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Ryan “Doomsee” Graham recently broke the record for the longest period of time between official matches in the Rocket League Championship Series, according to Octane.gg. Starting in Nov. 2016, he struggled to qualify for RLCS and eventually retired in 2019. Then, after 1,812 days, he returned to the RLCS on Oct. 22 in the Asia Pacific North region.

Doomsee is a veteran of the early RLCS, but he said the competition was simply improving at a faster rate than he was, forcing him to make a difficult decision.

“I just couldn’t quite keep up with it, to be honest,” Doomsee said. “And then I was like, ‘Well, I’m just chasing a dream that’s getting further and further away, let’s just move on.’ And it was a very hard decision to quit, but I felt like it was the best decision at the time.”

For RLCS caster, content creator and half of what many fans know as SubParButInHD, Alex “Stumpy” Knight, Doomsee’s slow decline was hard to watch — especially because Stumpy was already a friend and fan of Doomsee’s beyond just his role as a player.

“Doomsee is so unique because he’s somebody who makes you want to be happy that day,” Stumpy continued. “Whenever I hang out with him, if I’ve ever felt a little bit annoyed at something or a little bit tilted, if I straight up just hear him laugh or have a conversation with him, I feel happier and I feel better.”

Since retiring in 2019, Doomsee switched to his other passion: video editing. As a video editor for Torrent, SubParButInHD as well as Psyonix themselves, Doomsee always remained in the Rocket League scene doing what he loved all the way from Japan, where he moved after his girlfriend got an opportunity to work there.

But then a new opportunity presented itself to him. On Sept. 15, 2021, Psyonix announced that Asia was finally allowed to compete in the RLCS.

Doomsee returns to the RLCS stage

For Doomsee, the RLCS announcement meant he had to give professional play a go again. Asia as a region is not as strong as Europe, where he had started to struggle, so, in theory, qualification was on the table again.

“I thought, I’m going to play for fun,” Doomsee said. “I just wanted to find some teammates and just have a laugh and play an RLCS and just see how well we can do, and not take it that seriously.”

Doomsee’s deciding qualification match against NOR was not broadcasted anywhere. So, in typical Stumpy-fashion, he took it upon himself to chronicle the events of the deciding match based on the in-game friends list. And after a bit of fanfare, Doomsee was back in the RLCS.

Hilltop Picnic at the top of the hill?

Doomsee and his team, Hilltop Picnic, finished the first RLCS APAC North regional event in second place, behind favorites Tokyo Verdy. Unexpected? Perhaps, but Doomsee had always had his sights on finishing top eight to top four. That they were this good in the region was slightly beyond his expectations.

“Obviously, the whole dilemma is that now we’re now doing too good and I’m asking myself, how seriously am I taking this?” Doomsee said. “Because we just got second in APAC North and I was just like, ‘ok…’”

With a full-time job, Doomsee now has to juggle his work and practice. He’s not unique in that aspect, but this time, Doomsee said he knows what he may have done wrong all those years ago. Rather than focus on the specifics, he had simply put in as many hours as he could and ended up burning himself out. Now, he is set to use his time smartly, to focus on quality over quantity, which will also allow him to keep doing his job as a video editor.

Whether that is enough to overcome Tokyo Verdy in the short term and claim first place in APAC North is a question for the future. However, Hilltop Picnic are at least off to a good start despite looking like a meme dream team at first.

The team is composed of three expats, with the English Doomsee, the American Isaac “sigms” Cooper and the American/Japanese Caden “furlashh” Shimazawa. All three came to Japan at a later age, with furlashh being the youngest and still going to school in Japan. But out of the three, only Doomsee had previous RLCS experience. That doesn’t keep Stumpy from recognizing their potential, though.

“Hilltop Picnic, for me, at the moment, are a really exciting team, partially because they are the only other non-Japanese team that are competing, and Doomsee managed to find two Americans to go alongside with,” Stumpy said. “So, there’s part of me that wants Doomsee to make it through to LAN, but then there’s also that part of me that I think would really hate the first chance we see APAC represented at LAN and it’s Doomsee and two Americans.”

As for Hilltop Picnic themselves, they’re mostly just focused on getting into the groove of competing.

“On the first day of the main event, funnily enough, I was actually quite nervous,” Doomsee said. “And furlashh was really nervous as well. But sigms was just stone cold, nerves of steel. And then as the weekend got on, me and furlashh got less and less nervous. And then, by the point we were playing GanDerS, we were honestly all completely fine.”

As Doomsee moved through the event, eventually reaching top four, he hit his initial goal. The pressure dissipated and made space for flat-out fun, he said. Despite the added layer of pressure being an RLCS-experienced fan-favorite, Doomsee persevered throughout the rest of the tournament — even when his team lost 4-0 and 4-1 in the best-of-set grand final against Tokyo Verdy.

Catching up to a powerhouse

Tokyo Verdy are head and shoulders above the rest in APAC North, as demonstrated by their victory. To Doomsee, the difference is akin to Flipsid3 Tactics from the early days. They were ahead of the rest of Europe and even the world, but their success led to other teams improving quickly. Doomsee imagines history repeating itself in Asia.

“The problem is, when you’re the best team in the region, you have no one above you to push you,” he said. “So it’s just way easier for the second, third, fourth-best teams to catch up to the first team, and it’s much easier to learn from getting beaten 4-1 than it is to just win 4-1.”

However, there were also some in the RLCS Reddit community that said if a retired player like Doomsee can do this well, then the region may be in trouble. Having seen the comments, Doomsee said he doesn’t entirely agree with them. However, he is aware that the region has a lot of catching up to do.

“My initial reaction is actually kind of to agree with them a bit,” Doomsee said. “I think just because I went and picked up Rocket League again, right? And it’s a hard one because I’m really bad at knowing how good I am as a player. You read anything online and people are trash talking some of the best players in the world. But at the same time, I’m very, very self-critical. I think I wouldn’t say the region’s in trouble. I’m not too concerned, because we’re only going to get better in the region.”

On the other side of the spectrum sits Stumpy, who fully agrees with the statement, though he said so with a hearty laugh. For a young region such as Asia, Stumpy said there was never as much incentive for teams to play seriously. Now that they have RLCS, though, that all changes. But, does that mean Doomsee is set to fall behind again the same way he did in Europe?

“Doomsee is basically fertilizer, because the way I see him is he goes to a place and everybody gets excited and everybody starts to grow and get better and the region starts to flourish,” Stumpy said. “And then his job is done and he’ll seep into the soil and you’ll barely know that he was there.”

So, while Doomsee has been improving and considers himself better than he was in 2018, he sees why people might say that the region has no business being in the RLCS. But APAC will only improve from here on out, pushed by the desire to be on par with the rest of the world. Doomsee himself hopes his team can start challenging first place, to eventually claim the Asian spots at the global majors.

Hilltop Picnic have quite the hill to climb if they want to push Tokyo Verdy off the top and claim the best picnic spot in APAC North, though. Stumpy criticized the team’s tendency to become their own worst enemy by panicking when they start to do well. And Doomsee has a history of missing out on LANs, one that Stumpy remembers all too well from when Doomsee’s Supersonic Avengers just barely missed out on the first-ever RLCS World Championship. Stumpy said that may just happen again. Still, he has an idea of where they will finish the season

“Hilltop Picnic obviously finish devastatingly close to making it to a LAN. Obviously,” Stumpy said. “So close where we genuinely believe, ‘Oh my god, it’s happening. This is it, Doomsee is actually going to make it to a LAN. Tokyo Verdy, they look shaky. They’re on the ropes. They’re 3-0 up in a series, it’s gonna happen, one more goal’ — and it’s overtime and then they lose it and then they don’t score for the rest of the series. And then Tokyo Verdy come out and beat them in the end and we all say, ‘Well, that’s what you get for supporting Doomsee.’ Just utter devastation. I expect to be heartbroken.”

But until that happens, Doomsee is living the dream, working both of his passions on the other side of the world. Meanwhile, the community has Doomsee back. It’s a win/win for everyone.

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