Updated: Feb 17, 2021
ITB Interviews FocusFire Series
This week, we hear from Alex ‘Sheepo’ Sheepsticked. She is one of the best UK Dota streamers around with aspirations to play on the big stage. Streaming for @beastcoast and notable for her Meepo picks, meme posts, art creation and Twitch.tv following, she recently revitalised her campaign to go pro.
We sat down with her to find out more.
-> FOCUS 1: Backstory, Pro Dota Aspirations and Streaming
Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! We’re excited to find out more about one of the UK’s foremost Dota players and streamers, while hearing your perspectives on recent trends in the community.
Let’s jump right in.
You’ve recently launched or ‘re-vitalised’ your aspirations to go pro via TwitLonger... How did you become the player/streamer you are today?
Dota as a game is funny to me because it’s a game genre I’ve never been interested in and never thought I would find fun. Prior to Dota, I was pretty much just a console gamer and played lots of Nintendo games. In October 2013, one of my best friends gave me a key to Dota 2 and introduced me to it, but I didn’t like it.
Then in 2014 I was in college and met someone who played Dota, and they finally got me into it properly. It’s been non-stop from there! Regarding streaming, it happened much later...
I was in my first year of University and hated it, dropped out, and tried to pursue a career in art for a year online. During this time I made a bunch of Dota comics, and this obviously didn’t really go anywhere monetarily. I’d tried streaming in the past but gave up on that 1 viewer grind. Eventually revisited it near the end of that year period and surprisingly found success, so I’ve been enjoying that ever since.
When did you start to view Dota as a viable career path, and how do you feel about this heading into the future?
Personally I believe that my future in Dota looks hopeful as long as the game stays healthy. In case anyone hasn't seen it, here's a link to my twitlonger: https://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1srbmfh.
The TL;DR is that I wasted my last 3 years in Dota
That said, I have a tough plan now. I’ve set myself a time limit now for getting better – 7k by the end of the year to see if my potential for improvement is there – and if I don’t reach that I know exactly what I want to pursue afterwards; I can put a real focus on my stream and I’d like to see if I can make it as a talent with the knowledge I’d hopefully have gained from this current stint trying to get better. Esports in general has so much space for creative paths to take, I'm definitely optimistic about where I can go in it.
--> FOCUS 2: UK Dota and Community
How’re you feeling about UK Dota at the moment? Do you think it’s growing? Contracting?”
UK Dota is a tricky thing, because
as far as I've been aware for the past few years it's been non-existent. I believe there was only one tournament running in the UK but even that ended up getting cut due to lack of interest.
People will always gravitate towards the marketing that Riot does for their game and tournaments instead, especially when they're on the pulse of their player base. They were always the ones advertising at comic-con, you wouldn't have known Dota existed.
That certainly sounds like a sad-state of affairs and something we as an org are hoping to play our part in addressing. So you think Valve can do much more? How do you feel about the ‘potential’ of UK Dota?
If I'm being honest I don't think the UK will ever have a thriving Dota scene for a bunch of reasons: Valve's laziness to advertise, the subsequent lack of viewers that make sponsorships of tournaments for UK players extremely hard to get and the small player base
in this country are a rough enough start. ESL Birmingham is amazing, and I think it's shone a light on how passionate our country can be from the intensity of the crowd, but that doesn't prop up our own players. ESL are running a premiership for our players and I really appreciate that, but they aren't even willing to advertise the open qualifiers for it on their main twitter account, so I for example didn't know it was happening until the dates had gone.
There are really good players in this country like meep (tanner) and adzantick who I hope can make it. I feel awful for meep that covid happened and broke up his team when PPD retired again, and I haven't seen him on anything since. Hopefully when LANs begin again he's able to find a place. Hopefully one day the UK can provide as many pro players as we have excellent talent. :P
---> FOCUS 3: The Quest for 'Pro-Dom' and Mental Health
What revitalised your efforts to go pro after announcing your intentions roughly 3 years ago?
Covid has caused a lot of issues for everyone around the world, but for me it presented the opportunity to pursue playing Dota again. No one is travelling or doing anything, there are no events, I have nothing to really aspire towards achieving so I've revisited my dream and am working hard on it right now.
MMR-wise I climbed briefly to 6.7k after making my twitlonger, but now I've been bumped back down by a timely loss streak to 6.4k. I don't really care about my MMR for now though, since I gave myself a few months more to get to 7k. I've been getting coached by a 9k SEA player named Ponlo and he's teaching me so many new concepts and things about the game that I had no idea about before. Every time we do a session he goes over something that I've then focused on trying to implement into my thought process and gameplay, and I'm seeing significant improvement already. Even though my MMR isn't reflecting it I can tell that I'm playing better and am smarter about what I'm doing, and that makes me feel confident, so I'm sure I'll climb eventually.
So it’s on the right track, you feel then? It’s interesting that you point out how knowledgeable 9k and onwards players can be, with respect to game knowledge and coaching. It really shows the depth of Dota and how deep ‘knowing’ it can go. What’re your feelings on the meaning of being a pro generally?
I feel like I want to clarify here that when I say I want to go pro, that's not my goal at all for now. Finding a team or trying to ready myself for that scene is not even close to being on my list of stuff to do because I'm not close to that stage yet.
I don't think people are even taken half seriously until they reach 8k MMR for a start. Going pro is just the eventual end goal of the long winding journey that is learning to play at a top level in the first place.
It does upset me too when people on reddit or twitter insult me by misrepresenting how I'm going about this, for example talking down on me and my dream as if I don't know that it's nigh impossible to break into the pro scene and I don't have a 99.9999% chance to fail. I'm not stupid, but I've been blessed with a streaming job that lets me put the hours in to give a good crack at my dream, so there's no reason not to.
That sounds very positive! How are those hours being focused?
Right now I'm just focused on that aspect of getting better. If I play a game and eventually lose, but I know I made correct calls, farmed well and had good impact, and know that I've put to use stuff that I'm learning from Ponlo, then I feel really good about that. Yeah it's frustrating to lose, but it's really good to know that I'm on the right track and getting better. One year ago I was a garbage Meepo spammer who barely looked at my minimap and just played without thought. Now I'm understanding map movement, farming better, implementing high level moves with my team and that does give me some pride. If I never hit 7k I'm just happy that I'm no longer a bot.
I will admit though that I've been feeling the pressure on my mental strength lately and I'm not happy with how I handle it sometimes. Since I put this timer on myself and I'm taking my games seriously, when I play with people who don't listen to my calls or do stuff that I perceive to be griefing (like picking windranger 4 or mirana 4 that rushes euls) it does tilt me and I can get snappy with my teammates. It's honestly unacceptable and whenever it happens I get unhappy with myself for a long while. I think a huge part in climbing mmr is building mental strength and only focusing on self improvement, so it's something I'm looking into working on asap. I hate being toxic and feeling like I'm not able to control myself, it's embarrassing. I'm willing to admit that because I want to hold myself accountable for it until I stop.
----> FOCUS 4: Sexual Assault and Women in Dota
I wanted to move into something a little more serious. As we all know, Dota 2 (and multiple other games) were shaken at their core when numerous acts of sexual assault and harassment were brought to light by many women throughout the scene. This is very much still a prescient issue, though the immediate ‘hype’ around these developments has lessened more recently. How do you feel the community has adapted or changed in response to this? Do think real, systematic differences have been made, or has it all largely been lip-service to an issue briefly covered but not actually addressed?
This is a really exhausting topic for me to think about because when I try and think about what's changed I can't really say that much has.
I don't think anything has changed in the playerbase. Maybe a couple people are more sensitive to helping women out in-game when they receive harassment, and that's great, but overall I still see a lot of the toxic behaviour that led to women getting treated this way in the first place being prevalent and with no effort to make it better.
I think some tournament organisers will hopefully be more aware of the problem’s women face, but I haven't seen anyone come out with a list of things that they're implementing to help. I think the biggest perpetrator of this is Valve themselves, and I also think that Valve's apathetic approach to everything is what will make the community not improve either. I can't believe that two of the biggest names in Dota got outed as abusers and Valve didn't even make a single statement in support of victims or condemning the behaviour, never mind actually saying they'll do something to help prevent this happening in the future.
For this reason I have no hope of things improving there, and will just continue on and hope that more women will hopefully enter the talent pool and pro scene one day to raise the representation to a level where guys hopefully stop acting like monkeys when they see a girl on screen. We'll see. It's just tiring.
-----> FOCUS 5: Toxicity and Dota 'Culture'
As ‘our’ community can very much be a social microcosm, understanding and knowing gaming culture becomes ever more prevalent – especially if there are very toxic aspects to it which are tacitly accepted or plainly ignored. What’re your thoughts with respect to a ‘gaming’ or a ‘Dota 2’ culture, how do you think this differs from everyday society?
I think offline and online behaviour is still very different. I've been to quite a few dota events now and everyone I've met there have been very pleasant.
In my opinion humans in general can just be harshly unpleasant when anonymous, including myself, and that's not restricted to gaming culture. The main cultural change that will happen as the demographic of gamers increases in size is how other big brands outside of gaming interact with it. We already see mercedes partnering with ESL for their events, I bet we see bigger partnerships going forward. Maybe a fortnite car or something LMAO.
But really, I think the worst problem gamers will go through is their parents not understanding it. The world is already pretty slighted against minorities outside of gaming, so there won't be any changes there as gaming gets bigger. This question is kind of hard to answer.
------> FOCUS 6: Ranked, Current Meta and the Future
What’s your favourite hero to play right now and how’re your ranked games going?
I've been trying to learn a variety of offlane heroes so I have a solid pool to choose from in games, and my favourite by far has been Mars. He's so cool from a design standpoint, and his spells are all really satisfying and fun to play with. I love his personality and voice lines so every game I get to play him is really fun. I took him out of my hero pool for a while because the mana issues were making him less enjoyable but the recent patch gave him a buff to int, mana regen and soul ring, so we're good to go again.
Would you rather be alive in the past or future? When and why?
I honestly really love the time period I was born in and the stuff I grew up with, so I would want to experience it again. I considered saying being born a couple years earlier to get on the train for online competitive games like HoN earlier but then I would have missed out on the really fun years I spent messing around on Runescape, Bebo, and playing dumb fun games. I'm really just happy with how my life's gone. If anything, I would focus on my improvement in Dota earlier than I did and not waste the last 3 years doing nothing. If I had to have a drastically different life I'd want to be in the future because technology is too cool to miss out on.
And the final and most important question! Cats or dogs!?
Dogs! My family has owned 4 dogs and I love them all.
Thanks, Sheepsticked. It’s been a pleasure talking with you and we’re wishing you all the best in your future endeavours, and on your grind to 7k. Let’s talk again soon!
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Hi Dota People,
This is the first of our series of interviews with prominent UK players/individuals within the scene. The idea is to hear more about what makes them tick, who they are, and hear their perspective on prevalent issues within the scene. We structure this by 'focus fire', segmenting the interview by broaching 5 to 6 specific focuses so that it's easier to navigate than a wall of text, and so our interviewees can discuss the things most important to them.