For Dan “Ghosty”, moving in with Doug “Censor” Martin has been “like a movie”. He now has the chance to fully focus on competitive Call of Duty and streaming for a full summer.

After a somewhat disappointing result in Minnesota, which saw him and his teammates knocked out whilst the tournament was still at a best-of-three stage, he’ll be back raring to go when Toronto comes around in just over a week’s time.

Finally with the ability to compete and stream full-time over the summer, Dan is expecting to go from strength to strength in his new living arrangement.

He told The Rotation: “It’s honestly really cool, I’m not going to lie. It allows me to compete fully for the summer. If I was at home, I would have had to work.”

His first few days living with Censor were something of a whirlwind.

“We spent hours getting set up, getting my PC set up, buying a monitor and a rug, basically decking the room out.

“Then we went out on the jet ski, got some food and rode around and went to the beach. Then we chilled in the hot-tub and watched basketball, it’s a literally dream. It’s like a movie.”

Being a foster kid and college student Dan has never had the opportunity to really go full-time with his competing or streaming.

Now this summer, he finally has the chance to knuckle down without thinking of his Pre-law Major.

He said: “I’ve always had to go to school throughout the whole season.

“That was the same in Cold War too. Then when I’m at home during the summer and winter, I’ve got to work. I have to make income some way because I’m a foster kid. I do have to pay for all my living.

“I’m not fortunate enough to have a family that helps out with that. I do live with my homies and they help me out quite a bit but I always have to have money because I have bills at such a young age.

“It makes it hard to compete but that’s why I am so grateful for this opportunity with Doug.”

Despite this new opportunity, he’s still determined to make sure he does end up graduating from college.

He added: “It’s quite a lot but whenever you want something, like I want to graduate from college, I want to be a pro gamer. It’s pretty easy to make time when something matters.”

The mental effect of the Challengers system

Challengers players are put in a unique position. Many of them are not contracted and have to team with several different players regularly.

This has been no different for Ghosty, who has had several separate sets of teammates in the last few months.

Dan told us: “The whole Challengers cycle definitely takes a toll on your mental. Down here, it’s pretty gruelling, you can be on three teams in a single day.

“I have lots of confidence in my gameplay and no matter what team I play on, I think I can make them better. I know people also see me in a high regard so I’m never really worried about forming a team.

“It’s so different in NA compared to the EU Challengers scene. There’s more rigidity and structure to their rosters, they like to stick together.

“Team WaR came in second in Minnesota and they’re sticking together regardless of if they just got knocked out of the Elite by the Rokkr Academy. I admire that.”

At least three quarters of Dan’s team from Minnesota will be returning for the Toronto event, with Doug and Seany both on the team.

He added: “Not to throw dirt at anyone but there are people who will place T4 at a cup and make changes because they think that team can’t place first.

“When in reality, there are T6, T8 teams at a pro level, stick it out because there’s always room for improvement.

“It’s not usually a thing of mechanical ability or shot. It’s way more intricate, you have to think about what the optimal play is. There’s so much stuff you have to think about at a high level.”

The problems with the Call of Duty League

As an amateur player in Call of Duty, it can be incredibly difficult to get a start in the professional league.

Players in the league are on safe contracts that allow them to be paid even when they aren’t playing. This also makes teams unwilling to make changes. It also takes away from the drive of the players as they don’t have the risk of losing their spot.

Dan said: “The AMs outpractice the pros by miles. It’s not even close.

“That’s why, in SND, the pros got waxed at the Pro-Am. We practice SND 100 times more than they do. Most pro teams play two sets [of scrims] a day and maybe one of those is SnD in a week. That’s it.

“I play minimum two a day, mostly three, then I play after. The pros don’t need to have that hunger and drive because they’re kind of set in stone because of contracts and stuff. They don’t need to play 12 hours a day.”

Ghosty didn’t hold back when talking about the pros and the lack of drive that they are perceived to have.

He added: “There are a lot of pros that seem lazy, they don’t want to get better. There are simple setups on Control, eight of the 12 pro teams would lose consistently to AMs.

“I’ve scrimmed the pro teams and only lost to the top teams. They don’t know how to play it. It comes with the reps and the knowledge.

“For instance, I scrim London once a week and they haven’t beaten us in Control since March.”

“For instance, I scrim London once a week and they haven’t beaten us in Control since March.”

Dan also claimed that it’s not a new revelation, that pros were also lacking game knowledge back in Cold War.

The US native would like the opportunity to show his talents against these pro players on a more regular basis.

He said: “In Cold War, with split spawns, there were pros, in the middle of the year, who didn’t know where splits were on a hill.

“I know that if I was able to play pros in a tournament setting, and I was able to upset them, then they’d look at me.”

Fundamental change needs to come in the way that pro teams interact with amateur teams, with the Pro-Am falling short of expectations due to the format of the tournament.

Ghosty said: “The pros need to play AMs all the time. If there was expansion, things would be a lot better but with the state of the league and the cost of buy-in, is it even economically feasible for people to invest?

“You’re looking at a 20-year ROI (Return on Investment) on something that may not be here in 20 years.”

Poor League format

Dan also talked about how the league format leans towards having teams fail to compete with each other, citing the fact that Paris Legion have won just two series all year to this point.

He said: “Paris Legion for instance, they don’t want to sign new teams, they don’t want to sign superstars because they’re not going to make champs.

“That’s what we’re going to see for the rest of the year. Towards the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toronto give up.

“The format is so chalked. All 12 teams should make it and four AM teams should make it.

“I understand that there needs to be a level of security but you can’t take CoD out of CoD. You can’t build up these orgs to become OpTic’s or Faze’s when they can’t even have the opportunity to do so.”

Photo via Ghosty

Challengers prizing

Challengers funding is down nearly $250,000 this year, with no open tournaments in individual regions, replaced by three LAN events all on US soil.

The developers have also shown a complete disregard for Challengers Elite series, with an update changing fundamental aspects of the game, less than 30 minutes before games started on Tuesday (May 24).

Dan told us: “There’s a lack of funding. Exceed put out a really great tweet. There’s like $250,000 that’s just not there for us this year.

“The game is busted and there’s updates coming out 30 minutes before Elite matches.

“You could win everything in Challengers and still be making less than $80k. Barely. That’s winning every single event for the whole year.

“Even if there was just more transparency and we knew what the issues were and why we have no support, I would be cool with that but they just leave us in the dark. It’s not helpful for any party.”

Disconnect from the CDL

Due to many of the pro players not needing to worry about AMs taking their spots, Ghosty claims that there is a gulf between the pros and amateur players.

He said: “There’s a clear disconnect between the top level of the CDL and even Challengers.

“If you talk to them, they don’t have a clue about Challengers because they don’t have to worry about it. They’re that safe with their contracts.

“They should be having to scout talent. They don’t have to worry about that. It’s harbouring a lot of bad feelings toward the CDL in general.”

He also thinks that the franchising of the league is taking the lifeblood away from the competition of the esport.

“The production is mid, everything is so structured, there’s no life. CoD turned into a business when it was a passion.”

Comparing NA to EU

There has been a long standing rivalry between NA and EU Call of Duty. 10 of the 12 players in the top three teams at the Minnesota LAN event were EU players.

Even so, in terms of pure skill, Ghosty thinks there’s a clear difference.

He said: “At the mid-to-bottom level, NA AMs don’t pay attention but the top 16 seeds definitely keep up with the EU scene.

“NA is always superior to EU in terms of overall skill but EU breeds really smart CoD players.

“For whatever reason, they are really instinctual and knowledgeable players. It’s just really rare that you see your HyDra’s and you CleanX’s with enough talent to actually match NA’s best.

“It’s rare to see EUs being able to physically match the talent of NA.”

Why this is the case, Dan isn’t sure.

“I don’t know why it’s like that but every region kind of has their own playstyle.

“You look at Toronto and the only players that you talked about in terms of talent and were able to keep up with people were Cammy and CleanX.

“You didn’t say that about Insight and Bance but you’d always tip how smart they are. They’d always outclass and outsmart the NAs and that’s why they’d win in Search.”

Dan also made sure to give EU the credit that they deserve as they continue to somehow go under the radar.

He added: “EU have always been underrated. They’re always compared to NAs as worse but you can’t really look at it like that because every region plays their own way.”

Looking forward to Toronto

Now Dan has to look forward to the Toronto LAN event, where he will be teaming with Censor, Seany and one other unnamed player.

That mystery player placed T8 at Minnesota according to Ghosty, so there are plenty of reasons for him to be excited.

He said: “I will be teaming with Doug. I don’t know if I can say who we’re teaming with yet but there will be a returning face from Minnesota and a new face but the glue of me and Doug is still there.

“As of right now, Seany is in Scotland. He’ll have to practice from there or fly to Canada.

“I am very confident in us. I’m running a flex now whereas in Minnesota I was running a sub. I feel a lot more comfortable now. I’m super confident in our system.”

The Toronto Ultra Major 3 Challengers tournament will run from Friday to Sunday (June 3-5). The winners of the tournament will take home $24,000.

Photos via Ghosty

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