail about this situation, but one thing I can say with experience is that organisations need to take more control over what happens in a team," kioShiMa said. "The power should not be held by players but by the management - the coach together with the manager.
“They have a better opinion overall and a better understanding of what is going inside the team without going into conflicts or making the atmosphere worse, which could lead to a player wanting to remove someone because they dislike each other for a reason that would not exist in the first place if they did not have that kind of power.
“In my opinion, it would also remove some pressure from the players, who would be able to perform at their best as they would have to focus only on the game."
The conversation then switches to the criticism that kioShiMa has faced in recent years from former teammates and analysts over his mentality and work ethic. He has earned a reputation for being a problematic player, but that label does not seem to bother him in the slightest; in fact, he has come to publicly embrace it on social media. As I point out that he averaged a 1.12 LAN rating with Cloud9 in 2019, he explained that he tends to play his best game when he feels comfortable and fully integrated into a system.
"I usually put in a lot of hours when I’m playing in a team as I want my team to win and to beat everyone else, no exception,” he argued. "I am a player who will perform depending on the atmosphere in the team, without having people angry at each other and keeping things to themselves as it affects the whole dynamic of a squad, but instead talking a bit more with the other players. I love playing in a team when you’re like a unit and everyone goes in the same direction."
The Frenchman has had a few offers on the table since leaving Cloud9 but none interesting enough to entice him. "I do not believe in the projects that I have been offered to join," he said. With the doors of Vitality and G2 closed to him at the moment as both teams seem to have stabilised, kioShiMa wants to go international again. However, it is only a matter of time before his journey eventually goes full circle. "I will finish my career in a French team."
These days, kioShiMa is seen streaming FPL almost on a daily basis. He is also following a training and diet plan - something that he believes would be impossible if he were playing competitively due to the long practice hours. He is in no rush to commit himself to a team as he wants to wait for the right opportunity (prospective teams can contact him by email). Being more patient, he noted, is perhaps the biggest lesson that he learned from his time with the North American team. "I have told myself to never go into a project in which I do not believe, and this is why I am currently not playing. I will stay in shape and I will keep playing. You never know what will happen in CS:GO, a lot can happen in a really short amount of time."