Jame on memes about him: "It's cool; I should've boosted my media presence off the back of the hype"
Dzhami "Jame" Ali has been a mainstay in the upper echelons of the CIS scene for over three years now, enjoying a rise to stardom in 2019 as he helped AVANGAR to the StarLadder Major final and to victory at BLAST Pro Series Moscow, where he was named the MVP of the tournament, prior to the team's transfer to Virtus.pro, one of the biggest and most prestigious organisations in the region.
In the first part of this interview, which was conducted in Russian and then translated into English, Jame reveals when he was introduced to Counter-Strike and talks about his early days in the scene. He also says that he takes the memes about him with humour, though he admits that, in the past, "there were times when I shouldn't have saved."
Do you watch match streams? Which commentators do you like?
I usually watch streams with someone and we discuss the match, so I mute the sound. As such, I can't really say much about the commentators.
Can you recommend any films or books that motivate you?
My main motivation comes from within. After you've finished a scrim, had your meal and chilled out, a thought comes to mind about not having done as much as you should have, and that you need to hit some Deathmatch or review demos. This process happens without any external motivation. Everything that you watch or read serves as food for your motivation, For example, I enjoy 'Dragon Ball', where obtaining power is considered the ultimate goal, it's literally the story of the series. Out of the more recent series, I enjoyed 'The Last Dance'.
Are there age boundaries in CS:GO? How long do you plan on playing?
CS:GO isn't old enough to make any conclusions. If we take me specifically, then I occasionally consider that at the age of 25 I might become a coach or walk away from an esports career, but then I take a week-long break and realise that there isn't much point in living without the game if that's all you're capable of and it brings you pleasure. I find it difficult to say something specific, as anything can happen. In any case, by the age of 30 there's a whole spectrum of things you can't ignore such as your family, health and side business. Overall, a person can't do the same thing for too long as he loses motivation. Any specialist has to progress in their work because if they do the same thing for too long it becomes a routine, and the same applies to CS. You can't be at the peak of your game at all times, and dedicate 100% of your time to CS. You can burn out at any moment, I'm lucky that I boost my motivation with some results.
How has the game impacted your health?
I recently found out that I have issues with my neck. Because of a sedentary lifestyle, I've developed issues with my spinal vertebrae, and at a certain point I had headaches for multiple weeks. A lot of players that I know have similar issues, and to ensure this doesn't happen we need to integrate sport into our lives. The last time I did any sport was during P.E. at university three years ago.
When were you in peak form?
Everything depends on what you define as your best form. It's a sensation that isn't easy to achieve, and maybe it doesn't even exist. What's more important is to perform consistently well!
How do you maintain the motivation to play at the top level?
The lifestyle that I have and the money that I make can be lost very quickly, and this thought keeps me alert. I appreciate what I currently have, namely a strong roster, a great organisation and essentially everything I need to achieve good results, and these are my main motivations. If you hop off the wagon it sure won't be easy to get back on it.
Has your wage affected your motivation?
Money is a good motivator but it isn't the main one. When you lose at a tournament, the last thing you're thinking about is money. Motivation is constructed out of a list of components, specifically a love for the game, your wage, responsibilities bestowed upon you and a wish to prove yourself to others. It's difficult to pinpoint which one of them has the most influence.
Have you ever let fame get to your head?
I'll answer this question just like other people have: people around me would know better. Generally, people frequently think that someone let fame get to their head. For example, you're playing with your friends and always trash-talk them when they mess up during a round. Some time passes and you end up joining a team, you even win a tournament. Then, when you're back to playing with your mates, you think twice about saying something toxic because it will be interpreted differently. If you start trash-talking them like you did way back then, they'll say you're full of yourself, that you consider yourself better, despite the fact that, in reality, you're acting just like you always have.
How did you come up with your nickname?
Initially, my nickname was Jake, but I saw a YouTuber with the same nickname, so I changed the "k" to an "m". The result turned out sounding similar to my name.
When did you first play CS?
When I was around five, my friend brought me to an internet café, where I played a couple of rounds of CS 1.6. The next time I played CS was around three years later. During 1.6 I didn't follow esports at all and only played on random servers. I started playing my first mix matches during Source, and joined my first official teams in CS:GO.
When did you realise you could become a professional player?
Probably when I won my first prize money, I don't really remember.
Did you like CS:GO off the bat?
Yeah, I was really surprised at how you could just press the search button and it would automatically find you a match. That's how I got stuck into it for so long.
Tell us about your first serious team.
We assembled a team from a bunch of Southern guys and headed out to the Gameanoid event in Moscow. We lost to guys from Kazan, who had electronic playing for them at the time. For our next visit to Moscow, we assembled a stronger roster with PASHANOJ, erased, SEVERIN and tr3vl, and we managed to secure second place. We were playing under the "Gnet Cafe" tag, which was an internet cafe in Krasnodar that sponsored our trip to Moscow. Before AVANGAR I played in a team called Hala Ares alongside PASHANOJ, and if naumoff hadn't received a VAC ban, then we would've made it to the Minor. There were also teams called NOVA and Comanche, but I don't remember if either of those organizations paid me even a single rouble. Usually, young teams are promised a lot if you play under an organization's tag, but you don't receive any money.
What do you remember from that period of time?
I remember that I had serious ping issues. Back then there were a lot of events after which you had to submit your demos, and obviously everyone that I beat asked me to send them my demo. It took me around an hour to upload them. If my team participated at such an event, then it could stretch out until 5 in the morning because we'd have to add an extra hour to each match so that I could upload my demo. I also remember moving in with PASHANOJ, where we farmed FACEIT together, landing winning streaks of 70 games in a row.
How did you decide to use "RDFG" as your movement keys?
I think I saw GeT_RiGhT use them, and I realised that it's logical to have additional keys to the left of your hand.
How do you feel about the memes associated with you?
It's cool. I should've boosted my media presence off the back of the hype, maybe I'll regret not monetising it later on. On the other hand, had I abused the memes for money then the charm of it would be gone.
The most popular meme of them all is 'Jame time'.
In the past, there were times when I shouldn't have saved. We were inexperienced, and we'd frequently destroy our own economy with these saves. When it comes to slow plays on ecos, it's fun to wait out an UZI with a USP. The person is frag-hunting, so they'll run right at you, but these days the level of play has improved, so it doesn't really work anymore. Players run off to save in a single position, so it's better to land some damage before the bomb blows. 'Jame time' has different interpretations actually. One of them is when I land a nasty clutch, the other when I save. At the Major, for example, 'Jame time' was connected specifically with impressive kills.
How has the pandemic affected you and the team?
Firstly, we haven't seen each other as a team since February. When you travel three times a month, you tend to think that it'd be nice to relax at home for a couple of months, but when you've been sitting at home for half a year, you realise that you miss travelling. We're serious about the coronavirus, and how can you not be serious about it when every single person has elders in their family, who are at high risk?
Tell us about your wage growth.
My first wage was 10,000 roubles (~130$ USD), but that was a one-time payment to make sure I would sit and train, back when I was playing with PASHANOJ. In AVANGAR we started with a $300 salary, but when we secured second place at our first event, it went up to $500. Later, depending on the team's results, our wage would grow by $300 every time, and by the Major it reached a very respectable sum for a pro player in the CIS region. After we secured second place at the Major it increased further. With Virtus.pro, our wage depends on our [HLTV] ranking. When we would lose a lot it would substantially decrease, but now we've returned to good remuneration.
What was your largest expense with the money you've earned?
I helped my mum with her flat. As for myself, I bought an iPhone and Balenciaga clothing.
Name your favourite victory and most bitter loss.
My favourite victories are Flashpoint and BLAST. The most bitter loss has to be our match against MIBR at the CS:GO Asia Championship in Shanghai, where at 15-14 I made a poor play and we lost the match. You can't say I ruined the match, as anyone could have taken things into their hands, but I had a solid chance of winning the match. I peeked short with an AWP and was met with an SG.
Tell us about your family.
My father is from Afghanistan and my mother is Russian. They're divorced, so I lived with my mother and grandmother in Russia.
Who did you want to become as a kid?
I really liked movies about offices, where people in suits would have meetings and make decisions, so I wanted to become an office worker.
Do you have a dream outside of esports?
Do you have higher education?
No, I only finished the first year. I don't plan to finish my education in the future.
Have you worked outside of esports?
Yes, I delivered newspapers for a couple of days. I also worked as a surveyor assistant where I helped carry and set up equipment.
What's your favourite food?
I like Russian dumplings, pizza and borscht. I enjoy simple food.
What's your favourite music to listen to?
I have around 8,000 tracks in my playlist, and you can find anything on it, from rap to k-pop in it.
Will you allow your kids to get into esports?
It can't simply be a waste of time at the PC, rather a systematic approach within a correct surrounding. If it becomes apparent that my kid has a future in esports, then, of course, I'd only be supportive.
Do you have any fears?
The most obvious one is death, and the rest of my fears are as a result of the fear of death. My other fears aren't very pronounced.
Are you religious?
I haven't formulated my position about this question.
What was your biggest mistake in life?
In terms of the game, as I mentioned previously, it was peeking TACO with a 15-14 scoreline, losing both the round and the match. As for life, my mistake is that I'm not involved in sports, and I make that mistake every day. Besides that, I can't say I've made any life-altering mistakes.
You've visited a long list of countries. Which ones have you enjoyed the most?
It just so turns out that I like countries where we win or just have a good showing as a team, for example Ukraine, Germany and Romania.
In the second part of the interview, which will be released Friday, Jame talks about AVANGAR's rise to the top, including the miraculous run at the StarLadder Major, the team's struggles after signing for Virtus.pro, the replacement of veteran Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev, among other topics.