eSports: The meaning of this sports: An interview (2/2)

“It was an incredible honor for me to participate at the Pokémon World Championships last year.”

Looking at the German gamer Heinz Heckmann, he seems to really enjoy this recent memory of 2016. In San Francisco he had the opportunity to mess himself with the best Pokémon gamers from all around the world and to escape from daily life thanks to his gaming skills on Nintendo 3DS. “It was an incredible honor for me to participate at the Pokémon World Championships last year. The atmosphere was bombastic. It is a kind of huge family event where you get in touch with people of all ages: juniors, parents, grandparents. Everybody is kind with each other.” Even if he continues underlining that there are of course also people with deviant character traits less focusing on fair play, this unifying fact seems really impressive. What sounds like a dream for a lot of gaming fans became true for him.

In the last blog post you have seen that eSports, more precisely the competitions in the field of video gaming, is an emerging domain which is more and more integrated in a sportive context. Different kind of tournaments are provided, a lot of money is rolling in this industry. The point of view of a classic sports domain is changing, our social standpoint towards this field evolves. Taking a closer look on the affection of successfully participating gamers, Heinz helps us to understand this movement with the little insight he is sharing with us during this interview.

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The trophies of the VGC 2016 in Pokémon. And our interview partner Heinz Heckmann posing with them.
Credits: Heinz Heckmann

“For winning it is important to do this with style.”

The qualification process and the holding of the world finals

The first question a newbie might have is how to qualify for a such big tournament, namely for the one and only World Championship in Pokémon VGC (Video Game Championship). “The World Championship is the biggest tournament. Before, the national, regional and private tournaments are held. On every competition you can collect points, the amount is depending on the size of the tournament. The bigger the tournament, the higher are the possible earned points. Personally, I participated at 3 regional tournaments, one in Austria, one in Germany and one in the Netherlands. In addition to that, I participated at one really big competition, the national German championship which took place in Kassel. My overall collected point number allowed me to participate at day one in San Francisco.” Excuse me, what is the meaning of day one? He explains that the championship is during for three days. At day one, all players reaching the minimum required points earned by small tournaments participate. In eight rounds, you mess directly with one competitor and get a win or defeat. The players not exceeding a certain number of defeat at this prelim day, more precisely not more than two defeats due to the high number of participants, go on to day two. But there is one exception: the players with the highest number of points collected before, like the European top 16, jump directly to day two. (In addition to that, they get the flight and hotel paid, isn’t this classy?) At the second day, the K.O. tournaments continue, except of the final rounds, which take place at day three. Sounds stressful, Heinz, isn’t it? “At the prelim, I messed with persons from Ireland, Philippines, Chile, USA, Canada, a bit of every part of the world. It was really funny. Unfortunately, I got knocked out in the next to last round as I got my third defeat and had no chance anymore to pass to day two. Nevertheless, it was worth it to participate, and in addition to that to meet the people you have only seen on YouTube before.” Talking about his tactical point of view, he gives us an important insight. “For winning it is important to do this with style. It leads to nothing to play just like all other player. This brings you apparently a disadvantage in the game, but an advantage for your mind. You have to expend more skills.”

Heinz on the left hand side is celebrated by the audience because of his extraordinary pick of competing Pokémon. In this extract he is playing his second round against Tobias at the German National Championships 2016 in Kassel.

About the income and outcome

Next, the gamer starts to talk about the participation fees. As a new company is organizing this tournament series, he has the impression that they focus more on money incomes. “Last time, I paid 40€ to participate at the regional competition in London, what is insane. In my opinion, this is not so fair for the beginners who want to try out the system and want to meet people with similar interests. It makes so much fun to take part at such a big event, but at the financial point of view it is not always beyond dispute.” Well, I thought that in this industry money is a dime a dozen, so I ask Heinz for further information. “Take a look at League of Legends, where the sponsors are slapping millions of dollars and ten thousand of people are watching the tournaments at place. At Pokémon, there are maybe about 1500 to 2000 spectators, League of Legends is way sicker. You can compare Pokémon to a regional soccer league, and LOL [League of Legends] to the premier league.”

“I am playing nearly every day, especially when I train for competitions.”

About the changes in the society, the importance of gaming in the daily life and eSports as a sport domain

Now, let’s go on to the affection of the daily life. What does gaming mean to the 22-year old gamer? “In the past, I did a lot of different sports like martial arts, dance, soccer, swimming. Overnight I had to resign all of it, as I got my formation to become a dance teacher. The risk of injury was too high to lose my job, so Pokémon turned even more important to me and has a personal significant meaning. I am playing nearly every day, especially when I train for competitions.”

Regarding the society as a whole, Heinz reflects the growing importance of eSports in the society. “Some people are living from the earnings. In Japan for example, Grandmothers are screwing the tourists with their gaming skills. Due to the rapid technological evolution eSports is attracting more and more people. The children grow up with this standard. At one point, it is really sad that people are so affected not online by video games, but electronic in general like smartphones. Sport means not only to run around in the garden and playing soccer as I did in my childhood, but also to take a seat at the computer and to do some weird stuff with it. To play with it.”

At this point I asked myself, if eSports can be seen equally to classic sports. I remember the fact, that eSports will be one of the disciplines at Asia Games in 2018 and 2022, the second biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics. Heinz has a definitive opinion towards this: “I think eSports can be seen as sports, this is why it is booming at the moment. The physical stress you have while playing soccer or complete a 100m sprint can be compared to the psychological one while playing chess or other strategic games, also like video games. The affection of the body is hardly dependent from the mindset. Taking the example of suffering psychological restraints as a burn out, both parts, body and mind, are suffering at the same time, but the psyche is the trigger. Therefore, I think you can compare physic stress to psychologic one, and see eSports as a sport.”

IMG-20170706-WA0003Impression of the VGC 2016 of Pokémon with Markus Stader (DE) and Wolfe Glick (USA) while competing.
Credits: Heinz Heckmann

“As soon as you start to play on a professional level, the joking stops.”

Sounds all positive, isn’t it?

The next question asked concerns the change of the communication with the surrounding. “I am an emotional gamer. When I play at home by myself, I also lose it when something is not working out. This is not affecting my contact with other people, as this is just a game and makes fun. I think, this is the point that a lot of people forget. As soon as you start to play on a professional level, the joking stops. This is the reason why I play in troll teams. If I played in serious teams which I took too serious, I would be sad while losing. But I do it because I enjoy playing, because this is my hobby, my passion. You have to know if you want to make money of it because you are able to do it, or if you want to enjoy it. This is a really sad fact. But all in all, eSports is a cool domain, even if Pokémon is nearly small compared to other tournament systems like League of Legends. If every participant remembers that one started because you had fun with it, it is great.”

At this point, we might conclude

So, what do we pick up from this interview? eSports is an enriching domain which becomes more and more competitive to other sports domains. The impact on the participants is mostly positive and brings a lot of joy and new experiences. Of course, the persuasion of the society is changing, which has different flash points. One of them is the technological evolvement and the new possibilities in high quality gaming. Nevertheless, it depends on the individual player, if one exceeds the limits of obsession and is excluding oneself from society in a negative way.

After this pleasant interview, it is finally time to ask how Heinz’ gaming- story is predicted to be continued. “As I realized that I had no chance anymore to qualify for this year’s World Championship, I started to focus on playing with my buddies and furthermore to train for my next year’s qualification. In the end of July, I will challenge my first regional tournament in Liverpool which will be counted for 2018. Above I am really excited.” We wish you good luck!

Now it is up to you, what do you think of the position of eSports in our society? Leave a comment below!


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