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Interview

Why we do it — Michal Slowinski

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The next instalment in my "Why we do it" series, aimed at understanding and appreciating the work people put in behind the scenes in esports, is here. This time we are getting to know Michal Slowinski, League Ops at ESL, who is one of the key people who bring us non-stop Counter-Strike.
So, what does a days work look like as “League Ops” at ESL, as your Twitter bio describes it? What is your role during matches and outside of matches?
As a member of the League Operations team, I am responsible for overseeing all the professional CS:GO competitions that we have at ESL (ESL One, ESL Pro League and Intel Extreme Masters). Alongside the events, my main focus is on preparing the best I can for the next tournament that we host. This involves a lot of planning and working internally with other departments like our TV and IT departments. Creating schedules, improving rules, testing hardware, hiring and training referees and writing information guides is all part of the planning phase before each event. Evaluating the previous event is another key part of the event planning, to make sure we eliminate any problems we might have had. I also coordinate online qualifiers and deal with the day to day operations of the ESL Pro League. Working on ESL Pro League includes tasks such as maintaining and improving the rules, creating schedules and resolving disciplinary matters.

During an event, my job basically requires running the actual tournament. This includes tasks such as helping teams to set up, making sure matches start on time, enforcing rules, applying anti cheating measures, coordinating my referee team, resolving any technical issues, controlling the server and working with other departments (TV, Player Management, Travel etc). An incredible amount of work goes into creating a successful event and there is definitely much more to it than what I outlined.
What first got you into esports, before working in it?
It all started with playing Counter-Strike in Internet cafes at a very young age. I loved competing and Counter-Strike was the most popular title back in 2005. The city I was born in hosted a lot of big polish CS tournaments back in the days and being part of them got me into esports.
At what point did you realise "I want in" to the industry?
I think it was in 2007, when I realised that you could actually make some decent money just by playing games. That's when I decided I want in. There was no special moment or anything like that - I was simply fascinated by the whole idea of esports competitions. At first, I wanted to continue my "career" as a player, but then at some point my education became a priority and I didn't have that much time to carry on as a player. I wanted to stay part of esports, so I took some voluntary jobs in esports in my time off school / university and that's how I actually ended up at ESL.
At what point would you say you had your "I made it" moment?
IEM Katowice 2014 was my first big international CS:GO event and that was my official start in terms of working as a freelance admin / referee with the global ESL team on international events. That’s what most people would pick, but I think that being able to work on ESL One Cologne 2015 was much bigger for me - the event itself was absolutely amazing and I am proud to be part of the team that made it all happen.
What work, if any, did you do in the scene before that moment, whether it be for yourself, free or paid for other organisations?
In 2010, I started as a voluntary admin at ESL and carried on working with the polish office until the end of 2016. At first, it was mostly online admin work (with additional project management responsibilities) for qualifiers, leagues and online cups, but I also worked on several Polish LANs organised by ESL Poland and helped with some smaller local leagues outside of ESL. That was for both versions of Counter-Strike: 1.6 and Global Offensive. I also had a brief spell as a team manager, but luckily that didn’t work out in the end.
What is your favourite place esports has taken you?
Esports has taken me to a lot of great places. I visited Sydney, Barcelona, New York, San Francisco and many other beautiful places, but in terms of events - there can be only one answer. ESL One Cologne 2015 - best CS:GO event ever, no doubt. IEM Sydney 2017 came close, so I can not wait to go back there at the end of this month!
What is your favourite aspect of the scene/industry?
Attending the actual events hosted all over the world is probably my favourite aspect of the industry for several different reasons. I get to travel and visit new places, which is something that I always wanted to do when I was younger. I also get to meet a lot of new great people, which this industry is full of. Most of all, I love seeing our events filling entire arenas,creating an amazing atmosphere. I get goosebumps every time I go on stage and it’s an amazing feeling to be a part of it.
If you could make all fans who watch the tournaments understand one thing about your job that most don’t know, what would it be?
I wish fans realised that our job is not as easy as it sounds. We have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders and our work - when done well - usually goes unnoticed. People don't realise how much work and how many hours we have to put in to making sure everything is 100% as it is supposed to be, and even then something can simply go wrong, without anyone's fault.
In your downtime between events and work, what else keeps you going other than esports. For many of us it is both work and pleasure, are you like those of us who spends their time off playing or do you get away from it all with other hobbies?
I am currently occupied with work 90% of my time which is something that I am trying to change. I have this thing that once I start something, I have to finish it as soon as possible and I need to get rid off that. In my off time, I try to spend as much time as I can with my beautiful girlfriend and every now and then I play few CS:GO ranked matches!
Michal Slowinski

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michau9_

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