By popular request, you guys wanted the full sjokz interview. So here you go!
Mukamuck: So you have a history in e-sports as I gather. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Uhm as for way back I used to play unreal tournament 1999 back in…let me count. 12 years ago, man I am old. Anyway pretty much all I did was play UT and go to school, was in a clan, attended several Lans, made it to the Belgian national team and we won the nations cup, but “eSports” was not at all what it is now. As for eSports as it is now I started writing for SK Gaming in march of last year, and then started doing a weekly news update video for them, “Summoners Recap”, then got the chance to do video interviews at offline events for SK and CyberSportsNetwork, and I did that for about a year until I started working at ESL/LCS in February.
Mukamuck: Random spinoff question, what does SK stand for? I’ve never seen it written out
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Oh SchroetKommando*. It is German. It is like something army something I think. The founders came up with it.
*Schroet does not have a direct translation. So Schroet Commando is about as close as we can get.
Mukamuck: I could tell it’s german. I’ve been taking german the last three years. Anyway, How far do you think eSports has come, and how far do you think we still have to go before we’re being playing in sports bars or something to that degree.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: I think especially the development in the last couple of years is remarkable, and one of the best ways to see that is production value for big events and the crowd that tunes in. Hand in hand with that, I think we should look at the mainstream influence eSports is starting to have. What I mean is that more and more people see it is a viable career option, not just pro gamer as that is a small % and of course the absolute dream, but coaches, managers, video editors, entrepreneurs, writers, everything. And as for bars, the Dreamhack finals are broadcasted in bars in Sweden already and we have several barcrafts, and games are broadcasted on television in Korea. So if that is an indicator. I think it is a huge sign, as well is big sponsors coming to the scene. Adidas, Dr. Pepper
Mukamuck: I knew games were broadcasted on the tele in Korea, and that was going to lead up to my next question. How long would you think before we start seeing that in more places like the US?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Hmpf that is a hard question. If you look at the numbers League of Legends broadcasts pull it tops a lot of the numbers a lot of shows on television get as it is.
Mukamuck: I’ve seen the numbers they are indeed impressive.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: But, I don’t think that should be the goal per se, I don’t think eSports should want to be “a show on national television” or this or that. Just grow step by step, and making the sport respected by a bigger and bigger audience by step-by-step upping the ante, and then the rest will follow. And I think League of Legends in particular is doing a tremendous effort. You see the production rooms for events like All-Star or even the weekly LCS, as well as the thought that goes into developing storylines and the support giving to athletes. There’s no denying riot games is doing a lot for eSports. Creating the LCS especially.
Mukamuck: Well LoL is a very popular game. I remember I went to get new glasses, and the ladies behind the counter were talking about it. It was then when I realized, just how big this game was.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Yeah it is true. When we were in China I never expected people to recognize us, and then all of a sudden you hear someone yelling “oh my god Phreak Phreak!!!!” It is stupefying really that we, but especially the players, are absolute stars. And that is a great thing but also dangerous. Tons of attention, spotlight, a decent amount of money. Like football stars, it is a whole new lifestyle and they have to cope with it.
Mukamuck: So you went to China for the all-star games right? Were you surprised by the outcome?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: I have to say I went there knowing that it would be big, but just the stage alone and the venue absolutely blew my mind. I mean if you watched it, it looked nothing short of a fantastic show with top-level entertainment and competition, and it is very important for all of us being on the show to be professional and give good insights, analysis and entertainment, the whole picture. And the place filled up in no time, 8000 people, unbelievable. Actually comparable here in Europe to IEM Katowice, and the LCS Lille France event.
Mukamuck: That’s a lot of people live to watch e-sports.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: And even more on stream. I mean for myself one of the things I like doing the most is getting some snacks and watching a high level league of legends match, and even more a league of legends show with great commentators and everything falling into place. And I think that is a great achievement that there are so many people around the world who want to do just that.
Mukamuck: Indeed. So going back, you’ve been in e-sports for about 12 years you said. What was your most memorable moment through all this?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Gosh I wouldn’t say twelve years. I would say about three years of intense playing from 1999-2003, and then took a huge break during college because of no time and no decent computer so I just played Playstation. Anyway for me personally I think both the All-Stars event and LCS Lille. For me personally Lille more because I got to be on the stage and you feel the huge crowd reacting to everything. Like when a player hovers over Teemo and you realize there are 4000 people here screaming the name of a character in league. Thats pretty amazing, and in particular the ex-Wolves winning against EG. That match, on that stage, it was just perfect!
Mukamuck: I’m going to need to go back and watch that Vod then. I didn’t get to that one
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Its a great match very back and forth, can’t watch everything though!
Mukamuck: So, breaking into eSports. What game would you recommend to the standard gamer? Somebody who has been playing games for a long time and is most likely familiar with a large number of genres.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Well I don’t want to seem redundant here, but League of Legends. Take myself as an example, I played FPS and Playstation and literally all kinds of games. Yes even the Sims shame on me. And I was really, really out of it. But it was really nice to get into League of Legends, with the help of some friends who played already of course. And at the same time there is a long learning curve. I’ve been playing for over a year and I’m still a scrub a lot of the times and feel I have so much to learn.
Mukamuck: I had effectively the same experience.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: That and its so fun are great factors, and okay I’m also a sucker for the amazing characters and the Yordles.
Mukamuck: It’s nice to have friends there to help you learn in the beginning. I’ve been playing since 2011 and I’m still a noob.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Yeah it really helps. I also sometimes get to play with Krepo or nrated now, and when they talk about the game its just like mind = blown. Thats why I also prefer streamers who explain a lot. You learn so many things you didn’t even think of.
Mukamuck: How would an amateur team be most likely to break into the pro scene.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Following the paths that Riot is setting out to become pro, so effectively to getting into the LCS. The amateur scene is getting more and more developed and so are the paths to pro. I know people have critiqued it a lot but for example for Dreamhack there are huge brackets of teams going for it, and teams like Sinners Never Sleep effectively without sponsoring for the most part made it into the LCS and get a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel and dedicate their time to being a professional player. It is up to them to make it happen.
Mukamuck: You don’t need to be sponsored to be good at a game is the good part.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Absolutely, but it helps of course, and a team that makes it into the LCS also realizes that it is about performing but also building a personality that will let you be remembered later.
Mukamuck: So on the topic of sponsorships. Do you think we’ll see more sponsors from outside gaming hardware? Like maybe a pillow company sponsoring TSM?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Great examples are TSM or Snoopeh for instance, they are brands. Of course that is not everyones’ wish but it shows that they are thinking about the now and the future. And yes I absolutely think so, it is happening already and I think there will be more and bigger to come. If League of Legends is filling up stadiums and concert halls, a marketer knows to jump on that. Everything around the game is becoming more professional as well. Like the stuff Machinima is putting out for example but there are a lot more. Everything and everyone is evolving with it, because we as viewers want more more more! More of our stars, more stories, more competition, and that’s so cool. I mean, what was it, 10,000 people watching hotshot taking a nap. I can’t remember but things like that.
Mukamuck: It really was, but on the topic of sponsorships. how long would you say before we see like, “Mountain Dew Game Fuel: LoL”?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: If I follow the evolutions we have been seeing, I would guess it wont take longer than a year, and I think not even that long but I am not an expert of course. It is all so interesting, and I love this aspect of all of this.
Mukamuck: I do as well.
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: That its a web, its marketing and economics and sponsors want the people that represent them to have the values they want to show, and of course the values they want to keep and gain customers. It is so intriguing, but I think more and more players grasp that as well, but as the scene grows there are also bad seeds of course. And managers who just want a piece of the pie and dont care about the rest.
Mukamuck: One final question. How you would you place an argument for e-sports being compared against traditional sports?
Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere: Hm. I think if you look at the intensity of practice, the goals and money that is at stake, the crowds and the pressure the top league of legends athletes are under, the pressure of landing a Shockwave that will determine your team getting into the LCS and secure your future is nothing short of the pressure a football star is under having to kick the final penalty to bring home the title. That and the scene as a whole is becoming more and more professional every day. I also think we should be proud of eSports. That it is eSports that is getting big, and we should set our own goals to get better.
And thus, the interview ended.