Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Sören. For those who may not know about Complexity, can you talk about the organization, and how it has grown and adapted over the years?
Complexity Gaming is one of the longest standing and most successful esports organizations in North America, dating back to 2003. In 2017, we reached a major milestone in our company when Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and investor John Goff acquired the organization.
Since our ownership is set, we’ve had the opportunity to expand into areas that have been focal points of ours for years. We’ve made strides to improve our players’ professional well-being as well as their overall physical and mental health. By focusing on our innovation efforts with partners, we’ve been able to improve care for our athletes. We aim to be a global leader in this space, enhancing player well-being both on and off the servers and inspiring others to follow suit. We want to create the best environment possible for aspiring esports athletes as well as gaming veterans and provide them with post-play opportunities long after their playing careers have concluded.
Talk to us more about your role at Complexity, the content you’re creating, and some of the sponsorship and activations you’ve been involved in. What can we expect to see from Complexity in the near future?
I’m the General Manager at Complexity. In my role, I oversee the Complexity teams and players day-to-day activities, including involvement in content video shoots, sponsor activations, and more. I’m also heavily involved in everything from negotiating contracts to improving the overall health and well-being of our players and extending their professional careers.
Content creation is a key part of Complexity’s business and an important part of my job. Our players are involved in a number of productions, ranging from short social media pieces to full-scale behind-the-scenes documentary series to the bread-and-butter model of live streaming. We are aiming to bring transparency to our organization and shine a light on the ups and downs of everyone involved. We want to showcase the reaction and pure joy of a player winning a tournament but also the flipside when they face defeat.
Additionally, as part of my job, I’m proud to open doors for some of our players to participate in unique activations with our partners. In the past month, our Madden player, Drini, flew an Army helicopter simulator on an Army base, two of our Counter-Strike players presented a giveaway in front of 50,000+ Post Malone fans at AT&T stadium, and others came together for 12-hours of streaming for Extra Life at our HQ. Taking care of our players, creating lasting memories and experiences, and giving back are by far the most meaningful aspects about this job.
As the esports world continues to grow, expectations for the future are hard to gauge. At Complexity, we are working toward becoming a stable pillar of the global esports community. While focusing on achieving excellence in the competitive scene, we also aim to make a larger cultural impact by professionalizing the industry and taking care of our players. Aided by the resources and know-how of our partners at the Dallas Cowboys, ultimately, our goal is to evolve the industry into a truly professional sports sector. By treating our athletes like traditional sports athletes and awarding them with benefits and amenities to reach their full potential, we are already creating a new type of infrastructure in esports.
You’ve been working in the esports space since 2004. How did your career take you into esports, and what has it been like watching this industry grow over the years?
I first discovered esports and gaming in 2004 on a small German TV channel dedicated to esports and gaming culture. By 2006, before Twitch or Justin.tv even existed, I had a standing subscription to GIGA2, which later became ESL.TV to keep up-to-date with the most popular games at that time, like Counter-Strike 1.6 and Warcraft 3. My first venture into esports was in 2011, when my career path shifted from computer science to communication science. While studying journalism in college, I joined a German esports news site. I quickly worked my way up to become the head of Starcraft 2 and Heroes of Newerth coverage. From there, I transitioned to an English website, GosuGamers, to exclusively cover Heroes of Newerth. Eventually, I was hired as a staff writer for the Starcraft 2 games developer.
When I joined Complexity in 2014, I began as a writer, producing written content about the CS:GO team, which included SeanGares, n0thing, and Co at the time. Recognizing my work ethic, Complexity eventually transitioned me into a managerial role for Hearthstone. My role later expanded to include Card Games and the Stream Team, until I was ultimately promoted to General Manager to oversee all of Complexity’s teams.
Throughout my career, I’ve watched esports grow from a niche hobby to a worldwide phenomenon. It’s been rewarding to be a part of that shift, especially when it comes to the professionalization of esports on the player side.
What is “Esports 3.0”, and why is it important for Complexity?
Coined by our Founder and CEO, “Esports 3.0” is the third iteration of the esports life cycle that focuses on enhancement of player care. This particular life cycle is one that we want to lead and innovate in.
For context, “Esports 1.0” was the early stages with limited amounts of tournaments, team events or even team housing. Players would see their teammates maybe three or four times a year for the biggest events, and that was about it. In our mind, “Esports 2.0” just concluded, which was anchored by team houses and more money and attention flowing into the space. Now, we usher in the third phase, “Esports 3.0,” which is the most advanced stage yet. In this cycle, it’s no longer just about performance, but about a variety of factors that put players first.
As part of “Esports 3.0,” we are ensuring that our players have state-of-the-art practice facilities, individual luxury apartments, retirement planning, nutritional meals for optimal performance, preventative measures for injury prevention, financial planning, media training and the focus on post-play opportunities. As the manifesto on our wall states: “We are Players first, and Players always.”
What’s the best part of your new job, and what’s most challenging?
The best and most rewarding part of my new job is watching my players succeed and following along as they better their careers. Many players from my early days with Complexity have since blossomed into famous influencers within the space.
The biggest challenge for me is the team dynamics of our bigger game titles and learning how to manage different personalities and conflicting opinions. Coming primarily from a managerial background in Hearthstone and Card games, the team aspect was a minor concern. Now with CS:GO, Apex, and Rocket League, I’ve had to adapt to multiple voices and unique issues that exist in a team environment. Not everyone abides by the same schedule, has the same preferences or copes with issues--major or minor-- the same way. Though it’s certainly a challenge, it’s helped me to understand my players on a much deeper level, which makes it easier to cater to their individual needs as well as the team dynamic moving forward.
Do you have a favorite game to play?
Surprisingly, I really enjoy manager games and tycoon titles. Every year, I spend about 200 hours of game time in the newest iteration of Football Manager, both on PC and the mobile Switch version. When Riot announced their new esports titles for 2020, I was most pumped about the LoL esports manager, while everyone else was eager to play mobile LoL or even Runeterra and their FPS game.
Outside of that, the newest FIFA is always my go-to to unwind in the evening. I only play the typical esports titles like CS:GO, Dota 2 or Rocket League, when friends and colleagues want to play a few rounds. I don’t particularly enjoy playing those solo.
My favorite games of all-time, though, are Warcraft 3, World of Warcraft, Diablo 2 and the original Mafia. I played those growing up, and they’ve been a huge part of my gaming journey.
Thanks again for sitting down with us today, Sören. How can people get in touch to learn more?