They Can Write Their Articles I Dont Care

Ever since the birth of CS:GO, Robin ”Fifflaren” Johansson of Ninjas in Pyjamas fame has undoubtedly been the most widely debated professional player.
Here he talks about his performance at ESL One, the future in NiP – and how he copes with all the hate.
– The only thing people who criticize me want is for me to tell them to go to hell and then quit playing. But if I joke about it instead and show them that I really don’t care, maybe they’ll think it’s less funny.

Fifflaren has been dividing the CS:GO community in half since he and Ninjas in Pyjamas started winning everything in their paths little over two years ago. Even though the team was all but unbeatable during a long period he had to withstand critique and taunts from people who thought he didn’t quite measure up. When NiP during the latter part of 2013 were exposed as mere humans when they all of a sudden started losing at LAN tournaments, the situation took a turn for the worse for Fifflaren when people left and right started demanding his retirement from the team.

”It’s a great feeling beating all those new and strong teams”
But NiP defeated all the odds when they entered ESL One in Cologne after an unprecedented slump. And in the end Fifflaren stood on the main stage, arms raised towards the ceiling and holding the teams’ first ever major trophy in his right hand.
– My first impression right after the win was how good it felt. We had the toughest games in the tournament, looking at the scores. A lot of really close games. And when I watched them afterwards I could tell we made mistakes and that things weren’t one hundred percent perfect. But for us to still win and show everyone that we’re still one of the top teams in the world, beating new and really strong teams even though we’ve been together for over two years, that was a great feeling.

As usual, you faced massive critique for your performance. How do you cope with those situations time after another?
– During tournaments I usually don’t read anything, especially when I know I haven’t been playing good. People watch the kill / death ratio a lot and I think that’s quite misleading, so it’s kinda hard. But it’s been that way ever since I started playing, people are quick when it comes to commenting. It doesn’t matter if I do something good, new things pop up almost every day. I have to look at it positively though; all PR is good PR and I’m one of the most famous players out there for better or worse.

How strong is your psyche really, when you can still play after receiving all this hatred?
– When I first started out it was tough, back when I still read what people were saying about me. But nowadays I rarely do that and I don’t really care so much anymore. Mostly, I hear stuff from the other guys. Like ”Damn, there’s four threads about you now Fiff”. But I never read them and that helps, obviously.

But you go on Reddit and comment on articles quite a lot?

– Yeah, the people on Reddit are more balanced and spread less bullshit than at, where you can’t even hang out anymore. Every thread over there is a mess, to a point where it’s no longer fun. On Reddit, people like to discuss and they don’t hang you out to dry. It doesn’t get much worse than people talking about what went wrong in games and so on.

Have you ever considered retiring because of the hate?

– No, not really. In the beginning, playing wasn’t that fun. Whatever I did people flamed me. But now it doesn’t matter. As long as the team thinks I’m doing the right things it really doesn’t matter and I’m still playing with them after two years so I must be doing something right.

”It’s about our team, not about someone else”
And somewhere within those words lies the key behind NiP:s success. The criticism against Fifflaren isn’t something his teammates are immune against. They get constantly reminded about their teammate and what the community thinks about his performance. Still, they stick together and keep a united front.
– I’m not the only one having to deal with what’s thrown at me. My whole team has to handle it. I don’t even wanna know how many messages and tweets they receive about how I should be kicked off the team. Of course it becomes a thing for them too, them receiving flack because of me. That’s why we try to maintain the mentality that we don’t care that much. That it’s about us and our team and not about what other people think.

Sometimes you make fun about how bad people think you are, like during one stage interview at ESL One. What’s that about?

– Yeah, that’s one way of coping. It’s funny how much time people spend on thrashing me. More often than not, they don’t even congratulate us after a win. It’s mostly ”Fifflaren sucks”. That’s a bit funny. The only thing people who criticize me want is for me to tell them to go to hell and then quit playing. But if I joke about it instead and show them that I really don’t care, maybe they’ll think it’s less funny. So I can absolutely joke about my performance like I did during that interview. I might as well agree with what people are saying and that’s the mentality I try to have.

Two of your more well known critics are Tomi ”Lurppis” Kovanen and Duncan ”Thorin” Shields. Is it harder to hear these things from those guys than from a random anonymous comment?

Lurppis is my biggest ”hater”. It doesn’t matter what I do, he’s still gonna feel the same way and I don’t care. Thorin is just being Thorin. People are entitled to their opinions, you can’t take that away from them. It’s up to the person on the receiving end to decide wether or not they wanna care. They can write their articles and tweet all they want. I don’t care.

How often are you pissed off about your own performance after a game?

– If I know I’ve been playing like crap and lost a lot of duels, I get self-conscious and want to change things up. I can start feeling down and disappointed in myself. But if we lose and I’ve pulled my weight, it’s hard to be mad. Even if I killed 5 or 10 people more we still wouldn’t have won. But if we lose a game and I’ve played bad, I get mad at myself.
– For instance, yesterday (the day NiP lost their first ever game 0-16, against Fnatic) it wouldn’t have mattered if I killed people. After those games, it’s hard to blame yourself.

”Pita told me to just go out and play”
During ESL One in Cologne, Fifflaren’s absolute worst performances came on the new map Cobblestone. Now, a couple of weeks after the tournament, he agrees that the critique against him was well founded.
– Cobble was my worst nightmare during that tournament. I told the team that it wasn’t my thing. But Pita (Faruk Pita, the new coach) told me: ”Just do your thing, we’re winning. Do what you’ve done and dare to take those shots”. And then we won the games even though I played horribly. In the end, that’s all that counts.

How much has Pita meant for you as a team?

– A lot. You can really tell whenever he’s behind us in a game, even in practice. He observes everything we do and lets us know what he thinks. The team has been together for two years so sometimes it gets really stiff in game and we just run the same stuff over and over. So it’s great to get a guy with some fresh ideas.

And after Cobblestone, you had an almost game winning moment when you killed three Fnatic players. You almost looked surprised?

– That’s because I was surprised. I really didn’t know what they were doing. I was standing outside the smoke and they ran straight through it without flashing, so it was a good duel for me. But I was mad because I wanted the fourth one who only had 8 hp or something left. But it was a great and deciding round to win.

Did it feel like a reply to all the haters after your games on Cobblestone?

– No, I didn’t look at it that way. We win and lose as a team. A couple of rounds before, someone else did something great. All those little moments are what wins a game. But it feels good to secure such an important round, of course.

”It’s great that everyone are still psyched about the game”
What are your opinions on a The International for CS:GO?

– It’s a great next step for the community. We’ve proven that it’s a big one and that it has a high percentage of players watching. Dota2 has millions of players every month but only a percentage that watches the games. During the finals in Germany we had loads and loads of viewers and I hope Valve recognizes this and gives us an International. The people have made it possible for us to travel and compete at tournaments. Now it’s time to give back to them and give them a tournament to be proud of.

How long do you see yourself as a CS:GO professional?

– I’m turning 27 now so I’m getting a bit older. But I’m gonna play until my teammates want me to quit and you never know how long that’s gonna be. So far I have no thoughts about quitting. It feels stupid to start swapping players when we’re still one of the best teams in the world. During ESL, people said we were in the worst shape ever and we still won, so why should we change after that?

So how long do you see NiP sticking together?

– Everyone in the team are still eager to play. It’s a pretty great feeling after two years together. We’re one of the older teams when it comes to our average age, but I think it’s really positive that we’re still so psyched about the game. As long as we keep that mentality, we’ll stay a top team for a long time.