Nick Theodorakis on Collegiate Esports: “You can’t expect it to instantly happen.”

by | Feb 5, 2018, 4:29AM PDT

Nick Theodorakis, more commonly known as Learntooplay of our collegiate Overwatch team,  serves as resident main tank and target caller. He had transferred from Saddleback Community College and is currently in his Junior year at UCI studying Business Economics.

We ran into Nick by chance at the UCI Esports Arena, and after sharing a few jokes and some cookies, he told us about his opinions on the current state of the game and what it’s like playing for the school.

This interview was a collaborative effort with Alexander Bond.

What do you think of the Junkrat and Mercy changes?

I think they’re really good. I think Mercy’s fine right now, she’s at a spot where you can’t just play it and go from Platinum to GM anymore. It makes the game a lot more fun, I think, with Mercy not picked every single game, especially for support players. All of the other players don’t like playing against Mercy because Resurrect’s is just an incredibly strong ability in my opinion. For Junkrat, I feel like it’s better than it was, but I feel like he still needs a little bit more of a nerf just because he can still do an insane amount of damage, especially with RIP-Tire.

How do you think the meta will develop? Do you see any other characters becoming stronger with these changes?

In my mind, I think Blizzard’s just trying to make everybody played equally, which, I don’t know if that’s realistically possible. Heroes that aren’t played now or as much, like Mei or Hanzo– I think we’re either going to see more people get nerfed to all be the same level in terms of viability, or we’re gonna see everyone else getting buffed to the levels that other heroes are currently at.

Do you think there’s any merit to playing these characters that aren’t played as often, whether professionally or casually?

These heroes that aren’t meta are usually picked in certain scenarios just because sometimes it’s not best to just have the meta picks. But it’s almost always good to not play these off-meta heroes.

From what I’ve heard from Bischu and Agilities, compositions are going go to run at least three tanks or four tanks, and we’re going to see more Moira, Ana, and Lucio. What do you think about that?

A little bit more Ana, more than she was played before. Definitely a lot of Zen, Lucio, and Moira for sure. A lot less Mercy, which is good. It’s gonna just be Zen, Lucio. Moira primarily.

Do you think Moira needs any changes with her kit in this new meta?

Yeah, I think she definitely needs– I don’t know exactly what, but her ult builds way too fast, so if they could increase the amount of damage and healing it takes to charge the ult, that’d be really good. Maybe fix something with her left click. Her right click and her orb aren’t really too bad. Maybe like less healing and damage for her orb, but her healing’s just nuts since she builds ults every single fight.

Learntooplay offering game play advice.

When the Mercy changes went live, there was a lot of community backlash, especially from players who just wanted to play casually. Do you think Blizzard needs to focus more on the professional side of play, or on the casual side, or do you think there’s a balance they can find there?

Blizzard is trying to do both right now, and that doesn’t work. It’s gonna be one way or the other, somebody’s gonna be upset, whether it’s the casuals or the top-tier players. I’d prefer if they were balancing for top-tier, although Blizzard’s a company, they gotta cater to all fans. They can’t just focus on the one percent, they have to please everybody. With the Mercy changes, I don’t think it makes the hero harder, I guess. It’s still the same Mercy, she just isn’t able to change fights as easily. It isn’t as easy to come in and win the fight for your team with Mercy’s ult. Other than that, I think the changes are fine. People are gonna complain obviously. [Laughs.]

Aside from who you play in game, when you’re playing on your own just for fun, who do you like to play?

Reinhardt’s a lot of fun in the right situation, because without a team, there’s not a whole lot I can do. If a team’s not working with me, then I can’t play the game. With the changes to Mercy’s nerf, I like Winston a lot more because I can actually kill things, and I’m still working on Orisa because that’s pretty new to me.

When Orisa came out, not a lot of people were playing her. Was it kind of the same mentality when playing with her, not really keen on playing a hodgepodge of different abilities from a bunch of different heroes?

At the beginning, Orisa wasn’t super niche. Now she’s used occasionally, just because that’s how the meta works, I guess. It used to be really dive-heavy meta, so Orisa can’t do a ton against dive, especially when you just go past her shield. With these new metas, I guess, where it’s not a whole lot of damage, or like going past a shield, she’s able to do a lot more because she has her shield every nine seconds. Hog/Orisa’s a really good combination.

What do you guys think about your personal trainer? What kind of workouts do you do?

Oh, Haylesh? Haylesh is awesome, he’s the man. I love Haylesh. We just go in, we stretch, we do all our exercises and stuff– lifting weights. Usually we’ll do warm up stretch, we’ll do some cardio, then a warm down stretch. But yeah, he’s awesome, he’s a really cool guy and I like him a lot.

Is it hard balancing everything that the esports college program demands you to do?

Not for me personally. I’m just taking 12 units. My classes are difficult, but they don’t require me to be working every single hour of the day. So I have time to still practice and do what I need to do.

Has playing in the collegiate program changed the way you feel while you’re playing on your own? Do you still enjoy the game as much?

I started to enjoy the game enjoy less not because of collegiate, but because of how the meta was. That’s pretty much it. Way back when in Season 3 or something, a year ago, I was loving the game. Then, obviously the Mercy and Junkrat changes happened around Season 4, I believe. I dunno, ever since then the game had a bad taste in my mouth, I didn’t have as much fun. I wasn’t always excited to get up and go play. It was more of “I have to do this so I better get it done,” but now I’m starting to love it the way I used to before the changes.

Learntooplay in the middle of a casual match.

Are you considering on going pro after your collegiate career? What kind of pathways are you looking into taking there?

Yes. It’s difficult because, compared to other people who aren’t working or have a lot more time, they can just play everyday. Whereas I have to go to school and I have other commitments as well. I’m not able to play as much as other people. You don’t get to choose whether you go pro. You get picked up, so I’m just trying to play my best. Hopefully I’ll get picked up at some point.

It’s difficult to go pro, especially in collegiate I think, because collegiate is looked down upon by the rest of the community. And because it’s difficult to make a name for yourself, I guess. Because I might be the same skill level as another main tank player who’s on an academy team, but he’s on the team just because he’s more well known. So that’s another hard part about going pro.

So distinguishing yourself from the rest of your team?

Yeah. Just making sure that everybody knows that, hey, I’m a good player, you should get me on your team.

You’ve been watching Overwatch League. So after watching matches there, how do you think you compare to the professionals?

It depends on the team, right? Because not all teams are the same skill. Obviously, some Korean teams are much better than other teams. If I were to compare myself to those main tank players, obviously I’m nowhere close. But if I compare to lower tiered teams, I think I’m pretty close in skill.

What advice do you have for someone trying to climb ranked?

You can’t expect it to instantly happen. You need to work at it, you need to work hard. You need to work hard with your team even though sometimes they don’t wanna work with you. You gotta do your best to keep a positive attitude because some players are just gonna bring you down. I dunno man, in order to just keep going and keep improving, you gotta keep a positive attitude and don’t one-trick heroes because that doesn’t work. [Laughs.]

What are your favorite teams and players in Overwatch League?

I like Valiant a lot. I thought [the viewing party] was awesome. I think Valiant’s probably my favorite team. I think New York’s gonna win it just because I think they have the best team. I really like Nomy, he plays for San Francisco Shock. He’s a really awesome guy, I met him in person two days ago. He was super cool, super nice dude. I also like Muma a lot, he plays for Outlaws. I’ve just met a lot of main tanks. I like GrimReality too, he plays for Valiant. Best main tank player I think is Gamsu, he plays for Boston.

Favorite game types and maps?

Either hybrid or escort. Those are just the best in my opinion. I like KOTH, but I dunno. I just really like hybrid and escort. For maps, everybody likes King’s Row. It’s the staple map of Overwatch, I guess. I like King’s Row and I like Dorado.

Favorite combos to pull off in the game?

It’s really satisfying to push people off a map with Winston, Orisa, Reinhardt’s charge. It’s really fun because you know it tilts them. [Laughs.]

Did you spend your OWL tokens yet? Which team and which characters?

I believe I bought the Gladiator skin for Orisa on one of my accounts, and then I bought Seoul Reinhardt and Seoul Winston on two other accounts. I wanna support teams.

Any shout outs?

Shout out to my team, I love you guys. Shout out to UCI Esports. They support us a lot and I really appreciate it. Shout out to Mark. Shou tout to my parents and sister for supporting me. Oh, and my girlfriend because she’s my girlfriend. [Laughs.]

Photos by Alexander Bond and Ashley Gayoso.