You’ve been gaming for a long time, what is it that got you into Esports? What was the first game you started to watch competitively?
So do team games appeal to you more than 1v1 games like StreetFigher and Super Smash Bros. or do you watch those as well?
Yeah, those ones are fun to watch as well but I think there's something with a team game. Because I played football and soccer and baseball growing up and I've been around sports all my life, there's a a greater appreciation for when a team is firing on all cylinders. League of Legends especially is one of those games where an individual player can kind of take over but not really. If a team is playing better than an individual guy on the other team who's going off, then the team is gonna win, which is just more exciting to watch
So is LoL still the main game you play or have you been spending time on something else?
Actually, I haven't played League in about a year and a half or two years now. My reflexes are not what they used to be and I don't have quite the time to spend on it anymore, so right now I'm primarily playing Path of Exile. I've been playing it for quite a while, and it's super fun.
Do you still watch LoL?
I'm sure you've been following the issues that have been happening with Riot and their power over the leagues as well as what's been going on with the Renegades and Chris Badawi bans. Do you have any thoughts on that and what do you think a good solution would be to publishers having all this power? Is it even possible for a 3rd party solution to come in and delegate things?
I don't know honestly because the thing is that publishers have to approve of it, and at the end of the day they are the ones with the power. Since they're the ones making the game.
What are some of the other issues with Esports that prevent it from getting to that next level and step away from some of the negative views outsiders may have?
I think the problem we're seeing right now is just the atmosphere of LoL and Esports in general, is that it's still a very amateur atmosphere. It's not just Riot and League of Legends, you see what happened with DotA 2 and the Shanghai International (Delays, fired hosts, production issues)
The venue does not allow spectators after 9:30pm so it has been emptied, resulting in the last 3 series w/ no crowd pic.twitter.com/z3IQSSVMoA— Toby Dawson (@TobiWanDOTA) March 2, 2016
What are some changes you think need to happen to change these perceptions?
I think in terms of League of Legends specifically, Riot needs to figure out a way to sort of divest some of it's power from themselves because that will help to protect some of the teams and players and Riot itself. They need a neutral party that teams and parties can appeal to so that it doesn't seem like riot is acting capriciously. And for Esports in general, it just needs to become more professional.
Absolutely. So do you think that's one of the things that turns it off from outside viewers, or is it more of just the stigma behind vide ogames? What would you say to someone to sort of entice them to watch or convince them to watch with you?
And B, the fact that it's still kind of viewed as a game that kids play and it's not really something serious. And that's something where Riot and any other publishers running an Esports running an Esport really need to step up on If they want to expand their player base and have the best competition out there and create sense of when people watch, they feel like they're watching an actual sport.
There is a lot of pushback on the legitimacy of playing games for a living, what about Esports as a career?
Parents need to know that if their kids play Esports that it's a legit career path. There are parents who push their kids into football or baseball or whatever sport because they know if their kids do well, they can go to school for it and possibly play professionally. With Esports you don't really have that feel right now. When you hear stories of teams not paying their players, it becomes very difficult to say to parents and viewers that yeah this is a legit sport and a legit career path. There's no 401k, there's no post-career benefits, I don't even know if there are even health plans for players. All of those things need to be addressed. These are things that are taken for granted in an actual sports league and if Riot wants LCS to be considered as an actual professional sports league then they need to act like it as well.
Growing up I would have preferred to just stay inside and play video games and read books all day because I'm a huge nerd. My parents though were of the mindset that if it's light outside you need to be outside doing something, so I discovered I was also really good at sports, and I enjoyed doing sports. I think for me it's about showing that I can do something at a very high level and compete against other people and see who's better, which is at the heart of every sport. You and your competition both train and find out who's the winner who's the loser, and it's always more fun to win than lose.
I definitely think there's room for franchising in Esports because right now when you look at the history of traditional sports it really started as local organizations. The Toledo Mud Hens or the Green Bay Packers for example when that was just a group of 12 people in Green Bay. So Esports right now is kind of going through it's regional phase where organizations kind of pop-up and disappear. You have steady ones like TSM, Cloud9 and CLG that are more stable than the ones bouncing in and out, but the scene as a whole is going to start stabilizing to the point where you're going to have organizations that aren't just there for 1 or 2 years, they're their for 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, and that's another thing that Esports needs. It needs that stability so that fans can cheer for a team that in another year is actually going to be there instead of Riot saying "oh hey we're banning Renegades, Impulse, and Dragon Knights because they didn't pay their players.
Do you think it's better to have this more local setup rather than say a team of 5 players from 3 different countries that play online together or move in together in a gaming house? Not everyone wants to live where they work, and being around the same people all the time can be a bit much no matter how much you like each other. What are your thoughts on gaming houses?
I think Esports needs to move away from the gaming house idea, because again, it's amateur, not professional. One of the things football players hate is training camp because for 3 weeks, you have to stay in the same dorm as all the other guys and all you're doing is football and guys get so burnt out so quick, and that's a problem in Esports too. If you spend your entire day around these other people and that's all you do, you may like them, but eventually you're going to need time to yourself. There's no getting around it. I think it would be more beneficial for Esports to start transitioning away from that gaming house model.
I've had a couple of discussions with some people at Blizzard so I'm fairly conversant with what they want to do moving forward. It's something that looks pretty exciting and it looks like Blizzard really wants to do it right with developing Esports towards a more professional appearance. Now it's just a matter of what's going to happen. I don't think they've announced anything yet but until then it's more of a holding pattern until we know exactly what Blizzard's plans are.
Are you watching the game at all right now or are you waiting to see where it goes?
Waiting to see where it goes. One of my friends recently had a LAN party and we pretty much only played Overwatch. I bastioned the hell out of some people. Super skilled character. For me, the hurdle that Overwatch has to overcome is the fact that since it is a six person game with six different viewpoints, and it's an FPS, how is blizzard going to present that to everyone?
The thing with League of Legends is that since it's top down, you can just pan the camera around and go to the action spots, and it's fairly easy to recognize what's happening. From a first person perspective, especially if players are twitching fast and going through maneuvers very very quickly, it can be disorienting to a viewer and there needs to be a solution to that so that people who are watching have a coherent watching experience.
So, you're working on quite a few projects at the moment, can you give us some insight into those?
I don't just play video games and football, I have written a couple of books and a collection of essays. My book 'Beautifully Unique Sparkle Ponies' is very good bathroom reading, or so I've been told. I have another book I co-wrote with Andy Reiner called 'Prime: A Genesis Series Event. We are finishing up the sequel to it as we speak. I don't have a firm date but we're just about done with editing it and then we'll send it over to an agent and if no one is interested in publishing it we'll self publish. Definitely out before the end of the year and hopefully before winter.
Photos: in2lol, kdoebler, Genevieve Ross/AP Images for Ubisoft