Monday, April 22, 2024

Hometown Heroes: Keiko

Written by:
Bonnie Qu
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Monday, April 22, 2024

Hometown Heroes: Keiko

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Written by:
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Edited by:
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Graphic design by:
Monday, April 22, 2024

Hometown Heroes: Keiko

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Written by:
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Edited by:
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Graphic design by:

Longtime Team Liquid Valorant fans may remember that last year, we produced a series of articles titled ‘Hometown Heroes’, which functioned as a way to showcase the diverse backgrounds and upbringings of all our Valorant players. This year, we’re bringing it back for our new additions. This installment will focus on Keiko, our rapidly rising star!

Keiko grew up in and around London in the United Kingdom, although when it comes to the place where he spent most of his adolescence — namely, a grammar school in Croydon — he doesn’t have much to recommend. At age 20, many things are still new experiences to him, including living in Berlin with the rest of the Valorant team. Read our interview with Keiko to find out more about how his parents reacted to him going into professional gaming, what nAts thinks is the best kebab in Berlin, and one particularly memorable team bonding exercise.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Port Louis, Mauritius, and I grew up in London. I spent the first couple years of my life in Thailand, but then I moved to the UK and that's where I grew up. My school was near the Croydon area, so I went there a lot for secondary school.
It was nice — I met a lot of my friends there. I went to a very intense school, and I studied a lot and was very focused on school when I was younger. But then as I grew up I kind of stopped doing that and started playing more games.

What would you say was the game that got you into games?

I started with CoD on Xbox. I used to play with my dad on the Xbox. I played a lot of Black Ops 2 when I was younger. And then after that, my first PC game was Fortnite. I played that when I was 16 or 17, when I got my first PC, and then Valorant when I turned 18.

Pretty much all the players I’ve talked to have had an older sibling or a parent who’s gotten them into games.

Yeah, that’s how I started getting into them. I just played split-screen with my dad on Black Ops 1 a lot, and then Black Ops 2 on the Xbox 360.

It seems like you settled in London pretty quickly. Do you ever go back to visit family in Thailand?

I went to visit Thailand last Christmas. I was there for two weeks with my mum, my dad, and my girlfriend, just to see my grandparents that I haven't seen since I was four and I used to live in Thailand.

What was that like?

It was really nice. It was one of the best holidays. It’s the first holiday I've ever had going super far away, and it was getting to see family that I haven't seen in ages, and they were super happy to see me. Like my grandad that hasn’t seen me since I was a little gremlin. It was really nice, I was super happy — a little bit of a language barrier, but my mum translated for me, because I can only understand. I can't really speak, which kind of sucks. That's why next time, I want to make sure I learn Thai before I go see my family because it was so embarrassing.

How did the weather compare? I'm sure it was much better.

It was so much better. It was so humid and warm — whenever you step out in the UK, it's a shock how cold it is, but then in Thailand, it's like you get hit in the face by the heat and the humidity. It’s so different and so nice.

If hypothetically, someone were to visit London, or even specifically Croydon, where would you tell them to go?

I’d tell them not to go to Croydon, first of all. I went to school there and that's where I spent most of my time, but I lived in Kingston. I traveled an hour and a half to Croydon because I attended a grammar school — like, a selective school. So that's why I spent most of my teenage years there. It's completely different to Kingston because it’s a lot more diverse in terms of culture.

Were there any places that you and your friends would particularly enjoy going to while growing up?

I’m gonna be so honest. I did not go out as a kid, because I played video games.

So why did you travel an hour and a half to school? Was that every day, both ways?

So, my dad wanted me to go to a better school, like a grammar school, where you basically take tests to get in. I passed, and then he was like, “you gotta go here.” He really wanted me to go to a nice school, to a nice university, and everything like that, because he thought I was very smart as a kid. He wanted me to travel and do all that so that I could attend the school.

What was the pivot to professional gaming like, then?

I mean, it was crazy. My parents were not happy. I'd always been playing games, and they knew it took up most of my life, besides school and stuff. I would play with my friends… they knew I was playing; they just didn't know I was good at all. Then Covid hit. I started playing a lot during the quarantine, and I started putting a lot of hours in and playing so much, and dedicating all the spare time I had, because it’s the only thing that anyone could do. I was on there with all my friends, just playing every day. 
And then I started competing. It took me a year to get to Apeks, which was my team before Liquid, and [my parents] weren't happy about it until they saw that I could do it for a living. Because they kind of wanted me to go to university and study computer science or medicine. My mum really wanted me to go to university. She's a typical Asian mother.

I’m guessing living in the Netherlands and then Berlin is the first time you've relocated for esports, and the first time you’re living away from home. What's that experience been like?

It's a bit weird, and a bit hard sometimes. A lot of things I didn't think about, that my parents took care of all the time, I’m appreciating now. So it's nice to think back on them, and I have been missing them, because I haven’t gotten to visit them for a while.

When you were growing up, were there any foods your parents would make that you really liked?

Off the top of my head — mango sticky rice. My mum makes it so good. I’m so addicted to that. But also, my mum is a chef, so all the food she makes is really nice. So I shouldn’t just say one. She works at a restaurant as the main chef, and then she works as an overseer for Qatar Airlines — she does all of the Asian food for Qatar. Something like that. I actually used to wash dishes at her restaurant, when I was fourteen, to pay for my first PC.

Have you found anywhere in Berlin that you like going to? Have you tried kebab?

I’ve actually tried a lot of kebab. NAts showed me Hakiki — he’s looking at me now — which is a kebab place that’s really nice. I think he’s been looking for the best kebabs, and he settled on one, which is why he told me about it. Only been there once, though, because it’s on the opposite side of Berlin.

Have you gotten any opportunity to go anywhere together, or met up with other pros from other teams?

No, I haven't really had much time. There was an escape room once, but that was just as a team.

An escape room — that’s classic esports.

Yeah. It was pretty fun. It was about, like, some Chinese mafia. We had to steal some money — that was the theme, basically — and there were lots of rooms. You get one small room, and you think that you’ve escaped once you do that room, but then it just opens up into six more rooms, which was a big surprise.

One time my cousins and I did an escape room and we got stuck on the last — well, it wasn’t even a puzzle. It was literally the last door and we wasted two minutes because we couldn’t fit the key into the keyhole.

We got stuck on one problem for 40 minutes. It was, like, tying some rope, and when you get told the answer, you just feel so dumb afterwards, for the next 10 minutes. Like, Jesus, I can't believe we got stuck on that for 40 minutes.

Did you feel it was a good team bonding exercise at least? Did you get mad at each other?

I wouldn’t say mad, but it was pretty funny because we were in two separate teams, racing each other. We were super competitive. Then [my team] finished the escape room and walked out, and the person there was like, “you guys finished first, congratulations!” And we walked out celebrating, and then we saw the other group just looking at us with cameras and laughing. I thought that we finished first, but it was a good 20 minutes after them.

How often have you been able to visit your family again since joining Team Liquid?

Since I moved to Berlin? Not yet. I haven’t been able to go back. I had the choice to, but it was after a big loss and I was super annoyed, so I didn’t go. I kind of regret it now, but you live and you learn. I was just thinking about myself, but my parents also haven’t seen me in a long time, so… kind of sucks now, but I’ll learn from it.

Do you speak to them a lot?

I speak to my family every day. My mum is always FaceTiming me — super happy when we win, and super sad when we lose. The other day, we played against NaVi and it was 11-12 on Split, and it was a 1v1 between me and ANGE1, and I missed the last shot. And my mum was like, “why’d you miss? It was all up to you!” She was just roasting me. She doesn’t even know anything about the game and she’s roasting me.

That’s a really Asian mom thing to do.

Yeah. She was just roasting me for no reason, like, “I teach you better. You have to be the best player. You missed this? Come on!” I was just laughing.

Next time you won’t miss.

I’ll just have my mum’s voice in my head next time. She was asking me, “how did you miss?” I was like, “I don’t know! I just missed! What do you want me to say?”

Do you have any other family members — siblings, pets?

I have one sister. She’s two years older than me.

Did you ever play games with her growing up, or was she just not interested?

She was not interested. But when she can, she watches my games — my mum and dad always try to watch, and whenever they’re watching, she comes down and watches with them.

Do you think they’d visit you in Berlin?

They really want to come, but it’s really expensive, and they told me they don’t want to spend 500 pounds just so they can stay for two days. I told them that it’s okay, I’ll cover it, but they don’t want me to waste money. They said they’d come if we went to Shanghai or Korea, because it’s like there’s a reason to go other than just watching the game.

Are you excited to potentially visit all these new cities this year, or next year, wherever your career takes you?

Yeah. I think the most fun part of the gaming stuff is visiting different countries, like going to Korea for the Afreeca TV tournament was so fun. It was such a nice experience. I hope I can make an international event and go to these other cities, because I know my family would love to go as well, and I would love to take them with me.
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We sure hope to see Keiko and the team in Shanghai and Korea this year... and we know you, the fans, will be with them every step of the way. Here are some points to show our appreciation.
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