and compLexity Gaming
have one thing in common; they are both powerhouses in the North American esports industry. Jason is the bull that's been spearheading the organization towards immense success in the past decade ever since he founded the company.
Jason was kind enough to agree to an interview with EsportsHeaven
as we discussed on a wide array of topics ranging from Counter Strike and the teams coL has fielded over the years in this alluring FPS game, Overwatch League and its approach to esports, popularity and franchising model.
He also talked about coL's Dota 2 struggles regarding roster stability and success over the past few years as well as sharing his concerns regarding the security measures at events especially after the Madden Shooting incident at Jacksonville, Florida that involved Drini Gjoka
, NFL player for compLexity, who was one of the unfortunate victims that escaped with minor injuries.
First professional team. What attracted you to Counter-Strike more than any other game at the time?
I grew up with a passion for video games. I’d get my hands on every new arcade game and console that was available. However, through college and law school I was too busy and didn’t play at all. Following law school I walked into a friend’s apartment and he was playing Counter-Strike. I was immediately drawn to the game and when I discovered the esports/competitive aspect, I was hooked.
Your team was known for being the rivals of Team 3D. This is considered one of the oldest rivalries in esports history. What made them the perfect rival?
Team 3D was really the first American team to take esports seriously. They were visionaries and trend setters. When I set out to build America’s foremost organization, Team 3D was the natural rival. In many respects, our back and forth battles paved the way for esports in North America. Craig Levine was a brilliant adversary and I have fond memories of those days.
Back then, the European teams were incredibly strong. What do you think the difference was that made them the better competition?
Europe has fielded incredible gamers for as long as I can remember. Whether it was the culture, the early adoption of high speed internet, or something good in the water, they’ve produced an incredible amount of championships per capita. I definitely respect EU gamers.
You had legendary players like fRoD and Warden. What was it like having them on the team during CS 1.6?
It was a privilege and an honor to work with both Danny and Matt. They were incredibly driven to succeed at young ages and that made my job pretty easy. They’re living legends in American esports in my opinion.
One of the more controversial roster moves back then was probably Rambo moving from Team 3D to Team Complexity in 2007. How was that time period trying to get Rambo onto your team?
Ron was, and is, a consummate professional so it was a fairly easy transition. He’s a hard worker who is meticulous when it comes to the details. Today he’s our coach and it’s been great having him in the family over the course of a decade.
Let’s talk about the Championship Gaming Series. This was the first time that esports tried to do geo-location. You were the Los Angeles Complexity. Do you think esports was ready for geo-location back in 2007?
No, probably not. It was an early attempt at replicating traditional sports but I don’t think the esports ecosystem was developed enough to accomplish that goal.
DirectTV were running the tournament and I remember an interview of SirScoots where he was saying the production felt too mainstream and gimmicky, often sacrificing competitive integrity because all organizations were tied to a points-based system where the performance of your other teams based in other games would dictate your organization’s standings. You think that’s also what hurt the CGS?
There were lots of things that lead to the failure of the CGS project but I would agree that the broadcast was not done in an authentic way and it did not appeal to your average esports fan.
Let’s skip to moving on to other iterations of CS, such as CS:Source. Luckily you had players that were willing to transfer to the new version, such as Warden, fRoD, Storm, Rambo. What was the chaos like when the scene was deciding between 1.6 and Source?
There was a good bit of in-fighting in the Counter-Strike community during this time. The “old schoolers” felt the game play mechanics of 1.6 were far superior while the Source community felt it was time to move forward with a more modern version of the game.
Now your team also competes in CS:GO. Are you happy with how the system works in CS:GO with the Majors and Minors?
I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but overall I’m just happy that Valve has contributed to Counter-Strike esports during CS:GO’s tenure. For years we wanted such support and I’m grateful we now have it.
Since you’ve been a part of geo-location before, what are your thoughts on Overwatch doing it?
I think Overwatch’s approach is a logical extension of the traditional esports ecosystem that can benefit from the same local loyalty that’s created by traditional sports franchises. I’m particularly interested in the ‘meet ups’ where fans can get together and enjoy the broadcasts together over some wings and a beer. Community is critical to the success of any esports title and I think OWL has one of the best fan-bases out there.
With how explosive the Overwatch League has been in terms of growth monetarily, how do you as an owner evaluate the league? In your eyes, what are some of the big selling points that are making investors bullish it’s second season?
I only have access to the publicly available data, but it seems that OWL is off to a solid start. The league is professionally operated at a level we have (arguably) not seen before and the feedback I hear from other owners is generally positive. It will be interesting to see how OWL develops over the next couple years.
We’ve seen more and more broadcasting rights being sold in esports. Do you think that continues throughout other esports as well?
Absolutely. Broadcast and media rights will be a huge source of esports revenue over the next couple decades.
coL has a rich history in Dota 2. It’s first entrance in the scene was by picking up FIRE then comprising of Fluffnstuff, ixmike and others. What prompted you to enter this game genre? Was it TI or simply the potential of the game?
We’re always looking for great games and vibrant gaming communities. DotA was an easy choice and still is.
coL has had a rough couple of years as it is unable to hold a stable roster that inadvertently had an adverse effect on performance especially for TI wherein coL hasn’t qualified in the past 3 years. Coming to my question, what is the game-plan for coL Dota 2 section? What do you think coL is lacking in this area?
Our game plan is to assemble the best possible roster we can and then to develop that roster into a global contender. We’ll be announcing that lineup soon and believe we’ve put together a good one.
The inaugural DPC season was unexpected to say the least. Oversaturation of tournaments, burn out of players amidst plenty of opportunities for teams to prove themselves over 20 such events, however, coL fumbled. To what do you attribute this missing of opportunities?
In any sport you go through periods where your team is thriving and other times when you’re struggling. We’ve been struggling recently and the goal is to turn things around starting this Fall.
When can we expect the current roster to revealed? Will it be built around one player? Who takes the decision of building the team considering coL is now down to 2 players namely, Limmp and zFreek?
coL and it’s player Drini Gjoka were the unfortunate victims of the Madden Shooting in Jacksonville. Drini escaped with minor injuries, however, at the cost of his mental/psychological state. How is he doing now and what has coL, as an org, done to make him and the company itself feel comfortable?
The Jacksonville shooting was a tragedy and our hearts go out to all the victims. We’re grateful Drini wasn’t more seriously injured and we’ve done our best to support him during this difficult time.
This incident does raise the concern of event security. According to you, what needs to be done to address this issue from the perspective of a tournament organizer and that of a team organization?
I’m certainly not a security expert but I do know that all events (large and small) can no longer justify having little to not security. Jacksonville should serve as a wake up call to our community and proper measures should be put in place to make sure everyone attending an esports event is safe.
Drini did say that he won’t go back to Jacksonville again. I cannot imagine the trauma he’s gone or going through. Are you okay with his decision?
Of course. We’re going to support him in any way we can and if that means taking some time off gaming or not attending certain events we’re going to have his back 100%.
One thing that stood out was every player in your organisation; past or present has heavily praised coL and you in particular, for the heartwarming attitude and caring nature towards the players. How do you feel to be at the receiving end of such exemplary love from everyone in the esports industry?
We’re certainly not perfect and this business can be extremely competitive so we’ve made our fair share of mistakes. That being said, we sincerely try our best to operate our company with integrity and treat people properly. At the end of the day we’re all out here trying our best and everyone deserves kindness, fairness, honesty and respect.
What do you think about the franchise model in League of Legends? You were previously in that scene for a decent amount of time in the beginning.
League of Legends continues to be one of the largest esports in the world and will be for some time. I have tremendous respect for the thriving global ecosystem and the players and teams that make it so enjoyable for millions of fans.
Thank you for taking out time from your busy schedule and agreeing to do this interview. Anything you'd like to say?
Thank you very much for the interview!
This interview has been co-authored by Volamel, Izento and yours truly KarY.
Image Courtesy: Jason Blake Facebook