As the world of esports is gearing up to move into the mainstream, the iconic American lifestyle brand Zippo have launched a new collection of rechargeable hand warmers, in collaboration with NRG’s Chicago Huntsmen Call of Duty League team. The team, consisting of esports stars Seth “Scump” Abner, Matthew “Formal” Piper, Preston “Prestinni” Sanderson, Dylan “Envoy” Hannon, and Alec “Arcitys” Sanderson, will be competing as one of 12 teams vying to be crowned champions of the COD league 2020.
Professional esports players have traditionally used dozens of disposable hand warmers per match to keep their hands moving as fast as possible. But with Zippo changing the game, players are now able to maintain their supersonic reaction time with their rechargeable hand warmer. The HeatBank 9s also doubles as a portable charger powering devices such as headsets, gaming controllers, phone and portable gaming devices so gamers can focus on their performance, not battery life.
We spoke to Dylan ‘Envoy’ Hannon – a player for Chicago Huntsmen, one of the top Call of Duty League teams. He tells us about the journey to esports stardom, his training regime and his advice for aspiring professional gamers.
Check out the interview below…
How did you start your journey as a professional esports player?
I started my journey to be a professional esports player in 2014 when Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launched. At this time, I had only been playing competitively for one year but managed to work my way onto a top team in the Open Bracket – a tournament that runs alongside the professional tournament for amateur teams. It wasn’t easy. It took countless hours each day, working with my team and myself outside of practice to get where I am today.
What was the moment you realized you could turn gaming into a career?
I realized I could turn my gaming passion into a career in 2015 when I placed 5th-6th out of about 128 teams. After that I was forced into temporary retirement because of an 18+ age restriction – I was 15 at the time. So for three years, I grinded and tried to improve my game as best as I could, so that when I was able to play, it was gonna be at my best potential.
What are the important things you have to do when preparing for a big match?
When it comes to game day preparations there are a couple of things that get me into the right mood and mind space for a big match. One being, listening to my event weekend playlist. The songs always remind me that something important is coming up and help me get amped up pre-match. I usually warm up while listening to it. Moving from an in-person setting to online especially helps to make it seem like it isn’t just any other day. Closing in on the match, I make sure I have multiple GameFuels in my system along with a healthy meal to prepare for a long day. When it hits match time it’s important to stay warmed up, in game and out of game. My Zippo HeatBank 9s Rechargeable Hand Warmer allows me to do just that. On the big stage, and even at home, having cold hands is a killer. Pre-match to post-match, I always have my Zippo Heatbank right by my side. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to stay consistent when your hands are freezing.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
My career highlight thus far has to be at the 2019 Playoffs, CWL (Call of Duty World League) Miami. Up to this point my team, GenG had struggled to beat 100 Thieves all year. They were our biggest obstacle at every event. At this event, we matched up versus them in the losers bracket, which means whoever lost that series was going home and bowing out at 8th place. After a close series, unlike the ones before, we managed to win the last map 6 to 3 and took the series 3-2 to advance in the bracket. Then we beat FaZe Clan & Reciprocity to make our second grand finals. We fell short to eUnited in the second series in the Grand Finals. Although we didn’t win, beating 100T in the second biggest event of the year meant so much to our team; especially going into the CoD World Championship.
How are you feeling about the team’s performance so far – do you think you’ll win the league?
Our performance throughout the season has been very up and down. From winning the first event, to placing 3rd/4th three events in a row, it’s been a rollercoaster. Some would say those are very good placings, considering the skill level of the league but we’re not satisfied. We recently added Prestinni who is the perfect addition to our team. With these upgrades, it sets us up for success in my opinion, so winning the league is very doable. It comes down to our practice, preparation, and execution in these next few events to guarantee us a top two seed going into the Call of Duty Championship.
What’s next for you after the League wraps up/what are you excited for?
When the league wraps up I look to spend lots of my offseason streaming and trying to take my content and brand to the next level. This means streaming on Twitch and jump-starting my YouTube channel. I also look forward to going back home and seeing my parents, siblings, and pitbull this offseason. With everything going on in the world it’s been tough to do that. Lastly, I hope I’m able to spend some time outside the country on a vacation. Seeing the world with this job is a blessing. Travelling is a big passion of mine and I can’t wait to see more of the world.
What advice do you have to people who want to become professional esports players?
There are a couple of things you can do to work your way into being an esports professional. One is streaming. Streaming helps you build an audience and shows people your skill level and what you’re like as a person and a teammate. Some people think all you need is the raw skill but that’s not the case for all esports. In Call of Duty, teamwork and chemistry within the team is key for long-term success. Secondly, I’d say entering online tournaments. Most professionals in Call of Duty start by playing online tourneys and get noticed there. I am one of those people. I played these tournaments for 4-5 years before I finally made the Pro League. During that time, I learned how to improve on my own and how to be a better teammate.
What does an average day of training look like for you?
An average day of practice for us is about six hours long, usually from 1pm to 7pm. In this time we practice three different game modes, which are Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Domination. Depending on the day, we also use some of that time to go over film from previous tournaments and practice to see what we are doing from a birds-eye view. This helps the whole team see the good and the bad that we do, day in day out. On occasion, the whole team will go into private lobbies and talk about key setups and game plans to orchestrate during match time.
How are you and the team finding training while in lockdown?
Training during lockdown was very tough to begin with. A lack of motivation surely surged through the whole team knowing we weren’t gonna be able to play on that stage in the arenas for a while.
As for now, everyone has kinda settled in. The hardest thing about it though is that it feels like sometimes you’re not building up to a big event. When we travelled to events, the flight, being in the hotel and practising at the venue, all helped me too mentality realize something important was coming up. With us being all online now, it’s kind of like playing into the void. We practice exactly where we play our tournaments, so sometimes it’s hard to get your mind in the right mental state.
What do you do with your downtime when you’re not training (both pre and during lockdown)?
When I’m not training I’m usually playing other video games, or spending extra time on Call of Duty. I also spend lots of my time with my girlfriend and new kitten, Storm. I got a cat during lockdown because it felt like the perfect time for us to get used to each other (rather than mid-season when we would usually be travelling).
How did the collaboration between the team and Zippo come about?
Over the course of my career, playing at events and at home we’ve always used hand warmers. Our hands are very sensitive to the slightest temperature change, so we try to keep them at the consistent temperature that we’re used to during practice. With the Zippo HeatBank being rechargeable, it creates the perfect solution for us during event weekends. They are lifesavers and the best part is that it’s reusable, unlike regular hand warmers, and all I have to do is charge it overnight. When I first joined Huntsmen, I realised NRG, our overseeing esports family, had already partnered with Zippo for their Apex Legends team. When we heard they were interested in the Call of Duty League we were stoked. It was perfect timing as our season was about to get underway.
How have you integrated the Zippo HeatBank 9s into your training routine?
I’ve integrated my Zippo HeatBank 9s in my daily routine by always keeping it by my side when I’m gaming. And like I’ve mentioned before, that’s most of my day. Now I rely on the Zippo HeatBank to keep my hands consistently at the ideal temperature for me. In between maps and before practice, I’ve always got it in my hand. It specifically came in handy when we were in Minnesota in the winter, where it was in the negatives! The venue was very cold but I knew the Zippo HeatBank was gonna do the job and keep me warm on the sticks.