Prior the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Caviar Napoleon Acampado — more popularly known by his Game ID EnDerr — was facing a dilemma.
As the best Filipino StarCraft II player, the 27-year-old Zerg user was the unanimous pick to represent the country when esports made its medal debut in the biennial regional multi-sport event. At the same time, playing for the flag meant that he had to "stop one semester to fully focus on the game" to fully prepare for the event.
EnDerr the professional gamer is no stranger to making big decisions. Whether it's choking the enemy's resources or rushing the opposing base, Enderr has always been known to execute a well-calculated and perfectly timed move to ensure victory.
"To some, (taking a break from academics) it's a no brainer. But for me, it isn't," the game development student wrote on Facebook shortly after making SEA Games history. "A lot of things have gone through my mind and constantly doubted myself, unsure if I can pull it off. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by people who encouraged and believed in me which I can honestly say that helped me get to where I am now."
Despite being on top of his game, the part-time StarCraft pro has always prioritized school and work over anything else. Still, the opportunity to bring glory to a nation that has started to go crazy for esports proved to be too hard for him to pass up.
Acampado was the lone direct invitee for the science fiction real-time strategy video game when the national training pool of Sibol had its two-day combine event in August. As expected, he went undefeated (6-0) against local competition, which included eventual SEAG teammate Justin Santos a.k.a. Nuks.
A couple of months later, though, he hit a bump in the road, failing to defend his regional title in the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) against last year's runner-up Tran "MeomaikA" Hong Puc of Vietnam. It didn't take long before the good friends wrote the next chapter of their rivalry, when both Zerg players were chosen to don the colors of their respective countries in the Games.
With or without a medal at stake, giving his all in international tournaments is like second nature to the esports athlete.
"Hindi ko kasi hinahayaang umabot 'yung pressure sa'kin. Basta nagawa ko 'yung best ko, okay na 'ko," he explained in an interview. "Kung ginawa ko lahat ng makakaya ko pero natalo pa rin, wala na 'kong magagawa. 'Yun na 'yun eh."
More often than not, Acampado's no-regrets attitude leads to success — and the SEA Games was no different. He easily swept his group (5-0) to set the stage for a winners' final versus a familiar foe. The Filipino gamer not only avenged himself, but also his Sibol ally Nuks in an thrilling 3-2 tiebreaker with MeomaikA.
The gold medal match against Singapore's Thomas Kopankiewicz a.k.a. Blysk turned out to be less challenging for the hometown hero, who handily won for the country its third Gold for esports. His achievement was Team Sibol's lone gold in an individual esports event.
From the moment that the victory screen was shown at the awarding ceremony, Acampado remained his usual cool self. He even sounded more enthusiastic about the idea of graduating at the CIIT College of Arts and Technology in June.
One can make a strong case for other local esports figures (like TNC Predator) to be named SPIN.ph's Rising Star, but EnDerr's meteoric ascent embodied work-play balance and broke the stigma surrounding video games. His 2019 achievements also legitimized gaming as a career, while his calm in-game demeanor elevated the reputation of Pinoy gamers, proving they need not display toxic behavior to be deemed a rousing success.