Remembering the OpTic House
The Plan - The Problems - The Progress
It is no big secret that the rise in popularity of Call of Duty eSports is due in large part to the many stories, rivalries and conflicts that have emerged over the title’s history. A plethora of tournaments and team changes over the many years of Call of Duty has created incredible storylines; from dominant teams being overcome by new challengers to upstart players emerging in high profile tournaments, Call of Duty is, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining eSports to follow from a fan’s perspective.
In the middle of the Call of Duty®: Black Ops II season, a decision made by the most popular organization would go on to produce some of the greatest storylines the game has ever seen. The ripples of this decision would be felt throughout the community and continue to be felt today, as its impact shook the community like an earthquake. The decision made by OpTic Gaming in June of 2013 to move all members of their competitive roster into a gaming house is one that shaped the community and scene greatly then and continues to shape the community and scene now.
On June 4, 2013, the landscape of competitive Call of Duty was forever changed when the face of the OpTic Gaming competitive team, Matthew “NaDeSHoT” Haag, uploaded a video to his YouTube channel where he, along with OpTic Gaming owner Hector “Hecz” Rodriguez, announced plans for the entire competitive roster to move into a house together. The idea behind the decision was simple; OpTic Gaming had been placing below the level of expectation that they set on themselves, and would use this team house in order to place better at tournaments.
The hope was that by living together the team chemistry would improve, VOD review could be implemented effectively and the focus of the team members could be strictly on Call of Duty. In a later video, Nadeshot would make the claim that because of OpTic’s ability to train together in this house, there was no excuse for why they should not be the best team in Black Ops II after a few weeks.
It was clear though that there was another reason for establishing, what would become known as, “The OpTic House.” In the same announcement video, Nadeshot made it clear that the team was going to, “break sub boxes,” flooding their YouTube channels and Twitch.tv streams with a plethora of content that had not been seen before in the community. And by all accounts, sub boxes were being broken. After all four members of the OpTic Gaming competitive team moved in (Nadeshot, Seth “Scumpii” Abner, Will “BigTymeR” Johnson and Joey “MerK” Deluca), YouTube videos were being posted constantly, primarily by Scumpii and Nadeshot, giving fans insight into the interactions between the team members and how their play as a team was improving.
Nadeshot and Scumpii’s YouTube channels began to grow rapidly, while BigTymeR and MerK began to post content that was getting a high number of views given the lack of time that their channels had been active. Furthermore, the streaming numbers that the OpTic members were pulling in on Twitch were enormous at the time. Over thousands of viewers could be found on Nadeshot’s stream at any given time with the other OpTic members solidly pulling in over 1,000 viewers or more. MultiTwitch streams were shared in the chats so that fans could watch all four teammates play in a scrim at the same time, giving an insight into the gameplay of a competitive team that just had not been seen before.
By all accounts, the move into the OpTic house was brilliant from a social media standpoint. OpTic already had, by far, the largest fan base in competitive Call of Duty, but this move put them even farther in the lead. And not only was the team gaining more recognition, the individual stock of each player was on the rise, leading to larger YouTube, Twitch and Twitter numbers for all four members. Call of Duty as a competitive scene even profited from this; on any given night on Twitch, Black Ops II was soundly in the top-three most watched games due to the massive stream views of the OpTic players, normally falling behind the powerhouse eSports titles of League of Legends and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. The initial social media success of the OpTic House was so staggering, that it seemed impossible for anything to go wrong with it heading into the future.
OpTic would be given the chance the defend the claim made by Nadeshot that they would be the best team in Black Ops II as a result of the OpTic House at both MLG Anaheim 2013 and Gfinity 1, and while third place finishes at both events are by no means bad placings, a different team named compLexity Gaming would go on to prove that they were the most dominant team in the game. Furthermore, it seemed as though the constant streaming and uploading was beginning to take a toll on the team’s mentality. After Gfinity, both MerK and Scumpii would take time to visit their family, leaving the OpTic House for a period of time, and as a result the OpTic Gaming team would be unable to attend the next event, UMG Atlanta, due to a lack of practice. Furthermore, due to the team’s inability to attend UMG Atlanta, they would be unable to qualify for the Electronic Sports World Cup.
In a video posted on July 26, Nadeshot would make it clear that the OpTic House had not been used to gain a competitive advantage yet, and the team was looking into ways to change this. He would reiterate that the goal of the house was to bring in championships, not increase stream views, a reassuring message to the many OpTic fans yearning for a championship. But although his statements appeared to be genuine, the actions of the team seemed to indicate otherwise.
Not only were tensions between the team members seemingly rising, but Nadeshot and BigTymeR, the two members remaining in the house at the time, found even more YouTube and Twitch success by playing Minecraft non-stop. Surprisingly, there was a fair amount of community backlash at the time directed towards the members of the most popular team. Fans were questioning the players’ devotion to the game, concerned as to whether or not they really wanted to win a championship. MerK and Scumpii would eventually return to the house, and practice would resume, but it was clear that something was off with the team dynamic.
In the now infamous video posted to the channels of the remaining OpTic members on Sept. 3, 2013, MerK was released from the competitive roster. The team described MerK as being in a “depressive state,” unwilling to accept help from his teammates, even going so far as to indicate that he didn’t consider them his friends. They claimed that they tried to include him in anything they were doing around the house, whether it be Minecraft, Call of Duty, more vlogging, or whatever else was going on.
According to the team, MerK was having difficulty reconciling the pressure to perform and win championships with the pressure to develop a social media presence, particularly on YouTube and Twitch. Furthermore, they claim he felt it was pointless to even try to increase that social media presence because Nadeshot and Scumpii would always overshadow him.
Simply put, by being in the OpTic House, MerK was always in a negative mood, feeling as though he didn’t belong there. The team argued that in order to improve team chemistry and keep the house spirits lifted, MerK would need to be dropped and replaced, ultimately with Jordan “JKap” Kaplan, a former OpTic member and successful player, as well as a popular member in the community, who would come to the OpTic House and live with the team.
What became obvious at this point is that there was clearly a conflict occurring within the house that had led to MerK’s departure. In a sense, the OpTic House had been too successful in terms of the team’s social media growth. Demand for content was increasing at a rate that conflicted with the team’s ability to get proper practice necessary to win championships. In an era where compLexity would turn their streams off during scrims and online tournaments in order to keep their strategies and communication a secret, OpTic would keep theirs on because the views were so high and it did not make sense for them to turn it off. Streaming and YouTube have always been tied with competitive Call of Duty, more so than any other eSports title, and the OpTic House was the pinnacle of this connection, and was the best way to show both the positives and negatives of that connection.
OpTic Gaming would go on to continue to have poor performances at their next few events, and would eventually drop JKap from the team, citing a lack of team chemistry and the need for better in game leadership. Unlike the previous roster change, no bad blood was involved, as JKap would state in a YouTube video that he still considered himself good friends with the team and didn’t find it awkward leaving the OpTic House.
The team would replace him with Richard “Ricky” Stacy and go on to attend UMG Philadelphia, an event that, once again, they did not get proper practice for due to team members being in and out of the house. Furthermore, it was at this time the BigTymeR announced that he was retiring after the UMG event, although the team claimed that they were going to give it their all at Philadelphia regardless.
Once again the team placed poorly, finishing in 12th place. It seemed as though nothing was going right for the team other than the ever increasing stream and YouTube viewership. But in perhaps some of the most shocking news to ever hit the Call of Duty community, two days later Scumpii would leave the team and join Team EnVyUs. In a move equivalent to Babe Ruth leaving the Boston Red Sox to join the New York Yankees, Scumpii would, seemingly, burn many bridges as he left, while also giving a large amount of insight into the inner-workings of the OpTic House.
Scumpii claimed in a video he posted on Jan. 7, 2014, that although the OpTic House was originally intended to be used as a place to enhance practice and turn OpTic Gaming into the best team in Call of Duty, it was actually a place that bred competition between the team members, particularly between himself and Nadeshot. The two would try to wake up before the other in the hopes of gaining more stream viewers, or upload more videos than the other in an attempt to make their YouTube channels bigger than the other.
Scumpii also gave some insight into the previous roster changes, saying that he now had a better understanding of why MerK was so unhappy living in the house, surrounded by a competitive atmosphere not based in making the team better, but based in increasing the social following of each player. Scumpii was angry at the way the house had developed over time, and felt as though he had to get out.
In the following days, Nadeshot would release a few videos giving his side of the story about the development of the OpTic House. While he admitted to a competition brewing between himself and Scumpii over who could get more YouTube and stream views, he took offense to the notion that Scumpii did not play a role in it. Nadeshot claimed that Scumpii wasn’t as dedicated to practice as he would like people to think, and wanted Scumpii to take some form of responsibility for the failings of the team.
Personal rivalries aside, it was now clear to the fans of OpTic Gaming, and to the greater Call of Duty community at large, that while the OpTic House had been successful in certain areas, it certainly was not successful in creating a winning atmosphere and a winning team when all four members were in the house. Now without, arguably, its best player, OpTic Gaming was scrambling and the team appeared to be in shambles, not sure where to turn to or where to go.
Scumpii would eventually rejoin the team, claiming that he never should have left in the first place and that OpTic was always his home, but did not move back to the OpTic House. It is important to note that from this point on, no more than two members of the OpTic Gaming team would live in the house at the same time for an extended period of time. The likelihood of competition brewing between teammates would decrease as a result of this, and, in the eyes of many OpTic fans, hopefully the team would be better suited to win a championship.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case. The team would continue to struggle even with the additions of Marcus “MBoZe” Blanks and James “Clayster” Eubanks to the roster already containing Nadeshot and Scumpii, their best placing being third at the Call of Duty Championship® for Call of Duty®: Ghosts. OpTic fans were unsure how to feel after nearly a year of disappointment from the competitive team. While the individual followings of the team members had continued to grow since the formation of the OpTic House, and content was churning out from everyone who resided in it at a record pace as more people moved in, the fans were still devoid of a winning team.
MBoZe would eventually be dropped in order to create OpTic Nation and allow room for Jordan “ProoFy” Cannon to join the OpTic Gaming roster. While the initial placing of the team was bad once again (10th place at UGC Niagara), ProoFy would come to live in the house in preparation for MLG X-Games 2014 in a last ditch effort to win something for the Green Wall that had supported the team for so long.
Nadeshot would remark in a video that the vibes in the house were incredible with the addition of ProoFy to the already existing cast of Nadeshot, BigTymeR, MBoZe and Halo professional Michael “Flamesword” Chaves. The people living in the house did not have to worry about competing with each other for stream views while at the same time attempting to improve as a team. Each person could focus on themselves for really the first time since the OpTic House’s inception, creating a place where entertaining content was produced at rapid succession leading to a positive environment.
On June 8, 2014 at the MLG X-Games, for the first time since Dec. 30, 2012, OpTic Gaming won a championship, defeating the dominant Evil Geniuses in the semifinals on way to defeating Team Kaliber in the grand finals to secure their first championship in a year and a half. The OpTic fans finally had what they were promised almost exactly one year ago by Nadeshot; the team had finally become the best team in Call of Duty.
While the roster of Nadeshot, Scumpii, Clayster and ProoFy would be unable to secure victory again, it was clear the OpTic’s stock was rising in the competitive scene, and it was also clear that the OpTic House was continuing to provide a platform for the team to increase their brand name, not enhance practice. The two-member rule would continue to play in effect; as ProoFy left the team and moved out of the house, former EG member and world champion Ian “Crimsix” Porter moved in. As Nadeshot decided to take a break from CoD eSports and left the OpTic House in order to move out to California, paving the way for two-time world champion Damon “Karma” Barlow to join the team, Scumpii would come back to Chicago in order to live in the house yet again. Furthermore, the team has seen enormous success in Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare, becoming the undisputed No. 1 team in the world behind incredible slaying power and dominant play from all members. The team that had once been in shambles as a result of the OpTic House was now thriving, and using the house in order to increase their brand as they dominated.
As the OpTic members now move out of the OpTic House into their, what can only be described as, mansion that is the new OpTic SCUF House, it is important to remember that the impact of the OpTic House will never be forgotten, both its positives and negatives. While the OpTic House was intended to be a place to enhance practice for the competitive team, it was evident from the beginning that this was an unrealistic goal. The OpTic House was too good at promoting the players that lived inside of it; the increased YouTube viewership, increased stream viewership and increased social media presence rapidly expanded the brands of each individual player, but clearly also created an environment that bred unhealthy competition and resent between those who lived in it. The OpTic House was unable to reconcile the demand for content from professional players by the competitive Call of Duty community and the demand for success from the teams, and if it could not, it is reasonable to assume that no team house could do so in the current landscape of CoD eSports.
But when not every member of the team lived in the house, there was no reason to need to reconcile this conflict. Over time the OpTic House became a place where people could focus solely on content creation. Professional players who lived there could continue to practice online with their teammates and stream, but not have to come face to face with them every day, worried about who would end the day with more views on their YouTube video. Furthermore, those members more focused on content creation could bounce ideas off of other members in the house and use the people living there to create more entertaining content for their fans. The OpTic House had finally found its niche by abandoning the idea that its main reason for existing was to develop a championship team. The OpTic House exists to increase the OpTic brand and the individual brands of those who live in it.
The OpTic House has also impacted many other areas of the community in ways that cannot be changed now. The initial influx of content that occurred when Nadeshot, Scumpii, BigTymeR and MerK first moved into the house set a bar for content creation within the community. While social media had always been tied to Call of Duty more so than any other eSports title, the OpTic House pushed the need for a professional player to interact with the community to another level, for better or worse.
In today’s environment, players in Call of Duty need somewhat successful streams or YouTube channels in order to sustain themselves, while in other games such as League of Legends or Counter Strike®: Global Offensive, players do not need to stream or have a YouTube channel to sustain themselves. Furthermore, the OpTic House created an expectation within the fans and the community that content would be in front of their face non-stop. If a player does not want to stream a certain day because he might not feel like it, it is more likely that the community will get on him for not streaming.
Furthermore, the OpTic House has essentially reversed the idea of team houses in eSports for Call of Duty. Teams in League of Legends have to have team houses; not having all members together limits practice and makes it nearly impossible to win in today’s current environment. But with the OpTic House the opposite appeared to be true; OpTic has found more success when fewer players live in the house and has experienced its most troubled times when the entire four-man team was living together. The OpTic House’s initial failures are part of the reason why team houses never caught on in Call of Duty the way they did in other eSports.
Everything considered, the OpTic House has had as much of an impact on the development of the Call of Duty community as almost anything else in Call of Duty’s history. The plan behind it, the initial problems and the eventual progress all played a pivotal role in developing the team and brand that is OpTic Gaming today. As OpTic moves into a new house, new storylines will be developed, new content will be produced, new championships will be contested for and new people will become a part of the community because they know the name “OpTic.” But as this occurs, it is important to remember the story of the original OpTic House; the drama and conflict, the failures and successes, the trials and tribulations and the everlasting impact that it has had on CoD eSports.
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