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Barroi on coaching: “For one, I am now absolutely sure that your main tasks as a member of the coaching staff are purely psychological.”

Volamel 2020-01-06 07:21:27

Before heading the charge into the world of statistics early on in Overwatch’s competitive history, Dennis “Barroi” Matz debated over studying for a degree in either astrophysics, psychology or computer science⁠—before settling on artificial intelligence. And if that doesn’t tell you what kind of person he is, I don’t know what will.  Soon enough, he found himself bored with too much time on his hands and before moving abroad to Japan to chase his master's degree, Barroi fell into the world of esports. There he created one of the first in-depth statistics websites for competitive Overwatch, and pioneered many statistics that are cited and quoted to this day. Consulting and working with teams from all across the world, his name started to circulate the scouting dockets before the Toronto Defiant signed him for their freshman year in 2019. In a tell-all interview with Esports Heaven, Barroi reveals how he ended up as the analyst for the Toronto Defiant, his entry into esports with League of Legends, and the thought process behind creating
I know your history in esports goes back a good deal, could you talk about your first experience with esports? My very first experience with esports was back in high school when League of Legends was getting bigger and I started to learn about those mysterious South Korean pro gamers that were pop stars in Korea because they were StarCraft gods. One of my school mates was into StarCraft, but at the time I really knew nothing about it all, everything was hidden behind a layer of mystique. One day we went to a computer convention in Hannover because another friend of mine got free tickets for us three. I was super hyped to go, since I was heavily into computers and coding and all that jazz, but when we arrived that StarCraft guy had other things in mind. As it turned out that convention, CeBIT, had a StarCraft tournament with some of the best players in the world attending, so he desperately wanted to go there. And me in my “nerd making fun of even nerdier nerds” mindset obviously laughed at him. I did not watch a single StarCraft match that day, [I] made fun of him all evening long. In German we have an idiom for this, we call it “Trick 17 mit Selbstverarschung”, it’s when you try to make a fool of someone else but fall into your own trap. Well, looking back at that moment more than half a decade later is certainly ... something.   Do you ever regret not embracing esports when it was first introduced to you back at your trip to CeBIT while you were in high school? I don't regret not embracing esports for what it was when I was in high school; I think it's best not to regret your past whether it was good or bad. I am thankful that I can be a part of it now and maybe I needed a few more years. Tell me the story of your trip to Korea for League of Legends Worlds -- with KT Rolster and TSM. What did that event mean to you? OGN Champions Summer 2015 was the first esports event I ever attended. At that time I was a mega Korean League fan, to this date, my Twitter bio reads “Worshipper of Koreans” and it could not have been more true, especially back then. I was super pumped; it was the first time I ever got out of Europe. I flew to Korea only for that. It was the big traditional clash of the giants of SK Telecom T1 versus KT Rolster. Well, SKT beat KT in a super dominant fashion, but I got a KT Rolster scarf, so I was happy. It was a worthwhile experience to visit a country where no one speaks English, Taxi rides are more adrenaline-inducing than being on a rollercoaster and which is the Mecca of esports. The fun part of the story starts later that year.  I went to Paris for the group stage of Worlds, well knowing that this might be the last year I am heavily following League. Each day you could take pictures with the teams of the group that had off that day. So at one point it was time for the group of KT and TSM. I decided to cheer for KT since my favorite team, CJ, as expected did not make Worlds and I had a KT scarf! Since I was already there, I was okay with letting myself become part of the full plebdom and take a picture with KT. So there was a huge line… for the other teams, I think Fnatic was in the same group, so obviously a team with Frenchmen. Not a lot of people were going to take a photo with KT and I was the last person to do so. When it was time for it, I was positioned in the middle of the KT players and asked if I was ready. That’s when I pulled out my KT scarf and all the players went “wooow” because I was the only person to have one. That was undoubtedly a really cool experience, so I took my bag, got my phone back and wanted to leave.  But that’s when one of the Riot staff members said “ehm, do you want to take a picture with TSM now as well?” TSM were stood right next to KT, and I was like “Ahh, no, not really,” I had no interest in western teams after all. But he replied with “Oh well since you are here you’ve got to take one with TSM now”, so I was like “O-ok ... I-I guess.  And while I was not that much of a [jerk] to take the KT scarf with me on that picture, I couldn’t help but leave the TSM players with the words “I hope you lose to KT tomorrow”, which they did. After that, they also pressed a TSM wristband and mousepad into my hand. Getting all that TSM stuff I neither asked for nor wanted is still one of my favorite personal esports stories. What was the thought process when you started Why did you do it?  My time in League was ending and simultaneously Blizzard said they created a new game especially focussed on esports, Overwatch. So I started to get into it a bit, played some ladder, watched the first matches. But after a while, I thought it was a shame that there were no statistics available for the matches. I waited a couple of months but nothing changed, I knew that Blizzard would take care of that eventually, but I thought someone else would jump into that niche first. No one did and I was a big fan of (OE), a stats website for League of Legends. I just wanted to play around with numbers, so I started to just track things myself in my local database and at some point, I thought “why not make it public?” I wanted it to be similar to OE so I worked on a website for a month and just tried to give users as much control over what they see as possible via filters, something that I always wanted from OE. So it was basically just because of my own interest in those things, even today most of the metrics and stats visible on Winston’s Lab are there because I at some point wanted to see them. When it came to naming the website I just thought I don’t want it to be called OverStats or StatsWatch, because every single podcast, website, youtube series [etc.] went with that gimmick. So for the sake of creativity, I once again looked at OraclesElixir, an item in the game that gives clairvoyance (you start to see invisible objects).  Similarly, stats can give insight into things you didn't know of. So my brain just went like “thing that is in the game, that can relate to stats” -> “relate to science” -> “Scientist” -> “Winston” -> “Winston’s Laboratory” -> Winston’s Lab, easy! That did not take that long, to be honest; please content creators of this world, don’t use boring names anymore - think for a bit. And to be fair people started doing it; we now have podcasts like Tactical Crouch and not another OverTalk.     How did you find your way to the Toronto Defiant? Last season I did not want to join a team for several reasons, but things changed so I decided to at least consider and have an open mind for it. So at some random day, Bishop sent me a message apologizing for disappearing so suddenly. Bishop has been a friend of mine for a long time and we somewhat worked together in the past. So we started talking a bit, he was gone for a while, I was kinda gone for a while (living in Japan) and now we both were beginning to get back into [Overwatch.] So I told him that I might join a team for Season 2. One thing came to another and revealed that he is the head coach of Toronto. Surprisingly enough, while I never put out a statement publicly or even privately that I was open to the idea, I actually got offers from a good amount of teams. But in the end, I had multiple reasons to join Toronto, working with someone I already knew and respect and helping to build a team from scratch being some of them. For a good portion of last season, the Defiant were a fully South Korean team. How was it working in that environment? As someone who openly claims to be a “Worshipper of Koreans” would you say this is a dream come true? If you know me, you know that this is certainly another major reason. Being a foreigner on a majority Korean team is something that I can not say I ever dared to dream about. I simply thought that this isn’t really possible, I personally know no previous top tier team in any esport where this occurred. You get Korean players and coaches joining Western teams, but the reverse I have not seen yet. So I just feel honored to be one of the few who actually did it. You can’t understate how pumped I am to put everything I have into this team. It is a huge motivational factor for me. I also get to learn Korean, which is something I always considered but never pulled off. Even though it might not be a necessity, I really want to learn the language now and living with other people who mainly speak Korean is a huge opportunity to do it. For all of my esports life, I have been following mainly the Korean scenes. Whenever I watched western teams I thought they were clearly worse. Those games were unwatchable to me because it hurt to see so many mistakes. That was the case for early League of Legends and Overwatch. So it definitely was something like a dream to be in a Korean team. Back then I specifically didn't want to deal with foreigners (non-Koreans). This kind of changed over time since the Koreans are now way more integrable into mixed teams and our whole understanding of the industry is way better than years ago. Scouting players seems to be something you enjoy doing quite a lot. Last year you were the driving force behind signing the Defiant’s former main tank, Yakpung. Were you able to scratch that itch this season?  This year our approach to hiring talent has been slightly different. With so much established talent in the scene, we decided not to have trials as lengthy and rigorous as we conducted them in Season 2. Instead, we focused more on creating a team with complementary personalities and, of course, skill sets. This resulted in us having a roster with extremely high motivation, especially during our boot camp in Korea at the end of last year. And we are confident this high moral and eagerness to compete, on which all success is built, continues into 2020 and beyond. Last year you said that one of your goals was that you wanted to learn. With the new year, do you feel like you learned quite a lot throughout your first Overwatch League season? This past year has been an incredible learning experience. For one, I am now absolutely sure that your main tasks as a member of the coaching staff are purely psychological. No matter whether you go 0-7 (like we did in Stage 3) or you are a top 4 team in the league, if you don't keep the morale high, personalities from clashing and give the players a psychological support structure to fall back on you will not ever do well. If you want to become the best, you first have to get rid of all quarrels. You have to stay open-minded and accept criticism like cookies from your grandma. There has been so much new knowledge I could accumulate, in-game and out of the game, that even after the stressful and overall disappointing season we had, I can't wait for the 2020 season to start and show Toronto's true potential!
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel. Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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