Over the weekend, I caught up with OpTic Gaming’s new sixth-man: Top laner Niship “Dhokla” Doshi. We talked about going to college, Australia’s mild salsa, and getting promoted to LCS.
Miles Yim: Congrats on the 1-1 weekend, notching your first LCS win. What did you expect playing on stage to be like, and what did it turn out to be?
Dhokla: I thought I’d be really nervous, because this is something I really wanted to do for a long time. But when I was on stage, I didn’t really feel nervous at all. Maybe just a little adrenaline rush, but nothing more than that.
You beat Golden Guardians, but lost to Team SoloMid. What did TSM do differently to prevent you from getting the win?
In the Golden Guardian game, I think we knew our gameplan pretty well. But against TSM, I think our team was just indecisive about what we wanted in the game, so our gameplan was off. We weren’t able to adapt in the mid game.
What did you find different between the two games this weekend?
First game, I didn’t play as aggressive, and in the second game against [Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell], I think I played the lane fairly well. Wasn’t able to kill him, but I got him very low. But the second game, I think I played with more confidence.
You played Camille in both games, and she’s your most-played champion this season. Do you favor the more carry-oriented top laners?
There’s not really a tank-oriented top meta yet, so I’m going to pick the one I feel most comfortable on, and that I think is good. All the matchups I play Camille in, I think they were okay matchups…If the meta shifts, I’m willing to play tanks, but for now it’s carries… I think tanks can be fun, you just smash your keyboard while playing them. But yeah, they have their moments when you can outplay. I don’t mind, you turn your brain off, and you play.
Compare and contrast Hauntzer and [Samson “Lourlo” Jackson] for me. What did you make of those experienced LCS top laners?
I guess they’re both role players. They play their roles really well, I don’t see much difference. It’s just a champ matchup, I don’t really see it as a player matchup. They were fine, I didn’t see anything standout from either of them…I think Camille versus Gnar, both sides have a strength. Gnar can have priority at certain points in the game, and Camille can have her strengths as well. I feel like whichever team executes during each stage is going to come out ahead.
For the people who haven’t heard of you before, some basic questions: How old are you? Where are you from?
I’m 20 years old right now, and I’m from Massachusetts, pretty much my whole life. I was born in India, lived there until I was five, and then lived [in Massachusetts] ever since.
Where in India?
Ahmedabad, so I’m Gujarati. It’s on the northwest coast of India. I don’t remember much about living there, I was five. I remember going to school there a little bit, what my home looked like. I went back there two years ago for a wedding, so I kind of know how I lived. [Note: Dhokla is a dish native to Gujarat].
When did you start playing League of Legends?
Start of Season 3, end of Season 2, around that time. You just had a number for your ELO, that’s when I started. Were you always a top laner? I think I started all over the place, except support. I think I started as an AD carry, went to mid, played jungle for a little bit. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to get better, watched top laners play, and just copied them. And then I just ended up in top lane, because I was just mainly watching top lane YouTube videos, Twitch streamers that were on at the time, and copied exactly what they did. Since then, I’ve just been grinding. I don’t really know how I hit Challenger; I just played. I got into Challenger somehow, and then I’m like, “Okay, maybe I can go pro.”
Did you think about college at all?
Yeah, I went to UMass Amherst for two years. I was undeclared, didn’t really have an interest. I was there to see if college was for me. Was it? I don’t think so. I spent two years in college, and then withdrew. I spent most of my time playing League, it was something I really wanted to focus on. It was just fun for me, something I wanted to pursue and go pro. I’m glad I have the chance to do it now, glad it worked out.
I think a lot of parents would have preferred their kids get that four-year degree instead of playing video games for a living. Were your parents the same way? What kind of conversations did you have with them?
Yeah, they definitely would rather have me go to college, set a future for myself, and then maybe if I still wanted to pursue gaming, I could do it after I get my degree. It’s much more stable, I’d have a future. But I thought the timing wouldn’t be there if I [didn’t go pro], so I decided to pursue League of Legends. The conversation was like, “Hey, I want to go pro.” And they were against it. But it was still my decision. They weren’t supportive back then, but I think they’re supportive now and happy with everything. My parents grew up in India, all this seems like a fairy tale for them, getting paid to play games. They definitely had their sight sets on college for me. That’s what my brother does, he studies computer science. That’s the path they wanted me to follow, but it wasn’t for me.
Some teams came to me, but first I went to OPL as my first big team opportunity. I learned a lot there, and then came back to NA after one split. I learned how being on a team works, stuff like that. It was a valuable opportunity.
Let’s talk more about that OPL team, Sin Gaming. What was it like, living in Australia?
[Sin Gaming] was in Sydney, like 20 minutes from the OPL studio. It was my first time away from North America, but I’d lived at college, so I kinda knew what to expect living at a team house. Living in Australia…I didn’t like the food that much, maybe it wasn’t to my taste. The salsa there just tastes very different, and that really got me going. The salsa was just too mild.
What was there to do in Sydney? Or were you just playing games all day?
Mostly just games. I went out once to see the Opera House and the bridge. That’s about all the exploring I did. It’s pretty similar to the US. Roads are a little bit smaller. Everything’s usually the same, food’s different. Other than that, it’s very similar.
Was moving back to North America always the plan, or were you looking to build a career in the OPL?
When I went to OPL initially, all I wanted to do was improve. I definitely wasn’t that good at the time. It was a learning opportunity, because my end goal was always to play in NA. Now, I have the chance to do that. It was pretty exciting when I got the email and call [from OpTic]. I was really excited; I had to tell everyone. It was a pretty good time. I was contacted by [Andrew “Veritas” Cooley], my Academy coach; Alex my team manager, and [Ian “Surza” Lux].
Had you known about OpTic before joining the organization?
I was a big Call of Duty player, and kept up with the competitive scene, so I knew of OpTic. I wasn’t a professional CoD player, just played pubs. I played Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 3, a couple of Black Ops games. After that I stopped and picked up League. When I heard [OpTic] were entering the League of Legends scene, I thought I could be playing for them one day.
OpTic Gaming Academy is based in Dallas. How was that, living out there?
Everything’s pretty far away, relative to California. You need a car, or you’re not going anywhere. Academy, you’re just playing offline anyway, so it’s not that much of a difference. Being close to the LCS studio, the main team, definitely helps. I guess it has its perks.
What was it like, getting the call to come out to Los Angeles?
I was a little shocked. When I joined the Academy, I thought at the end of the year, maybe I’d get a chance to play for the LCS team. But it came so early. It’s a six-man roster, and I’m pretty happy to be in LCS.
What has your relationship with [Derek “zig” Shao] been like so far?
I’d say it’s a really healthy relationship. We help each other a lot, always talk to each other. There’s no bad blood between us. Teams in LCK do it, and that’s exactly what we’ve got going on here. Is there a clear division of stage time between you and zig? I’m not too sure. It’s up to [the coaches]. I just play…Romain, everything you see on videos, he’s exactly like that in real life. [Thomas “Zaboutine” Si-Hassen], I hadn’t heard much of him, but ever since I’ve been in LA, I’ve seen he’s really smart at the game. I respect him a lot. They’re both great.
You flew into LA from Dallas. Was it a one-way ticket, or round-trip?
One-way ticket. [Laughs]
This transcript was compiled from two separate interviews, and edited for clarity.