Gaming’s Celebrity Anti-hero

Gaming's Celebrity Anti-hero

The western world, with its slow internet speeds and prejudices about nerd culture, is still playing catch up to Asia and the global eSports scene. In fact, they’re so far behind, that their players are referred to as foreigners even by other western commentators. But despite being seen as outsiders, Europe is a thriving eSports hub, with its own brand of celebrity culture and die hard fans.

It’s Sunday afternoon. We’re at the London Olympic park. Two years ago, this was built for actual sports and now two years later, we’re here in the same stadium watching eSports. I’m not sure it’s quite the athletic legacy that Boris Johnson had in mind, but it’s kind of ironic that there’s people in that building playing a virtual version of football. I had heard about one British gamer, who had amassed a fortune through gaming and video blogging.

And his success story was a long way away from the stoic work ethic of his Korean counterparts. His name was KSI. What the fuck? At 21, KSI had made a fortune from posting videos of himself playing FIFA in his bedroom. Aaarrr!

With over a billion views, KSI has the second most watched YouTube channel in the UK. He’s done it, lads! And today, I’ve got something slightly different for you guys. We got a Q&A with. Matt Sarah here.

Matt. Just Matt? Yeah, for now, just Matt. Okay.

Today, it’s just Matt. Let’s get on with the Q&A. What floor are we on right now? We’re on the highest floor. And so this is, I guess, some people would say a penthouse.

You can see like, literally outside of the border of London from here. Ya, you can see like the Shard, you can see a few stadiums and stuff. It’s yeah, it, the view is phenomenal.

And you’ve got like a 360 view of all of London. Essentially yeah. Wow. This is.

Where the magic happens? Not yet, not yet. Nothing’s happened here. It’s the other room actually, but. Okay, cool, cool, cool. These are all my shoes.

There’s like. Quite a lot of gold on your shoes. Yeah these are Versace’s. What are the next big purchases you’ve got lined up? Getting a jacuzzi. Really?

Yeah, yeah we’re getting a jacuzzi like right at the top. Wow. Pretty much yeah, they’ll have to get a helicopter. To pick up the jacuzzi. So you’re getting a jacuzzi, Yeah.

airlifted here? Airlifted here, yeah. So, would you call yourself a pro? A pro gamer, no, God no, God no, no.

I’m definitely not a pro player, no, no, no, no, no. no way. But still you’ve managed to kind of achieve fame with FIFA and gaming as kind of like the vehicle that brought you there. Yeah, definitely.

How did this all start? How did it all start? In my bedroom, yeah.

You know, I did a few videos here and there and eventually started getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Watch FIFA videos so you can relax. Relax. A lot of people think, to be at the top you have to be the best at a certain game or this, no you don’t, like it’s more about personality.

But how have you gone to the place where you have a giant penthouse? I’m now a brand. Like KSI is a brand. Like I have several incomes now, so I have my own shop.

I have a, I’m in a group that also has a shop. You know, I, I do music. I do acting. But, the main income would definitely be through advertising.

So, I would say through my videos and, you know, views I get, last month I got, like, 70 million views. It’s crazy, but it’s all just come about from me sitting In my bedroom just making a few peeper videos. So how many subscribers do you have? In total maybe like 9, 10 million.

So I mean you’re getting a jacuzzi air lifted into your flat. Yeah. I’ve gotta ask are you a millionaire? Yeah. I’d say so, yeah. I guess essentially I’m a 21 year old who’s a millionaire through gaming, vlogging, just my online experience, yeah.

Yo. I’ll take it. As he took me for a spin in his bright orange Lamborghini.

It was clear that KSI had earned more money than I would ever see in my entire life. KSI was a new kind of millionaire and one that we’ll be seeing a lot more of as gaming outpaces the music and film industries. I was interested in the different ways that eSports entrepreneurs could stake their claims to the massively expanding fortune available through gaming.

We had been invited to meet another larger-than-life character, a guy called Sam Matthews. Gamer, social media guru, and self-proclaimed party guy, Sam Mathews is the founding CEO of Europe’s biggest hope at global gaming success. An eSports team called Fnatic. The team were celebrating their ten year anniversary on the rooftop of their East London headquarters. If you look at our Facebook fanbase.

We had like 200,000 fans a year and a half ago. Now we have 1.4 million fans on Facebook. It’s crazy that it’s still underground when, if you look at our team, and you compare just our Facebook fans to those of the premier league. You know, we have more fans than pretty much all of the premier leagues except for four teams. And it’s like, who the hell’s heard of Fnatic?

I think that things like football, they kind of limited in their scope, whereas something like video gaming, it’s not just one sport. It’s like having a football team and a tennis team and a cricket team all in one. So as a brand and a company, that, that’s exciting because we can do interesting things with that. eSports isn’t just these geeks in a room, locked away. These guys are traveling around the world, they’ve got girls chasing them.

This is my Twitter. This is a girl saying you perhaps lost this time but you won something else. My heart.

Bae. And, and I think that’s what’s really super exciting for me is that I can see these young kids. Actually becoming superstars, and earning, like, more money than I’ve earned.

And it’s, like, it’s just insane. And actually, you know? The coolest thing is that we make a ton of products. So we have, like, water bottles, headphones, like, caps, and, like, they sell. That’s were we see the big growth opportunity, is kind of capitalizing on this.

This young, impassioned user base that, that really see this as a, as a movement, as a lifestyle choice and it’s just as much as back in the day, it might have been like skateboarding. What we do believe is that eventually, it will become much, much bigger than 90% of all sports. I really believe that.

As the sun set over Shortage, Sam Matthews took off his business hat and put on his party fedora. I like to party, I mean I like to dance, I love music so much, I mean, I’ve always been into music. I use to meet Sean O’Bay, Sam Lionel, you know been recently a lot into Tech half D pulse. And, and you know I said free booze rooftop in Shortage and people came you know. And how late do you think you guys will go tonight, like.

I don’t know there is another party going on too so I might go to that, and I think the cops might come soon because its pretty loud for a roof terrace in residential areas. You know don’t mess with the cops that is one lesson I’ll teach you guys. Because I’ve left the hard way. No. I’m joking.

Trailed by an entourage of beautiful women, Sam quickly took over the party pushing the gamers to the edge of the dance floor, and taking over the decks. He later ditched the barbecue to go to a series of after parties. Wherever there’s money, there are people tagging along just for the party.

And with all the money eSports is generating, it’s no wonder that the Lambos, the penthouses, and the groupies have been quick to follow. Sam wanted us to see his team in action so we went to the European championship at Gamescon in Cologne. With over 300,000 visitors Gamescon is the highest attended gaming event in the world.

So we are here at a place called Gamescon. It’s basically a nerdstopia. This is absolutely massive.

It’s bigger that any sporting event that I’ve ever been to. We’ve got fans of all different games. It’s like going to an NFL match, a basketball match and and football match all at once. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on here but I know realize it’s a contest to see who can masturbate their invisible penis faster.

That guy, quite smugly, just won that. He was very fast. I mean, I’m impressed.

Kind of awkward. This girl’s shark gun is a lot smaller than the other girl’s shark gun. But what we are here to see, really, is the eSports people Alliance and Fnatic are gonna play at 3 p.m. And the fans have already been there since 10 a.m. waiting for it. Fnatic and Alliance going head to head with the number one seed in the world championships on the line.

Put your hands together. We’re about to go. As far as the majority of the crowd were concerned, Fanatic were destined to win the European Cup. But their opponents and arch rivals, Alliance, had other ideas. With some of the best players in Europe, they won the first two matches With relative ease. After losing that second game, you could really see, on their faces, they were emotionally and physically drained.

Their brains have been clicking at, like, a mile a minute. One of them is almost in tears. This is their livelihood, you know?

Their, their futures and their careers depend on winning this game. Is the one that’s taking the damage, but it doesn’t matter. The reset comes, the lead goes in, goes down. It’s just Rekkles! The one man standing, oh, and that’s it!

To prevent them going out! And- Fanatic pulled it back in game three, with Rekkles leading the charge. But in the fourth game, Alliance defeated the crowd favorites and claimed their title as champions of Europe. Fnatic are dethroned! As the champions of Europe, the new kings are Alliance!

While they didn’t manage to win this time, the dedication of Fnatic’s fan base was immense and even in defeat, there was a legion of supporters queueing up to take pictures with the team. I’ve been watching Fnatic for a long time. And it’s just amazing like, the players that play so well. My heart’s still beating to this point. I made a cheerleader costume for the Fanatic team. And I cheered them even though they lost.

It is hard of course. I really wanted that win. Fnatic lost this time. And even if they hadn’t the chances on them going on to win in Asia were slim to none. But Sam Matthews had realized the bigger picture.

There were about as many Fnatic t-shirts at Games Con as there were Manchester United jersey’s at Old Trafford. And that’s the real ambition. a truly international sports brand. Win or lose, the European eSports team, is a hugely lucrative industry.

And when the real winner is the group with the biggest following, Fnatic have already won.