Oski: New kid on the block
Oskar "Oski" Gozdowski was just 8 years old when Psyonix released the stunt driving and football (soccer) hybrid known as Rocket League. Now, when he’s turning 15, he’s Liquid’s newest signing. With this signing it’s natural to wonder who Oski is, what got him here, and what drives him forward today? To find the starting line, you’d have to go past Rocket League and into football.
FROM FOOTBALL TO ROCKET LEAGUE
Oski started playing football when he was 6, and he was good at it too. He used to train for Leicester - a professional English football club - as a right-wing player. That all changed around the start of the pandemic.
“I used to play football at a pretty high level. But 2 years ago, I had to quit, because I had a leg injury for about 4 months. During that time, I was just playing Rocket League. I thought to myself: “There’s a bigger chance of me making it in Rocket league than in football”. I decided to quit football then. I don’t have time to do both, that’s too much.”
He was very competitive in football, competitive enough to know he’d have an even better shot at being the best in Rocket League. Oski sharpened his skills in the game on regional teams and lower tier tournaments but as with many up-and-coming players right now, Oski began in the 1v1.
Though it’s a different competitive mode, 1v1 helps him hone his mechanics and speed. Players like Fairy Peak! showed early on that even though the game modes are very different, some of those raw mechanical skills are transferable. Scrub Killa, Joreuz and ApparentlyJack all have a background in the 1v1 arena, and have shown great things in 3v3 competitions. According to Oski, it’s the current 1v1 meta that’s particularly helpful because it forces the players to get comfortable with playing a fast-paced style.
“In 1v1, you have to ballchase a lot nowadays. If you get used to that speed, you can do it in 3v3 as well. I don’t play 1v1 anymore. I did for about a season, and I’ve never lost the skills I picked up then.”
Of the names to come from the arena, Scrub Killa is a big inspiration for Oski. Just like Oski, Scrub Killa started young. He was already famous before he was old enough to play in the RLCS, and could immediately sign a contract when he turned 15. It’s been a few years since, but Oski has been following the Rocket League esports scene for even longer, from the very first season of RLCS, when 0ver Zer0 was one of the big stars. Oski fondly remembers watching Scrub Killa’s funny moments and Lachinio’s montage videos. It shows that Oski knew very well what was going on within Rocket League, even before hitting his teens.
DETERMINED AND HYPED
Team Liquid takes a chance on not one but two youngsters, Atow and Oski, both celebrating their 15th birthday in February 2022 separated only by a day. Oski’s youth doesn’t bother him, though. He’s cool with being a zoomer in the scene, especially given he’s almost as close in age to his teammate as possible.
“Since we’re all so young, we’re all determined to win. We’ve also got our entire careers ahead of us, so if we make mistakes, it’s fine. We go next.”
That’s how Oski is: determined. He doesn’t want to play for fun anymore, he wants to win. It means sacrificing a lot of free time to practise, as managing his esports endeavours with school. But Oski isn’t doing his GCSE exams yet, so he doesn’t feel the pressure from school too much.
“When I first started scrimming, it was quite tiring. When I got back from school, I had just 30 minutes to eat and get ready for my scrims. It takes a lot of time out of your day, but that’s what it takes to go pro. I’m doing well in school, so my parents are fine with it.”
Of course, Oski understands that having fun is part of the game as well. To win, and keep winning, you need to have fun with the game and with the team. It’s almost impossible to keep going if you’re bored. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are pros who play more for fun than anything else, and Oski is not one of them.
As Oski doesn’t have any RLCS experience yet, it’s hard to say what role he will play on the team. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say it will be an offensive one. When he’s feeling confident, he wants to hit every ball in the back of the net.
Oski brings the hype in two senses: both with his ability on offense and his ability to cheer up the team. Whenever someone on his team is feeling down, he takes it on him to lift them up and keep a healthy team mentality. Team Liquid’s mental coach, Eric, helps him with developing these team-building skills.
“Eric is a very nice guy, and he’s funny as well. Before we play, he helps to bring the mood up. He also taught me how to lift the mood of the others. I’m not the captain, but they want me to help with the team’s mentality when it’s needed.”
FINDING A TEAM
For Oski, finding a team might have started in ranked lobbies. He has always been quite high ranked in 2v2, and played with a lot of people there, including Ronaky, who was previously on Team Liquid’s starting roster before AcroniK invited Oski to stand-in for Liquid at the Monaco Gaming Show 2021. But Oski suspects that Xpére, Liquid’s coach, wanted him on the team.
“Xpére is a very good coach. He doesn’t waffle, he knows what he’s talking about. Xpére helped me a lot with playing 3v3 at this level. The people at Team Liquid are very friendly in general.”
While Oski resonates with coach Xpére and fellow zoomer Atow, he points to AcroniK being the team’s glue. Seeing AcroniK’s humor and how he can lighten the mood of the whole team, Oski could tell that Liquid was the right fit for him.
Sure, Oski knew AcroniK was a really good player, but until you’ve played and scrimmed with someone, it’s hard to know if the skill is enough to make a good match. When they first scrimmed together, Oski felt a certain chemistry, and he knew that if they could find the right player to complete the team, they could do well. That third player was Atow..
When they played together with Atow. in the Monaco Gaming Show 2021, they never expected him to do so well. But Atow… In some sense he saw all of this coming.
“Atow. is a super fun guy. He speaks French, so when he doesn’t understand us, it’s hilarious. His English is good, but sometimes he doesn’t fully understand everything. I’ve played with Atow. for two years, so I’ve known him for a long time now. We used to play in 6Mans, in B+. He told me that we would form a team one day, and he turned out to be right.”
Every team has a honeymoon period, where they play really well as a shiny new roster. After that, Oski thinks we’ll just have to wait and see. The main thing for him to focus on is keeping a good mentality.
“Practise is going very well. We had to get used to each other at the start, but now we’re much more structured. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good experience. My midterm break starts now, so I don’t have to focus on school when I will be playing the RLCS qualifiers.”
The most experience this roster has had before RLCS is the Monaco Gaming Show 2021. There, they faced off against respected RLCS teams Vitality, Queso, and Dignitas. Beating the first two 4-1 and 4-2, they had to fight a strong Dignitas in the Grand Finals. That proved to be a bit too much, but getting there was no easy feat. To put the achievement in perspective: Team Queso went on to win the next RLCS Regional, and finish 2nd in the one after that. If Liquid could repeat that performance in RLCS, that would be extraordinary. However, RLCS is a different beast.
“I don’t feel nervous now, but I know that’s going to be different on matchday. Many people have told me that playing an RLCS match is a completely different experience than any other tournament. We need to have confidence to go for every ball, and then we’ll be fine. If we have fun, and we can crack some jokes in comms, then I think we can shake off the nerves and do well.”
The new team will try to brush aside the nerves and put Team Liquid back on the map in Rocket League. Previous rosters have only once pushed into the top 8 at a Regional in RLCS X, and later even struggled to qualify for the Main Event. Liquid hasn’t had the greatest time in Rocket League, but Oski and his team will do their best to change that. The future of Liquid looks promising, even if the past has had its road bumps.
Making Worlds in RLCS 2021-2022 might be out of reach, but the team’s goal is to make it to the Regional Events. From there, it’s a matter of getting enough points to go to the Major. As far as Oski is concerned, they’re going to take it step by step.