Ready to head back to 2011 for a time warp? In this retro interview, we meet up with the shy Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg, a Counter-Strike prodigy. Despite his usual attempts to dodge the media, he was happy to speak with us. Here's our conversation with f0rest and his tale of victory through hard work and determination.
(Editor's note: We recognize the outdated capitalization of "eSports", but have left it as originally written for nostalgia's sake.)
Getting an interview with Patrik 'f0rest' Lindberg is not hard, it's downright impossible. Surely one would expect that a world acclaimed eSport athlete, playing on one of the most prolific teams on the planet, would be available for interviews. Not Patrik. Where other players revel in the spotlight and are always available for a quick interview or a comment, Patrik quickly retreats when there is any sign of media.
Patrik is in many ways an enigma to the fans and the eSport press; ask any Counter-Strike 1.6-fan about his personal life and they will have no answer. He has won an International tournament with his teams for seven consecutive seasons, a feat that has not been replicated by anyone in competitive gaming today, and throughout those seven seasons he has given only two interviews. When he was honored as Counter-Strike Player of the Year in 2006, he simply went on stage, received his award and said "Thank you".
"I'm a very shy guy, Patrik explains.. "I think I avoid the attention because I'm just not comfortable with all of the publicity that comes with gaming." His former team leader from Fnatic, cArn, supports his approach to the media, saying that it might even have been beneficial to his game.
"People with extraordinary skill should be encouraged to continue with what they are doing, and not be distracted from what they do best; which in Patrik's case means shooting headshots."
"It´s something you see in every sport, some sportsmen do not feel comfortable being in the spotlight in front of media, they just want to go out and play their game and then disappear," cArn says. Even if it meant that cArn himself usually ended up with the task of talking to journalists, it was a sacrifice that he very willingly took in order for Patrik to perform at his best.
"I think Patrik's absence from the media has been beneficial for his game. He has always focused on his game, and why not? People with extraordinary skill should be encouraged to continue with what they are doing, and not be distracted from what they do best; which in Patrik's case means shooting headshots."
Where other players thrive on the attention from fans and read all the comments about their latest feats, Patrik is much more likely to just take another thirty minutes on aim_map. He doesn't care if he was top ragging or not in his last game because as he says:
"Deep down I'm just a regular guy who wants to play the game I love."
The Most Important Victory
His opponents in the last eight years would probably ask you to scrap the "regular" part of that statement. Patrik has something special when it comes to Counter-Strike 1,6, a statement that Norwegian Counter-Strike great, Lars 'Naikon' Olaisen of NoA, called it in early 2005. As defending champion of World Esport Games, the Norwegian had highlighted Patrik, fielded by Begrip, as one of the players to look out for in the 2nd season. The warning was given to his fellow countryman Jonas 'bsl' Vikan and his Catch-Gamers team who had progressed to the Grand Final of the second season of WEG.
There they faced Begrip, a Swedish team that had surprised most people by making it that long. Aside from Patrik, the team consisted of now CS legends IsKall, Calippo, Tentpole and RobbaN. They hadn't dropped a single map in the tournament when they arrived in the Grand Final, but Vikan and his fellow Norwegians were confident that they could handle the Swedes.
Patrik, age 17 at that point, had flown to South Korea for his first International tournament and found himself in the Grand Final. In that situation most 17 year olds would have flinched and might have had their performance destroyed by nerves. Not Patrik though.
The Swedes swept the floor with their Norwegian counterparts and took home the $50 000 first place prize. For Patrik this was a confirmation that the hundreds of hours spent in front of his computer weren’t for nothing. In one of his rare interviews he was quoted saying "That [the WEG Season 2] victory is what meant the most to me".
A Winner's DNA
With his seven years in the absolute top of the CS 1,6 scene it is easy to forget that Patrik hasn't always been this good. Raised in Upplands Väsby, a city in the outskirts of Stockholm with a small population of only 40 000 people, Patrik started playing Counter-Strike soon after its release in 2001. For several years he learned his trade by playing with his friends at all the LAN-events they could go to, but Patrik wasn't satisfied with his development.
"I didn't have the best of starts in Counter-Strike, it was very tough playing it, but I eventually began to understand the game better. I think I (eventually) developed a very strong sense for the game which allowed me go that one step further."
"I always want to be number one and I hate losing. I think that is what motivates me to become so good."
Much like his teammate and friend, the iconic leader of Fnatic, cArn, Patrik is a strong advocate of 'practice makes perfect'. He simply wants to win no matter what he does and if he finds himself second, he will put in the hours to take that top spot.
"Ever since I was a kid I have always performed really well when it comes to sports, computer games or even games in general. I always want to be number one and I hate losing. I think that is what motivates me to become so good."
And he is good. According to cArn there are few people in the world as good at Counter-Strike 1,6 as Patrik. In fact cArn only rates two people at the same level as his old teammate.
"He has tons of raw talent, which he utilizes together with incredible movement and mouse control," cArn says when asked about what makes Patrik so good, before continuing to praise his old friend.
"Few people in the world are as consistent as Patrik is, in fact I would say only two players on this earth share the same steady, strong performances: NEo and trace."
The Lost Chapters
Using his afternoons and nights to relentlessly practice Counter-Strike came at the expense of missing out on school. Culturally Scandinavian countries have a high focus on education and Patrik's parents weren't glad to see their son prioritize a video game over school. That all changed with his $50 000 victory in South Korea.
"My family wasn't very supportive at first with playing games all night and missing out on school," Patrik remembers. "But when I finally got the opportunity to go abroad and play for 'real money', it suddenly opened up their eyes about what I was doing and they started supporting me – something that they have done ever since."
Education still remains the Achilles heel for most Scandinavian eSports professionals. In this wealthy region the individual is expected to give back to the community which has supported him/her. It is expected that you complete your education and get a 'normal' job. A concept that's almost impossible to imagine while being a professional gamer, travelling the world and practicing up to 12 hours each day. That's exactly what Patrik started doing when he was supposed to be in high school. In 2005, he went professional, dropped out of high school and then landed a contract with Fnatic a year later. Now in 2011, at age 23, Patrik still doesn't have a high school degree – something that most of his peers have had for five years.
And that's a common problem amongst pro gamers. They fall behind with their educations and they eventually drop out of the professional part of the sport to pursue real life careers. Patrik has already acknowledged that he's not going to be a professional forever, there will always be someone young and hungry waiting to take his spot – and eventually some person will. So he made a choice last year; he wanted to finish his high school degree. But how do you combine taking classes in high school with travelling to a new event every month? To Patrik that answer has been simple, he simply brings his school with him where ever he goes.
"I just started a long distance study, which allows me to study from home (or abroad) to get my high school degree."
It could seem like a random time to start an education, but just as well as with his in-game decisions, everything Patrik does has been thought through. With CS 1,6 on a prize money decline from 2010 to 2011, Patrik is now taking steps to pursue other challenges.
"I dropped out of high school to play Counter-Strike, but eventually when my gaming career comes to an end I want to go to University."
Nothing But Success
From his first International victory in 2005 to present, Patrik has had nothing but success. Having won an International tournament every year for seven years in a row now, he is not only one of the most acclaimed esport players, but is often touted as 'the best CS player ever'. It's not the attention that Patrik is proud of, but simply the acknowledgment and recognition that he's good.
"I never thought in a million years that I would end up as the Player of the Year when I began playing the game."
When he joined the newly revamped Fnatic side in 2006, alongside Begrip partner Tentpole, Patrik unknowingly took one of the most important steps in his career. With Fnatic, and especially dsn and cArn, he had a fantastic 2006, resulting in a nomination for ‘Counter-Strike Player of the Year’. His first nomination for that title had come in 2005, but in that year watched the American Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) winner, Danny 'fRoD' Montaner, run with the title. In 2006 however, and despite not winning either ESWC or World Cyber Games (WCG), Patrik was chosen as CS Player of the Year. In his usual style, happiness wasn't his first emotion back then, he remembers.
"I was so nervous it was unbelievable. I never thought in a million years that I would end up as the Player of the Year when I began playing the game."
After a year where most of his time had been spent abroad at events, the 18 year old Patrik felt that the award was proof of all of his hard work.
"Winning that award was sort of an acknowledgement for me that dropping out of high school wasn't for nothing. It really was a turning point in my career."
It was also a turning point for Fnatic. The team with Tentpole, cArn, dsn, Archi and Patrik had won the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) Winter event in 2006 and it seemed as though they were unstoppable. The following year didn't work out as planned, however, and with Archi stepping down to pursue an education, the team was suddenly rocked by several changes. It wasn't until 2009, when GuX and GeT_RiGhT joined the team, that Patrik had finally gotten through with one of his hobbyhorses; stability.
The lineup dominated the CS 1,6 circuit in a way that nobody could have imagined at that time. They beat the season earnings record by a wide margin, and apart from the IEM European Finals and World Cyber Games, the team scooped up all other International Majors in style.
When asked what the secret ingredient was in the 2009 Fnatic-mix, team-leader cArn explained that it was "stability" that made them such a dominant team at that time.
"In retrospect, I can look back and understand that we had so much experience in our core players, and then by adding two new, hungry players was the perfect recipe for our success."
Following a dismal 2008 and a rough start to the 2009 season, cArn remembers the feeling of such a dominant team as simply, "amazing".
"It was amazing since we were counted out by so many, and we suffered from a rocky start only placing 4th in the IEM European finals. After that we went on a legendary crusade winning the IEM finals, ESWC Korea and Kode5 finals in just a few months time."
"We had other notable second placements such as the WCG Finals, which also added up making the year very consistent for us," cArn says.
When 2010 kicked off many people believed that Fnatic would continue their dominating trend. Something or someone had awoken a Ukrainian monster in the mean time though, and as we know today Natus Vincere went on to dominate the season, raking in more than $200 000 in prize money and blasting a hole through Fnatic's $175 000 record from 2009.
It wasn't as if Fnatic was bad in 2010 though. They earned over $120 000 in prize money and were easily the second best team of the year. But then again, when you have five winners on a team none of them will be satisfied with second place. Even more, the 2010 season had ended on a frustrating note for Patrik and his team mates. Just like in 2009, they had failed to make an impact on home soil at DreamHack Winter, and this time around the cracks in the team had grown too big. It was time for something new.
A Shocking Move
Imagine a soccer player swapping Barcelona for Real Madrid or a basketball player transferring from Celtics to Lakers. Imagine the uproar it would cause amongst fans. Imagine how big a media topic it would be. Now think of a player transferring from Fnatic to their arch rivals and fellow Swedish countrymen SK Gaming. That's a rare thing, but it was what both, Patrik and Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' Ålesund did in November 2010. Alongside GuX they left Fnatic and the aforementioned duo joined their former team’s worst enemy.
It wasn't just unexpected; it was a complete bomb in the community. Few had thought the most successful Swedish lineup would ever have been split up. And especially a move to their most bitter rival. Making the decision to leave his team of four years wasn’t hard for Patrik. For him, it was more about who is on a team than what the team is called. With SK Gaming he was reunited with the one player from his 2005 breakthrough team; Robert 'RobbaN' Dahlström.
"Leaving Fnatic was a very tough decision to make, but I also felt that it was necessary for me to do it, as I was starting to lose interest in the game."
Dahlström had been leading SK Gaming for several years and had on more than a few occasions tried to lure Patrik away from Fnatic. It wasn't until November 2010 that he succeeded. And to Patrik it was a fresh challenge. A challenge that could keep him motivated.
"When the SK offer came up I saw it as an opportunity to get a fresh start. It wasn't really a problem transferring to SK, even if they were considered our rivals. It was more about the people on the team that made me switch."
It's A f0rest Thing
For the new Swedish dream team, their new season quickly turned into a nightmare, when they only placed 7-8th in their first event at the IEM European Championship. Following a disappointing Spring season, Patrik and his team picked up yet another Fnatic player in May. With Marcus 'Delpan' Larsson on the roster the new SK Gaming team debuted at DreamHack Summer in June. With the addition of Larsson, it was an instant impact, as the team won the main DreamHack tournament, the Swedish WCG qualifier and the Inferno Online League (IOL) Final Four event.
Now, with five victories and one tie against Fnatic in those three tournaments combined, Patrik's move to SK Gaming was seemingly justified. Moreover, the new SK Gaming squad looks like the strongest team in the game right now having beaten Fnatic, Natus Vincere and mTw only dropping one map.
Look at any championship and you will find one talisman player. A player that no matter where he plays, he will be winning, and winning often. That's the type of player Patrik is. Before transferring, SK Gaming hadn't won an international major since the Arbalet Cup Europe in December 2009. Now they've won DreamHack Summer and are going into the Summer season as the major favorite to whatever they participate in.
That's what Patrik has done since 2005 and continues to do today. He transforms title challengers to championship winners. It is amazing to think that since picking the game up in 2001 and until his transfer to SK Gaming in 2010, Patrik has only been on four teams. His track record of teams is the direct opposite of most other players in the game today, but so is his list of achievements. Stellar performances require a solid base and a continuous setup. Whether or not he likes the spotlight, if Patrik and his new team keep it up, we’ll be hearing the name 'f0rest' throughout esports for many years to come.
Read more flashbacks
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