Interview with two Counter Strike legends SpawN and HeatoN
We chat up with the legendary Swedish duo as they prepare to unleash their WASD wrath at the BenQ CS tournament today.
When I sat with Emil Christensen and Abdisamad Mohamed, or better known (and feared) as SpawN and HeatoN, resp., in the competitive gaming scene, my first itch was to ask: “OMG, please tell me how not to get headshot in CS the moment I move!”. But professional duty beaconed, and I chose to install great restraint and only politely shake hands with the legendary Swedish duo who are in Dubai to partake in a BenQ sponsored Que Club tournament, and also to promote their LED monitor that they co-developed “over many weeks” along with the Taiwanese company.
Q: Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and how did you guys get into Counter Strike?
Spawn: I got into gaming in around 2002…a friend of mine showed me the game [Counter Strike] and I just stuck with it. [Smiles] I just played it all day long. So my friend thought me the game and I just fell in love with it.
HeatoN: I started playing in ’98 or ’99…a really long time ago. [Smiles] My friends forced me to play and then I wasn’t much into computer games. I was really bad in the start, so they mocked me a bit. That encouraged me to play more in order to keep up with my friends and I started to become really good actually. That’s how I got hooked.
Q: At what point of time did you think of taking up playing Counter Strike as a profession?
SpawN: It was around 2003, when I finished my school. I started playing for a team called SK. I realized that I could earn money of it. So that’s the time I thought maybe playing Counter Strike has a future in it. That’s when I started focusing on playing more, and play on a more professional level.
HeatoN: For me it was in 2001, we won the first European Championship and the World Championship that year. My parents saw me on TV when they were in Thailand, and they thought that ‘hey, this is getting big!’. Initially, I didn’t have their support, they wanted me to continue playing Ice Hockey and focus on my studies. But after that [watching him on TV], they started supporting me, they thought there might be a future in this…so I started playing fully out then.
Q: Obviously Counter Strike is still incredibly famous, but what do you think about modern titles like Call of Duty or Battlefield?
SpawN: I actually like Battlefield. I used to play Quake III a lot as well, when I was younger.
HeatoN: I think Counter Strike is like the entrance port for gamers to get into [competitive] gaming. It’s probably the first game they will play. Then they will continue to play others, as well play a bit of CS. They will start playing World of Warcraft, Battlefield and everything. I love those games, I have played Battlefield and World of Warcraft on a public level as well. But yeah, CS is like the entrance port.
Q: Is Counter Strike still the biggest competitive game to played internationally or have others matched up as well?
SpawN: Counter Strike is one of the biggest games, yeah. There is also Starcraft that’s as popular as well.
HeatoN: CS is a 11 or a 12 year old game – and I think that people have stopped playing as much as they did before. People used to play for 10-15 hours a day, but right now it’s more like…they play a couple of times in a week, mainly with friends. They now play World of Warcraft and Call of Duty more. CS is still played a lot, and it remains as the most popular game in the world, but it’s not being played as much as it was used to.
Q: For aspiring competitive gamers, how do you suggest they make their way through to the big leagues?
SpawN: You start by playing all those small tournaments, just to show yourself, and how good your skills are. That’s how it is in Sweden, I mean. It’s one of the ways to get into good teams. By playing into smaller tournaments, you stand to get noticed by higher league players.
HeatoN: Exactly, you have to work you way up the ladder. You start with nothing, no one recognizes you. When you start doing better, some top teams in the country will notice you. If you are good enough, they will offer you to join them. If you are part of a team and are outstanding in what you do, then of course, you may get some sponsorship interest as well. So, once that happens, you start building from there. But yes, you always have to start at the bottom. It’s a long way to go, it takes a lot of hard practice. And you know, being a nice guy really helps as well. [Laughs] You don’t want people to go ‘hey, that guy is good but he is really annoying’. So I think not having an attitude is really important as well.