Interview with Ana: "You lose sight of the individual players themselves... none of these guys are just robots programmed by their respective corporations to play a game"
Wed 19th Mar 2014 - 7:51pm: League of Legends
Zach 'MandatoryCloud' Hoschar is the mid laner for the team XDG who travelled to the world championships last year under the name Vulcun. This split, Mancloud and his team have faced new and old teams contending with them for the top spots in North America.
His girlfriend, Ana, took the time to talk to us about their relationship, her relationship with the team and fans, and why the famous "mandoge" stream has been offline so long.
How did you two meet? Was it online or offline?
Ana: A friend of mine was actually a big fan of his, and had been since his APictureOfAGoose days. So, when I was at PAX, I took a copy of the picture of a goose to get signed for my friend... I kinda had to twitter stalk Gnome to even track him down. On, the last day of PAX I finally ran into him, got the picture signed, complimented him on his spotify playlist (and asked for a link to it), and that was about it for that encounter. So, technically offline, but we didn’t really start talking until I messaged him online.
He ended up posting his playlist, and I ended up sending him a few messages that led to us talking about meeting up sometime around finals. Somehow one thing led to another and it turned into a date.
I think it's probably the only "traditional" date I've ever been on. He picked me up, we went go-karting, had dinner, saw a movie, and walked around aimlessly for an hour or so.
Essentially it just started with us both being into a lot of the same music… After that first time we really got to hang out and talk though, I think we both just kind of knew that we had a sort of really awesome chemistry... There was just such a strong initial reaction. I asked why he decided to actually ask me out - like, on a date-date - and he said he just felt like it was worth a chance. I think we're both really glad he took that chance.
So you guys went to school or lived near each other then?
Ana: Nah, he was already out in CA at the gaming house. I actually living in Memphis and I was visiting friends in Irvine at the time. Our first date was just a few days before world finals and that turned into us hanging out just about every last day I was planning to be in CA for the remainder of my trip.
So you met at PAX, have you gone to any other events together?
Ana: Just World Finals, and I've been to a handful of LCS games (I got to be there for their first win of this year and also for the win against C9, woo!). As for Worlds, I had 2 floor seats - my friend that was sitting with me ended up trading seats with Zach so he and I could sit together, and then my friend texted me a photo of himself sitting on Scarra's lap....
So I guess everybody got what they wanted out of that…
I got to sit with Zach and my friend got his wish. (He'd been going on about wanting a photo on Scarra's lap all day.)
What was it like watching him at World Championships?
Ana: I was only there for one of the group stage days (the very first one, actually) but that was before we'd actually gotten together, so he didn't even know I was there until I mentioned it after we started dating. By the time we got together, all of the NA teams were out.
I was really excited for their team, though it seemed like they did struggle a bit with live audiences at that point...
So you were there when they beat Fnatic?
Ana: I was, actually.
That's one hell of a single game to be there for.
Ana: haha, yeah, that was a bit of a total whirlwind weekend for me, too, I wasn't like this huge Vulcun fan at that point. They were probably my favorite NA team, but I actually watched more EU than NA back then.
I thought Zach seemed cool from the little bit that he'd streamed, and our brief PAX encounter, but other than that (and having a friend that was a big fan) I wasn't super into any of the teams here.
I barely remember the Vulcun vs. Fnatic game - this sounds so corny - but I remember Zach being up on the big main screen and my being like "omfg those eyes look so freakin' green..." and that stuck in my head more than the game itself. (They're hazel, he corrected me when I asked about them later, lol... those studio lights doe!)
I wasn't there because of Vulcun playing or anything though, I was just there because it was my birthday weekend and I wanted to go to the Worlds games.
What have you guys done together since that first date? Do you visit him in the gaming house?
Ana: Well, we hung out every day I was in CA after that (which was after the season had ended, so they weren't super busy at the time)... then I went home to Memphis, but we'd already kinda decided we liked each other at that point (omg so fast!) and that we'd try to keep up on skype and stuff.
He ended up coming to stay with me for Thanksgiving. After the holidays were over, I came back out there to visit a couple of times, since he can't come here. He can't exactly take off and fly to Memphis when he has a full week of scrims & LCS games and everything.
It sounds like you two see each other pretty frequently despite the distance.
Ana: We try. We skype pretty much every night after he's done soloqueuing. Usually he has scrims all day then soloqueue all night, then we watch netflix (Firefly, Archer, House of Cards, Portlandia) together to unwind before we go to bed. But yeah I've spent errrr... 3-4 weeks in CA this year so far?
Do you get along with his teammates? Do you think getting along with them is an important part of supporting him?
Ana: His team is great... They're all really chill dudes. Benny's got one of the most upbeat personalities of anyone, especially.
I mean, honestly, I spend more time working (since I telecommute, I was still working full time every time I visited) than I do really hanging out with the team... It's more like I have breakfast/lunch with Zach, and then we go to our respective jobs, you know? Sometimes I'd do dinner with the team or Benny would go to lunch with us... but otherwise everyone stays pretty busy.
But, I mean, to answer your question, yes, I do get along with everyone on the team. I don't know Sheep very well yet, but he seems pretty chill.
Last year, Vulcun went from relative anonymity to a top team in NA. How did the success affect him? Does he get recognized when you go out?
Ana: I can't say I really knew him before then, but I really don't think it's had that much of an effect regardless. He's one of the most open, honest, down to earth people I've ever met. He might very well be the most genuine person I know... As for being recognized, not reeeeally... at events, yeah, and once at kbbq the whole team was recognized, and the barista dude at the Starbucks he frequents likes to refer to him as mancloud, lol... but otherwise, nah... no paparazzi or anything.
Even his barista calls him Mancloud.
Have your opinions towards League of Legends changed because of his career?
Ana: I don't think his career makes me think any differently about the game itself. If anything, I'd say it makes me think more about the competitive stuff, like, how much of an impact the live audience can have on LAN games and whatnot. I mean, it’s stuff I've noticed/talked about with friends/etc. before, but knowing someone actually playing in the games tends to heighten one's awareness when it comes to stuff like seeing a team react to the crowd.
I'm kinda in the "I wish they played in booths" camp... always have been... but more so now, since I've actually witnessed it live enough times to notice when teams do reactionary stuff based on the cheering. It's pretty lopsided since there's no real "home turf" for anyone.
In the summer split Mancloud was regarded as one of the best mid laners in NA. What do you think of the greater competition he has this split both from previous opponents and Bjergsen?
Ana: Ahhh, the inevitable performance question... I think it's just been a rough split for his team as a whole. There's been so much contention over why - the role swaps, roster changes, etc... Bjergsen is definitely a formidable opponent though... Really, I think a lot of NA teams are looking stronger in general this year. (I think CLG is the scariest team right now, mainly because of Dexter, tbh.) Watching Zach play, I worry way more about what the junglers are doing than I do the opposing midlaners most of the time, lol.
Last year many people said he'd be the midlaner for a summer split NA all-stars. Since the format changed for all-stars we won't get to see that, but do you think he'd still be in the running?
Ana: To be honest, I think Bjergsen would win the popular vote there since he's the real fan-fave midlaner this split. It's not that I wouldn't love to see Zach in that position, but TSM picking up Bjergsen was brilliant - not just from a gameplay standpoint (in that he's an amazingly strong midlaner) but even marketing-wise. I mean, who doesn't like that guy?
Would you like to expand on the “team as a whole” comment?
Ana: I think XDG has been kind of unfairly singled out as a target for gossip recently. I mean, you have a last place team that has had an incredibly shaky start to this season, a lot of public drama, etc... Stuff gets blown out of proportion, people start pointing fingers, and, before you know it, things have been so exaggerated that you lose sight of the individual players themselves. That's why I really appreciate this interview, 'cause I feel like it brings up the very real point that none of these guys are just robots programmed by their respective corporations to play a game (except maybe Meteos? We can never be sure...) but they're just normal guys that happen to excel at it.
They're all human beings, you know? They have feelings, they feel pressure, and they get stressed out just like anyone else... but, at the end of the day, they just want to let go of that stress and play the best they can. I see so many people saying all these negative things, like "I used to like Vulcun, but I can't get behind XDG..." Often because of the name change or the public drama. The guys are trying to do their best with the support they have though. I don't understand how anyone can claim that they considered themselves a "fan," and then say that they've quit supporting the team just in light of recent events.
What do you think is the most important thing a girlfriend can do to the support a pro gamer? Have you guys discussed plans for the future?
Ana: I mean, it's the same as being supportive of anyone with a serious career... It's important to be mindful of the requirements it takes to be in his position and respect the fact that he has to dedicate a really huge chunk of his time and energy to that. It's really important that we both have our own things going on. I try not to bother him much during the day and we really just spend time together when we're both winding down and need to relax.
(Also, I will say his hair is definitely shinier since I started buying his shampoo/conditioner for him. Alterna & Terax... No sulfates here, y'all!)
As for the future, we've talked about all sorts of stuff, really... businesses we could go into together, etc. I doubt he'll be retiring anytime soon, but I'm sure whenever he does, we'll both continue to be supportive of each other, if not working together somehow.
Any final remarks or shout-outs?
Ana: Oh gosh, haha, shoutouts... final remarks... I didn't prepare anything...
Shout outs to the old mancloud twitch chat crew!
I know a lot of his fans want to know why he hasn't been streaming... and it's because the internet at their house lags really bad when anyone tries to use video. They have like 3 cable lines and they still have problems with it. (Unfortunately, fios is not availavle where they are.)
For the record, I miss him streaming, too - cause mandoge twitch chat is, like, totally the best twitch chat. (Plus, since I became the official mandatorycloud spotify playlist curator, I'd get to troll the music from time to time, too... like loading 1000x instances of "Baby Got Back" and "Bootylicious" to the playlist). And, as for final remarks, ehhh, I had originally joked to Zach about bringing up some super cheesy Dolly Parton quote, but I totally forgot about it when it might have been relevant.
Add it now?
Ana: "If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain." You know, since rain's pretty inevitable with a cloud and all, lol... We've got the whole long distance factor, time constraints, limited visitation allowances, etc.... But, you know, it's all worth putting up with for the rainbows.