Rocket League is just like a game of life. You’re going to get teammates that are not empathetic and only see their perspective…It’s about becoming better at lifting them up even if they’re making mistakes. Also, a big thing is not knowing if the other person is literally nine years old.
I have a confession to make. I’m a gamer now and it’s all thanks to a pandemic and Rocket League.
In March 2020, as the world prepared to shut down, I scrambled to find a Nintendo Switch. I needed a lockdown activity and, like many others, decided gaming might console me in dark times. Years earlier a good friend had briefly introduced me to this weird game called Rocket League, so I bought The Switch with a simple agenda: play the game, occupy my mind.
Since that fateful day, I’ve become obsessed. I’ve now logged hundreds of hours and played thousands of matches. I turn to it for entertainment; when I’m stressed, when I’m bored, whenever I can. I figured I’d eventually tire of this game, but that day hasn’t arrived.
For the uninitiated, Rocket League might sound and look strange: cars playing soccer…and they can fly. But believe me, once you try this game…ahem, sport…you’ll get the appeal. It’s endlessly fun and challenging.
After learning the basics, the real fun begins: playing online with competitive, and sometimes snarky, gamers from around the world. Then, as you slowly progress, you enter a wild world of skills to master: aerialing to save or shoot the ball; air dribbling; wall pinches, ceiling shots, balancing the ball on top of your car and flicking it. These moves can take years, or more, to master.
The game’s first version, created in 2008 by game developer Psyonix, was called “Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars”. Eventually they tightened up the name, and gameplay, and re-launched as Rocket League in July 2015.
Today, Rocket League is enjoyed by millions. And like other popular games, it’s become a legit esport. You can now be a professional Rocket League player. There’s global competitions, but the biggest one is the RLCS: the Rocket League Championship Series. Hosted by Psyonix, the RLCS now includes teams from virtually every corner of the globe. And the winners of last year’s tournament took home $600,000 USD.
Once hooked, my appetite to consume Rocket League content grew. And that’s when I discovered the amazing world of Rocket League YouTubers. These creators dedicate their lives to producing content for the Rocket League faithful. Made up of a smorgasbord of professional and casual players, they simultaneously educate and entertain the masses. You can learn new skills and mechanics; the dos and don’ts of the game; watch 1 player battle 20 players at the same time; and much more.
It’s here that I discovered one of the OGs of Rocket League YouTube: Jared Zook. But few know him by that name. Online he’s Sunless Khan.
Sunless Khan, a native of Ohio, first uploaded himself playing Rocket League in January 2017. The rest is history: he now has 2.15 million subscribers and over half a billion views. Khan produces a range of cool content, but my current favorite is his profile of a 70 year old player who’s logged 7000 hours in the game.
Khan is not a professional player, and has no ambition to become one, but what he is is a fantastic storyteller and video producer. Thanks to his quality content, and passion for the game, he’s become a beloved figure in the Rocket League community. And at the ripe old age of 30, he’s basically an elder statesman. He’s the wise sage injecting some much needed maturity into the scene.
Khan is also an ambitious person. Late last year, he made a bold move and launched an esports organization called ‘Rule One’. Co-founded with an enigmatic Saudi businessman — and Rocket League lover — known only as INCIVIK, the organization is “dedicated to serving and entertaining the Rocket League community”. They’ve just signed their first professional team, KRN, and plan to do much more in the near future.
There is much I WANNA KNOW from one of Rocket League’s biggest influencers. From his first impression of Rocket League, the nearly impossible goal of becoming a pro player, hitting a million subscribers on YouTube, to starting his own esports organization, we cover it all.
FULL VIDEO INTERVIEW:
So here’s my Rocket League stats: 768 hours played, 9758 matches and I’m playing with the Nintendo Switch. My current doubles rank is Diamond 1. Is that a relatively good space to be in at this point?
That’s really impressive. I tried to play on The Switch once and I could not do it. So I have tons of admiration for you now. Just the fact that you’re a Switch player, and also 700 hours to Diamond, that’s crazy. That’s really fast.
I heard you on a Rocket League podcast with several other players and they were mocking The Switch and saying there’s no one who started playing on the console who could beat them. Why is The Switch so controversial and demeaned in the Rocket League community?
I don’t think it’s controversial. It’s just the serious players can’t take it seriously. It’s part of the whole gamer culture. People these days obsess over games at a level that I don’t think they used to. Everyone thinks if I’m going to play this game and really enjoy it and win and crush my opponents, then I have to play the optimum set up. The Switch isn’t the optimum level.
I think it’s actually a physical thing. I think the buttons are just too small, right? Your frame rates are also limited on Switch. But for the average Rocket League player, it’s great. So, you know, the hate is really just from the elitist people in the community.
I’m obsessed with this game. On paper though Rocket League is a tough sell and sounds a bit ridiculous: it’s car soccer and you hit this big ball and you can fly. So, what is it that makes the game so special?
I think Rocket League is just the perfect combination of things I look for in a video game and that I looked for as a kid. Part of the reason it’s a tough sell is because just describing it alone doesn’t really sound that spectacular. Like you said, actually it sounds ridiculous. So it’s not until you’re really in it that you’re like, oh this is great. It rides that line perfectly where it gives players control, but not so much that things are impossible. And I think that line is really difficult to hit and Rocket League just got lucky or it was the right talented group of people that designed it.
It’s also physics based. I’ve played other physics based games that just feel impossible. You get it and you’re like this would take me hundreds of hours to do literally anything. The way you progress in Rocket League is pretty natural. You don’t have to be really good to have fun, so you can enjoy it right away. But then for players that want to keep going the skill ceiling is endless.
What do you remember about the first time you heard about Rocket League and the first few times you ever tried it?
I think so fondly on it. It was me and my wife and we were with good friends of ours. This was in 2015. In this one evening I had two really great gaming experiences: I tried VR for the first time and my friend showed me Rocket League. It was a 2 versus 2 couples game. We were just messing around and I didn’t actually really think that much about it. I’d heard of the game, but I never got it because it sounded dumb. And then I went home and got it. And then I was hooked from there. My wife jokes because this was supposed to be our casual game. They showed it to us as a couples game. And then I never played it with my wife. I went off and just, you know, got good at it. And she was like what happened?
I’ve got a question about your wife Lynelle later because I know she plays a big part in the Sunless Khan story. I’m curious to know though: how many hours have you played Rocket League?
I have well over 5000 hours, which is crazy because I think my next closest game, for reference of how much I game, is 500 hours. That just goes to show you how much I play Rocket League versus other games.
What’s the record currently for most hours played?
It’s probably 20,000 or something like that. The actual in-game of a lot of pros is north of 10,000 hours.
Rocket League is a huge game. Millions of people play it. But I still get the feeling from some influencers in this space, like yourself, that it’s perceived as an underdog and that it’s not really given the same respect as the other kings of the gaming space. Is that an accurate reading?
I definitely see Rocket League as an underdog story in gaming. Part of the reason is it just sounds dumb. The real mainstream appeal in gaming is still the traditional first person shooter and some of the top down real time strategy games. Those are still king. And we’re talking about millions and millions of international fans as well. But Rocket League is in an interesting place because it’s popular and almost everyone’s heard of it but it hasn’t reached that upper echelon of the giants in gaming. I really like it almost for that reason. It’s the hipster thing where it’s not mainstream, you know? Which is funny because it is enjoyed by millions. There’s nothing special about being a Rocket League player, but it does feel kind of cool. This is the superior game that the masses haven’t discovered.
It’s remarkable how far this game has come. There’s professional leagues now and fans pack arenas to watch tournaments. What x factor skills do you need to become and sustain a career as a Rocket League pro?
To become a pro in this game is rare. In high school, they would show us these stats for athletes. They would say, okay, of the athletes that are going to go on and play in college it’s around 20%. And then of that percentage those that go to play professionally is 0.01% or whatever. They were trying to instill in us that you’re not going to be a professional athlete. It’s so rare. And in gaming, the ones that reach the top, it’s the same way.
There’s always that discussion of natural talent versus just how much they’ve played. If you want to be a professional Rocket League player, you play all day. You don’t really do anything else. And that’s what it takes to go pro in gaming right now because it’s so popular. It’s not like you can just have some natural talent. It’s all about the grind.
It’s diminishing returns too. I mentioned I have 5000 hours. I got to a point where I was pretty good. But to get to the next level now I would probably have to play 4 hours a day to improve. Right now I play an hour or two a day and I’m improving, but I’m not improving faster than the base, so my rank isn’t going up. If I had more natural talent maybe I would learn a little faster or if I had coaching. A lot of it is just those hours. It’s the commitment.
Do you know any intense training regimens for pro Rocket League players?
The only regimens I’ve heard where an esports organization really controls the schedule or has something in place is the bigger esports. I know ‘League of Legends’ has these big gaming centers with all their players. They’ll have practice rooms. They’ll have workout rooms. Rocket League isn’t quite that level where that’s a normal thing. All the players have to set that themselves. I’ve always respected the pros that have a disciplined schedule like that, but some of them are not disciplined. They just play all day and that’s good enough to keep them going. It would be an interesting development to optimize it, but I don’t think it’s been fully explored yet.
As more money gets into it, analytics will probably take over. It’s like, look, if you’re sleeping 8 hours a night you’re going to be playing better. So we need you to do that. You’re going to have to have a curfew and you have to get to sleep because we’re paying you all this money. We want to get results. I could see that happening for sure.
How much do the top pros earn annually from playing the game and sponsorships? What kind of money are we talking about at the highest level?
The tournament winnings are publicly available. It’s a lot, but then that’s not even their salary or anything. So the way it’s set up now, the players have a lot of control in Rocket League. So they’re getting their winnings plus they’re getting a salary from the organization, plus their own YouTube and Twitch earnings. So it’s actually three sources of income for a pro. In North America, if you’re a top team, those are all most likely six figure salaries. And then the pros that are leveraging their fanbase or their exposure by being on the RLCS broadcasts and are content creators, the org doesn’t take any of that.
Would you guess some of these top players are multimillionaires?
Oh yeah, for sure. I would say it’s the equivalent right now to a minor league that’s professional. MLS (Major League Soccer) is a good example. Soccer isn’t the top sport in the U.S. yet, but it’s number five or something. And I was looking at some of their salaries and it seemed like about the top of the RLCS. That’s about where it is, which is actually kind of crazy if you think about it.
It’s mind blowing to think that if I keep grinding on The Switch, I could be a millionaire in 30 years.
(laughs) Yeah, you could.
You’re a Grand Champ in the game. You can play at the highest levels. Did you ever, or do still have any ambition, to become a pro?
Absolutely not, because I have seen what it takes. I really need to instill the fact that it’s nearly impossible for most people to go pro in games. A lot of it is time and the attention span. I would never want to put that much time into the game because I get tired of playing after an hour or two. You have to be so singularly focussed. It’s a unique skill set to even get close to that. But no, never entered my mind because I’m just not even close to that.
Back in the day, before I even had the YouTube channel, I was seeing how I was improving. I was like, man, if I could just get to 1000 hours I’ll probably be around Grand Champion and then maybe I’ll be as good as pros. But that was when I had 500 hours. And then 500 hours later I realized I was nowhere near that. I realized how far I was. So no, it’s impossible for me to be a pro in Rocket league.
The conversation about age and playing video games at a high level is an interesting one. Specifically with Rocket League, how does age impact one’s ability to become great at this game?
That’s an interesting point because there’s obviously physical constraints to physical sports. So you would think in gaming if it’s just your mind and your fingers then it could be anybody, right? But why is it dominated by young teens? Currently the prime age is 15 years old. The younger players are typically the best. The top five players in the world right now I’m pretty sure three of them are 15 and then two are 17, 18. But I think it’s more about the schedule and the ability to keep playing all day. It’s just harder for an adult to play all day for various reasons.
(laughs) Yeah, things like responsibilities. That’s actually an interesting question in the community. Are there fewer older players because of schedule or because it literally is more difficult? I think there’s also some neuroplasticity things where there’s probably some actual advantages to being younger in gaming.
In Rocket League it’s split second decisions that make all the difference between winning and losing. Do you think reaction speeds declining with age plays a factor?
Yeah definitely. That’s probably a big part of it, too.
One of my favorite videos of yours is the story of Vapor: a 70 year old Rocket League player who’s logged 7000 hours and has a Champion rank. How did you come across him? And how shocked were you when you heard about him?
So one of his friends messaged me. He just emailed me and said, I have this friend that’s 70 years old. So I was kind of interested. But interestingly enough, it didn’t surprise me that much. I get messages like that pretty regularly. It wasn’t until I was talking to him that I realized how cool he was. He just turned out to be such an interesting guy. What stuck out to me about him it wasn’t necessarily just the fact that he was 70 years old I just thought his attitude and his story was really interesting.
Vapor was a really compelling interview for sure. I imagine sometimes you get access to interesting people and perhaps they can’t always deliver when you’re creating content?
Yeah, you never know what you’re going to get. So that’s why I kind of approach it like, okay, I’ll just record this and we’ll see what happens. And then he was awesome. I can work with pretty much anything. So it’s just a matter of how much I’m going to have to edit really. And Vapor I didn’t have to edit. It was just I had to cut down all these amazing things. It just made it really easy for me. When there’s someone like that it just shines.
Let’s talk about your journey into becoming one of the most famous YouTubers creating Rocket League content. When did you first decide you wanted to try producing Rocket League content?
Well, what’s interesting is I didn’t develop a lot of those skills until I was a couple of years in. It was a learning experience. It wasn’t like I had all the tools really at the start, which makes it even cooler because I can look back on my earlier content and see how I’ve grown. So, at the beginning my main desire was just as a creator. That was always my career path: I was going to be a video producer. It was the dream to just have people enjoy the videos you make. That’s the overarching dream of a creator. I didn’t have aspirations to really be a YouTuber, but where it clicked was my interest in Rocket League. As it grew, I got to a level where I was more comfortable with the game and I understood the culture and started to get a sense for what the Rocket League community liked in videos and what they wanted.
And so just putting that together: I had skills as a video producer, so I was like, I’ll make Rocket League videos. I had bad ideas initially because there’s this whole other skill set of being a YouTuber that I hadn’t delved into, but I had two pretty critical pieces of knowing the source material and liking to make videos. Some of them did well on YouTube and some didn’t. And then I just started to learn what did better on YouTube over the years, and it took me several years to really take it to the point where it became a career.
It only took you around two or three years to hit like a million subscribers, correct?
I want to say that. I plateaued for a long time where I was just making okay content. There was a period of a year where I was between 18,000 and 100,000 subscribers. It was just a long time. I had moments where I would jump up in subscribers, but I didn’t have crazy growth. It was pretty much slow and steady, which is kind of nice. I wasn’t thrust into the limelight or anything. I didn’t have all this pressure. My community was slowly growing as I got better at making videos. So that was kind of a good way to do it.
The odds of hitting a million YouTube subscribers is probably similar to the odds of becoming a pro Rocket League player. It’s an incredible accomplishment. What did it feel like to hit a million subs?
It felt really cool, but it was interesting because I framed it as a race with a friend.
Was that Musty?
Yeah, it was Musty. We did a manufactured rivalry, but it was real because we were friends and competitors. But I just really like the way YouTube works when it comes to other channels in your space, because it’s not really about competition. You actually want people to succeed. Because if more people are watching Rocket League videos, then it’s a win for me. I get recommended based on Musty’s videos. So it’s not truly a competition. So it makes so much sense to have these public races. It gets the fans involved, you know, where they were wanting one of us to win.
So I had framed the race to a million and Musty was already there. And so in a way it actually felt less exciting. I didn’t feel like I was the man in Rocket League or anything. I was the third person to reach it. But personally, yeah, it was really nice. I think it didn’t really sink in until I got the plaque because when I got the plaque in the mail it’s the physical manifestation of a million subs.
That’s amazing. Is it the gold plaque behind you now?
Yes, the gold one. So I already had the 100k one and that was a huge deal to me at the time as well. I think that in a way the 100k was a bigger deal emotionally because that was the first you know, oh my God, YouTube sent me a plaque. It’s a good feeling. I don’t really reflect on it that much anymore, so that’s kind of cool to think back on.
You’ve done videos with most, if not all, the top Rocket League creators. It seems like there’s great camaraderie and support among you guys. Is it fair to say it’s a tight knit, supportive, community?
I was drawn in right away to the Rocket League community. When I was newer to the scene, I was an outsider and a fan of a lot of these people. Now I get to be friends with them. It’s pretty cool and one of the things that I look back the most fondly on.
So I was already socially getting to know people before I really became noticeable enough to reach out to those people and start working with them. And then naturally over time you become friends. I immediately had positive experiences when I started uploading, not just with other creators, but also commentators. I always had this impression in my mind that YouTube comments were just brutal and really mean. It was the unhinged Internet. But the reality is, at least for Rocket League, just really nice commentators, really nice viewers and followers. Every time I worked with a viewer, because I like to include viewers in my videos a lot, it almost always is an amazing experience. I could count on one hand the negative experiences, and I’ve made hundreds of videos. That’s really one of the things that keeps me going. I can’t imagine being in a more toxic community where I’m having to think about what I’m posting and if people are going to make fun of this. I can really just be myself and be goofy. And I know they’re going to appreciate it or they’re not going to judge me.
You mention toxic communities. It’s refreshing to hear you say the Rocket League community is generally quite nice. But you did recently tweet that every time you get a positive comment someone always has to say something negative in the comments. So how do you decipher whether someone is just taking a light jab or is trying to demean you? How can you tell the difference?
That’s a really good question because sometimes you can’t tell the difference. People taking jabs at me, it’s always game play related. I’ve had to learn I’m a competitive person and I want to be good at the game naturally. But I still logically know my place. I just want to be an entertainer. It doesn’t really matter what rank I am, I always want to be entertaining and I want to be good at the game. So when I’m faced with the fact that I’m not the greatest, some commentators love pointing that out. I’m like, what the heck? Let me have something.
It’s a weird dynamic where I’m good compared to most players, but I’m not really good compared to other creators that are at the pro level or other creators that my viewers watch that are better, like Lethamyr. So there’s a weird comparison thing going on. But the key really is just to not care. It’s important as a creator to put more weight in the positive than the negative. You still need a thick skin no matter how positive your community is, because there’s always someone that’s going to point out your flaws.
I’ve only had one overtly bad experience where someone was in the chat saying unspeakable things about my grandmother. Other than that it’s often just toxic teammates who always want to forfeit or make fun of your play. Often I catch myself getting riled up and have to remember I’m probably playing with a 12 year old kid. For those players that are quite toxic and bring negativity to the game, where do you think that stems from?
I think it’s just really human. That’s all I think it is. I think Rocket League is just like a game of life. You’re going to get teammates that are not empathetic and only see their perspective. That’s where a lot of the frustration between teammates comes from; people that don’t have the skills to empathize and be like he’s in a tough situation so he made a mistake. It’s being able to rationalize that. And I do that too. Sometimes it’s just really hard to see other perspectives. It’s about becoming better at lifting up your teammates even if they’re making mistakes. Also, like you said, a big thing is not knowing if the other person is like literally nine years old. It’s just like the Internet, right? Is this a child that I’m arguing with? You don’t really know.
Despite knowing that though, do you find yourself being triggered and getting angry with your teammates?
Oh, yeah. All the time. It’s tough to avoid that mindset when you’re a competitive person like me. It’s tough to swallow a loss, but it’s important to learn.
You have a massive YouTube channel with two million plus subscribers. Unpack for me the work ethic it takes you to maintain your channel at such a high level. What’s the grind like to come up with the ideas and create this content?
The real grind and pressure is to produce regularly like every week or two. So over the years it takes its toll. It’s not always about just how rushed everything is, a lot of times it’s the motivation. I’ve made hundreds of Rocket League videos now. And so to keep going it’s really important to keep things fresh and have variety in my life. So I’m not just in this tunnel of Rocket League all the time because I come up with better ideas when I’m removed from it and doing something else and exploring other hobbies. So a big part is just maintaining a healthy work life relationship with YouTube. And it’s hard to do if you feel that pressure to regularly upload.
How do you deal with the stress and expectations of being a public figure? What coping mechanisms have you developed?
Now that I’ve had this experience of doing things it’s easier, but in other ways new challenges present themselves just from doing it for so long. There’s definitely tips and tricks that I’ve learned. Going for a walk, getting outside the house. A lot of it is those cliché life tips like getting enough sleep and having a regular schedule. Those all work really well for the YouTube career. Since COVID, there’s been more of that work from home culture that’s developing. And so people are learning how terrible it can be if you don’t establish good habits. If you don’t take care of your mental health and things like that it does catch up with you, right?
A lot of those things I also learned from therapy. I thought I could just handle it on my own. I was doing really well the first couple of years. But then if you let it slip a little bit and you get too involved it can be bad; like anxiety and depression. But talking to someone that knew the YouTube culture or was at least younger and aware enough that they understood what it was like to be a content creator. They knew my situation. And just hearing someone say you have to get out. You need to have friends outside of the scene. So someone to keep you on track is really useful.
You made a really fascinating video recently that explores an AI bot popping up in ranked play. How problematic is the development of AI bots in ranked play? Is it a big deal?
I think it is a threat to the game, but I think there are solutions out there. Other games have dealt with this kind of thing before. Rocket League’s been fortunate to not have to deal with any huge cheating scandals that I know of. So there are some questions like why is this happening now? It’s just honestly these technology breakthroughs and people becoming aware that they’re able to do this. I am surprised that there’s so many. I’m seeing so many reports about it. It was a pretty technical thing to be able to deploy a bot into ranked. It’s definitely really difficult to make. So that part is why it’s taken so long.
I do know that just from hearing from the makers of the bot it’s taken years to develop an AI controlled car that is good at the game. I got all the info from a Reddit thread. They sort of describe what went into it. And it’s pretty interesting the way it learned through machine learning. It only knows from experience and correction. So it needed years of development, it needed people that really knew what they were doing and knew what it means to be good at the game. But now for some reason someone figured out how to get it into ranked and then share that information. And so now the threshold for getting it is just low enough where enough people are doing it. Pretty soon there’s going to be some pretty harsh bans and those people are going to realize that they’re not able to play Rocket League at all anymore. Some of these kids probably aren’t thinking that through.
So you think Rocket League has to really crack down on this to ensure the integrity of the game?
Yeah, I think they have to.
Let’s talk about the latest development in your illustrious Rocket League career. You’ve now created and launched your own esport organization called ‘Rule One’. It will be a space for pro Rocket League teams and other Rocket League content. When did this concept originate and how did we arrive at this fully grown org today?
Some of it is actually kind of selfish, where I really just wanted to develop some of these skills outside of just being a YouTuber. Learning to be a leader or run a company is quite a different skill set than being a lone wolf YouTuber. A lot of YouTubers will just build a team on their own channel. But for me, a lot of my content has been personal enough where I haven’t really collaborated or outsourced that much in terms of hiring people. So this is an exercise in building a team and having a group of people that are creating stuff that’s in my head.
I’ve always had the ideas of where I could go next, even just diversifying what I’m doing. I don’t want to just be a YouTuber. I wanted to develop some skills and build something bigger than my channel. And so I’ve gotten into the esports scene but stayed in Rocket League; a community that I already really know. And so it seemed like a really logical thing. It was separate enough where I’m very challenged and learning new skills, but not so much that I’m completely out of my depth.
You’ve partnered with a person called INCIVIK to create ‘Rule One’. There’s a lot of mystery around him. But as far as I know, he’s from Saudi Arabia, he’s a huge fan of the game and has heavily invested in players and now this company. Is INCIVIK’s real name even publicly known?
I don’t think so. But it’s really funny because in the gaming community that’s accepted practice. So it’s not even really a question. No one knows anybody’s real name.
So, what can you tell me about him and why you decided to partner with him for ‘Rule One’?
On a surface level a lot of people know him for his donations to Twitch streamers and bankrolling various events in the Rocket League community. But what made me want to work with him is once I got to know him and became friends I saw the leadership, skill sets, and the vision he had. We had the same idea. We both wanted to build an organization. He had already led an organization at one point and when that didn’t work he stepped away from that situation, but he wasn’t turned off to Rocket League esports at all and really wanted to make something and maybe have a partner that could share the load a little bit. He wanted a more collaborative environment because it was pretty much just him.
So maintaining that mystery and having as little personal information about him out there is sort of his thing?
Yeah, that’s definitely INCIVIK’s thing. I got to know him fairly well before going into business with him. So I was confident who he was and knew enough about him where I wasn’t feeling like I’m going into business with this shadowy figure. As far as his persona, he likes to be behind the scenes. He likes no one knowing who he is. That’s part of the fun for him as well. So part of it is protecting privacy, but part of it is also just what he likes to do. He likes to be this behind the scenes guy. And that actually works out really well for us because I can be the face of it and he can support doing behind the scenes stuff without always explaining himself. So it’s actually a really fun partnership.
He’s like the Banksy of Rocket League. Investing in Rocket League and esports definitely seems like a fun way to spend your money though.
Yeah, if I was INCIVIK and I was in his position this is exactly how I would spend my money. He’s a gamer. He’s in the gaming scene. He’s actually in a lot of Twitch chats. Not even just Rocket League. So he’s pretty well connected in all of gaming. He’ll go into Twitch chats and drop a lot of subs and get some attention. So he’s able to meet these creators that he loves. It’s tough because you have so many people reaching out to you on Twitch or YouTube as a creator, so it is hard to stand out. And sometimes it’s just a big fat donation that’s going to get your attention. He’s able to do that because he has the resources, but then he turns out to be this really cool guy. So he’s able to make friends with whoever he wants to because he’s really just a great person. That’s kind of how he goes about it.
‘Rule One’ has signed its first professional Rocket League team: KRN. They’re 3 young players from Saudi Arabia. What can you tell me about the team and why you signed these guys?
So, INCIVIK knows that scene and region really well. He was instrumental in getting that region recognition and access to RLCS. Several years ago, the only way to get to the highest level of competition, which is RLCS, was you had to be from North America, Oceania, Europe or South America. Then they did another expansion and now MENA, Middle East and North Africa, is a region. So they added some of those minor regions. But to add those minor regions, they had to know that these teams were going to be able to produce top tier talent. So INCIVIK was instrumental in showcasing the top talent from his region. He had a pretty intimate knowledge of the talent from that region. And also because minor regions are newer, they’re also more affordable, so they’re a little less established, but they have the same level of talent. So that’s actually why we ended up going with KRN because they’re super talented and we know they can compete with the other regions. They’re also great for a young org like Rule One. We want to be conservative and grow slowly. So it’s perfect: we can have this amazing team, but we don’t have to overextend ourselves.
KRN consists of two identical twins, Yazid and Saleh. How does the twin factor impact how they play together? Is there a unique sixth sense that happens between them when they play?
That was a big part of why I wanted to sign them too. There’s also a content side to it that I haven’t fully explored yet. I want to explore what the twin effect really is. They’re definitely the highest level twins that have ever played in Rocket League. I mean, how does that even happen? These two guys must just be playing all the time in their house. It’s funny that you said that because a friend of mine is a coach. They’ve been doing scrimmages against our team. And he said it’s really interesting watching the twins play because they do have this crazy twin energy where they’re in sync. And so it was affirmation. And also on a surface level it sounds really crazy: identical twins and Rocket League that’s at the highest level. That’s really awesome. So that’s definitely a little story point that we’re going to be using.
How young are the players on KRN?
They’re like 15.
Have you ever been to Saudi Arabia and if not do you plan to go?
I haven’t been to Saudi yet, but I’m definitely gonna be going. They do run some pretty big tournaments there for Rocket League gamers. They’ve only done one so far, but I’m quite sure they’re going to do some more. So I’ll probably be there at the next one and hang out with INCIVIK and our team will compete for sure. They’ll be on their home turf, so that will be awesome. Honestly, I really can’t wait for that.
You’ve done the unthinkable, the miraculous, you’ve gotten your wife on board with the company and your vision to dedicate everything to Rocket League. Tell me about the impact your wife, Lynelle, has on the Sunless Khan world?
She was always really supportive and she always loved the idea. She had her own job and everything. And so for a while it was just a hobby for me. Once it got to the point where I quit my job and went full time on YouTube, it didn’t take any convincing because I waited so long. It was at the point where it was a really dumb decision not to quit my job. So that wasn’t controversial at all in our household. So I always had full support.
I got to a point where I was getting bogged down with a lot of things that I didn’t want to do with my channel, but that needed to get done, like a lot of logistical stuff or planning. She started to get more involved once it got to be too much for me. I could have probably hired someone, but she had a lot of those skills. And so she just kind of stepped up. And yeah, it’s been really great. The only downside is that we’re constantly talking about work. So again, it’s learning that balance and we’re getting there. The other downside is she never really can feel like it’s a real job because it’s just me and her. YouTubers are already struggling with that where it’s like, do I even have a real job? What am I doing here? It can be unsatisfying if you don’t feel you have meaning in your work. So making sure we both have meaning in what we’re doing is important. But mostly it’s been amazing because she does have a lot of the skill sets like managing and then organizing. It’s been exactly what I needed.
What’s her Rocket League rank these days? Does she still play at all?
(laughs) Oh, no, she hates the game. It’s really refreshing.
I think if she was a Rocket League player maybe that would become too much at that point. So, you know, I want someone that’s a little bit outside. So she does have some removal from gaming culture, which is actually really great I think. But now as she’s interacted more with people in the scene she’s becoming well known and she has friends in the scene now. So she’s also comfortable, which is good, but it’s not so comfortable that she’s playing every day or something.
Where would you like to see ‘Rule One’ in five to 10 years from now?
I would love to see it with 20 or more employees producing content. I’ll be really happy if in five or 10 years we’ve maintained or improved upon our culture. As long as we’re still existing in five years that would be amazing because esports is super volatile.
Do you think Rocket League should be an Olympic sport?
Oh, if gaming is an Olympic sport, then I think it would be important that Rocket League is included in that. So if they get past the gaming part of it then Rocket League is the top candidate or at least in the top five.
If you were a betting man, could you foresee that ever happening?
That’s a really good question. It feels inevitable, but at the same time I think it would just take forever for them to really recognize gaming in the Olympics. I could see both ways probably. Surely in a hundred years.
Do you think Rocket League, specifically the gameplay, needs to evolve or is it best that it just stays where it is?
I think the gameplay cannot evolve. I think it’s really important that it stays the same. I think everything around the game, like extra features, creative modes, creative ways for players to create their own levels and stuff like that should all evolve and be built on. But the actual core gameplay, I think it has to stay the same because they’ve hit the magic formula. So adjusting anything in that is probably not a good idea.
What do you rank as the most iconic moments in Rocket League history?
The greatest goal in Rocket League history. A huge moment in the World Championship where Jstn hit the shot with 0 seconds and there was this iconic “This is Rocket League” call from a commentator. So that’s the top moment in Rocket League history.
Squishy hitting a ceiling shot which was a new mechanical move that pros were experimenting with. But he pulled it off at the biggest stage in the World Championships. That would be another moment.
One thing about Rocket League is it always produces really exciting moments. People who watch Rocket League tend to really enjoy it and it’s because it delivers those moments.
Who do you rate as the best player in the world right now?
Well, obviously I’m a little biased, but I think Rw9, the player on my team. Because he is insane right now, winning all these 1v1 tournaments. So I’m really excited by his emergence as a 1 v 1 superstar. He’s one of the best players in the world right now.
You’re often compared to the actor Seth Rogen. How sick of it are you genuinely?
Genuinely, I don’t think I’m sick of it because I’m not going to be upset by someone making an observation. It is kind of funny how much I get it. It’s a lot.
Was it the Rocket League community that pointed it out or did people say that before you became a public figure?
It was only the community. I never got it in person because in person I don’t actually look like him at all. It was a time in my life where I was wearing glasses and had a beard and Seth Rogen was sporting the exact look. It was 2017. My laugh kinda sounds like him. So they just put it together. But it led to me actually getting to play with Seth Rogen at one point. That was a top memory of my channel for sure.
Forfeiting in Rocket League. It’s such a pet peeve when my teammate does it way too early after one mistake. Should you always play through? When is the forfeit justified?
I think you should forfeit if you’re down four with like 30 seconds left. But then again, you never know. I’ve seen some crazy comebacks. So I think if you’re leaving early, you just shut yourself off from amazing moments.
Do you ever smash that forfeit button when you’re playing?
You know, as I’m saying that I’m thinking of times where I did forfeit. So do as I say, not as I do.
What’s your main pet peeve in Rocket League? What really makes your blood boil?
Commenting on your teammates play in any capacity I think is really annoying and unnecessary. They’re not going to adjust within the five minute time frame, especially if you’re playing with a random stranger. What do you think that’s going to lead to? It’s not going to help the vibes. Good vibes are very important in Rocket League.When everyone’s feeling good, that’s when you win.
Do you have a favorite Rocket League meme?
I like the roster changes one. It’s not really that strong of a meme, to be honest. But every time there’s a roster change there’s this picture of Gibbs, and I think it’s actually the moment when Jstn scores the goal. There’s a photo. It’s a close up of his face and its faded into a wider photo of his mind being blown.
Finally, for people who want to be a content creator what’s your advice for them?
I think focusing on what you can control in your career is really important. So I think honing your own skills. That’s the approach I took, rather than relying on trying to get collaborators and trying to get key friendships or working your way in through clout or being well known. It’s not as productive as just developing your own skills and making yourself stand out because you’re just better at something than most people. That’s how I came up in the scene. I think it’s just great to hone your skills because you can’t really lose. If you don’t end up achieving your goals, the worst case scenario is you’re slightly better at something you have developed.
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