At the Halo World Championships in Burbank, California, Tony "LethuL" Campbell covered up his OpTic Gaming jersey with a white and gray striped sweater and exited the arena to a group of waiting fans. He and OpTic Gaming had just won the winner bracket semifinal match against Team Liquid to advance to the grand finals of the Halo World Championships. One fan, who was in a wheelchair, offered up his cast to Campbell to be signed.
"You broke your foot on purpose," Campbell told him, without breaking his smile. "I saw you do it."
For a player that was one win away from a first-place prize of $500,000, he was surprisingly nonchalant and unaffected by the pressures of being in the spotlight. OpTic went on to claim the grand prize.
"When we made this team, we wanted the best chance to win the world championship and that was a year ago," Campbell said. "This year, it's the same thing. We're pretty relaxed about it, but it can get a bit stressful when we slack off. There were a few times over the past year where we didn't put in the same kind of dedication or play as much as we normally do, but as long as play our normal amount, there's nothing to worry about."
OpTic Gaming is the world's best professional Halo team, and Campbell fully embraces this. It's a team that shoulders the highest expectations and lives up to the potential on a regular basis. The success starts with the team's captain, Paul "SnakeBite" Duarte and his ability to both teach and calm down his teammates. His key word to the team is "reset" -- he preaches it whenever the tension or pressure mounts too quickly. He will stop practice to correct immediate mistakes, calm down his players, and ultimately reset the negative momentum. It's a simple approach on paper and clearly effective.
The other factors that add to OpTic Gaming's success is the longevity of the lineup. In a highly-volatile space like Halo, a team that stays together for more than a year is a rare occurrence. The level of trust that exists within the team is unparalleled among the other top teams. They know they're the best players in the world. In addition, the fact that each player understands that it's their job to play Halo is arguably the biggest strength for the team.
"All of us have a lot of free time because this is our job and our career and the fact that we can play every single day without too many breaks helps," Campbell said. "When we try to scrimmage against other teams, if there's a problem, it's on the other team 99 percent of the time. It shows why we're so consistent. We don't get super excited or emotional when we win because it's our job."
While the world championships is Halo's biggest event of the year, Campbell wants not only to win, but to thrive. He thinks the tournament circuit needs more open events to incentivize fans to keep watching the game. It's a community that needs its amateur players to play and its fans to care about the overall scene.
"The world championships last year (the X Games, qualifiers, and the World Championships) was great, but the gap after that hurt the popularity and the scene. The tournament structure needs to be more consistent," Campbell said. "There needs to be more incentive for amateurs and for fans because if they don't have incentive to watch, there's no reason for this. I hope there's an open circuit for fans to watch. As long as there are open events leading up to Halo 6, we'll be a better spot when that game releases whenever that happens."