FlyQuest is an esports team committed to leading the gaming industry by investing in player training, wellness, and competitive research. We spoke to Nick about a number of topics from his experience in the esports space, esports player/culture development, what’s next for FlyQuest, and more. Read the full interview below!
Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Nick. For those who don’t know about FlyQuest, can you give us a brief overview of the team, the titles in which you compete, and the history behind FlyQuest?
FlyQuest is a premier esports organization owned by Wes Edens, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, a National Basketball Association franchise based in Milwaukee, and Fortress Investment Group. FlyQuest is currently one of ten franchise organizations in the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) and fields players competing in the Fortnite World Cup as well. FlyQuest has also previously fielded players in Rocket League and PUBG. FlyQuest was originally founded in 2017, when FlyQuest acquired the original C9 Academy roster that promoted from the NA Challenger Series into the NALCS.
How is FlyQuest different from other esports teams?
To sum it up best, in the years that I’ve been involved in esports, I’ve yet to be apart of an organization with such a unique vision. We are hungry to use our platform to help others and to showcase greatness. Throughout the next several months, we’re excited to unveil some of the awesome things we’ve been working on.
Before joining FlyQuest, you worked for Team Liquid, and Immortals. How, and when, did you get into the esports space?
It almost feels like I’ve been in esports forever. I originally came from the world of finance as a financial advisor. Esports was such a different beast when I first learned about it and was invited into the space and I got my first stint at Team Liquid. Being a former national level swimmer myself, I soon fell in love with the competitive esports aspect of gaming and since entering more focused on leveraging some of the business acumen I acquired, I’ve quickly doubled down on my passions as a competitor to try to develop the best player/culture development program that I’m able to.
How have you taken your past, non-esports work experiences, and used it for your current career in esports? What was easy and what was difficult about the transition?
I’ve always prided myself on being able to adapt and adjust in almost every situation. Things and skills that I’m poor at I’ve always loved learning how to be better. I used to hate the seemingly solicitous manner of my work as a financial advisor but it taught me very valuable insights into the business of relationships. I believe being able to cherish the unique journeys and interactions I’ve been blessed to experience with so many different people, acquaintances and close friends, was one of the biggest traits I was able to carry over into esports. I’ve never been shy to investing in conversations with people that sought to learn from AND with me regardless of their stature in the community/industry. Once you learn how to value and build strong relationships, learning how to manage and THRIVE as a team/group is actually not that challenging. When I jumped into esports the biggest hurdle I had was learning the business of esports, and identifying what factors and facets were the most important to hone in on. As General Manager, obviously learning the different perspectives and nuances of each esports community was challenging but I’ve been blessed to be fearless in building the right network, or family if you will, to grow and learn alongside, and what would seem like a very high barrier to entry, become much more tame over the months.
Are you a gamer? What titles are your favorite?
To be honest, I love gaming, but I’d be crazy if I was able to find enough down time to actually game much these days. When it comes to my favorite titles, I’d say I’ve always had a huge soft spot for console sports games (NBA 2K and Madden) as well as FPS titles like Battlefield and Counterstrike. I currently enjoy almost exclusively playing with friends and family, but if I were to play alone, you wouldn’t be able to drag me away from finishing another run through “Kingdom Hearts” 1 through 3 or titles like “The Last of Us”.
Let’s talk briefly about player and culture development in the esports space. How important is this to the industry, and how does FlyQuest work to further develop their players, and esports culture as a whole?
Not every organization has to focus on player and culture development to be completely honest. For every San Antonio Spurs there’s also a Los Angeles Lakers. That’s not to say either approach is necessarily wrong or right but when we envisioned the crafting of a FlyQuest standard or way of approaching competitive esports, we highly valued our ability to make a mark on players and staff. One of the biggest things I want to know is that any player or staff member that walks in and out of FlyQuest’s doors can say that they learned something, and that they grew, not just as players or staff members, but more so as people. I believe when you look at it from that lens, it’s clear to see just how important building and defining an identity and culture is. I want every single individual that joins FlyQuest to understand that he or she has a unique ability to really impact change and contribute to the mission that we have here, and that every imprint made is valuable. Without spoiling too much, because I think you guys will be really excited for what’s in store in 2019/2020 for FlyQuest, we’re working to hone in on all of initiatives and passions our players may have, big AND small, and trying to creatively find ways to support our players in giving those interests and passions a voice and a platform to really shine.
Many people debate over what makes a ‘great esport’. For you personally, what do you think makes a ‘great esport’? What are some common misconceptions?
I don’t believe you can just will an esport into existence. The product has to be great and hopefully timeless. The game needs to be enjoyable and dynamic, devoid of staleness. If a game fails to work symbiotically with its fans/players in creating a fantastic gaming experience, then there’s a lot more work to be done in that perspective. From the business model of esports organizations, obviously finding ways to monetize, whether that’s through sponsorships, investments, social media, content/videography, and of course winning, is important but even more than that we genuinely believe in the ability to tell stories and again show that players, gaming, and esports can be even bigger than the sum of its parts. Having a great model by which the developer/league, the organizations and its players can feel like steady partners in the development and advancement of the ecosystem for me, creates a really great esport.
If the learning process is stale, practice productivity just doesn’t exist. It’s hard to stay engaged in something you don’t love (I believe that’s the responsibility of everyone in involved, but mostly on the developers to create an environment where everyone wants to partner in its success). People tend to misunderstand the amount of sacrifice, commitment, and tenacity required to be a professional player and often write off poor performance as ineptness without tuning into what separates professional players from the casual masses. Esports professionals and content creators alike are some of the hardest working professionals I’ve had the pleasure of working with in one of THE LONELIEST professions I’ve witnessed and I believe that commitment to craft and expertise should be celebrated and empathized with more than it really is.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in esports since entering the space?
Esports has definitely grown a significant amount over the 4.5 years or so that I’ve been involved in the space. For one, there’s just so much more capital circulating through the industry in a variety of different ecosystems. The business of esports itself has become much more robust; so many organizations are finding unique ways to leverage their fanbases and players to engage with the endemic and nonendemic communities and it blows my mind to see all the different partnerships and activations popping up around the industry.
When it comes to the competitive side of it, I see such a positive trend in keeping up with personnel development and investment and actually treating players and staff members as people and not just product. The commitment I’ve seen at large to committing time and resources towards player welfare and growth have been remarkable. Who would have thought that in a short matter of years, that we’d move on from a team house model (that was slightly fraternalistic) to a more separated and balanced home/office set up? It’s extremely encouraging to see the boundaries being pushed to create a real sense of stability, sustainability, and professionalism in different esports titles.
What’s next for FlyQuest? What should we be on the lookout for in 2019 and into 2020?
There’s almost too many things for me to list so that’s a tough question in some ways. Again we’re walking the vision to Showcase Greatness and we want to show how powerful of a platform gaming/esports can be in the world we live in today. Look out for some of the initiatives we have coming in the next several months and follow along with our content as we hope to capture, along with the support and involvement of our fans, how amazing a united community/front can really be and all the things we can do together.
How can people get in touch with you, and how can they learn more about FlyQuest?
Specifically for me, I’m on twitter, @Swaguhsaurus, but I can be emailed at [email protected] if ever anyone wants to connect and potentially have a conversation. I work almost 24/7 so my players/staff don’t have to so I might not always have time to get to everything but I pride myself in trying to be as available and open minded as possible with no opportunities and inquiries. To learn more about FlyQuest, follow literally everything we’re doing. We’re on twitter, facebook, youtube, and instagram: @FlyQuest! I can’t wait to show you what we have coming along in 2019 and 2020!