Julian Filippini: The Gamer

Senior Julian Filippini has been involved with competitive gaming since he was only ten years old, first inspired by a Counter Strike video he watched on YouTube. To him, video games were so much more than a mere simulacrum for military battle. A story of competition, mechanical and team skills, and mental fortitude rears its head every time he engages in virtual gunplay.   

It’s driven him insistently towards his vocational goal- to turn professional and win eight titles. He plans on reaching it under his in-game username, Kinshasa, a Japanese name for a wrestler’s finishing kick. 

Filippini’s parents weren’t initially supportive of his endeavors. They felt he was prioritizing videogames over his schoolwork. It certainly didn’t support his case that he was a very vocal gamer, often getting on his parents’ nerves. But once he started winning tournaments against eminent gamers, they came around. 

He dedicated many years in his early gaming career to play CS-GO, later jumping around to Rainbow Six Siege and Fortnite until finally transitioning to Valorant when the beta released. Valorant is a 5v5 team-oriented first-person shooter game developed and published by Riot Games.   

Entering the amateur scene, Filippini understood that he would need the right “team fit” to play his best Valorant. Not contractually obligated to any one team, he tested his candidacy with different players, assessing his chemistry and coalescence with them. 

After trying out for Colossal Mango, Filippini instantly knew he had found that fit. His teammates and he hit the ground running, consistently beating high-level opponents.  

His teammates live in different parts of the country, so they use Discord for communication. While Filippini acknowledges that it’s harder to keep the wheels turning with four more players to monitor, he still prefers team-oriented games like Valorant because of the increased competitiveness. 

As a competitor, Filippini naturally ascribes the most importance to his team’s success. He’s even wiling to bring his individual game accomplishments into disrepute if they don’t contribute to a victory. He hates losing, but it’s just added motivation.   

“For me, it’s all about bringing my team to the highest level,” he said. “If I bring my teammates up and I fall down a peg, I’m fine with that.”  

Filippini truly became aware of his stellar gaming abilities after defeating Dignitas, a team of professional players. To him, pros were gold standards personified. Having the opportunity to face off against his personal demigods put into perspective how far he’s progressed as a gamer, a gratifying feeling.  

“These guys aren’t as far as I thought they were. Now [I’m] beating them and it’s like a boost of motivation. They’re definitely beatable,” he said. 

Professional videogaming is a highly coveted job. Because pro gamers play at the highest-level and enjoy comfortable salaries, they must compete with gamers in the amateur scene for job security. Having to constantly climb up the ladder means that Filippini can never become complacent with his past laurels and accomplishments.     

But there isn’t a gilded path to becoming a professional gamer. Like traditional sports, the demands of competitive gaming can feel exigent with regards to work ethic.   

As soon as Filippini comes home from school and finishes his homework, he watches videos on strategy, communicates to his teammates, and plays scrimmages against other teams. He wears blue-light filtering glasses to reduce eyestrain. 

He balances the gaming workload by streaming casual games like League of Legends and Minecraft to ease his mind. He prefers the versatility of playing on a PC as opposed to a console. With its greater variety of storefronts and games, and larger skill gap, PCs allows him to truly showcase his gaming acumen.   

His favorite aspect of gaming is the skill it requires, being able to monitor his improvement in real time. However, the nuances of the video game can go overlooked in a ranked system, taking it with a grain of salt. As long as the wins keep piling up, he knows he’s improving.   

Filippini mentally prepares for an arduous gaming session by re-watching Naruto fight scenes. His favorite character in the show is Obito, emblematic of the confident self-regard of a villain that many of his gaming idols have, drawing energy from their haters.  

Most of the collegiate leagues, amateur tournaments, and pro tournaments he competes in are monetized with prize money, bonuses, signings, and sponsorships. Scouts are usually in attendance, so every impressive performance is an opportunity for publicity.   

Typically, each tournament has a proprietary website to register the team. Once the team captain verifies the entry, the team is designated a pool and randomly seeded in a single/double elimination bracket. Most of his tournaments are organized and hosted through Battlefy, a service that allows for prize pools, entry fees, and large amounts of teams competing. 

Every tournament, a competitive anesthesia settles in as he takes satisfaction in veritably trouncing his opponents.     

Filippini wants to commit to a university for eSports, narrowing his choices to UC Irvine, Winthrop University, University of Oregon, and Drexel University by virtue of their state-of-the-art gaming facilities. While his team hasn’t received any offers, Fillipini had a personal meeting with Winthrop, guaranteeing him a spot on their varsity A team if he is accepted.    

“I’m looking for an environment where I can have a fun degree, and a place where I feel like I have people on or above my skill level, who I can take to bigger heights, win championships, [and] get trophies,” he said.   

Filippini intends to major in business administration with a focus on eSports management. This way, he can stay connected to the gaming community no matter how his competitive career turns out. To him, a gaming career can be contingent especially if one doesn’t possess the talent, drive, and the will, so he advises all gamers to temper their expectations and have a back-up plan.   

He believes the gaming industry has only scratched the surface of what it can be. Various celebrities and organizations non-endemic to eSports like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Drake, and the Golden State Warriors are investors. Filippini has taken notice of new local gaming avenues opening up and is currently helping develop a gaming club at our school.  

“I haven’t personally met many competitive gamers here [in Tampa], but that’s why I love it,” he said. “I get to play with different people from different states, and the community itself is so wide. It’s amazing to me.”