Why I Play: Justin "Maseter" Raiff
November 2, 2023
By Nathan Mader
After four years on the pitch playing Ohio State Rocket League, Justin “Maseter” Raiff now finds himself watching from the sidelines, although this time with a brand-new role.
The computer science and engineering graduate from Mason, Ohio, made himself a staple of Collegiate Rocket League during his time at Ohio State, qualifying for the Eastern Conference in seven out of his eight semesters. Now, he hopes to replicate the same success and experiences as the head coach of the Rocket League Premier team.
“The transition, I would say, could not have been any smoother going from player to coach, and it’s kind of reminiscent of the fact that you see a lot of coaches in professional Rocket League be former pro players,” Justin said. “It’s a really common pipeline.”
Justin said as a player, he often found himself at a mechanical and speed disadvantage, which forced him to play the game with a smarter, more analytical approach. As a player, he’d already taken a makeshift coaching role for his team, so he said the new position came easy.
“I guess it’s the work smarter, not harder thing where I don’t have all day, every day, to put in the hours,” Justin said. “But I do have a decent brain on my shoulders and an ability to look at replays, so I’ll use that to my advantage and then work on the stuff that I know we can work on.”
Justin said he’s been playing video games since he was a little kid, starting with Pokémon and his Wii before moving on to Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Destiny throughout grade school.
Justin said he considered going competitive in Call of Duty Black Ops 3 until a friend convinced him to get Rocket League on the Xbox in 2016. He said the unique physics and gameplay made it unlike anything else he’d played and very satisfying.
“We got it on release day, and then basically just fell in love with it immediately,” Justin said. “I played casually up until probably really late 2016 when I started to really get into it — ended up getting a PC that year, so I started taking it a little bit more seriously.”
A major factor in Justin’s early Rocket League was a major sunken chest surgery in the winter of 2016, and he said he went through a long period without being able to move around much or lift anything over five pounds.
“I got a laptop for Christmas, and I was like, ‘Alright, we’re getting Rocket League on this thing, and we’re going to town,’” Justin said. “I played Rocket League all day, every day for a few months, and then that’s when it really developed.”
Justin said afterward, he began talking to some Ohio State players in his ranked games, and after deciding to commit to Ohio State, the opportunity to do esports in college almost fell into his lap.
Throughout college, Justin knew he wanted to prioritize his CSE degree and always had a healthy, fun relationship with Rocket League. Justin said playing in CRL was the biggest stage he knew he’d compete on, but he stayed with the game because of the people he met along his journey.
“I think a lot of the reason I stuck around in this game, in general, is because of the community of people that I built around it. Whether that’s people from OSU or just people that I met in the collegiate scene, everybody’s kind of in a similar place in their lives that’s competing,” Justin said. “You tend to get along really well with a lot of these people, especially if you’re playing them multiple times in a season.”
Justin said Ohio State was special to him because so many players were so close in skill, so they were already friends before becoming teammates. Now, as a coach, he wants to help foster the same positivity in the next generation of players both on and off the field.
“I have a lot of things that I’ve learned over the years that I can kind of pass down. Being able to share that experience and wisdom is really, really fun for me,” Justin said. “I’ve also been on the student side of things, and having so recently been through that whole school process, I’d like to offer myself as more than just a Rocket League coach to these guys.”
While Justin now works for a startup company doing project management, he said his collegiate Rocket League experience has had a massive impact on him.
“It’s like a six-year experience in growing, so there’s no way I could capture it all in one interview or one article, but if I could go back and do it all again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”