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Interview

Richard Lewis "We put Counter-Strike as it should be on TV and we made people like it and tune in"

By Mark Register
Oct 19, 2017

What are your favorite player stories in CS that don't get enough attention?

You know I mean it's kind of interesting isn't it that the whole Fifflaren story kind of you know dropped off a cliff. I'm saying that particularly because Robin flies in today and I've known for Fifflaren many years you know. People don't realize what a big deal he was in Counter-Strike Source, how he was a star player. Then he goes in CS:GO and he's in the most successful team in NIP, and they have that legendary streak which will never be beaten. There will never be another 87 and 0 team. Then he is kind of deemed to be the fifth wheel. Everyone is wrecking him. You've got journalists basically using their entire platform just to criticize him. You know writing articles about one thing and then just writing a paragraph about how much Fifflaren sucks. Yeah lurppis, I mean we all know who I'm talking about. You know he finally leaves and everyone's like "God, I'm going to bloody miss that Fifflaren" and all the fans who are baying for his blood. And now he works at Twitch he's like still involved in esports and nobody talks about it. Like he's had one of the most interesting careers. When I first moved to Turner we storyboarded some documentaries, I don't know if I should say whatever... it's true, but I storyboarded some documentaries. And one of the ones I did was working title was "the fifth wheel" and was talking about for Fifflaren's career. I thought it was just super interesting.

So definitely that there was another interesting one with Mangiacapra. This is going back a little bit more. Mangiacapra the legendary 1.6 player from the UK. He was, when CGS came up, he was offered the general manager spot, he was offered to be a manager at Birmingham salvo and that would have been brilliant. You know that's job security it's certainly a lot more secure... I mean no one secure in CGS it turned out... you know you certainly more secure as a manager than you were as player. You could just get cut from a team. If you are a general manager and part of the machinery, obviously you've got a job for as long as you know? But Mangiacapra turned down that job because he wanted to win a World Championship cause he's never done it before. And they brought ODEE in as a result of that. ODEE the Dignitas founder. So he ends up being the Birmingham Salvo manager. He picked up the 1.6 team with Mangiacapra in it and they won a championship in the first year. so Mangiacapra got to achieve it so. So it's pretty cool. Pretty cool story overall and I always respected him for that. I don't know what he's doing now Mangiacapra, I think he went on to be a poker player. So yeah but I don't think he'd like me particularly which is fine. But I got a lot of respect for him and you know some cool ones now.

I wish people would focus on like some of the sacrifices that I know some players have made. I don't want to name names but I certainly think there's players out there that are estranged from their parents because of the choices they've made and they've gone pro and it's like this weird awkward negotiation. I don't know how I'd feel if parents and said we will not talk to if you pursue your dreams. You not only pursue your dreams, but you're successful doing so. Then your parents are like OK you're making more money than me now, let's be friends again let's play happy families. There's a couple of players in that situation. There's a ton of great stories out there. People don't really dig they want easy narratives. They want stuff that's like little snippets. The average fan treats esports like a pantomime. You either are a villain or a good guy and you can be that many times over and it lasts for weeks at a time. You know, I know that. One minute he's bullying somebody "he's evil he's despicable." Put a story out exposing you know something bad. "Where would we be without Richard Lewis." Three weeks later. "God I hate Richard Lewis" you know, it's the same person it's not different people. That's what's crazy about it. So yes I think there's good stories out there and people need to start telling the overacting stories because we've been around awhile now you know.

You've said that "people want icons, individuals they can look to emulate and gauge their own performance by." Who are those icons in CS:GO?

I mean, again, it's different generationally. You know right now I think FalleN, you know, is certainly iconic right. You know, not just for what he does in game having you know, but everything he's done for the Brazilian scene now. You know no icon is without flaws but certainly there wasn't really a Brazilian scene before he took it by the scruff of the neck and made a team and then eventually brought through new talent like Coldzera, you know this amazing player, pound for pound one of the best players of all time in CSGO. It all goes through FalleN right? So there isn't really a Brazilian scene, there's not an amazing SK Gaming team, there's not these amazing games like at Columbus, you know, the Luminosity Team Liquid match. All of that really propels from him so he's definitely iconic.

You know I think from a European perspective because our teams tend to be a bit more competitive. It's kind of cyclical. But you know that fanatic 2015 lineup is absolutely insane. Everybody from there you know Olofmeister, old school JW. Obviously people have their issues with Flusha but he is worthy of being mentioned in that same breath depending on what you believe. And yeah I mean you know that there's a ton of names. I think that's what's great about it. You have these players that emerge and they're like the best in the world or one of them for maybe 12 months and even beyond that is crazy. You know and when you do get those players that kind of cycle in, the new ones, it gives you like that's what continually gives the game a shot in the arm you know? And I would personally say Guardian because I've known him many years and I think he was quite possibly a contender for the best Source player of all time alongside RPK.

Other than the pay, what's the best part about ELeague?

You know, I take a sense of pride in what we're doing and the stories we get to tell. So yeah you know the best part about it for me is just that we got to put Counter-Strike which is a game about two groups of people running around shooting each other in the head and trying to plant bombs. We put that on American television and we made it super entertaining. We've told the stories about the people who did it. Everyone's bought into it and we didn't compromise anything to do it. That was the best thing about doing it the ELeague way and the Turner way. We didn't compromise anything at all. It wasn't like CGS where it's like we're going to make it shorter, we got to have more money... We put Counter-Strike as it should be on TV and we made people like it and tune in. So yeah I'm very proud of that.

You said your work defines you. What would you like to add to your body of work?

Good question. You know I what I miss is I do miss the idea of being involved of like the running of a team. I miss that feeling. I used to be a manager and a coach I've done that in the past and I miss that. You know you've got a broadcast team but it's not quite the same thing because a broadcast isn't necessarily a grueling ordeal it certainly shouldn't be right. It's not like the end of every broadcast at ELeague we all get together and go "I can't believe we made it!" you know. But but but you know I missed that feeling you know of achievement and pushing and driving. So yeah you know I think I could see myself going back to that one day. I don't know when but I feel like I've got unfinished business there. You know when I was a manager I never won a major tournament or you know a major class of tournament. You know had some near misses but. You know it would be nice be nice to be behind some players again relive my Jason Lake fantasy I had when I was like you know first getting involved in sport.

What did you learn from your time with the Burnham homeless? What social issues are on your mind now?

So very briefly I wanted to write a book about kind of homelessness in the UK and I spent a lot of time just volunteering, there's a lot of local shelters. And you can, just in general you know like go out for a night and you know where they congregate and where the social programs are. Give them you know soup, soup kitchens I think you call them in America. So I used to go out and distribute clothing or whatever it was money, food. So I used I used to do that. I wouldn't call myself a great Samaritan or anything by any stretch of imagination. You know I didn't do it for a particularly prolonged period of time. I did it as long as I was able and then I kind of tunnel in on work again. But you know I think homelessness is like one of the really shocking things about Western society. I think it's incredible that it sort of happens and having talked to a lot of people the stories are always heartbreaking. I went through a phase where I used to believe it was bad life choices that put somebody on the streets, that was the only explanation for it. But it isn't. You can literally slip through the cracks of society and you've not necessarily done anything wrong yourself. It can be something as simple as you can’t hold down a job for whatever reason and then you can't pay your rent and then you don't have a support network around you and before you know it that's that. And a lot of veterans on the streets a lot of people a lot of got mental illness. These people are you know ill. They don't they shouldn't be out on the streets. And I think what really tapped me on what was in Birmingham there was a double murder. A guy stabbed two... we have this magazine called The Big Issue. That's what you sell to make a bit of money. It's like a way to enterprise the homeless which I don't particularly approve of but it's a it is a social program. And yet there was a double murder like two guys just got stabbed and you're like wow you know that's what they're living with every day. So yes that was a big item. So I try and try and do as much as I can but probably not enough like a lot of people.

Interview
Richard Lewis
Mark Register profile
Mark Register
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief @ Blitz Esports. He was the creator of Esports in a Nutshell, led production @ the Young Turks for 5 years, and in his other lifetimes won an Oscar, recorded albums (on Spotify), and most importantly spent a summer as a SeaWorld performer.
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