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‘Competitive gaming requires as much focus as Formula-1 racing’

This week, for the first time in their existence, members of the Erasmus eSports…

For people who have never heard of it, explain what League of Legends is in one minute.

Jan-Willem: “It’s a five-against-five ‘MOBA’ online game…”


Alwin: “Multiplayer Online Battleground Arena. The gaming arena is always the same, but you influence what happens there. The objective of the game is to destroy the opponent’s nexus, a structure at the core of the opposing team. Do this, and you’ve won. To be able to win, you have to collect gold and destroy towers. It’s by far the biggest game in the world with more than 120 million players. It’s especially big in Asia, and maybe Fortnite is a bit more popular in Europe.”

Alwin Knop, Jan-Willem van Wingerden and board members Charlotte van Deusen & Esra Balaban. Image credit: Elmer Smaling

“We just had to make sure we didn’t die, and Jan-Willem would do the rest.”

Alwin Knop

There’s a lot of money involved. Do you believe it’s also an elite-level sport?

Jan-Willem: “I think it is. You can compare it to chess, it’s intensive mental exercise, but then played on a computer. Every step you take in the game has thousands of different possible outcomes. And you’re playing against an opponent, so you have to consider the following: what are they thinking? What’s their strategy and how should I counter it? The further you progress in the game, the more important it is to think and plan in advance.”
Charlotte: “What you definitely have to do is not tilt right away.”
Jan-Willem: “That’s a poker term for when you sometimes have a run of bad luck. You get stuck in a state of mental confusion where you want to do your best, but you make poor choices because you want to get back on the winning track too quickly.”
Pepijn: “That’s why you have to be very careful choosing your team. In fact, you’d almost choose someone based on their personality rather than on their skills. You have to rely heavily on your teammates to get through the game.”

Was it easy to qualify for the World Championship?

Alwin: “In the final we played against Eindhoven. They’ve sort of become our archrivals.”
Jan-Willem: “It was relatively easy. We only lost once and that was because of stupid mistakes, but we played with a lot of confidence.”
Alwin: “The big reason it was so easy was because Jan-Willem went on a one-man rampage against everyone else. He’s really in a league of his own. We, the other players, just had to make sure we didn’t die, and he did the rest. In the end we won the final 3-1.”
Jan-Willem: “We went crazy. We were so happy!”
Charlotte: “And then we were going to Taiwan.”

Image credit: Elmer Smaling

“I play 55 hours a week. In order to do that, I put my study on-hold for a year.”

Jan-Willem van Wingerden

How much time does it take to keep performing at this high level?

Jan-Willem: “I play in the German ‘First Division’, that’s the second-highest level, so I’m not a real professional. Professional players aren’t allowed to participate in the World Championship. In our division we’re looking at 40 hours a week of solo training. I also have three hours each evening, five days a week, for team training. I’ve temporarily suspended my studies in Sport Marketing and Management for a year to make time for gaming.”
Friso: “I used to spend around 25 hours a week when I played at a semi-professional level, but I’ve really cut back. Because of my studies I don’t have as much time for it anymore.”
Alwin: “I do play a lot more, but I’m not quite as talented as Friso and Jan-Willem. I do enjoy it a lot, it’s a hobby.”

What’s going to happen in Taiwan?

Alwin: “It’s going to be massive. We’re going to play in a stadium in front of ten thousand spectators. It’s kind of like Ahoy, but bigger. The hotel for players is a skyscraper in the city centre.”
Charlotte: “We fly to the capital Taipei and from there we take the bullet train south. We’ll travel around 480 kilometres in just 90 minutes. In Khaosiung the other teams are also staying in that enormous hotel. Everything is paid for by the sponsors.”
Alwin: “We get to experience all of this even though we’re not really terribly good. In a few years when the market is fully developed, you’ll probably see the very best players at the best venues. For us, this is a really special opportunity.”
Jan-Willem: “Some countries are much better.”

Does this mean you have no chance of winning?

Alwin: “No, there are also countries that aren’t very good, such as South Africa and Senegal. But Korea’s team, for example, was last year’s world champion and now they’re playing professionally.”

How high do you think you’ll place?

Jan-Willem: “I think if we have a favourable draw, we should get through the group stage. There are eight or ten countries in a group and the top four advance to the next round.”
Friso: “Hopefully we’ll end up in the top 16.”

The tournament takes place on November 9, 10 and the final on November 11, by then the winner of the World Cup in Taiwan will be announced. Follow the adventures of the Erasmus e-Sports team on the association’s Facebook page. Or watch the tournament’s live streaming on Twitch.