If one looks at Mikail “Maikelele” Bill’s rapid growth over the last two years, it is easy to forget how long he has been part of the Counter-Strike scene. His success may be recent, but he started taking the first steps in the upper echelon of the game in 2010. His first big-name team was Begrip Gaming, home to players like Christopher GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg and Robert “RobbaN” Dahlström at the start of their careers. Things back then, recalls Bill, were very different.
“At the time I did not actually know I could become a professional player. I always knew it would be possible to get there, but I did not have any plans to do it. I miss those times because you struggled a lot when it comes to CS, you played the game to understand it and to learn new things instead of doing it just to win“, he says. For him, things finally took a turn when CS:GO was released. It was then that he started flirting with the idea of taking the next step, influenced by his then-teammate Niclas “xeron” Putero. “He said that CS:GO was going to be my game. We had played 1.6 together a lot and he was the one that could play against top teams. I had a lot of respect for him as a player. He told me to give CS:GO a shot and I did,” Bill says.
After a short time in which they played under the name hatersg0nnahate, Maikelele – who was known as eksem back then – and his teammates joined Refuse, but the financial problems of the Greek organisation made the players build a project of their own called LGB eSports, a name with a very curious story behind. “Maxaki and I had been talking about designing a new FPS game because CS:GO was not at the time the game that it is today. CS:GO was boring and exactly the same as 1.6 had been during its last five years. We started to write what we would like to see in the game, and we wanted it to be an FPS game with classes (Support, AWPer, entry, etc.) and levels, which allowed you to upgrade your stats based on the role you picked. For example, support players could heal teammates, and this was actually the idea when we created the name LGB (Let the Game Begin),” he revealed. The idea never came to fruition, and as CS:GO and the team continued to improve, the players realised that this was their chance.
With some of the hottest up-and-coming talents in Sweden, including Olof “olofm” Kajbjer and Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson, the sky seemed to be the limit for LGB. However, the lack of an ingame leader who could dictate the play hindered their progress. “We had dennis, who had played for SK back in 1.6, and that was pretty much it. Had we had, let’s say, a player like Xizt, who could help us with his experience of leading a team ingame, we could have become the best team in the world, without a doubt“, Bill reckons. Shortly later, he and Alexander “SKYTTEN” Carlsson got the short end of the stick, parting ways with a team that would go on to finish 3rd-4th at the EMS One Katowice major. “We had some players who could not play together. People were not willing to sacrifice their own play style, and it did not end well. So SKYTTEN and I joined another team, and twist and cype joined LGB. I was pretty sad because LGB was something I was proud of.”
Frustration hit a new high for Bill in the coming months as his new team failed to impress, despite successive moves to new and bigger organisations (first Property, then SK Gaming). After a group stage exit at DreamHack Summer, the team was released by SK, and Bill found himself back to square one. Still, there are positives to take from those times. “I played with the best ingame leader I have ever played with, pita. He helped me with everything when it comes to CS, including finding my own playstyle (aggressive AWPer). I must say that he is the one that made me the player I am today. We yelled at each other a lot, but he never gave up on me, and I am happy he never did. I still think about everything he said to me“, he revealed.
It was at this point that Bill decided to change his nickname from eksem to Maikelele. Despite the need for a fresh start, the Swedish player insists that he was not looking to put the past behind him. “Eksem stands for eczema, and I did not enjoy getting called eksem by fans. I had fakenicked Maikelele a lot, and this is why I actually changed“, he explained. Weeks later, the new nickname would draw a lot of attention as Bill unwillingly earned a reputation for being a troublesome player after quitting UnWanted, a team he had recently joined. Despite admitting that he “whined a lot and created a bad atmosphere“, Maikelele insists that he was unfairly criticised.
“Being toxic is something people got wrong about what I said. No one in the scene is toxic because it’s fun. What happened was that we created unWanted because we were good friends and we all wanted to become the best team. But then our ingame leader, maxaki, started not to care, and one day I could not handle it anymore,” he revealed. “I was becoming worse rather than better, and I got mad because no one else on the team had the courage to speak up. Maybe I was wrong to get mad at my teammates, but no one had the balls to speak up.”
The big break
While many in the community lashed out at Maikelele, those who fought daily to be at the top understood his frustration. After crashing out of ESWC 2014 in the group stage, Ninjas in Pyjamas came knocking as they sought a replacement for Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson. It was the opportunity Maikelele had long waited and worked hard for. “I had always wanted to play for NiP, f0rest was my favourite player of all time. The same night they lost in the groups, HeatoN added me on Facebook. He said they were interested in me. That gave me a lot of motivation, I was putting more hours into CS than ever before“, he said. “A couple of weeks later, they asked me to start playing with them. I was at a friend’s apartment, and after the call we started jumping, screaming and shouting. I called all my best friends, my siblings and my parents.”
Maikelele’s first LAN event for Ninjas in Pyjamas was the final major of the year, DreamHack Winter. For the AWPer, it was a tough test, but one that he would pass with flying colors as he inspired NiP to a runners-up finish in Jönköping, where he had the team’s third-highest rating. At the turn of the year, NiP finished in second place at MLG X Games Aspen before finally picking up a title, at ASUS ROG. Maikelele wowed fans with his aggressive AWP style and was named the Most Valuable player of the tournament on a 1.39 rating. It was thus a shock to many that he would be removed from the starting lineup just two weeks later due to his alleged lack of competitive experience.
After a few months away from the spotlight in which he had a one-off LAN appearance for LGB at Copenhagen Games, Maikelele returned with a bang – the creation of Team Kinguin. It was a project that he and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom had been mulling over for several months, given the duo’s dissatisfaction with the lack of opportunities in the scene. “Before I joined NiP, ScreaM and I had been talking about creating an international team. It did not happen at that time, but after I was released from NiP, I contacted ScreaM and we started talking to other players,” Bill revealed. “We talked to players like Hiko and Skadoodle, we had long meetings late into the night and we were actually very close to doing it. I do not remember exactly why it did not happen but I think it was something about moving. ScreaM and I did not really want to move to North America, and they [Hiko and Skadoodle] did not want to move to Europe, so we started talking to other players, like rain and fox, etc.“
It was without a doubt the most ambitious project in the history of Counter-Strike since the old NoA team, featuring a mixture of Norwegian and North American talent, but results were mixed at first. “I think the problem was that we all had different play styles and it was hard to merge them. When we changed SKYTTEN for dennis we got a player with a lot of personality, and that helped us a lot“, Bill argued. It was only after the FACEIT League finals, where Kinguin beat Virtus.pro 16-0, and after ESL One Cologne, where they cracked the top eight after seeing off Cloud9, that the community started to see that the team was more than just a couple of top players glued together. “Against VP, it felt like our name was Team Gods or something because we were all playing perfect CS. If you watch the game, you see we did not do a single mistake. I think I can proudly say it’s the best CS a team has played in the history of the game.”
A new era in G2
When the team signed for G2, all the pieces finally seemed to fit. However, a group stage exit at DreamHack Open London showed that there was still something missing. The departure of ScreaM, one of the founders of the team, opened up new possibilities, but Maikelele could not stay indifferent. “It is always sad to see a player leave. But this move had to happen due to things that were happening ingame. It was not planned or anything, but I feel sad about some things that happened between ScreaM and me. We will still share some great memories for the rest of our lives“, he said.
With Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad as the new fifth player, the team now looks ahead to DreamHack Cluj. After finishing in second place at DreamHack Winter and 5th-8th at ESL One Cologne, could this be Maikelele’s major? “I really do not know”, he answers promptly. One thing is certain, though: he is not obsessed with the perception that the community may have of him and he does not feel the need to prove himself at all times. “People who do not know me can say whatever they want, I do not care. I love my fans, who give me motivation, and my haters, who always give me a good laugh.”