The story of Cormac “Doolsta” Dooley, an 18-year-old esports champ from West Chester, embodies the shiny promise of esports.
A previously unranked amateur video game player — a high school student, at that — waltzes into an open FIFA qualifying event in 2018, beating other more developed players for a spot on the Philadelphia Union’s first-ever esports division.
Fast forward to last Tuesday, and a smiling Dooley is being interviewed on camera in Los Angeles. With a $5,000 prize under his belt, he’s been announced as the reigning champion of the competitive eMLS League Series One. Some 21 competitors representing soccer teams from all over the country took in the merciless goals of a young gamer who, until not too long ago, was just playing against friends online.
Amazing feeling winning the @emls league series one and securing my first ever title🏆
That was the best FIFA I have ever played and still have no idea how I done it.
Shoutout to all those who made the event great and everyone I played.
We go again next month in Dallas✌️ pic.twitter.com/Oh56MZL5Jk
— Cormac Dooley (@doolsta) January 23, 2019
Doooley, who was born in Paoli but raised in Ireland, is a fan of Manchester United. His favorite player is Paul Pogba, and while he’s not up to Pogba’s level on the physical soccer field, he’s a real-life midfielder for West Chester East High School.
We spoke with Dooley about what it’s like to triumph in the esports world, how to prepare for a national gaming competition and what people are getting wrong about this whole esports craze.
(This interview was edited for length and clarity.)
Technical.ly Philly: What was it like to win the top prize at eMLS?
Cormac Dooley: When it ended it was like, “What have I just done?” It took me a few seconds. I was just trying to get to the top four, but once it kept going I felt like I actually had a chance.
TP: What’s one thing people often get wrong about esports players?
CD: Well, a lot of people think that we just sit on a couch all day. They think, “These guys probably don’t play soccer,” but I actually do play soccer. Some of the players are just unbelievable, and not just on the game but in the pitch.
TP: Are there any strategies that carry over from the soccer field to a game like FIFA?
CD: You pick up a certain special sense for things. I played for a few years, and there’s often situations where the other guy is going to score, and it’s better to just foul the player rather than take in a goal. I did that in the game.
TP: Marathoners will run increasingly longer distances to prepare for a big competition. What’s the preparation like for a top esports player?
CD: You pretty much have to play a lot of top-quality players. You can play friendly matches with friends but it is is mainly about playing a lot, working on your shots and getting techniques down. You just have to put in the time.
TP: How do you get into the right mental state before a competition?
CD: Music helps a lot. At the tournament, 10 minutes before I started, it’s good to play some songs and envision yourself doing what you need to do. It helps you focus.
TP: What kind of music?
CD: I listen to EDM, but it wouldn’t be the real hard stuff but more the chill-out stuff.
TP: Where did your screen name, Doolsta, come from? What does it mean?
CD: I made it when I was 10 years old and it just seemed to stick. It’s a mix of my last name [Dooley] and Jester, the name of a Jack Russell Terrier dog of mine. “Doolster” wasn’t available but “Doolsta” was.
TP: You just won a $5,000 prize. Do you do this full time?
CD: Last year, I worked as a bus boy at a pizza place, but I gave it up and now I play FIFA full time. With online qualifier happening on weekends, and the time it takes to prepare, it’s pretty difficult to also work.
TP: Is a career in esports something you envision in the long run?
CD: Next year I’ll discuss this with my parents, maybe take a gap year to focus on FIFA, see if I do good and maybe do it for a few more years. And yeah, there’s a lot of money and stuff but it’s something that I just love to do.