“I prefer to just play games,” Diego ‘Quas’ Ruiz, Top Laner for Team Curse says pragmatically. There’s a hint of a South American accent in his voice, a product of his childhood in Maracaibo, Venezuela. It was there — between power outages, water rationing, and an unstable political climate — that he developed a passion for playing video games. Quas, who describes himself as shy, awkward, and nerdy, found comfort behind a computer screen.
“I come from a background of very little opportunity,” Quas says, and although playing for hours on end as a child may have hurt his ability to socialize, it got him out of a country rife with socio-economic problems. In America, the country he now calls home, Quas is an elite member of a burgeoning group of professional gamers, where his competitive ability and focused determination separate him from the casual gamer.
His game of choice is League of Legends, a five-on-five battle arena game where teams fight in an attempt to destroy the opponents nexus, or home base. Over 67 million people play the game monthly — 7.5 million concurrently during peak hours — and Riot Games, League’s developer and publisher has formed a professional league, The League of Legends Championship Series, which is entering its 5th season. In the LCS, the top North American teams battle head to head for a chance to qualify for the World Championships held every October.
Quas came to America on vacation in the Spring of 2013, yet he never thought he would stay to play League professionally. But when he opportunity came, he didn’t think twice. He left behind an unfinished degree in mechanical engineering to pursue his passion, playing for a few amateur teams before taking up his current spot as Solo Laner for Team Curse, one of the original League of Legends Championship Series teams.
Team Curse owner Steve Arhancet was able to secure a P-1 visa, the same one professional athletes in traditional sports receive, to keep Quas in America. He praises Quas for his ability to consistently compete at a high level. “He’s attentive, he’s smart, he’s engrossed in the game, he wants to get better, he’s receptive to feedback, he has synergy with his teammates, and he’s a good communicator,” Arhancet says, adding that he is lucky that Quas joined the team when he did.
Quas’s path to a professional career in gaming hasn’t been easy. Playing in front of an audience has proven difficult for the often reserved Quas: “I struggle with having a lot of people watch me. It’s a lot of stress and it takes its toll.” He gets the jitters before and during games and has to force himself to calm down to perform at his best. His competitive spirit has made friendships with other professional players difficult to cultivate and his team’s inability to qualify for the World Championships — finishing fourth each season — has proven frustrating.
Quas hopes, though, that all of that will change this year. Curse added Korean player “Piglet” to their roster. The former World Champion packs a major punch in the bottom lane and will vie to be the best AD Carry in North America.
Team Curse has also decided to improve their diet and fitness in anticipation of the upcoming season, accepting Quest Nutrition’s 60 day challenge to improve their health and nutrition. Quas, whose favorite Quest Bar is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, works out 3 times a week and is considered by his teammates as the fittest of the bunch. He hopes to inspire his teammates to eat better and work out so that they can consistently perform at the highest level, which they will need to do if they want to achieve their goal of winning the LCS.
The team’s lofty goals and ambitions are echoed on an individual level by Quas who says that this year will be an important step for both him and the sport. “I want to maximize my potential and be the best competitive player I can be.”
And although it is Curse’s roster changes that have made them a favorite coming into this year’s LCS and have grabbed all the headlines, it is Quas’s work ethic and current form that have his coaches and teammates saying he is a dominant force in the Top Lane, and perhaps even the best in the league.