seized: "I'll play the game until it stops bringing me pleasure"
seized began to make a name for himself during the final years of CS 1.6, playing for teams like fbgaming, tao and Vifort, but he rose to prominence only in 2013, a whole year after CS:GO was released, when he was offered the chance to join Natus Vincere, a legendary but struggling team at the time.
The Russian player spent five years in NAVI's ranks, winning a series of international titles and reaching two Major finals — DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 and MLG Columbus 2016 — before he stepped down from the team in late 2017 following a series of mixed results. He has since played for the likes of FlipSid3, Gambit, Vega Squadron and now Cyber Legacy, whom he joined in May after several months out of action.
In the first part of this interview, which was conducted in Russian and then translated into English, seized weighs in on a variety of topics, including his beginnings as a player, the origins of his nickname, his best and worst teammates, and even the 'decoy' meme that still pops up now and then.
Which streams do you enjoy watching? Do you like CIS commentary?
Before the arrival of Maincast, I didn't watch Russian streams. In all, when I watch interesting matches I don't really mind the sound. I don't watch them for the commentary, but if the match has good commentators and spot-on analysis, then I'll watch with the sound on.
What are the issues with Russian casts?
It's better now than it was in the past, but still, many commentators don't know and don't want to find out all of the nuances of professional Counter-Strike. Because of this, they're giving viewers bad information, and the community is used to trusting their word for it.
How did you find out that you were called a decoy? How did you take it at the time and what do you think of that situation now?
Someone just sent me the link from that cast. Initially, I took it badly, as I was relatively young and read all of the comments, worrying about the hate. I wanted people to only write good things about me, so I'd say it got to me at the time. Later, I grew up, matured, and understood that haters will always be present, and you simply have to dismiss unjustified criticism. In the end, the story became a meme, and I don't really care about it.
What age do you plan to play to? Is there an age limit in Counter-Strike?
I'll play the game until it stops bringing me pleasure. Age doesn't mean anything in terms of decaying physical ability, like reactions, for example. The main difference is that at the age of 18-19 you don't have much responsibility, your mother cooks you food, you don't need to clean up, you just sit in front of your PC and play the game from morning to night. Your mechanics are basically spotless. When you grow up, you have a long list of responsibilities that no one will do on your behalf, and you are obligated to spend your time on them. You improve the quality of your training, but the number of raw hours you spend in the game goes down in comparison to when you were younger.
Have you ever had issues with motivation?
I've never had such problems, as there has always been something to work on. [In NAVI], we were a top team, we won tournaments, but we never had the feeling of domination, like Fnatic, SK Gaming or, later, Astralis had. We always had room for growth.
Has wage ever affected your motivation?
It has not had an impact on the game. It has improved the quality of my vacations, but the money has never influenced my level of play. On the contrary, with an increased wage you want to become even better to further improve your conditions.
Have you ever let fame get to your head?
It's difficult to answer that question about yourself, you should ask those around me. Personally, I think I haven't.
How did you come up with your nickname?
I just opened up a dictionary and put my finger on a word. I enjoyed the way it was written and the word's translation into Russian.
When did you realise that you were a professional player?
When I started earning a wage from playing, which happened in CS:GO when I joined NAVI. As for realising the potential that I had, it happened when I won Clicknet (internet cafe) events one after another during the 1.6 days.
What do you remember from the 1.6 era?
I don't miss the actual game, but I have great memories from the atmosphere that surrounded those tournaments. I remember the night time tournaments that would take place from 10pm to 8am. There were always a lot of teams that my friends and acquaintances played in, and it was always fun, but heated at the same time, as all of the games were very tense and people wanted to win for the principle. The event would conclude in the early hours with 2v2 matches for cash. They weren't simply tournaments for the sake of having a tournament, they were parties and chillouts, which gave you energy for the rest of the week.
What are the differences between the professional player communities of 1.6 and CS:GO?
It's difficult to compare, as over the past 10 years a lot has changed. The main change is that back in the day people mostly played for pleasure, whereas nowadays CS isn't just a pleasant pastime, but a real way of making money. Also, interactions used to be based on live interactions, while now it's practically all online.
In percentage terms, how well are you performing in comparison to your ceiling?
I think I'm playing at around 80% of my maximum right now.
Which region would you be interested in playing in?
I'm fully content with the current scene I'm playing in, but maybe, some day, before I conclude my career, it would be interesting to live and play in America.
Which scene do you enjoy following [the most]?
CIS. The level of teams has improved drastically. We used to have two or three good teams and then there was just an abyss, but nowadays, you have a lot of really cool teams that play at a great level on the international scene.
Are large buyouts good or bad?
There are pros and cons. If a player is bought out for a hefty sum, then they also receive a decent sum for it. However, if they want to transfer to another team but the interested organization is unable to pay his buyout, then that's just sad and there's not much you can do about it. Large buyouts are normal for the tier 1-2 level, it's a form of financial defence, but overall, organizations themselves are to blame for the situation as they inflated wages and buyouts, and there's no road back now.
Who were your best and worst teammates?
The best was flamie. We were close friends, we would go on walks together, go to the cinema and live together during events. Inside the game, we also had a great mutual understanding and we always played as a duo. It's difficult to name the worst, as everyone had something that was better and worse about them. It was quite difficult to play with s1mple, but obviously not because of his in-game performance, but his temperament and, at the time, young age. He wasn't selective with his wording when it came to discontentment. Nevertheless, outside of the game we always had a good relationship and it remains good, much like with all of my ex-teammates from NAVI. If we're talking strictly level of play then, likely, my worst teammate was ceh9.
Tell us about your wage progression.
My first ever wage was paid out when I joined NAVI at about $700 per month, then it increased to $1,000. The next boost was up to $1,500, and for a long time it was at $3,000. The most it went up to was $11,000. When I was with Gambit everything depended on our rating, so it was between $8,000 and $11,000. In Runtime I was paid $3,000. As for Vega Squadron, you could say that there was no pay at all, as the wages were not paid out. The wage I earn in Cyber Legacy is reflective of the team's level.
What was your largest purchase with money made from Counter-Strike?
A flat plus renovations in it.
What was your favourite victory and most bitter loss?
My favourite victory was ESL One New York, and my most bitter loss was the MLG Columbus final.
Have you ever been asked to fix a match?
Yes, I was asked to by my friends, strictly for fun. I never received any serious offers, or I immediately declined them.
Have you ever played with cheats?
Not in CS:GO, but in 1.6 I did cheat in pubs when I just started playing.
What's your dream lineup?
Niko, FalleN, electronic, gla1ve.
Have you thought of transferring to Valorant?
No. I played six rounds, left the game and never played it again.
Tell us about your family.
My father died practically right after I was born. My mother was a professional volleyball player, so I played a lot of volleyball as a kid, and my stepdad was an acrobat in a circus. Now my mother is a social worker, while my stepdad works as a driver for the government. They always had a rough approach to my esports hobby, they didn't allow me to play for more than two or three hours a day. It only became easier when I was in university.
Recently, you mentioned that you weren't able to say goodbye to your grandfather. It caused a wave of negativity as you had time to make it to a bootcamp but you were unable to be with him. Why did that happen?
My granddad lived in Krasnodar. Around one month before his passing, he was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, and my parents didn't tell me about it at all, only on the day of his burial. Of course I would've travelled to say goodbye had I known in advance.
Who did you want to become as a kid?
I always found it difficult to understand who I wanted to become, but I always liked travelling, so I think my job would have something to do with it.
What's your favourite type of cuisine and music?
I listen to everything, but I edge towards pop. As for cuisine, I don't really have one, I just have food items that I like, for example caesar salad, fried potatoes and watermelons.
Have you ever worked outside of esports?
I worked as a courier for a single day back during school, I delivered manicure kits.
Do you have a dream outside of esports?
I'd like to visit all countries of the world, as I really enjoy travelling. When it comes to material things, maybe I'd like to open my own nightclub.
Will you allow your kids to get into esports?
I'll allow them to play, but at the same time I won't let them miss out on education and other important aspects of everyday life. I think it depends on whether they'll be good at it or not.
Do you have any fears?
I hate insects, spiders and snakes. I used to be afraid of heights, but now I actually enjoy heights. When it comes to airplanes, when you travel five or six times a month, you start treating those flights as taxi rides. I really miss flights these days, I really like flying. There was only one time that I felt terrible flying, and that was when we were flying with Team Russia in an internal flight while going back to Moscow from China. We had two hours of turbulence, almost like a rollercoaster, and there was a heavy lightning storm outside. I had mentally come to terms with my life on that flight. I also have a natural fear of death.
You've visited a long list of countries, but do you have a specific one that you remember fondly?
There are four places that I've visited that have left a great impression on me: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dubai and Ayia Napa.
What are your thoughts on the coronavirus?
Initially, I was a little panicked, I'd stay away from shops and such, but with time I've calmed down and these days I don't really sweat about it much. I actually think I had the coronavirus. During New Year's, I was hospitalized with double pneumonia, and slightly over a week later after I left the hospital, the virus was in the news.
In the second part of the interview, which will be released on Sunday, seized discusses his time with NAVI, including the two final defeats at Majors, and what followed next. He also explains the differences between the coaches that he has played under, and reveals that he came close to moving to North America at one point.