For pro player John Pelletier, AKA Minecraftiscool, it’s important to stay dedicated in esports, but it’s more important to lighten up a bit, have some fun, and support your teammates as best you can.
Pelletier is a 23-year-old Valorant player who made it into the first round of the Valorant Champions Tour with Team Exon. Above all, Pelletier is just here for to have a good time and be there for his team. To him, that’s what gaming’s all about. We had the chance to sit down with Pelletier and talk about the space between casual and competitive play, the importance of gaming in reframing modern community, and his future in Valorant. This passionate player loves what he does, and we were happy to listen to his take on the gaming scene.
Even choosing his Valorant handle, Minecraftiscool, is a decision steeped in Pelletier’s laid-back attitude. “My first thought was I’m probably not going to play this for long, so I made up a stupid name that wouldn’t get me in trouble, and I guess now I’m stuck with it.” With that ‘stupid’ name, Pelletier rode his way into the first round of the Valorant championship where he and Team Exon had the opportunity to go up against Sedated.
As someone who’s in the competitive gaming scene for fun, Pelletier sees making it into the Valorant championship as a level-up. Even if Pelletier and Team Exon didn’t get very far in the tournament, it was still a means for him and the team to get their foot in the door and make the whole thing feel more real.
“It was a reality check for sure. We were going up against people that breathe Valorant day in and day out. We got to the next level,” Pelletier said.
While Pelletier describes how some may see Team Exon’s loss as an off day, Pelletier sees it as an opportunity for the team to step up its game, discuss strats, and mechanically refine how the team plays.
But while Pelletier is well-versed in Valorant and its take on the character-shooter formula, he first dipped his toe into the online gaming pool only after finishing his commitments sports in high school. Through his school years, Pelletier would hit the boxing bag, kick around a soccer ball, and regularly attend the gym.
Managing and making free time becomes tougher as you get older, and Pelletier was no exception. There are only so many hours in the day to be on the field, in the gym, or in front of a punching bag, and when there wasn’t time, Pelletier scratched his competitive itch with Counter Strike.
“If I wasn’t playing a game competitively, I’d probably find something, like when I played sports, it’s always something competitive in my life,” Pelletier said.
The move from Counter Strike to Valorant only gave Pelletier more room to grow. Specifically, Pelletier notes that the skill ceiling in Valorant hasn’t been reached yetm unlike Counter Strike. Because Valorant is the new hotness in terms of competitive shooters, it can open up new dynamics, strategies, and meta-game elements through the introduction of new characters, abilities, and balancing.
“Counter Strike has been out for a long time, the maps are always ported over, and there’s only so much to figure out,” Pelletier said. “But with Valorant it’s a constant discovery that’s kind of hard to keep up, so we just have to watch what the professionals are doing.”
Keeping an open mind to how the game evolves is only one of the three keys to Pelletier’s success, the other two being dedication and experience. Dedication was achieved simply through Pelletier’s rote practice of using aim trainers such as aimlabs to improve his form and mouse control, deathmatch runs to feel out maps, and other services to just put the work in.
“If you ever want to get better at push-ups, you don’t focus on bench presses, you do push-ups,” Pelletier said.
Experience, on the other hand, can only come through putting time into the game. Working a job and having a social life limits the amount of time Pelletier can devote, but if there’s one thing personal experience has taught him, it’s that it’s not how long or hard you practice, it’s how smart you practice.
“When I play, I have to be playing efficiently because my teammates can do what they want because they put in the hours, but if I’m playing, I have to spend every second making sure that it’s worth my time,” Pelletier said. “I don’t have as much time as they do. They have like eight hours on me every day, so I have to somehow catch up.”
Coming from a team sports background, Pelletier values being a good team player, and a big part of that is always walking away from a loss with something to learn. He never blames his teammates and always takes accountability for his own performance in a match.
“I think it’s really cool how far people take the game. How much progress you can get from starting at the bottom. It’s astounding,” Pelletier said. “Anything is possible if you just don’t make excuses and hold yourself accountable. You could probably apply that to anything.”
Even though Pelletier insists he’s only in the game for fun, he can’t help but admit that it does feel great to get good at Valorant. With that feeling of greatness comes a responsibility to stay humble, and that’s something that Pelletier tries to pass off to his fellow teammates.
“Just because I’m better than somebody at this game doesn’t mean I’m better than them as a person,” Pelletier said. “I would say I try to make it my job to facilitate and encourage kindness and respect in players.”
While Pelletier would love to go pro one day, he’s already satisfied with how far he’s come, and the fun that he’s had.
“Most of the people that I’m playing with literally live, breathe, and sleep Valorant, and I’m still able to make it to a decent level near them, and I’m proud of that.”
Outside of playing Valorant, Pelletier works in the Air Force as a medical administrator. We thank him for his work in and out of the game.