One of India’s first Apex Predator Abhishek “YoLo” Rawat, is now making his way to the top with his fellow teammates at LevelZero Esports.
Along with his teammatesAdarsh “Paddox” Verma, Shantanu “ AURA” Pandey, and Shrey “shine’ Verma, Abhishek started LevelZero Esports as India’s top apex Legends roster. Since then, the organization has evolved to include multiple esports rosters, such as Super Smash Bros. and Fifa.
Sportskeeda Esports’ Suryadeepto Sengupta got a chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with Mr. Rawat and learn about his early days, LevelZero Esports, and his plans ahead.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Abhishek, tell us a bit about yourself. What’s life like outside scoring aces?
Abhishek: Outside playing competitive Games I’m either enjoying other RPG games like Valheim or Battle Royales like Warzone, Apex, etc with my buds or watching Anime, that's one of the things that I can't stay away from.
Are there any other career options you are looking into apart from focusing all of your time and energy on being an esports athlete?
Abhishek: Apart from being an esports athlete I’m really interested in Streaming other games and have my own youtube channel where I can upload stuff other than gaming. I love a Youtuber’s life.
What are some of your earliest gaming memories, and when did you decide to pursue professional esports?
Abhishek: My earliest gaming memories are from old NES Games, OG Mario, Contra, then came the old Shooters like IGI, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor.
I decided to pursue professional esports when I got my new pc where I could play games in decent FPS, then Apex Legends came out and I decided to give it a shot, and here I am.
How was the situation back home, were your parents supportive of your esports career, or were they skeptical about the viability of the career?
Abhishek: My parents were kind of skeptical, but they supported me. Indian parents aren't aware of what esports is, it was a bit confusing for them, it was hard for them to believe that people can play games as a career and that people watch it. But my dad just told me one thing, “do whatever you want, just don't regret it and give it your 100% in whatever you are doing.”
Other than esports, what are some of the other genres of the game do you enjoy?
Abhishek: I really love MMORPGs, Fantasy RPGs, and good shooters with decent story lines, like early Call of Duty.
You started as an Apex legends player. Do tell a bit about your experiences back in the days.
Abhishek: So I got my PC when Apex was already out for 5 months, so I started playing Apex 5 months after its release. So by this time everyone had their squads and everyone was already very good at the game, I started playing with Paddox n AURA who were playing it since the release, they helped me a lot. We used to play Call of Duty 4 together so I knew them for years, I got my squad, I got the hang of the game, and we were set to conquer the region.
Do enlighten us about your journey as “Best of South Asia” conquest in Apex Legends.
Abhishek: When the game came out, it didn't have a rank system or any customs, so we grinded the game but we didn't have anything to show how good we were at it. Then with Season 2 (Season-1 by the name, since Season 1 was named Season-0) came the rank system, and our aim was set at the top, the Apex Predator Rank, we reached Predator and became the 1st Predator squad of India. We were tournament-ready but customs weren’t available till Season-4, so till then we won every Kill Race and Queue Tourneys, then our region got the Custom access thanks to Shine’s efforts and we won the Custom Tourneys too just as we were hoping.
Who is your favorite champion in Apex Legends, and what is your reasoning behind choosing that specific champion?
Abhishek: I used to be a Wattson main, she’s a support legend with the ability to build fences so you can easily set up your base in a building or in opens too. She used to be the meta back in seasons 2-3 when we were playing apex competitively. I like playing passive and chilling at the back with long-range weapons, so Wattson was the legend for me. Her voice lines are cute, remind me of anime characters, so that's another reason lol
What do you think about the long-term sustainability of the battle royal genre as a primary esports option?
Abhishek: Battle Royale games are fun to watch, it's something new in every match, unlike a 5v5 tac shooter where you try to plant bombs in during a half and try to defend in others. You get to see 20+ teams in the same match in a battle royale game which makes it more exciting to watch and it has a more realistic approach like you can choose to play passive, stay out of the fights till the end, or just run and gun.
One thing I never liked about battle royale games was the RNG factor, you can't win only on your skills, you need some luck too, if you can't get a good weapon then you are just a sitting duck, which used to happen a lot when we were playing apex.
What was your experience switching from a battle royal game to a 5v5 esports?
Abhishek: I used to play Call of Duty 4 before Apex Legends, which was a fast-paced 5v5 shooter with search and destroy game type. So switching to a 5v5 from a BR wasn’t that new of an experience for me, game mechanics are different, but I knew how to play a game in a team of 5 where you have to plant/defuse the bomb.
Tell us a bit about the foundation and early days of LevelZero Esports.
Abhishek: It started with 4 of us, Me, Shine, paddox n AURA. My teammates and I were doing pretty well in our region, winning tourneys and grinding the leaderboards, but the game didn't have a viewer base in India. So, organizations weren’t interested in Apex, but then as we got more familiar with the community we found a lot of other players who were looking for an opportunity to showcase their skills, so we decided why shouldn’t we make a platform for people like us, and help the community by giving a new talent a chance at getting better and maybe one day we can help our region get the recognition that regions like NA, EU, KR have.
What’s the team dynamic like in the LevelZero Esports Valorant roster?
Abhishek: We keep switching our roles so it’s not fixed that one person will only play one specific agent, but AURA and Paddox are our main entry/duelists, Karzemo is our sentinel/initiator (in some maps), Doxzer plays Sova/sentinel, and I flex for the team, whenever riot introduces a new character I play it and we try to put it in our comp and see whether it’ll work or not, so I’ve played Sage/ Sova/ Omen/ Killjoy/ Raze/ Astra.
Paddox and Karzemo are our co-IGLs, since playing a duelist like Jett n being IGL at the same time is a bit difficult so Karzemo co-IGLs with paddox.
What was the primary driving factor behind you switching from Apex Legends to Valorant?
Abhishek: We grinded Apex for a year, but EA never added India as a part of their competitive regions so we didn’t have much choice, We knew that Valorant’s gonna be a huge game, so we switched to valorant since we are used to playing ability-based games.
How do you think Valorant sets itself apart from other 5v5 FPS esports such as Call of Duty or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive?
Abhishek: Ability-based characters are the main difference between Valorant and CoD/CSGO. Riot allowed the streamers to host watch parties of tournament matches which helped the game to grow at a rapid rate, since through the medium of other streamers a lot of new players came in towards Valorant.
Where do you see the game in the upcoming years?
Abhishek: When we are talking about Riot, they know what they are doing, just like League of Legends, Valorant’s gonna be on top, competing with CSGO for the #1 spot of FPS esports.
Who is your favorite Valorant esports player?
Abhishek: Subroza from TSM. I love his streams and his mech skills. My 2nd is Faze Babybay since he came from a non CSGO background and dominated the NA Valorant scene recently.
Let’s switch gears and discuss the Indian Esports Community. How do you think it sets itself apart from other foreign communities?
Abhishek: I think the Indian esports community is still pretty new, our vision is very narrow, we have the skills, but I think we get satisfied a lot easier, we should aim for the regions outside India if we want to be the best.
Do you think in the near future Indian Gaming Community will be considered to be competing at the same level as the NA or EU esports community?
Abhishek: For sure, as I said earlier, we are still pretty new, we need more experience and exposure and we can compete against regions like NA and EU.
Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
Abhishek: I don't know, maybe playing like a pro or streaming full time.
And finally, your top 3 tips for a budding esports player?
- Don't get satisfied by small wins, use em as a boost to reach higher.
- Stream/Socials to get more exposure and recognition.
- Grind, Grind, Grind.