For Lane “Surefour” Roberts, there are three things you can count on: a desire to win, a love for cute things, and a refreshing honesty that some people misconstrue as being cranky. After the end of Overwatch League’s stage 2, despite having fallen to the New York Excelsior, no one can deny that the Los Angeles Gladiators are stronger than ever before and will be just as formidable when Stage 3 begins in June.
I spoke to Surefour a few weeks back after playing against Seoul Dynasty, having returned to the stage playing the standard (Zarya) and playing his favorite (Bastion). I wanted to speak to him about his return and why his streams are so popular, but as it turns out, we both had a more pressing topic to discuss: the best anime to watch right now.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Heroes Never Die: I have to admit, I was warned about your snarkiness.
Heroes Never Die: I know! All I kept hearing was that he was the nicest guy.
Surefour: I don’t even know what snarky means.
Heroes Never Die: Apparently it means you have a sharp tongue in the worst way.
Surefour: I mean, I’m blunt?
Heroes Never Die: Exactly. I thought that was a weird thing to say, so I said, “Thanks for the warning, I guess?”
Heroes Never Die: So talking about your game today, you were able to start, which was a fun thing to see, since you’re honestly one of the more popular players in the league. And one of the major reasons why that is your streams. Your honesty and straightforwardness is underappreciated and is sometimes misconstrued as being “snarky,” despite it providing one of the most positive communities in Overwatch. What do you attribute to that?
Surefour: I think it’s banning a lot of idiots.
Heroes Never Die: I admit, I didn’t even think of that. It’s looked down upon as being rude in the online community.
Surefour: Yeah, if someone pisses me off or just says something stupid, I just permaban them.
Heroes Never Die: And a perfect example of that was a while ago, someone questioned you about your Ashe gameplay. You simply asked, “Okay, tell me what I did wrong. But if you’re wrong, I’m banning you.”
Surefour: Yeah, that’s what I also do. Some people act like…snarky.
Heroes Never Die: (laughs)
Surefour: Or try to act smart, like being a dickhead, so I like to give them the option to see if they’re actually smart or not. Most of the time, they just buckle under the pressure because they didn’t think. They either wanted me to just get pissed off, so they could just laugh, but instead I call them out, so they spend like a minute trying to make something up and then ended up saying something stupid anyway. So I just permaban them.
Heroes Never Die: The best part? I know you are mostly off-camera, and I’d like to believe you’re just smiling your ass off thinking, “I wish you would. I really wish you would.”
Surefour: Most of the time I’m just deadpan. That’s why I don’t like having the camera on because I don’t think I have a very animated face.
Heroes Never Die: Well, to be fair, a lot of people look like that and some of them even look like someone just killed their dog.
Surefour: Someone like Summit or xQc...like they have VERY animated faces whenever they’re doing anything.
Heroes Never Die: But going back to the fact that your transparency has created such a positive community, I know from experience that my own tendency to be honest all the time has gotten me in a lot of trouble on occasion. Was there any particular time where you found that your bluntness backfired the most?
Surefour: I think it happens a lot, depending. I have two different moods that I get into, one where I let my emotions do whatever I want and one where I just control my emotions, so I’m basically just like a robot, in a way. And a lot of times where I let my emotions loose; if I get angry or something, or I get arrogant, I can just say stuff and I regret it a lot later.
Heroes Never Die: A more memorable example of this, I recall, was around Christmas time and I was on my way home from work, and I remember you lost a game, politely said “Good game,” and then silence for a good five seconds before you just said, “FUCK!” It’s kind of refreshing since a lot of people who stream tend to veer away from that since they want to promote a brand and build a massive following from that. I’m not presuming that’s not a concern of yours, but is not having that goal a part of why you’re so popular?
Surefour: I should probably care more about my brand, but I’m the type of person who hates being fake or hates lying. That’s why I also don’t like doing a lot of sponsored stuff unless I actually like the the product.
Heroes Never Die: I did notice that.
Surefour: Because then you basically have to lie in a way or pretend to be something you aren’t. And I don’t like doing that.
Heroes Never Die: In terms of today’s game, I saw that you were able to play your favorite hero in Bastion and that the bunker composition is looking to be one of the first comps that would deviate from GOATs. Do you think that’s going to continue to catch on or just sort of be a niche pick?
Surefour: Only on certain maps. Basically any place with a strong high ground that’s hard to get you off of. If there’s nothing like that, it’s going to be GOATS.
Heroes Never Die: Especially as it turns out that GOATS hasn’t died, yet. I wasn’t even shocked.
Surefour: Brig is very strong.
Heroes Never Die: It’s fascinating because while many people have their reasons for disliking or liking GOATS, a lot of the hate is directed towards Brigitte. I get that to an extent, but for me, I like her because she’s easy to learn and I enjoy smacking the shit out of people.
Heroes Never Die: So when Baptiste was announced, all of a sudden, people were hoping that he would deliver us from this evil--but that didn’t happen.
Surefour: Baptiste just made it so you could run a Bastion now. Because even if you dive the Bastion field, the Immortality Field is enough to just let him sit there a bit longer. Baptiste doesn’t really help or hinder GOATS in either way. Bunker comp with Bastion is just to force people to switch off GOATS. But then you can counter, and then once they switch, you go right back.
And it’s mostly because sustainability is the name of the game in Overwatch. Like whenever any comp is made, it’s usually ones that die the least amount or you’re able to have the most healing upkeep. And Brigitte makes it so you can sustain yourself from a Genji or Tracer, because they’re scared to go in now. And she can hit someone once and it’s like...700HP.
Heroes Never Die: No one dies. Ever.
Surefour: It’s insane; she heals herself by hitting other people.
Heroes Never Die: I’m not going to lie. I was actually excited at her kit cause I was like, “So you’re telling me, that by beating the shit out of people…”
Surefour: “...I get to heal.”
Heroes Never Die: Sign me up. So I was a trash Brigitte player for a while, but then I wised up and went back to Ana. It was also because of the whole #deletebrig movement that I sorta moved away from her, as her kit is so powerful that she is the backbone of GOATS meta. And I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but what are your thoughts on that?
Surefour: I kind of gave up caring.
Heroes Never Die: It’s just funny to me because there seems to me more of an uproar about this more than the dive meta, and that was around for over a year.
Surefour: Well, there was a lot of people who complained. But I think no matter what meta it is, there’s gonna be people complaining. It’s just a matter of time.
Heroes Never Die: I think I’ve just grown indifferent to the craziness. Speaking of craziness, during All-Stars last year, you won against Soon in a 1v1 Widowmaker battle, which was probably one of the most exciting parts of the event. Is there another player you’d want to go 1v1 against with a particular character and why?
Surefour: Um, I think I only liked going against Soon because we’re both like Western players and we both really respect each other.
Heroes Never Die: That was fun to watch. I did notice in your body language that you both were really enjoying yourselves.
Surefour: Yeah, and I would notice after in the VOD that I would kill him and he would look over at me and just see what was on my mind.
Heroes Never Die: Everyone saw that and we were all pretty much saying, “Yeah, these two are good.”
Surefour: It’s harder to kind of like, grow a connection with the Korean players because of the language barrier and everything. And I think the Korean players were always playing with other Korean players and the western players would play with the other western players, that kind of thing.
Heroes Never Die: I did actually want to ask about that, since you do tend to be more direct about things. The cultural and linguistic barriers between Korean and western players have been around essentially since the league started. And a lot of people have given some suggestions on how to break those down, myself included. But my way was easier said than done: just learn Korean as they are learning English. But do you really think these barriers can be brought down? Or is it something that may fade away organically with more exposure? Is there any solution?
Surefour: I don’t think there is any way to do it. Unless either the western people learn Korean or the Korean people become fluent in English. And since a lot of them have a basic understanding of English, it’ll still take them a long time to learn it.
Heroes Never Die: And there is definitely hope, especially after seeing IAM37 speak perfect English to everyone’s shock and pride.
Heroes Never Die: Okay, I’m going to get a bit more serious now, if you can believe it. Given the fact that Los Angeles Valiant has been struggling this season so far, a lot of fans now see you as the premier LA team now. Does your team, or you personally, feel pressured to be that team now?
Surefour: Um, I don’t think any of us feel that too much. We’re glad to be representing like the city we’re living in and stuff like that. But for a lot of us, it’s mostly just focusing on like LA Gladiators more than like LA. We just want to win as a team and every win and loss is kind of like, just bad no matter what or who is against. It’s just the thing with like the LA vs. LA teams, it’s always like more exciting to see how the crowd are because there’s, it’s definitely more packed.
Heroes Never Die: Oh, we go off. It’s always lit during Battle for LA.
Surefour: (laughs) Yeah.
Heroes Never Die: That’s always good to hear, as I am unapologetically a Valiant fan, but then I see the pretty purple color and sometimes go, “Por que no los dos?”
Surefour: I’m Canadian, so I’m all about cheering for multiple teams and stuff like that.
Heroes Never Die: That’s right! Where in Canada again?
Surefour: Alberta, in Calgary.
Heroes Never Die: So right now, which teams sort of surprised you in terms of how good they were and/or team that has surprised you in terms of how much they’re struggling?
Surefour: I mean, it’s kind of surprising that Valiant is struggling, but at the same time it’s not surprising because GOATS is a lot about like communication and stuff. And unless, you know, you have the comradery and the trust in each other to get past like language barriers, it won’t work. GOATS is all about trusting each other. So you can kind of see it in New York, they’re strong because they seem like a very tight knit group and like are very good.
And you see like a lot of the mixed teams shriveling in GOATS right now. It seems like San Francisco Shock has like a really good system where they have like kind of like the western playstyle; they have Super play Rein, and then Sinatra’s probably much more comfortable with that. And they just do that. And then when I have monkey, they have the other guy go. So they probably have different stuff.
Heroes Never Die: They have a system. And then even when they change up the system, they have enough of that chemistry and that trust that it can work. That seems to be the main theme this season compared to last season when it was just all about big plays.
Surefour: Chemistry is important because it’s all about being systematic and making sure because you can’t just be Zarya and get a grav off and then kill everyone. You need to wait until stuff happens, then grav, then you need your D.Va to D.Va bomb, and then your need your Rein to charge, and your Lucio to boop. If anything is missing there, it just doesn’t go correct.
Heroes Never Die: Speaking of getting things correct, one of the more hilarious aspects of your stream is how on occasion one of your viewers will accuse you of being a weeb.
Heroes Never Die: And I admit I’m not as knowledgeable as to what exactly the real meaning is since people have used it for a variety of reasons that it sort of rendered the term meaningless. So are you a weeb?
Surefour: I’m not. Unless the term “weeb” has just disappeared into just liking anime? But I remember the term “weeb” as someone who wants to be Japanese.
Heroes Never Die: Okay, that’s what I thought! I was confused because that was the definition I was more familiar with, because I like anime and I’m not a weeb at all.
Surefour: It’s not like I want to go and live in Japan and like learn Japanese, like live there and act like my life is like that. I just like cute shit and looking at anime.
Heroes Never Die: What is your favorite anime?
Surefour: Gin Tama.
Heroes Never Die: I haven’t seen it yet. What’s that about?
Surefour: Gin Tama is like a comedy anime, but then it has like serious arts where it becomes really shōnen.
Heroes Never Die: And it works?
Surefour: Yeah, it has a very cult following.
Heroes Never Die: I might have to watch it now. I feel like shifting tones would usually kill a show if not done right, but that’s intriguing to me.
Surefour: The only problem that Gin Tama that probably bars from people from getting into it —
Heroes Never Die: Oh, no.
Surefour: Is like the first 60 or 40 episodes are the ones that builds all the characters and gets all the backstory and stuff.
Heroes Never Die: Yeah, but isn’t that similar to other animes, though?
Surefour: Yeah, but it’s mostly just comedy for that.
Heroes Never Die: (laughs) Okay, that makes sense. I’ll be sure to be patient. I need new anime to watch because I found out they’re doing a live action version of Cowboy Bebop and I’m trying not to cry because I’m scared they’re going to mess up the script because it’s Netflix.
Surefour: Probably. There’s a bunch of new anime this season that came out that are really good.
Heroes Never Die: Like what?
Surefour: There’s Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, there’s That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, there’s Shield Hero...
Heroes Never Die: Whoa. What are those about?
Surefour: Both That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and Shield Hero are two of those animes where a normal person gets put into an alternate world. So the whole thing with Slime is the person dies and they’re saying their dying wishes, and those dying wishes become their skills in the alternate world.
And he gets reincarnated as a slime and it’s--his story is starting off as a monster and like building up like that. And then Shield Hero is a guy that gets summoned to a world with three other people, and one is the Lance, one is the Archer, one is the Sword, and one is the Shield. But the good thing about Shield is--so Slime is more of like the “goody two-shoes one.” It’s very interesting and has this kind of light-hearted feel to it. Shield is more in the dark side because it’s all--it’s called The Rising of the Shield Hero because at the very start, in that zone of religion the Shield Hero was looked at badly. So everyone just like shits on him and he grows to like, hate everyone. And it’s him coming back.
Heroes Never Die: How did I not hear--that actually sounds really good.
Surefour: Mmmhmm. Then Kaguya-Sama: Love is War is probably my second favorite of all time.
Heroes Never Die: And why is that?
Surefour: It’s a comedy anime, except it’s focused around like these characters from this prestigious school. And only very rich people can go to and one comes from like a modern, like medium-income family, but he tries really hard and he’s the president.
Heroes Never Die: Yeah.
Surefour: And then the other one is the vice president. But the whole point is they’re both--neither of them want to confess their love to each other. So it’s a game for both of them to see who can make the other one confessed their love. But they’re both very smart.
Heroes Never Die: That sounds like that’s going to end so badly!
Surefour: But it’s a hilarious anime.
Heroes Never Die: Well, thank you for planning my weekend; I’ll be fixing my cosplay while watching that.
All right, let’s get back to boring Overwatch. Given how different season two has been, what do you want to accomplish personally as well as with the Gladiators?
Surefour: Just want to win.
Heroes Never Die: I officially don’t understand where the snark is coming from. I’m getting easy answers, I’m getting great answers.
Surefour: Probably just depends on the questions, I guess.
Heroes Never Die: Fair enough.
Surefour: I mean, you watch my stream. You know when people go, “Here, what are your thoughts on this?” And I’m just like, “What do you mean? I’m not really thinking about that.”
Heroes Never Die: But thank you so much for this and also for the anime recommendations.
Surefour: : There’s Mob Psycho 100 and then there’s The Promised Neverland.
Heroes Never Die: Whoa.
Surefour: The premise of The Promised Neverland is there’s a bunch of children that are being raised on a farm and there’s like 25 of them ranging from six or to eight. And the whole point is when they read them reach age eight, they get sent off. They get killed by aliens because the aliens need their brains. And when they’re eight, that’s when it’s like the most mature or whatever. But none of them know that, until they finally find out. So the whole point is like they’re trying to escape and stuff.
Heroes Never Die: That sounds disgustingly morbid, but very good at the same time.
Surefour: Yeah, this season was good for anime.
Heroes Never Die: Clearly. Thank you so much again!