When you think of people competing in video games, you’d be forgiven for not immediately picturing budding entrepreneurs and internet personalities who can command large audiences and monetize them effectively. There are a few exceptions though: Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag and Carlos ‘ocelote’ Rodríguez with 100 Thieves and G2 Esports, for example.
While Call of Duty pro Anthony ‘Methodz’ Zinni isn’t ready to lay down the controller just yet, he’s subtly building a brand that he not only hopes becomes bigger than himself, but supports a cause near and dear to his heart.
Building clothing brand Better Days Ahead with his co-owners Brandon Cansler and Will Donovan is not only a means of producing a streetwear line that anybody — not just gamers — would love to wear, a healthy portion of revenues generated are donated to charities that support mental health awareness.
It’s typical, especially in the Call of Duty esports ecosystem, for professional players to take advantage of their in-game name, which can be seen as a brand they’ve been building for years, to sell self-branded merchandise to their fans. That’s not the case with Methodz, though. Dexerto spoke to the Toronto Ultra player to delve into the decision, why he’s so supportive of mental health causes, and whether he may follow in the footsteps of other players-turned-entrepreneurs in the future.
Better Days Ahead
“I never really wanted to do Methodz merchandise but I always wanted to be involved in clothing in some aspect,” he told Dexerto. “I wasn’t just going to make a shirt that says ‘Methodz’ and sell it and make money from people, that’s not what I was looking for. Better Days Ahead was started by my friend, Brandon, that I met back in Call of Duty: Ghosts. They did two drops before I came on board but I was always watching from a distance. The mental health aspect resonated with me and ‘Better Days Ahead’ are three words that my dad has always said to me whenever something’s going wrong. I just love what it stands for so I called them up and I said ‘I have to get involved, I want to become an owner. What can we do?’ And now, as you can see, we’re making some headway.
“I joined in October of 2020 and I wanted to take it to the next level. I think mental health and gaming is this unspoken thing that has a huge stigma around it and, especially as a player, it’s pretty scary because people who don’t really understand it could see you as a liability if you were to come out and say ‘I suffer from anxiety or depression.’ This is my way to subtly support mental health and also give back to the mental health community. We give 10% of our profits to a mental health charity for every single drop we do and, importantly, we create dope sh*t!”
Discussions around mental health struggles and just how widespread and varied they are have multiplied drastically in recent years, with seemingly everybody being more relaxed in their willingness to discuss their experiences. While there may still be some people who believe expressing such difficulties and illnesses is a sign of weakness, Methodz and his co-owners have seen support from prominent players and other members of the Call of Duty community grow alongside their efforts with the Better Days Ahead brand.
“I’ve had a few players come out and admit that they struggle with certain things as well,” he said. “Even though a lot of my friends don’t struggle with mental health, they still support us and promote the brand. They’ve bought the stuff and that’s super special to me. With my peers, the fans, the organization owners, the managers, the players, there has been an outpouring of love and support which we’re super grateful for. I just can’t wait to keep growing because we’re truly just getting started and I think there’s a lot to be done and a lot to teach.”
As established earlier, some gamers exit the server for good in favor of trying some new. While creating content and streaming seems to be the natural path for many to follow, some aspire to build something that just may end up being bigger than themselves and help to grow the very industry that helped them establish themselves in the first place. While, as Methodz told Dexerto, he’s not ready to call it a day in terms of competing just yet, that doesn’t mean he’s not been closely watching those that have gone on to do great things in their next chapter.
“I’ve always had this dream of owning businesses,” he explained. “I’m definitely inspired by Nadeshot and what he’s created with 100 Thieves, he went from being a full-time player and content creator to becoming a full-blown CEO. I come from a place where I’m — at least I like to think — pretty good on social media and I’m decent at marketing, I’m always anxious before every drop, but excitement is probably the overwhelming feeling I get. My co-owners and I all put a lot of time into the company.
“Better Days Ahead is not a gaming apparel brand, we think of it as streetwear. My involvement makes it relevant in esports but it’s not necessarily built specifically for the industry. We just partnered with Anxiety and Depression Association of America so that’s super dope for us to be able to be recognized; we want to eventually be seen as a big global brand supporting mental health and, obviously, the gaming space is our main market right now because of my involvement but we’re doing our best to grow it organically.
“If somebody in the scene talks about mental health I’ll always try reaching out and offer our clothing, like Mitch Marner [an investor in Toronto Ultra parent company OverActive Media] was rocking a Better Days Ahead shirt in an interview. It’s awesome having good friends and supporters who are willing to represent such a good cause.”
Methodz is known for his aptitude to entertain others outside of facing off against his fellow competitors so, as fans of his may well expect, they can expect that to be an avenue he explores once he’s ready to move on. With his goal of building and owning multiple businesses, and the valuable experiences he’s already accruing while working on Better Days Ahead, the sky may well be his limit.
“I’m a big food guy, so I definitely see myself being involved in some adventure there a while down the road but, for right now, I’m still focused on competing,” he assured us. “As soon as I’m done competing, that’s when you’ll see me do a deep dive into full-time content, working behind the scenes, and figuring it out from there. We’ll see where it goes. At Better Days Ahead we’re still pretty new to this, we’re not sitting there having meetings pitching to venture capitalists just yet!”
Better Days Ahead’s latest drop is poised to be released in the coming days, with 10% of the proceeds — as per usual — being donated. Methodz and his colleagues are working with new manufacturers and distributors to further improve the entire experience for those who choose to support the brand and, subsequently, mental health initiatives.