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rapha: "I have to prove [I'm the best] again"

By Stuart 'SwitchbacK' Macdonald
Jun 2, 2010 16:00

ImageSK Gaming's rapha speaks ahead of the upcoming Quake Live season.

Shane 'rapha' Hendrixson likes to use smiley faces a lot. When editing this interview I actually had to put '(smiles)' on to paste... but the American has good reason: right now, he is atop the Quake Live world. Throughout the last Quake Live season, over five events, he picked up four tournament victories and $29,500. He beat everyone there is to beat.

He's also been interviewed by everyone who owns either a camera, dictaphone, or email address, but that doesn't stop him from sharing some new and thoughtful insights into his experiences over his time in professional gaming.

I think you've only been asked this once as I've heard the reasoning before, unlike the majority of your fans - explain the story behind your nick.

I used to go by a different alias scar/scarface, I wanted to change to something that sounded cool and was a bit more uplifting. And I happened to stumble upon rapha which comes from Jehovah Rapha, meaning God my healer. I liked it so it stuck and it will stay this way. (Smiles)

"Best Quake Live player in the world" - did you ever think you'd ever be the bearer of that title?

My goal was to play up there with the best and beat them. It just grew stronger over time so at some point yes I believed that I would attain that title. It's nice and all but I try to remind myself that that's in the past and that I have to try and keep it, prove it all over again from one major event to the next. The top players are all striving for it, especially with ESWC coming up, there are definitely more than a few who are hungry to win it, which is why I think it will make the tournament all that much more exciting to me.

Is it as surreal as it seems?

There are times where it is really nice when I think about it. As I stated though, it's in the past and it has to be earned once again, the slate will be wiped clean as soon as the next major tournament starts.

The last season of Quake was pretty spectacular for you. Can (or will) it ever be bettered?

Yea, last season was pretty much picture perfect. I couldn't really ask for anything more. I think it can be repeated or even bested, records and streaks are bench marks for people to asprire to meet and surpass. Hopefully there will be plenty of tournaments to attend to this year and at each of them it will obviously be my goal to play to the best of my ability and take first each time. There can't be 2 number 1's, that'd make 11. (Smiles)

Is there anyone in particular you look forward to playing against at tournaments?

Hard to say, I really enjoy playing anyone I face at major events. If I had to pick one matchup though over the past year and a half I think I'd have to pick Cypher for sure. Just seeing how close and tense are games tend to be. The skillsets he has makes it a very difficult challenge. I also think because I've seen how we've changed how we've played each over the course of time as well. Always some new wrinkle we both somehow manage to throw in there.

Your game with him at the IEM 4 World Championship was one of the best matches in Quake Live history - coming back from 2-0 down on such a big stage against one of the game's finest players just doesn't happen (well, you've done it before...) - briefly explain the game and tell what it was like when you realized you'd advanced to the grand final.

ImageBeing in that situation before I think definitely helped me out. To do something like that you really need to be mentally strong, it's a gruelling process to win 3 maps in a row knowing that if you lose just 1 you're done. Being on the edge sometimes seems to bring out the best in me and I think it definitely did in that semi-final. After the 2nd map, I just got better and better as the set progressed. After it was all said and done I was thrilled that I still had a chance at the title but at the same time I knew I was going to need to play that good again if not better to win the whole thing. So there's wasn't much time spent thinking about what had happened. (Smiles)

The final against Cooller was equally as impressive. Would you rate it as your best performance ever?

I think with being able to handle the pressure, the nerves, and to play up to the ability I did I think I'd have to say yes. I mean the maps I won I barely won and the one map I lost I barely lost. I don't think I've seen a Quake final that close on every single map for somebody to come out on top like that. So because of that and how well he was playing at the time, I'd have to say yes.

How's your attendance looking for Quake events this year?

I hope this year will be a great year for Quake, so far there hasn't been too much announced, just hope things start to heat up during the summer going into the fall. Any one that I can make I'll be there. (Smiles)

How do you feel on the return of the ESWC? The Athens event in 2008 - where you took home your first major title - was a pivotal point in your career.

ESWC tournaments have always been great. From when I had no broadband and I would watch a few demos I could download over 56k, the ESWC events always had something special to the games behind it. Having experienced it first hand as well, as far as a tournament goes I've loved the atmosphere and I only hope they can continue to make it as good as it was, if not even better. (Smiles)

Leading up to the event it's safe to say you're the guy everyone's looking out for; I'm assuming a victory is the only thing on the cards.

Absolutely, granted I did win the Masters of Athens event, but I would love to win a main event for ESWC and share that title with the likes of Cooller, Av3k, and Cypher. The event is going to be extremely difficult. That's probably why I'm really looking foward to it though.

ImageHave you ever played a perfect game?

I don't think that I've played a perfect 15 in q3 or 10 in qlive during a major tournament yet. I've come very close but haven't done so the whole way through. I think the closest I've gotten was the 5th map against Cypher on t9 [at the IEM4 World Finals]. I just seemed to step up in the big moment and played pretty much a flawless game for 8-9 mins.

Of all the IEM stops, ESWCs, QuakeCons and other tournaments, what has been your favorite event?

The IEM World Championship, and I hope it gets even better. (Smiles)

The GDATA and Zotac cups are a key part of practice regimes and modern European Quake. When you were bootcamping ahead of the IEM4 World Championship you actually took part in and won the GDATA #14 cup, and you've taken part in a couple Silent Gamers cups in North America - what are your thoughts on online, weekly prize competitions?

I'm happy for the Euros, it's nice for them that they get the chance to play in cups almost week in and week out with at least a little prize money every week. Here in the States we don't have them too often, so when something like the Silent Gamers cups put up cash and when Alienware did one last summer it's always nice to see. Having at least a little money behind it helps motivate some players and take it seriously therefore simulating a tournament atmosphere. For example when I played primarily in the GDATA cup before the finals because I wanted to experience playing under pressure again before the tournament because I hadn't been playing all too much in-between the NA Championship and the World Championship. There was something on the line worth playing for which brings out the best in a lot of players (smiles). So I hope it continues for the EU scene and hopefully picks up here in the US scene as well, I'd more than welcome it.

Let's imagine a sudden and bizarre crisis rocks the Quake universe and you have to pick one map to play on for the rest of your gaming career. What would you pick?

I would have to say pro-q3tourney4, it is my favorite map and I think out of the maps that have been used in major tournaments over the years it's the best. There's really no one way to play that map, the map has no flow like the others. It's constantly changing, constantly having to come up with new ideas to get out or get on top of different situations. Maps where reading the player rather than just playing the map is the most important and I think that because this map is unique in this manner, it's my favorite. (Smiles)

Looking to the future, how long is left for rapha? Is Shane Hendrixson still aiming for heading to school to - as you mentioned way back in May 2009 - study mobile electronics installation?

I'm going to continue and play for the remainder of 2010. When the year wraps up I will try to evaluate my options, see if I even want to continue playing Quake. If not I will more than likely enter school right away but if next year looks promising for Quake and I have the desire to keep playing and keep putting the time and effort that's needed to win then you might see me again next year. (Smiles)

I just don't want to play the game if I'm burnt out on it, when it comes to that point it'll be time to move on to the next phase of my life. And yes I had thought about doing mobile electronics installation but since then things have changed and I'm not 100 percent sure what I want to do atm. When I find something I end up wanting, then that will be where I set new goals and do everything I can to do my best and be my best at that. (Smiles)

The final words are yours.

I'd like to thank all of the fans out there and the sponsors who have given me the opportunity to play Quake at its highest level, be it funding tournaments or the generous sponsors who have helped get me to those tournaments. SK, for their continued support and I hope I can make 2010 another bright year for them. (Smiles)

Also I would like to thank all of the pro players who give it all they've got and show their amazing skill. Not just the wins I've had over the past year and a half but anyone who's won a tournament, the tournaments aren't as special, wouldn't mean as much to the winner unless they'd have to make their way through the amazing group of players that Quake has today. (Smiles)



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