Getting To Know: 3sUP Starlight
Welcome to the first edition of 3sUP's newest series, "Getting To Know...", where we'll interview players and staff members from 3sUP, and give everyone an inside look on the esports world!
To start this all off, I had the pleasure of interviewing 3sUP Brawlhalla player, Tyler "Starlight" Whitaker. After coming back from BCX 2016 in Atlanta, and relaxing with his streaming, Tyler sat down with me for a good ol' fashion, one-on-one conversation.
We'll start this off simple. Tell me a bit about yourself, and maybe how you got into eSports.
"Well, I'm 19 years old (20 in March). I'm a college student who is studying Animation and Graphic Design with a Minor in Theatre. I play men's volleyball and soccer in my spare time. I play piano and draw as well. I started off playing video games on the Xbox 360 when my brother introduced me to Call of Duty: World at War when I was in 5th grade. I absolutely fell in love and no-lifed the game over the summer and was hooked on Call of Duty ever since. I went semi-competitive in that game, playing in Gamebattles and going to LAN events, however I didn't know how to become noticed by organizations and eventually lost interest as Call of Duty turned from boots on the ground to jetpacks. In 2012, my family bought me a decent gaming computer and that's when I found League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I've been a PC gamer ever since then. I always try my hardest in games and I want to become the best, so I got decently good at those games. Then I found Brawlhalla and fell in love with it. In the beginning, I put in 12-16 hours a day playing solely Brawlhalla. Once I started getting really good, I started building my portfolio in hopes of becoming professional in the game."
Now Brawlhalla is a fairly new esport, and not the most recognized within fighting games. Yet, you've managed to essentially turn this into your job. How would you describe this journey? Challenging, easy, in-between?
"This game when I joined already had a pretty established pro scene. Players had fans, and were expected to place. It was pretty daunting to try and compete with these players, but I got lucky. I always live stream my gameplay, and the best player at the time, Exo (now known as Diakou), found my stream and said that I had potential. He introduced me to all of the best players at the time and gave me sparring partners to hone my skills. I ended up improving at an insanely fast rate. My breakthrough tournament was the Renescentia 1v1 tournament #1 where I beat all of the best players at the time and came out on top with 40$ in my pocket. People then started recognizing my skill and I even got asked to join the best clan at the time, BOO. After that, I steadily increased in skill and now for the past 4-5 months, I've been placing top 3 at every money tournament in NA and am even the 2v2 World Champion. All in all, the journey took a lot of dedication, but it got easier as I kept getting better."
Speaking of World Champion, and Diakou; the two of you really made the Brawlhalla community look tight-knit and friendly. Especially in the 1v1 bracket when you hugged it out after the match. How does it feel to be able to compete with and against someone you've become so close with, and knowing that you also have a very exciting rivalry?
"BCX was absolutely amazing. I've been talking with these people for a whole entire year over the internet and to finally be able to meet all of them in real life was such a surreal experience. Diakou is my idol for the game since he was the one that introduced me to the competitive side and helped me hone my skills. And what humbled me more was the fact that we were actually going to team on the biggest 2v2 stage that Brawlhalla has seen to date. It was amazing to be able to team with him and it's even more impressive that we won it all seeings that he's in Norway while I'm here in the USA. We only had 1 week of practice before BCX as a team and we were instantly a top level team. It's unfortunate that I got the 2 people who can beat me in 1v1s early in the bracket, but that's just how brackets go sometimes. Getting Diakou was really cool though because it was probably the most hype match of the whole tournament. It was filled with emotions, that set. I couldn't help but to hug it out. I normally take losses quite hard, but I couldn't feel that way after losing to Diakou. We're just so close."
Would you say it's kind of like a senpai-kouhai relationship?
That's going into the interview.
"I hate you. LMAO.
First off, what's kouhai?"
Just a junior.
"So like mentor-apprentice type thing?"
Exactly that, actually.
"It was like that at first, then I actually overtook him and became better than him for a time. He had a lot of real life priorities, but he pulled it together in time for BCX. I consider him my equal at this point. We're just close friends now."
During your match against Diakou, the commentators mentioned how your playstyles were similar, yet you had different weapon preferences. Diakou preferring the axe, and you preferring the sword (with a bit of katar play), and I assume that's because you play Asuri. Is that something you developed while training with Diakou or something you did on your own just out of pure preference?
"So I switched to katars as my main weapon about 2 weeks before BCX. I was far more comfortable on katars than I was on sword against everyone BUT Diakou. That reason is because Diakou was the one that taught me how to play katars, so our katar playstyles were super similar. He always beat me when I play katars, so I thought I would switch it up and go back to sword. It seemed to work out pretty well seeings that I 3 stocked him in one of the games, but he knows the sword match-up really well and in the end, I couldn't take him down."
Your rivalry with Diakou, while also being doubles partners has made you two incredible fan favorites. But you also stream which has helped you gain more followers, and a loyal fanbase. How has having that following impacted you as a person and as a player?
"It was definitely more nerve-racking, knowing that I had people who expected me to win. Streaming has been a blessing. There are so many people who came up to me at BCX and asked me for autographs and pictures and I never thought something like that would ever happen to me. Many of the people who don't stream didn't even get recognized there, so I think streaming has helped me out a ton. Also being a streamer, I'm the face of the community. The face people see when they watch the game. That has helped me show a better attitude overall and become a better person in general."
Now I've had personal conversations with you in the past, and I know you're big into voice acting. Along with V.O. work and streaming, what other hobbies do you have outside of Brawlhalla?
"I draw and stuff and do animation for my major. I play piano as well. Right now I'm playing in an indoor soccer league that plays on Tuesday and Wednesday nights."
Sounds like you like to keep yourself busy. Is there anything else you'd like to say or add on to this before we wrap it up?
"Thanks to all the people who have supported me from the beginning. Huge shout out to Eli, who drove 2 hours with his family at 11 PM to meet me at BCX and make me feel welcomed to the 3sUP family. Same to Hilton who took me out to dinner after winning. Thanks for making me feel at home."
It was really fun chatting with you again, Tyler. We'll have to do this again after the next Brawlhalla event. Which should be...?
"I'm going to CEO Dreamland in April, down in Florida, then Combo Breaker 2017 up in Illinois in May."
I'd like to thank Tyler again for taking the time to chat with me. He's an awesome person inside and outside of esports, and I'm very thankful to be able to work with him.
You can follow him at @3sUP_Starlight.
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