The Los Angeles Gladiators have cultivated a secret weapon as they march triumphantly through the Overwatch League. It sits quietly in a forest's clearing, seldom straying away from its own small, but verdant habitat. Seldomly mentioned about and often overlooked, the support players for the Los Angeles Gladiators have been as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, one of which has garnered fan attention from not only his fantastic play but his larger than life hairstyle and a name in homage to his favorite waterfowl. One half of the Los Angeles Gladiators Finnish duo, Benjamin "BigGoose" Isohanni, furrows his brow as he attempts to recall some of his earliest memories of video games in his youth.
“I think my brothers were the reason why I got into gaming so much,” BigGoose said. “It was part of our daily lives for a really long time and we would occasionally play together when we had the chance.” Before he became the goose we know and love today, he was like any other young boy. He fancied the same games, he fought tooth and nail with his two older brothers for time on the single PC the family owned. It was a tale as old as time. “Playing with and against my brothers kind of drove me to want to be better than them in games like Defend of the Ancients (DotA) and Heroes of Newerth (HoN) in particular.” His brothers seemed to be a driving force on his passion and love for games. Having a sibling, or in this case siblings, that share similar interests usually fosters a strong yet competitive bond. It’s this closeness we see echoed throughout history in some of the best at what they do. Think of the Wahlberg brothers, Peyton and Eli Manning, even the famed StarCraft commentators Nick and Sean Plott (known as Tasteless and Day respectively) in our own small niche of esports.
Your siblings can seriously impact you as a person.
“My brothers are four and seven years older. I think at the very beginning it was kind of hard for me to be better than them because I was so young at the time.” From a young age, his brothers inadvertently were training one of the best Overwatch players to come out of Europe. He continued explaining just what games they all grew up on. After they had their fill of DotA and Heroes of Newerth, the brothers expanded into games like World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike: Source while BigGoose found enjoyment in playing League of Legends and DotA 2.
“I started playing around season one or two,” he explained his story regarding his short stint within the competitive League of Legends community, “and then one day I just got really into League and started playing it by myself and gradually reached the Challenger rank around season three. I played mid lane back then, but I'm not sure why. I think I just enjoyed playing the role. As for the promotion tournament my team had a few late roster switches, switching our top laner and our jungler about two weeks before the tournament, but unfortunately, it was a bit too late. So we decided to not take the risk of getting banned or suspended because you would be the breaking the rules and ended up forfeiting our match.”
Like other young aspirants approaching esports, BigGoose has competed and followed other esports titles. When asked if this experience helped him transition into Overwatch, he responded with a coy, “I think so,” but then began to elaborate on what concepts transitioned over from game to game. “I believe League gave me a good mindset coming into Overwatch,” BigGoose said, “I had the same idea in Overwatch as I did in League where I didn't want to join a team until I felt like I was in a position where I wouldn't hold the team back because lack of my skill or game knowledge. I think what also helped from League was the grind you actually need especially with a new game to reach the higher rankings. It is by no means a quick journey.” These skill sets that he developed during his time with the game certainly played a major role in his journey in esports. From then on out it was smooth sailing as he jumped ship from League of Legends to Overwatch.
“I always loved watching DotA 2,” BigGoose said. “The scene is amazing and I look up to a few DotA2 pros like Fear, hyhy, Misery and Mushi.” He then began to explain a close friend who stood victorious over one of the better DotA 2 teams at a minor event. Witnessing his friend accomplish something so amazing began to stoke his competitive fire even more. “[It] pushed me into wanting to be a pro player at the time.” This would culminate the stew of ingredients needed to mold someone into greatness. First, a competitive upbringing, surrounded by older brothers who all had a shared interest. A dash of semi-success within League of Legends, almost being able to compete at the highest level. And now an open book, with no history attached, no former champions to overthrow, BigGoose could now become a frontiersman in Overwatch.
BigGoose first made an appearance on the Overwatch circuit early in 2017 on a small team called Bastuu Pojkars which would lead him to Alfa Squad that March. That August to November BigGoose played on the team he is probably most known for within, Team Gigantti, which won Overwatch Contenders Season 1 Europe and would propel most of the team’s members into stardom. It would be this grand finals victory over Misfits, who now mostly make up a majority of the Overwatch League franchize the Florida Mayhem, that pinned them on the map. And within one years time, BigGoose had gone from obscurity to playing on the biggest stage in Overwatch when he and fellow teammate and Finnish support player Jonas "Shaz" Suovaara were signed from Team Gigantti to the Los Angeles Gladiators. But games were not the only thing that dictated the thoughts of BigGoose. There was an academic lying dormant in the mind of our favorite waterfowl.
“I'm not sure,” he said wrestling with his thoughts when asked about a potential timeline where he didn’t pursue Overwatch as rabidly, “I could still be trying to pursue a career in Overwatch or going to a school to study. I was always kind of interested in history as I found European history really interesting and found reading it pretty enjoyable. Probably a job that would have something to do with history.” Irony has a beautiful way of accentuating people’s stories, doesn’t it? A potential history teacher or history professor is now creating history within one of esports first large-scale franchise attempts. BigGoose will also be a member of the Overwatch League’s first graduating class as the inaugural season concludes in New York during the summer.
“I'm not sure how I would say it has changed, but I guess moving to the US has been the biggest factor,” BigGoose began to explain how the Overwatch League had impacted his life outside of the boyhood dream of playing games for money. “You kind of have everything here and whereas where I am from it's a pretty small city which doesn't have too many things in it.” Los Angeles could definitely be a culture shock and a bit overwhelming for a guy who spent most of his life in a small village in Finland but it seemed like BigGoose was coping with the move just fine. “The amount of interaction with other professional players is something else I enjoy a lot.” BigGoose was nothing more than a big stuffed bear, he simply just enjoys people. It would be these very people, his peers and the fans that would one day, hopefully far into the future, would remember his legacy fondly, but what did he think that legacy would look like?
“I haven't lived that long and got to experience all of life, but I hope it's something good,” BigGoose said. “I don't know what to expect from people, but I hope they see the value I once added to the Overwatch League.” And with that, one of the better European support players flew into the violet sunset, his jersey blending in with the warm and rosy sky as the sun set on our time together. Humbly, BigGoose had no claims for glory, no claims for godhood, no grandiose plan, he just wanted to be remembered for being a solid player who added some value to his team and the league.
Photo Credit: Robert Paul // Blizzard Entertainment