Jaime 'Karma' Bickford is a professional Rocket League player for Splyce. She began her RL career in 2016 with Xylophone Zebras and has become one of the best players on the scene since then. Alongside JWismont and Nose, she and Splyce have been on fire this year - qualifying for not only RLRS, but RLCS as well. 2019 is definitely looking like a great year to be a Karma and Splyce fan!
You decided to leave the Hearthstone scene to pursue Rocket League a couple years ago. What was the appeal of Rocket League to you and did you ever think you would be where you are now?
Karma: The appeal of Rocket League was mainly just how fun and more strategic the game was. Hearthstone to me became so frustrating because I couldn't control the outcome of certain situations and had to rely on RNG (Randomly Number Generated) outcomes. In Rocket League, it's all controlled by you. You make a mistake, you get punished. You score a goal, it's because of what you did. That was so much more rewarding and fulfilling than losing to a 1/12 chance over and over again or losing because I didn't draw the correct things fast enough, etc. I also felt like Rocket League had a huge potential as a spectator sport.
I really felt like if this was cultivated properly, it could become one of the top esports in the world. The dilemma for me was that I had already had a decently sized stream and foothold in the Hearthstone community. I really loved the Blizzard employees and fellow Hearthstone players that I got to spend time with. They taught me a lot about esports and I looked up to a lot of them, especially Reynad. I took what I learned from that esport and transferred it over to Rocket League, followed my gut and my passion and just trusted that it would lead to something great, and if not, I'd certainly be happier. I definitely had always thought that I could become professional in a video game, I've always been really good at them, I just had to put in the time. EGO ALERT.
2018 has been pretty great for you and the Splyce RL team! Not only did you qualify for RLRS, you also recently qualified for RLCS last month. How would you describe what you were feeling when those final few seconds were winding down in the finals against Rogue?
Karma: Ah man. The final few seconds were so emotional. We were so hyper-focused that the comms remained the same until about 5 seconds left when we were up by 2, all the emotion just poured out from me and I started crying haha... typical girl, right? Trevor (Nose Dude) instantly started making fun of me, "KARMA THERES FIVE SECONDS LEFT, GET A GRIP, DONT START CRYING... AGAIN," because I cried the first time we qualified for RLRS. Jake (JWis) started yelling and I just started saying, "NO WAY, NO WAY, THERES NO WAY WE ACTUALLY DID IT." Our coach Jimmer was flipping out and he was at a family event screaming with everyone in the background it was hilarious.
A lot of jubilation took place, all our friends started joining our Teamspeak and Discord and all just screaming. There must have been about 50 of us in there. My Mom and Nan came running down because they heard me upset and thought we lost, but instead, ran back upstairs when they found out we won and grabbed the champagne. We put in so much time and effort, there is so much pressure, to get that relief and happiness for your teammates, families, friends, I was just so overcome with all the emotions that went into the last two years.
Did you do anything special to celebrate?
Karma: Well first thing I did was turn on my stream. I wanted to celebrate with the people who supported me the most, the Karmy (that's what our community calls ourselves), and did a celebration stream with them. So grateful for everyone who has supported me thus far, then afterwards, my Mom and Nan went out with me to a steakhouse and got some juicy filet mignon and champagne dinner. My Nan was so excited she watched the stream, which is a huge deal for her, she has no idea what's going on, all she knows is when she sees Karma scores on the screen, she gets super hyped.
What does it mean to you to be the only female player in RLCS?
Karma: It means a lot and a little. Confusing I know, but hear me out. I never really entered anything in my life thinking that me being female mattered. My life is literally a contradiction. I played baseball when I was younger with all boys and was a decent pitcher, made the all-star team in 6/7th grade. I played basketball with the boys after school, most of my friends were guys growing up, I related to them more. I wasn't a tomboy per say, I still loved hanging with the girls on my basketball team, going shopping, doing all that girl stuff... I just found boys easier to chill with.
I never questioned what I was doing, I just did stuff that I enjoyed and apparently I was chill enough to the point where no one ever had a problem with it, except the boys' girlfriends lol. I always approach everything in life to be the best, regardless of what I am, I don't let anything effect me other than how disappointed I am at my current talent level and striving to improve. Being the only female player is a special title that I value, because even though I didn't enter with the mindset of, "I'm gonna show the world, girls can do it too!" I'm glad that I can hopefully pave a road for other female or male players to show that if you're passionate and put in the hard work, you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.
I don't like being constantly pointed out the fact that I'm female, although I'm proud of it, I just want to be a cool gamer nerd playing with other gamer nerds. My motto has always been be too good at what you're doing to be ignored. If you get to that point, you're going to be successful, whether you're male or female.
You mentioned on Twitter that one of your goals for 2019 is to make RLCS World Finals – what are you, JWismont, and Nose doing to prepare for the coming season to make that happen?
Karma: Oh man. Yes, that is the dream, mainly because I want to get my Nan into a RLCS packed arena and have her in the atmosphere. I think it'd be hilarious, she promised me she would go and she has never been on a plane before, so it'd be a huge moment in our lives and something special I'd have forever.
Even though that's the goal, realistically I see this as a season where we learn a lot about ourselves. We don't quite know the arena we're about to enter, we've never been here before. I played one series in Season 2 against KoU and other than that, we have limited experience. We really just want to retain our RLCS spot, that'd be a huge win, I mean... I think we can make RLCS Worlds as well, but that'd be a huge upside to just improving this season for future seasons. To make RLCS Worlds though, we're just going to do what we've always been doing. Grind harder than ever, scrim as much as possible, replay reviews all the time, and just build that trust in each other. Coach Jimmer probably has some stuff up his sleeve that I'm not privy to quite yet, but he'll share and I'm so excited to get this season started.
Looking towards the next season, are there any teams or players that you’re really looking forward to playing against?
Karma: I'm looking forward to playing against everyone. I've looked up to all these players for so long, most of them I consider good friends, they've all helped me in one way or another by being advocates, teachers, friends, support and to finally be at their level after all this time, it's going to be an honor playing against them all, even if they smack me. There is a lot you can learn and a lot you can do with an entire season in RLCS. We're going to make sure that we make the most of it.
Coming from Hearthstone to being a RL streamer and to now qualify for RLCS, do you have any tips for fans out there that might someday hope to reach the level of play that you’ve achieved?
Karma: Oh boy, that's a loaded question. Hmm.. my tips for them would be, understand yourself before you enter any type of work in your life. Understand what you want to do, what you're capable of, and what your passion is. This is going to sound rough, but if in every game you play you can barely make it out of the lower tiers, professional gaming might not be for you, but there are other areas of esports where you could thrive. You just have to find your niche.
If you think you want to pursue streaming, do something that sets yourself apart from others, don't just be good. Be good and hilarious, be good and RAGE, or something different than every other streamer on the platform. If you want to pursue professional gaming, the path to me is complicated but goes kinda like... get in early, get to be on tops of leaderboards, start competing against the top players, add them, playing along with them, find a team, enter tournaments, and it all comes down to winning. Once again, if you're too good to be ignored, you're going to get noticed and you're going to have success.
All that being said, I've had a lot of ups and downs in my entire esports career. Nothing is easy and it comes with lots of trial and error. My biggest inspiration is Tom Brady, look at all the crap that he went through before he started winning. Legends were never born without failure, so keep going if you believe you have what it takes!
Other than making it to the World Finals, what else are you hoping to achieve in 2019?
Karma: This is really cheesy, but I just want to continue growing as a person, growing the community we've built, and really just enjoy the time with people around me. 2017 was probably the worst year of my life, and 2018 has probably been the best, so I'd like to just continue the upward trend. I really learned a lot about myself this year personally and I don't want to take any of this for granted, I really want to make sure to enjoy the ride with my coach, my teammates, and fellow players, the places we get to go and the people we get to meet are just so special. I want to make sure I appreciate it for everything that it is... because there is nothing else like it. It took so long to get here, I want to prove I belong, show everyone we deserve to be here, and kick some ass.
How do you personally feel about the current state of Rocket League? If you were able to, are there any changes you would make to the game itself or even the professional scene?
Karma: I feel like Rocket League is still in that infantile state of potential. Psyonix have done an incredible job at building this game up to where it is right now, but there is still so much more that can be done with it. I think we're all just waiting to see what hype they're going to bring next. I definitely wouldn't make any changes to the game as in the physics or anything like that. However, I think adding home stadiums for teams would be really cool, potentially making teams represent locations of the world, similar to how other esports are doing it.
Also, I'd like them to add a top 500 rank or something like that similar to other games where instead of just having a grand champion, you have the grand champion logo be diamond, with their number in the world next to it. This game is growing at a steady rate and the longer its around the more hype it gets, Rocket League is so young in terms of esports and I know we as a community want to see it flourish like the potential that it has, but I would just say be patient, look how long NFL, NBA, MLB took before they became major entertainment, esports is going to go the same route. I'm really excited for Rocket League's future.
As a final, easy question, if you had to be paired with only one duo partner for the rest of your Rocket League career, who would you pick?
Karma: Ahh, that's a tough question. I enjoy playing with so many people. I literally can't pick one... It'd probably either be Miztik or JSTN because of the freestyle clips we score on people. Those are the most fun to do.
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