"Build up the work-ethic, results are just a byproduct": Vikrant "Hacker" Pujari, ROG Academy Season 5 Valorant coach
Vikrant "Hacker" Pujari is currently one of the most well-known personalities in Indian Valorant esports. He recently joined ASUS ROG Academy to coach five emerging players for the greater good.
Hacker has competed as a player in several games over the years. His experience and knowledge of the game helped him become one of the most experienced coaches in Indian FPS titles. He recently decided to join ROG Academy as the head coach to nurture the selected players of Season 5.
Before starting his new journey with ROG Academy, Hacker opened up to Sportskeeda Esports' Rishab Chakladar and gave an insight into his work plan for the upcoming month with these young talents. Here is everything he had to say.
Hacker believes the corporate interest in esports will be instrumental in the industry's growth in South Asia
Q. Hacker, congratulations on your new role under ASUS ROG Academy. Tell our readers briefly about your journey till now.
Hacker: Hello, so I am Vikrant Pujari. You know me as "hacker" in-game. I have played competitively since 2010. I have played several games like CS 1.6, CS: GO, DOTA2, and now Valorant. I played CS:GO until 2017, and after that, I decided to pursue my coaching career and took the responsibility of the Dare2dream/Eternal Esports roster in 2017.
I then took a break from gaming and returned in 2021 as the coach and manager of Enigma Gaming. From there, I moved to Team XO and will now work with ASUS ROG.
Q. What was your first reaction after you got the opportunity from ROG Academy?
Hacker: I had a telephonic conversation with ROG, and we exchanged our ideologies. I was confident I would land the job. But I still cannot comprehend that I am going with ROG to groom the young talent that the Indian gaming ecosystem offers. I am super excited about this journey.
Q. Tell us about some of the thoughts behind this decision and the responsibilities and expectations that come with this role.
Hacker: When Team XO disbanded, I knew I wanted to be a coach/analyst and took the necessary steps to achieve that goal. I learned a bit about the role as one of my friends, Simar "psy" Sethi, was coaching the ROG Academy Season 4 team. I knew this was something that would suit me when I was presented with the offer and hence I accepted graciously.
The number one priority for me is finding players who are not only skilled mechanically but also have a good game knowledge. But I need players who want to prove themselves and can stop at nothing to achieve that goal.
Q. You will now directly connect with some emerging talents of India and will have a chance to nurture them for the greater good. How are you planning to enrich these gaming enthusiasts through ROG Academy?
Hacker: The first thing I want to teach these gamers is how to create a balance in life and in-game and the ability to cope with pressure. The in-game theories are something a lot of coaches cover. The important thing that the upcoming talents need to recognize is discipline, teamwork, and working towards the goal. The results are just a byproduct of your hardwork, and I want the team to build up to that work ethic.
Q. Emerging players and young talents have several opportunities nowadays to showcase their skillset. According to you, how can it help the newer generation to come about?
Hacker: I am grateful for opportunities like these, as they are seldom seen in CS:GO and other games. I believe the younger and newer generation needs to express their gratitude towards opportunities like these by working hard and being able to showcase their talent and improve not just as an individual but also as a team. Doing this would set a benchmark, and the upcoming generations could latch on to similar traits and create a career out of Esports.
Q. What is your advice to those kids who are still dreaming of a lucrative career in esports?
Hacker: To anyone dreaming of building a career in esports, I would say go for it. You need to get up and start working towards your dreams and do whatever it takes to accomplish them. Do not give up on your dreams. Keep hustling, and your time will come.
Q. Indian Esports is growing at a rapid pace currently. Several investors, sponsors, and agencies are showing interest in Gaming as well. What is your view on it? How can it affect the esports ecosystem in the country?
Hacker: The esports ecosystem in India has snowballed, and I am so happy and excited, as esports was not considered a legit profession. But I am confident as the times are changing at such a pace. This massive amount of investment allows the ecosystem to expand with more and more opportunities for gamers and non-gamers working in this ecosystem.
Gaming has become a solid medium to reach out to a large audience, which sponsors do understand. That is why we see such big brands coming in to work with gamers. It all helps build this Gaming Ecosystem.
Q. Velocity Gaming and Global Esports have represented the South Asian region in the recently concluded APAC Stage-1 Challengers. Both teams delivered decent performances but that was not enough. According to you, what are the teams lacking while facing the top teams of SEA?
Hacker: I believe the small mistakes that we make in-game cost us the rounds, and we lose the game. We need to ensure that our communication, decision-making ability, and ability to play around with a man's advantage or disadvantage and how we play 1vX situations.
If we improve these areas, we will be better than not just SEA but also competing against other regions. I firmly believe Indian teams have learned this and are already working towards the above-mentioned points.
Q. Indian teams are currently going through several roster changes. Some teams are yet to announce their new roster for Stage-2. Between them, which changes were most surprising to you and which teams are you excited to see in the next official event?
Hacker: I am super excited for the three teams I know can do a lot of damage and compete against Velocity Gaming, Global Esports and Enigma Gaming. One of them is Revenant Esports, and I am super thrilled to see this team under the leadership of Saaransh “Whimp23” Dang and the coaching of HBK. They are one of the most disciplined teams in the Indian Gaming Community.
The second and third teams haven't made their announcements yet, but they have a lineup that has defeated Global Esports and Velocity Gaming in the past. Super excited to see BadmaN, Ezzyy, Psy, Blackhawk, Godvexy, and Busterrr back in action (Psy and Blackhawk joined M42 Esports yesterday). Not on the same team, but these are some of the top players in the Indian scene, and I hope the audience will be glad to see them back donning new colors.
Lastly, I cannot take away credit from True Rippers and Reckoning Esports; they have been playing supremely well, and I hope to see them do a lot of damage in the coming days. VCC Stage-2 is going to be a blast.