Esports competition is grueling and can wear down even the best pro players. But fans don’t only want to watch players compete, they want to care about them too. “And I made it my goal.
I wanted people to recognize me. I wanted people to know, like hey, that’s Nadeshot. That’s Nadeshot.”
And nowhere was the balance between high-level competitor and internet personality better realized than in a young kid from Chicago. ” His name is Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag and he is one of esports’ biggest stars. This is his story. One of the most influential players in the history of competitive Call of Duty actually started off hating the game. “The first experience I had with Call of Duty was CoD 2, and that was when I first got my Xbox 360 I put the game in and I literally got spawn trapped for the next five minutes and I never played it after that.
I absolutely hated it because of that one experience.” But though he didn’t fall in love with CoD 2, he loved gaming so much that his mom made him get a job at McDonald’s just to get him away from the screen. “I think when any parent sees their child doing something that’s really out of the ordinary that’s gonna raise a lot of red flags so I can imagine what they thought about it and I think that’s the main reason why my mom made me get a job because she was worried that I was just gonna waste my life away behind my computer screen.” “Like eight hours a day, eight to ten hours a day we would just grind Search and Destroy public playlists because that was what was fun for us.” Seeking greater competition, Nadeshot and his friends went to GameBattles, a platform that would land him his first big break. There, he met MerK, and the two were approached by OpTic Nerve during Modern Warfare 2.
Nerve offered the two gamers a chance to build an OpTic roster. Since 2009, OpTic Gaming were committed to creating video content. While they were going back to the organization’s roots by fielding a competitive roster, the entertainment side of the industry was their focus. Even at this early point in the team’s history, there were hints that the route to popularity didn’t have to rely on tournament results. Fans could be earned online and introduced to competition, while esports fans could find more to like about these competitors on YouTube.
And H3CZ would eventually bring Nadeshot around to the OpTic way of thinking: content, daily whenever possible, was the path to a dedicated following. “I met him when he was a lot younger but very pleasant. Just smiles all around. Fun guy to be around and to talk to and that was the first time I actually had ever met a pro player before. So I was kind of just taken back, like what is this relationship dynamic?” Though they managed to defeat heavyweights Team EnVyUs at Dallas, OpTic finished eigth.
And while they still received strong fan support, not long after the event, H3CZ called Nadeshot and told him that the rest of the team wanted him gone. At the time, Hector convinced Nade to continue with content creation and to stay on with OpTic in that role. In Nadeshot he saw a rare combination: even though he wasn’t naturally comfortable in front of a camera, he was a strong competitor. But also someone approachable that fans could identify with.
Nade told his fans that he was no longer with the team, and although he said it was a voluntary move, he later admitted that it had been a crushing experience. In terms of competition, it wasn’t clear when or even if Nade would return. But he threw himself into the business of content creation despite still having school and a part-time job. “Any time that I was at home, I was playing Call of Duty or working on content production for my YouTube channel or my livestream.” That drive showed H3CZ that his investment in Nade might still pay off.
And when the competitive team needed a replacement for Rambo at MLG Dallas 2011, Nadeshot got the call. “Obviously I haven’t played in a while so I’m curious to see what happens.” After helping the team place third, Nadeshot went back to creating content. But H3CZ could see the competitive fire still burning in Nadeshot’s eyes, and created a second OpTic team, called OpTic Nation, for him to run. Though that team had limited competitive success, H3CZ saw that Nadeshot’s content was doing something different: Nadeshot understood it too, as he consistently produced content that bridged the gap between the esports and gaming audiences, by offering a glimpse into his personal life “Well this gameplay is gonna wrap up I kicked the s*** out of my brother and he’s older than me.
He was pretty pissed cause I got Kyle Korver and the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose.” “YouTube, how you doin’. Hey guys it’s Nadeshot, and I’m doing a vlog from my iPad that I actually got for my birthday. My grandparents got it for me. I hope you guys can’t hear these dogs in the background because they are loud as hell.”
Merry Christmas! From Nadeshot, grandfather.” With his subscriber base on YouTube continuing to grow, Nadeshot announced that he had finally quit his job at McDonald’s. He was all-in on Call of Duty. In June 2011, OpTic Nation placed 6th at MLG Columbus while the main OpTic Gaming squad took first. But Nade saw a shot at glory with another team, and briefly joined nV for MLG Anaheim and MLG Raleigh.
After a couple of events with NV, Nadeshot finally had another chance on OpTic’s main roster at the biggest Call of Duty event yet: CoD XP 2011.
Featuring a million-dollar prize pool and a post-tournament performance by Kanye West, it was Activision’s first big step into figuring out CoD esports. The tournament may not have had the most competitive field and it featured Modern Warfare 3, a game that wasn’t even out yet.
But with Nadeshot OpTic won, again raising questions about why he was sidelined when both his skill and popularity could be better harnessed by the organization. But he stepped back down, restarted OpTic Nation, and waited. He waited for over a year, during which he played with a number of mix teams, none of which had wins at any major event.
However uneventful 2012 was in Nadeshot’s career, it was the year in which he would suffer his most significant loss. “Hey guys what’s going on, it’s Nadeshot from OpTic Gaming. And some of you may have heard. In the past couple days on Twitter if you follow me or anybody else. That my mom actually passed away at the age of 47 on Saturday night, she died in her sleep.
It’s kind of a gruesome detail but, just want to let you guys know that I am truly am thankful for all the support that you’ve shown me on Twitter and all my social media outlets like Facebook.” Nadeshot’s Mother, Christina, had sometimes criticized his gaming, but in time came to support his esports dream. “I think she would approve now, for sure. I think things have kind of taken off to a point where she wouldn’t have a choice at this point. I mean, just the things I’ve been able to do for my family and the things I’ve been able to do for myself in my career. I think she would completely understand it.”
While Nadeshot’s 2012 had been tumultuous, OpTic had been experiencing one of its most successful periods in Call of Duty. Dominating Modern Warfare 3 with up and coming star Scump. But Nadeshot wasn’t satisfied with watching the team’s success from the sidelines so he convinced H3CZ and the team to add him as a starter in place of Rambo. “I convinced them to let me back on the team.
So like it was my time to shine. I had all this pressure on my shoulders because nobody really agreed with the roster move, they did not want to see Rambo off the team, but for me, this was me trying to come into my own…” With Nadeshot in the lineup, OpTiC headed to UMG Chicago for the first ever LAN event on the recently released Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. “We were either going to be so incredibly successful and shock the world, or I was going to be the laughing stock of the competitive community.” In spite of the pressure, Nadeshot rose to the occasion and the team found themselves in the grand finals against an ACHES-led compLexity. “That was the biggest rivalry for us, dude.
ACHES always kicked OpTic’s ass. For whatever reason, he always beat us.” “He was just talking so much before this match even started.
We’re sitting on main stage and this dude is just doing what he does best. And he’s trying to get into everybody’s head. And I was just so focused on winning the match that I really wasn’t getting in on it.” But Nadeshot and OpTic would have the last laugh this time and the fallout from their triumph got a little heated. (Casting) Nadeshot and ACHES already had a history, but this incident would escalate their rivalry to the next level. “This is a cringey and embarrassing video, but it set-off the entirety of the success that CoD had, I’m cringing watching myself, but this is a moment that I will never forget.”
As 2013 began, Nadeshot finally signed with Red Bull after over a year of speculation regarding a deal. “Probably the most humbling experience of my life. For me, this is something that was a dream come true. It marked not just a landmark moment in Nade’s career, but for Call of Duty esports as a whole. Although OpTic managed to beat ACHES and compLexity again at the Call of Duty Championship, a disappointing third place finish marked the beginning of a majorless slump for the team in 2013. But OpTic was changing.
They added a gaming house in Chicago, and continued to grow in popularity despite their lack of first-place finishes. Even when the results weren’t there, the content was. “If you enjoyed it make sure you click the like button.
Favourite if you really enjoyed it. Comment, let me know what you thought of the video. Any constructive criticism always helps” “Bro can you stop asking for likes bro?” “Yeah just exit the video” “Can you stop asking for like bro?”
Nadeshot, now living in a team house and fully immersed in Call of Duty, took a moment to reflect on how big this opportunity really was. “And this is something that I’ve always wanted And my mom never really saw it going anywhere. And she really worried about me. She really worried for me if this was gonna work out.
If I was kind of screwing my own life up by quitting school. But I always saw school as something like it’s always going to be there and it’s always going to be my backup plan. The fact that all this has worked out so far and the growth has continued, I really do appreciate it guys.” A few months later, JKap replaced MerK and the team finished 2nd at the MLG Fall Invitational, OpTic’s best placement since UMG Chicago with ACHES playing foil to Nadeshot’s hopes in a backbreaking comeback. (Casting) 2013 had shown OpTic that the demands of both competition and content creation could take their toll on players that were unprepared, but Nadeshot had always been able to satisfy both sides of that equation.
Still, H3CZ acknowledged that the situation must have been frustrating. 2014 would be the year of Call of Duty: Ghosts, a polarizing game within the esport’s scene that ultimately led to a roster shake-up on OpTic. The team would keep Nade and Scump, but add Clayster and ProoFy. However, despite the line-up changes, it would end up being a year OpTic fans would prefer to forget.
Although the two had arguments in the past, an incident early in the year saw Nadeshot and Scump butt heads, with Scump actually issuing an ultimatum to the team: get rid of Nade, or he would leave and go to Team EnVyUs. He basically thought that I was the reason why we couldn’t win, he just wasn’t a fan of me, he didn’t like me anymore Nadeshot actually went to H3CZ and offered to step down, saying that Scump was the better player and deserved the spot. But given the way Scump had approached the situation, H3CZ decided to keep Nadeshot. It would work out, as Scump quickly asked to come back. After a disappointing start to the year, the team again managed a third-place finish at the Call of Duty Championship. Once again, they lost a close, important series to compLexity.
(Casting) Morale wasn’t great as the year continued, but Nadeshot wasn’t giving up. Invited to participate at the MLG X Games Invitational, the team had an important chance to get on the board against some of their biggest rivals. “Going into that tournament I thought we could either place top 3 or we were going to get dead last. It was an invitational tournament, there were eight teams. Practicing and scrims for us prior to the event were very up in the air in terms of results.
It was just really inconsistent.” The former compLexity roster that included ACHES signed with Evil Geniuses right before the event. “Truthfully, I am a pretty realistic person, a little bit of a pessimist, so I was thinking the worst was coming.”
And then, all of a sudden, we came out of the gate swinging. (Casting) After defeating EG, OpTic defeated Team Kaliber in the finals to earn a gold medal. (Casting) There was no prize pool and it was an invitational tournament, but OpTic had found a victory in the middle of a difficult competitive season. “I don’t know, I feel like I’m about to tear up. It’s my first MLG event that I ever won, I’m so happy that I won it with these guys. Ever since I watched Halo 2 as a young kid on MLG, I dreamed about winning an MLG event.
And for this to finally happen, plus a gold medal at the X Games It’s literally a dream come true.” Sadly, this would be the high point for the team’s year. And as the team continued to struggle, Nadeshot increasingly became the subject of controversy. As the team went to a Red Bull sponsored training camp, Nadeshot and Scump were already looking for a replacement for ProofY. The answer would be Crimsix, and he wanted to add FormaL to the team so Clayster, too, was released.
On paper, this roster was poised to take the 2015 CoD Advanced Warfare season by storm. The fresh game was a boon for Nadeshot. The team got off to a strong start. They earned first at UMG Orlando and the regular season of the MLG Pro League Season 1. They won the playoffs, too, and went on to dominate the CoD Championship NA Regional Finals. But while the team was doing well, Nade felt like his play was deteriorating.
His reactions weren’t enough to carry him through matches. And, when OpTic finished seventh at CoD Champs after their hot start, Nadeshot knew that it would be his last event. I felt like my passion to win wasn’t high enough to continue at this level. To give you guys a mindset on what’s been going through my head.
I just felt like I was playing to not lose, I wasn’t really playing to win. So that I wouldn’t have to hear about losing, the repercussions of it on Twitter and on my YouTube channel and the week after. I was just so immensely afraid of the fact that nobody would want to watch my streams or my videos because I didn’t have that role in OpTic Gaming anymore and that is something that definitely kind of hindered me from making that decision a little sooner. Three years of streaming, YouTube content and competition had pushed him to his limit, but the comments blaming him for the team’s woes became overwhelming. I am a pretty self conscious person and with all these people being so hyper critical about the way that I play and my role in that team… It got to me man, and I’ve got pretty thick skin.
But I just didn’t want to be the scapegoat anymore. In hindsight, it’s surprising that he managed to juggle all these responsibilities for as long as he did. And given the demands of esports competition today, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see it happen at his level again. What you might see is players saying “I don’t want to figure out that balance, I either want to be full-blown competition and dabble a bit, or I want to be full blown content.”
You can’t just dabble in competition, right? You have to really, really focus. think that fork in the road is going to cause decisions but, for those who can maintain both, more power to them. But it’s tough, it’s tough to do. Nadeshot has since created his own organization, 100 Thieves In 2017 it was revealed that 100 Thieves had secured a spot in the newly franchised NA LCS and had backing from Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In their first NA LCS split, 100 Thieves placed first in the regular season, and Nadeshot was with the team every step of the way. I’m so happy to be a part of these guys’ careers and our team is awesome. And I want to scream it from the mountain tops.
Call of Duty gave him his first big break, but it didn’t define him. And even now, as he cheers on the team that he both manages and owns, it’s obvious that one of esports’ biggest stars is still that kid from Chicago.