From being one of the best IGLs in CS:GO in India, to leading GodLike Esports in Valorant, Vishal "haiVaan" Sharma is one of the most experienced players in the Indian Valorant scene.
Since 2016, haiVaan has played CS:GO for many organizations including OpTic India, UMUMBA Esports, and Global Esports. Besides his esports career, haiVaan makes sure to entertain his fans with his regular content streams on YouTube. With a light heart and a great sense of humor, haiVaan has become a fan favorite in the Indian esports scene.
In an exclusive interview with Satyaki Das, Vishal 'haiVaan' Sharma opened up about his journey since the CS:GO days, sharing some of his duties and the ups and downs that he faces as an in-game leader.
Here's an excerpt of the conversation:
Q. Let’s start with your gaming journey. What were your initial computer games? How young were you when you tried out FPS for the first time?
haiVaan: Initially I started playing Prince of Persia during my school days. I used to play the game right after reaching home from school.
When I was around 11, my eyes caught the FPS genre, starting with Counter-Strike 1.6. There was this place, almost like a gaming cafe that a couple had set up with 5-6 PCs back then. I used to go there with my friends to play CS 1.6.
Q. When did you finally think of going professional and grinding hard for the same?
haiVaan: To be honest, one never really decides to go professional. You just start playing the game and have fun on the way. Once you really see yourself enjoying it, you start grinding and give your best to be good at that game..
Also, one of the things that really motivated me to get good at the game was the tournaments. Back then, not many tournament organizers were there in India. And then suddenly, big brands and companies like PGAX and ESL entered the scene, which was huge. That made my interest grow towards the esports scene. To be very specific, I was 16 when I started grinding hard for tournaments.
Q. Coming to your in-game name, Haivaan. Where did it come from, and why did you decide to have it?
haiVaan: Initially, I named myself Maddox before coming to haiVaan in 2016. Maddox was the name of a bot in CS 1.6, who was really good at the game. But then, many ended up keeping that name, which made it too mainstream.
So I considered a change in my IGN, and googled the word 'beast'. I found out that it meant Haivaan in Turkish. Although I knew the Hindi meaning of the word, I liked the Turkish one. That's how i named myself haiVaan.
Q. You made a name for yourself in CS:GO, especially in the Indian community, being one of the best riflers and an IGL of the country. What are some of the things that you miss now which you used to cherish during those days?
haiVaan: One of the things I do miss from those days is LAN. Right now, there's nothing much to be done in the COVID-19 situtation which makes me miss the LAN events a lot.
Another thing which I miss is the lack of media in the scene. Back then, there were no complications and nothing much to deal with. However, over these years, media has grown a lot, compared to those times when it wasn't that great but I used to prefer that.
Q. Your professional switch from CS:GO to Valorant took a lot of time over the last year. What made you finally decide to finally step up your career with Valorant as your main focus?
haiVaan: I learned about the development of Project A by Riot Games, and I was intrigued by it and thus I have followed it since 2019. And since it was a tactical FPS game, similar to CS, I started feeling it might kill the CS: GO scene, especially in India.
When it was released it did take over the scene, and thus my interest towards it grew even more.
Also, before joining GodLike I received 5-6 offers from several PUBG Mobile organizations to form a Valorant team. Some of them even suggested me to form a team. However, i did not really like the offers and waited for the right time and offer. And that's when GodLike stepped in and things looked well and i took the chance.
Q. You’ve spent a great deal of time streaming CS:GO and Valorant before joining GodLike Esports as a professional. How different is that streaming life compared to the esports life that you lead right now?
haiVaan: Well, in streaming life, it’s like you play the game whenever you feel like it. You can stretch the hours or minimize it. You can even set your own schedule, be it in the morning or at night. Basically there are no real boundaries to that life.
In esports life, you have to be very punctual and work according to the team’s schedule. At one point in the day, you may have to decide if you really want to stream or not. After the long training sessions for about 8 hours, we are left with around 3-4 free hours before going to bed. That's where you need to decide if you want to stream these hours or give yourself free time.
To be honest, streaming is really fun.
Q. Currently being the IGL of GodLike Esports, you do have a lot of responsibilities on your shoulder. Can you throw some light on some of those duties which you think makes the team work?
haiVaan: There are many responsibilities of an IGL. There's a new agent in Valorant after every two months, so you have to decide how the the team will adapt to it. There's also this duty to listen to the teammates who give their opinions, desires and priorities and manage how the team changes accordingly.
Also during scrims, sometimes we really pop off, everything seems to work. However, in some of those scrims, we do fail. So taking care of those mistakes and thinking of a possible solution for the same is what an IGL needs to do. There are many other responsibilities, these are some which came to my mind.
Q. There must be times when the motivation of your team and yours is lacking. How do you manage such situations and cope up with these problems?
haiVaan: Usually, the team loses motivation when we lose an official match. So for me, the best way to cope up with this is to take two to three days off from the routine. Maybe hangout for a while and distract yourself outside the gaming world. Basically taking a break from the game. We usually do this over the weekend and then start fresh next week with a positive mindset.
Q. You like to play Astra quite a lot since the release. What are your thoughts about her? Do you plan to implement some Astra gameplay into your team?
haiVaan: Yes I really like the agent. It has a mixture of Omen’s abilities along with Breach, and her ultimate is really overpowered. However, I do think the ultimate is probably going to be nerfed. Currently it lasts for around 22 secs, which makes it a really powerful agent. We would definitely implement it into our game.
Q. GodLike Esports has provided the team with a bootcamp and all necessary amenities. How comfortable is it to play with your team by your side? How do you think it will affect your game once you go back home to play individually?
haiVaan: The Bootcamp that GodLike has provided us is a permanent one, and not a temporary one where one needs to go home. However, some players may need to go home for some occasion or for some emergency for a week or two.
The benefit of staying together in the bootcamp is that you become very comfortable and confident. Once you're with the team, you can share your thoughts instantly, maybe show them something over dinner, or talk about the game anytime of the day. So that's a huge advantage of staying together.
Q. Being a gamer by heart, you must have some inspirations and favorites in the community. Who are some of those players who you like and look up to in the Indian scene as well as internationally?
haiVaan: Well, I did have inspirations during my learning phase of the game. I was a fan of Robin "flusha" Rönnquist during the CS:GO days. Coming to content creation, I really like the streamer Caesar "cdnthe3rd" Noriega. But, i don't think the Indian audience would appreciate his content that much. However, I do like him.
And from the Indian community, I haven't really looked up to anyone to be honest. As i said, I looked up to people during the learning phase of my career and after that, I don’t have someone to look up to.
Q. The absence of Knighrider in GodLike’s active roster has forced Flexx to step in as a substitute. Do you think Flexx has a future in GodLike Esports judging by his performances?
haiVaan: For the time being, we are trying Nikhil "Flexx" Govind out and testing his potential. He’s doing good in-game, however, and what also matters is his attitude out of the game. So yes, we are testing him and involving him in our official matches. Once the team sees the spark they desire in him, we can definitely take him as a permanent player.
Q. There’s this big debate about Vandal and Phantom. Which one do you prefer and why?
haiVaan: Well, I prefer Vandal over Phantom because even in my CS:GO days, I used to prefer the AK-47 over the M4. This is because of the headshot ability along with the raw feeling of the gun which I liked. In Valorant, Vandal gives me the closest feel of the AK, and that is why I would choose Vandal over Phantom.
Q. Your YouTube Channel has seen insane growth in a year. From March 2020 to March 2021, you have gained around 40k subscribers. Did you expect such immense growth in such a short span when you started streaming last year?
haiVaan: I wouldn’t say that's an ‘immense’ growth in numbers. To be honest, when I started streaming, I did kind of expect growth, being a person with a professional esports background.
I think the growth is in decent standing at 40k. Currently, I'm still trying to keep it growing. Back then, I did not know the importance of highlights and montages and shorts. But now, I am slowly understanding the process and trying to implement it.
Q. While you may be a professional esports player, you still manage to stream regularly like a content creator would. Would you by any chance want to be a content creator once your esports run is over? What are your plans in the future?
haiVaan: Well, I haven't really thought about the content creation life right now. For the time being, I need to focus on my team, and give them the 100%. Unlike before, I don't even conduct member games now. I do try to keep the channel active with regular streams, but my main focus is my team right now.
About my aim and plans, it’s not my goal to reach the top of India, but to take India with me to the top. I think that's what every individual player should think about in their professional competitive career.
Q. Recently Global Esports defeated Team Mahi consecutively, snatching away two tournament victories. What are your thoughts about the same? Do you think Global Esports will manage to retain this victory?
haiVaan: I did watch the matches and the what I observed was that Team Mahi was not in form at all in those matches. Kudos to GE though, they pulled off an amazing performance, taking two tournament victories. Really well done. All of GE's players were tremendously in form. But Team Mahi lacked that composure and that's what cost them the tournaments.
I feel Team Mahi will surely identify their mistakes and come up with solutions for the same and will bounce back again.
Q. What are some of the advice which you would like to give to the young gaming enthusiasts who are inspired by you and your skills?
haiVaan: One thing that I do get to notice these days is that new players often end up desiring and wanting more at first. I did not start with a huge setup in my days. I still remember purchasing a mouse for 300 INR after receiving the tournament prize money. I did not ask for more, I just kept playing and doing my best with what I had.
Beginners nowadays always ask for such devices from the start, but that's not how it works. Back then, this attitude was not that common in the youth, but now it has prevailed. This attitude is the only way stopping you from getting to the top. So be content with what you have, and struggle hard until you get the chance to have the things you want.