Interview: Rene Treur, From CS player to Olympic torch carrier

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A Dutch CS legend

Wu: This is Wu Li from gresports.com. Today we have a Dutch Counter Strike legend with us. Good afternoon Rene “liQuid^moTion” Treur! Thank you for taking our interview. Look at those esports jerseys. You must had a magnificent esports career. Could you please introduce your previous esports career to us, in early ages?

liQuid^moTion: Sure. In early ages, as a player, I was not that good. I started my esports career around 2004 when I was already 20 years old – that is kind of late to start. That was because I broke my ankle when playing soccer, and I had another big injury in the same ankle one year later. Then I just stopped playing soccer. Of course, I was doing a lot of gaming at that time. I was still recovering but I could not walk. Then I started to play Counter Strike (CS). Back then I was using a really slow game modem – the 56 game modem. But it was still fun to play online with actual people, instead of playing against AI.

Figure 2. (taken by Wu Li) liQuid^moTion’s esports jersey.

liQuid^moTion: I was hooked pretty quickly. Someone told me there were tournaments – I got a URL link to Cyberathlete Profession League (CPL). I watched NoA vs SK. It was an awesome tournament with live comment and analysis. I wanted those experience as well. Then I started to play in CS tournaments. At first, I was not very good. After a few years, it started to getting better and better. I won some prizes in Holland, but internationally it was so tough to win. I had a great match representing “Friends” against SK in 2007 KODE5 the Netherlands Qualifier. Maybe the demo is still available online on HLTV. I dropped over 30 frags against the world champion SK with walle, SpawN, allen, RobbaN, Tentpole. But Friends lost to SK, with a 6-16. Back in the day, I was ranked 1st in Holland once, and ranked 2nd or 3rd for a couple of times at some tournaments. Back then, there was no big prize money. It was just like 300 EUROs. Divided by 5 players, each player got about 60 EUROs. Sometimes players only got hardware as prize. But it was a hobby and a precious memory.

liQuid^moTion: At some points, I had to play for about 3 or 4 or 5 nights a week. I decided that it was not worth to spend so much time on CS, because I wanted to play sport again. At that time my ankle had recovered. I can not play soccer again, but I can do some basic sports to keep fit, like running. And I wanted to spend time chasing girls. So I stopped playing CS. By then I was well-known in Dutch gaming community. Sometimes I was asked to do live comment at LAN events. It was pretty funny. I started to cast some events in Holland. And I was invited to cast the 2010 DreamHack in Jonkoping. In 2011, I got invited again. At that time, I was not doing too much casting – maybe 5 events per year. It was just a hobby, not a paid work.

 

One of the ten Dutch Olympic torch carriers in 2012

Figure 3. (pic offered by liquid^moTion). liQuid^moTion was carrying the 2012 Olympic torch in Sunderland on June 16th, 2012.

liQuid^moTion: Because of the football injury, I was nominated as a torch carrier of the 2012 London Olympic Games. SAMSUNG called me saying that I was nominated. At first, I could not believe it! I asked SAMSUNG: “Is it a joke?” SAMSUNG said: “No. Not a joke. It is real. You are one of the hundreds nominees to carry a torch. If you have time next year in the summer, you are going to Sunderland to carry a torch for half a mile.” Of course, I have time; I would make time. I never thought that I could get picked among two or three hundred nominees. A couple months later, SAMSUNG had to check if all of my stories were real; if I was legitimate to do that. They asked the person who nominated me and some other people in gaming community. Then I was allowed to carry the Olympic torch. But the day I carried the torch was exactly the day of 2012 DreamHack Summer. It was easy for me to choose. I was one of the ten Dutch people who carry the torch.

An all-round broadcaster

liQuid^moTion: After 2012 London Olympic Games, I kept doing commentating job at some events. In 2015, esports started to grow a bit in Netherlands. There was a EA FIFA match in Johan Cruyff Arena before the match AFC Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven. Before the match started, there were a few couches and some Play Stations at the side of the field, and a few qualified players. Koen Weijland and Romal Abdi were coaches behind the players. These two are the esporters in AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven – the first few esporters backed up by professional football clubs. That match was broadcasted on TV, and there were 50,000 audiences in the arena. It was the first time I do live commentator job for more than 1,000 people in the stadium. I was very nervous, but it went out well.

Figure 4 (pic offered by liquid^moTion). liQuid^moTion was broadcasting the EA FIFA match AFC Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven in 2015.

liQuid^moTion: I was asked to do commentator job for a EA FIFA match before the 2017 Netherlands vs Italy friendly match at Johan Cruyff Arena. There was a EA FIFA match during the break, with EA FIFA players from Holland and Italy. I was commentator there as well. Then my name started to grow as a commentator. Back then, some people from the football world contacted me. That is why I am now doing commentator job for Eredivisie matches for AZ ALKMAAR. I am also active in esports as well. Esports is growing faster now in Holland. Esports programs are available on national TV now. There is eBattle Formula 1 on Ziggo. There is INSIDE E-SPORTS on FOX SPORTS. INSIDE E-SPORTS has DOTA, LOL, CS – I am one of the commentators for CS. There is E-Divisie, which is the digital EA FIFA league for Eredivisie with all 18 football clubs in Eredivisie backing at least one player (most of them are two or three players). Those players play against each other on a weekly basis. E-Divisie is also broadcasted on FOX SPORTS. Ziggo and FOX are engaging a lot esports now. I hope that many more Dutch TV stations would follow, together with other big companies as well.

 

Esports – a new marketing strategy for sport clubs

Wu: What a brilliant esports career! Many traditional sports leagues are incorporating an affiliated esports league, like Eredivisie&E-Divisie, NBA&NBA 2K League. How do you interpret those decisions?

liQuid^moTion: I think those decisions are big things for esports. I hope that it is gonna be a sort of gateway for popular games CS, LOL and DOTA to go on national television, and for players of those games to become big stars. At the same time, sport video games could also be the future for esports, because they have an actual connection with real-life sports. If you want to show mainstream audience about esports, games like LOL would be tough for them to understand even with live comment and analysis. Either way those e-leagues of sports leagues are good for esports, because they raise the awareness in the general population and inform big companies about the fast growth and potential in esports.

Figure 5. (pic offered by liquid^moTion). liQuid^motion was broadcasting the Netherlands vs Italy EA FIFA match in 2017.

 

Wu: 18 football clubs in Eredivisie all have their EA FIFA teams. What do they expect to get from this EA FIFA team?

liQuid^moTion: They want to fill up the stadiums again. In recent years, most audiences who come to the stadiums are old people; not much youth come to the stadiums. So this is a problem for football clubs – after 10 or 20 years, when people get too old to come to the stadiums, who is left on the seats in the stadiums? Are those football clubs able to fill up the stadiums? Are they able to sell the tickets, shirts? Football clubs have realized that they must find a way to reach the young people, to put them into the stadiums again. So, having a Dani Hagebeuk (the EA FIFA player for AFC Ajax) playing with young people would draw them to the stadiums again. It would help AFC Ajax to sell the shirts, get more fans watching the AFC Ajax movies on youtube, even it is just the esports movies. I think this scenario is happening in all European countries.

Figure 5. (pic offered by liquid^moTion). liQuid^motion was broadcasting a EA FIFA match.

Wu: It is easy to understand that a football club would back up a EA FIFA team, because the cost of running a EA FIFA team is not high. What about football clubs who are expanding into non-sport video games? For example, Schalke 04 (S04), Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), FC Copenhagen (FCK). Running a LOL/DOTA/CS team would cost too much money. What do they expect to get from engaging in esports, even many esports teams are losing money like H2K’s LOL team in EU LCS?

liQuid^moTion: It is all about marketing and branding. It is hard to calculate an actual number by such decisions. But those clubs have their own way to calculating the return of their investment, not only numbers. Backing up a LOL/DOTA team would earn them more viewership and sell shirts all over the world. Such decisions could also help some clubs to get in to new markets. For example, Asian market is very important market for teams like Manchester United and Real Madrid to sell shirts. I hope most sports clubs who own a esports team would be able to make a revenue and have patience to make it work.

Wu: Do you think this is a win-win situation for both the esports side and the football clubs side?

liQuid^moTion: Definitely, I hope so. It is a win situation for esports. Esports can get more investors, more attention. For football clubs, we have to wait and see in the next decade. But after the first few initial clubs who engage in esports, everybody is following, because the first sign is that engaging in esports works well for football clubs.

 

Can we detoxicate esports?

Wu: I come up with an interesting question. Many people label video games as a hard drug for young kids, because many teenagers play too much video games and have a bad health condition. But do you think that it is possible to motivate people to do sports by sport video games like EA FIFA? Maybe we can detoxicate at least some sport video games.

liQuid^moTion: I do not think that it is gonna be easy to get someone who is crazy about playing games, even sports games, to go outside to actually start kicking a ball. The motivation towards sports has to come from within them. If they do not have the passion or desire within them, if you force them to go out, their sports habits will not last for long. But it is still possible that games can motivate people to do sports. Nowadays, many pro-gamers, not casual gamers, have realized that the better they take care of their body, the better they perform on stage. If you play for a long time, you need to be fit and you need to keep focusing on the screen. If you do not take care of your body, having a lifestyle with no sports, unhealthy diet, then you would run out of energy when the quarterfinal is coming. By the time the grand final is coming, you are not even there. Once I was playing a lot of matches within a weekend, with only few hours of sleeping in three days. Then I realized I do need a good sleep to play well.

Wu: I know that many football players play video games to relieve stress. Do you see any chance that sports clubs could use video game as a tool in the training to help players relieve stress?

liQuid^moTion: Definitely, video games could help players to relieve stress, not just EA FIFA. All kinds of games that do not require too much physical involvement could be good choices, as long as it occupies your brain to make sure that you do not get nervous. Before big matches, players could play some games before a match to help them relax instead of worrying too much about the match. Actually, a lot of football players would bring a PlayStation when they go out for international matches. They love playing EA FIFA with their clubmates.

Figure 7. (pic offered by liquid^moTion). liQuid^motion was broadcasting the match between AZ ALKMAAR and PSV Eindhoven.

Wu: What about young players? Is it possible to use EA FIFA like a medicine to cure burnout in training? Or motivate them to play football when they are very young? Probably young kids could play EA FIFA first and then get motivated to play football.

liQuid^moTion: It is hard for me to predict, because I think the link between EA FIFA and playing football is the other way around – kids would play football and later play EA FIFA. Football is the most popular sport in Netherlands. Boys at a very young age would start to play football. KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association) and Johan Cruyff Foundation. Johan Cruyff’s dream is to bring kids from all colors and races on field and playing soccer together. So, there is a lot of Johan Cruyff courts for kids to play soccer. More and more girls are starting to play football as well, especially when the Dutch Women’s National Football Team became world champion last year.

liQuid^moTion: We do not really need to motivate the youth to play football. Indeed, kids could play EA FIFA at three years old. But I think parents would like to put their kids as outside as possible when their kids are young, because that is good for health. It is hard for me to predict whether EA FIFA can help in Netherlands. But your idea could work in other countries where video game is more popular like Germany. Young kids grow up with electronic products. So it is possible that electronic games could help young kids.

Figure 8. (pic offered by liquid^moTion). liQuid^motion was broadcasting the EA FIFA match between AFC Ajax and FC Heerenveen.

Wu: What does a Dutch professional football player’s career look like from a very young kid to an adult?

liQuid^moTion: It is very important he/she starts to play football at a very young age. There are leagues for different age groups. There are about seven leagues at different levels. To become a professional football player, you have to stand out from the rest. For example, Arjan Robben started his football career in a very small club in Bedum. Nobody would expect that there could be a professional football player from such a small club. But he scored over 50 goals every season in the youth league. Later Groningen picked up him at some point. If you are already in professional clubs, it helps of course. All big clubs like AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, they have their youth teams. It also helps young players to combine schoolwork and football together. The clubs allow them to train at certain times and do their homework at other times. I think some kids have the chance to do exams at another time than their classmates because they are pursuing a professional football career. They can still graduate from their schools.

Wu: What about the overall sport atmosphere in NL? Do Dutch people do sports regularly every day?

liQuid^moTion: Yes, definitely. Most Dutch people like to do sport, football, swimming, skating. We do not need to motivate Dutch people to do sports, because most Dutch people like it. Maybe at a very young age we need to motivate young kids.

 

Esports’ road to the Olympic Games

Wu: There is a long debate about whether esports should be a sport in the Olympic Games. Esports is now an exhibition item in 2018 Jakarta Asian Games and a medal item in 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. Do you see esports as a sport?

liQuid^moTion: This is a hard question. I have read the definition of sport. It did not say anything about being totally physically exerted – it could be either physically or mentally. You have to compete with other players – competing for prizes and getting salary. Those elements are all there in esports. In my opinion, esports is an actual sport. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) could have the same type of motivations like football clubs if they want to engage in esports.

Figure 8. (taken by Wu Li) liQuid^moTion’s 2012 London Olympic Games souvenir coins.

Wu: Yes. Many people predict that esports is the only reason for many young people to watch the 2018 Asian Games.

liQuid^moTion: Exactly. That is a way to get access to the young audiences. But the question is – Which game is good for Olympic Games? IOC always think that there should not be much blood and violence. That is a bad news for CS. We may see sport video games or Overwatch in the Olympic Games. Overwatch is also FPS game, but it is not bloody as CS. Maybe IOC would not say no to Overwatch. It is very hard to predict right now. Probably we can see esports in the Olympics in the next decades.

Wu: Do you think esports truly needs the Olympic stage?

liQuid^moTion: No. I think esports does need what is happening right now. Professional sports clubs are investing in esports, and esports is getting more attention from mainstream media. I could even hear esports contents on the radio. It is gonna help the development of esports if the Olympics takes in esports. But I do not think the Olympics stage is a must for esports.

 

Esports – a good business chance

Wu: Do you think this is a good chance for video game companies like Electronic Arts (EA)? Maybe we can see more sport video games in the future, not only basketball and football, probably swimming, skiing.

liQuid^moTion: I think that EA already have some best-selling sports video games. I think it is hard to make some less-popular sports popular by simply sport video games. If you organize massive amounts of tournaments with big prize money, definitely people are gonna play it. But are you able to make those new sports video games as big as FIFA? I think it is gonna be tough for a skiing game. I do not see myself playing skiing games except for external motivations like big prize money. Of course, I always like to play FIFA with my friends.

Figure 9. (taken by Wu Li) liquid^moTion’s esports collections

liQuid^moTion: I think the gaming industry is changing a bit in a way that game developers realize that they have to put more opportunities in their games for actual companies to advertise the product like in EA FIFA, there is commercials for actual companies – those companies pay EA a lot of money. I think this trend could go into other types of games as well, maybe in GTA and any kind of free roaming games. You could get actual commercials or billboards in game for brands like adidas. I think we are gonna see more and more of that in any type of game.

Wu: Can we say this is also a good chance for traditional sports brands like adidas? Like selling more adidas EA FIFA shirts?

liQuid^moTion: Definitely it is.

You can read more about esports on GR Esports.

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