Through mental health challenges, career confusion, and a global pandemic, a streamer and caster finds purpose and place
After thirty years as an atheist, Kaizen Derrick Asiedu has cultivated a belief in God. He turned 31 in October, and he’s confident there is a rich spiritual world within us and without us.
“I always thought I wasn’t an emotional person,” Asiedu said. “That’s not the case anymore.”
To watch Asiedu cast is to watch a man at ease with his surroundings. Amongst fellow analysts like Meteos and Space Ghost, Asiedu is reclined with a loose tee shirt. With a shock of blonde hair and a trim beard he pays attention to whoever is talking. Listening and responding is more interesting than nerding out on the numbers.
He is also a human working as hard as he can. Before joining Riot’s personalities, he felt nervous. When he was younger he wasted time comparing himself to Mark Zuckerberg. He wanted to achieve more than anything else. He felt the need to produce all the time.
“I was exhausted,” Asiedu said. “At times, I had thoughts of looking forward to dying. It would have been a kind of relief.”
It takes a critical eye to each of those thirty years to see the turn, the moment wherein Asiedu decided life was worth living, and that games were worth playing. Now, after a brief stint, he’s on his way back out of the LCS.
What’s next for him is, of course, an outgrowth of where he’s been.
The alpha days
Asiedu’s parents came from Ghana. He spent 90 percent of his youth in and around Reddit. He’s comfortable around all kinds of people – as a Black man in gaming, he’s spent plenty of time around white people with lots of questions. His mind has always turned toward larger ideas.
“I’m an abstract thinker,” Asiedu said. “I’m a philosophical guy.”
In 2010 he spent the summer becoming a Starcraft II beta junkie. He played Protoss, and he played until he was in the Master’s level. With an abundance of free time he looked to channel his newfound love. After following the Korean Starcraft scene, he was confident he could build a similar scene in the states.
“I started organizing tournaments just for fun,” Asiedu said. “They grew.”
Artists, engineers, and producers began to reach out to him via Reddit, hoping to loan their time and skills to grow the tournaments. It became a company called WellPlayed Productions.
“I guess it was a company,” Asiedu said. “We just loved doing it. We loved running tournaments. And we thought the production bar could be raised.”
They moved into League of Legends as many of the “employees” of the company turned toward Summoner’s Rift, and Asiedu wanted to keep on gaming with his friends. He learned the ropes, conquering the notorious learning curve and the narrative within the Starcraft community that it is a “baby casual game.” As he does, the inquisitive and dedicated thinker put his brain to the task. He became a Grandmaster level player at the game.
“That was before Grandmaster existed,” Asiedu said. “The first jungle champion I fell in love with was Udyr.”
Amongst top players, though, he was most known for his Hecarim, an undead centaur. He held the record for the most ranked Hecarim games in North America.
“I think I had the most in the world,” Asiedu said. “Maybe someone in Korea or China had more than me.”
This was all while he attended Harvard University, by the way.
“I was studying philosophy,” Asiedu said. “But in reality I was studying video games.”
Something about the cerebral complexity kept Asiedu coming back for more, though the philosophical crossover was weak at best. At the same time his education and his hobbies were soaring, he still felt anchored. Depressive thoughts grew like weeds in his mind, obscuring the view of all his hard-earned glory.
“I hit rock bottom,” Asiedu said.
He quit the company. He took time off from school. After some needed time off from both, they seemed to come together in an unforeseen way – Asiedu secured one of the first Esports internships with Riot Games in 2017. Once that wrapped, he was offered a full-time position with the company.
The beta days
He worked on all kinds of projects and tasks at Riot, finding his way back to events. In fact it was Asiedu that designed much of the standard tournament format teams use today. He still remembers how good it felt to run MSI in Shanghai in 2015.
“I’d been a CLG fan all my life,” Asiedu said. “They had back-to-back wins and ran all the way to the finals. I still have the jersey.”
He also ran the 2017 Worlds tournament. This is where he won his Outstanding Esports Coverage Emmy, and he went on to run the global events team in 2018 and 2019. His tenure would last seven productive and bountiful years.
At a pinnacle that many would be thankful to even witness, Asiedu said he didn’t feel like he was really present enough to appreciate it all. Those mind-killing anxieties and pessimisms persisted. He said he still faced recurring suicidal thoughts.
“I felt disconnected,” Asiedu said. “If you’d asked me if I loved life, I would have said no. I was a highly productive depressed person.”
Now entering his fourth decade, the philosophical approaches Asiedu has learned throughout his life are coming full circle.
“I like to think a lot about the evolution of consciousness,” Asiedu said.
In April of 2020 he knew he needed to leave Riot. He felt restless. He wanted to do something independent. The pandemic hit, and he didn’t know what to do. As one might have assumed, he dove into becoming a pro gamer himself. With white face paint glossed beneath his eyes, he donned the moniker “Primal.”
“It all happened as it needed to,” Asiedu said. “All my social distractions were removed by the pandemic. All my work distractions were removed by my quitting. It was just me and my internal state.”
In mid-summer, he realized he was “not good.” While his whimsical journey of becoming a pro gamer may have seemed fun, it was taking its toll. Those itching thoughts had only become more cloying. Things weren’t changing inside even as he kept changing everything outside. The suicidal thoughts came on again, but without any of his usual walls to barricade against the barrage.
“I started seeing a therapist,” Asiedu said. “I couldn’t go on another 50 or 70 years like this.”
He was diagnosed with Dysthimia, a more long-term and less punctuated form of depression. It made sense to Asiedu. But antidepressants didn’t sound right – he wanted to challenge himself before filling his prescription.
“I don’t remember when ayahuasca came into my mind,” Asiedu said. “But I don’t think there’s a dichotomy between science and spirituality. I was keeping an open mind.”
He traveled to Florida to complete an ayahuasca ritual – he would have gone to Peru, but the borders were closed due to COVID. It wasn’t a silver bullet, but for Asiedu it reduced his depression in a significant way. Things started to turn around. Those problematic thoughts have been quiet for a while now.
In September of 2020 he heard from Riot. He had been playing a lot of Teamfight Tactics, and they had invited him to cast the world championship. After his usual crisp, clever casting went over well, they asked him if he would want to join as an analyst for the LCS. He decided against the war paint.
“I dropped it after the first few weeks,” Asiedu said. “I was still finding my voice.”
He had planned to move to Mexico, a part of his spiritual development, but he decided to stick around Los Angeles for the job. His life has turned toward motivating his many fans, working out, and staying healthy himself.
“Inward is where everyone needs to look,” Asiedu said. “The internal game is the most important game.”
It’s going well for Asiedu, or anyone who has seen him in the LCS would believe so. His presence on the analyst desk was a huge breath of fresh air. While co-hosting Riot’s “Next Level” program with former Cloud 9 jungler Meteos he was thoughtful and kind, witty, and is known to sport incredible outfits. Fans fell in love with his casting, something he’s been perfecting for years.
His social media clout is on the rise. On his Instagram it’s common to find a video of the forward-thinking Asiedu dropping knowledge bombs on his legions of listeners. In fact, he’s going to pivot to mental health coaching full-time.
“I’m focusing on my calling – helping people thrive. I’m doing this through my coaching program,” Asiedu said of his post-LCS path. “It gives me the sense of fulfillment comes from living in a way that is aligned with my values.”