Beyond the breaking point: mental health in esports

Beyond the breaking point: mental health in esports

 When it comes to esports and mental health, one of the most common terms is mindset. Players, coaching staff, and the community itself often refer to it as fundamental to better performance. But what does this word really mean?

To develop this idea, you first need to think about some characteristics of athletes in the sport. For example, a professional player is not someone who plays with the same motivation as a casual player, i.e. the game, in this case, becomes an occupation or a career option, which means that the relationship with the playing activity itself transforms.

 There is a need for training, practice and balance between one’s physical and mental health. Moreover, since the game is tied to a “financial life,” it is clear that there is a change in engagement, and the motives change.

 Some studies attempt to examine the motivations of players. In particular, an academic research by Peter Vorderer of the University of Mannheim shows that two aspects are fundamental when it comes to motivation to play: interactivity and competition.

 The first is related to the opportunity to communicate and cooperate with other players in the online environment; already the competition is the mechanism by which the players are able to compare themselves to the others.

 Few studies have so far sought to investigate the motivations of professional players, but it seems striking that competitive motivation, in the case of these sportsmen, is one of the main factors of engagement. A recent research by Yuri Seo of the University of Auckland sought to ascertain the elements of the sport that make pro player career attractive; the reasons why players want to pursue this career opportunity and how players progress to transform their identity in order to acquire a professional identity.

In this investigation, players revealed that the main elements that attracted them to this career were: a “celebration” of mastery of their individual abilities, search for self-promotion and the importance of justice, fairness and mutual respect. In the latter case, they referred mainly to the formal institutional rules and the norms and codes proposed within the esports infrastructure.

However, a more recent research titled “An Exploration of Mental Skills Among Competitive League of Legend Players” by researchers from the University of Denver has identified some of the skills and mental techniques used by athletes in achieving “ideal” performance in highly competitive gaming environments. Nonetheless, the researchers also investigated barriers to performing well.

Firstly, they noted that to get a good performance, players need to: have knowledge about the game; think strategically, make quick and intelligent decisions; be motivated to move on, which indicates avoiding thinking about past performances; be able to separate personal life from professional life; avoid distractions and maintain focus; dealing adaptively with harassment; maintaining a growth mindset (positive attitude); warm up physically and / or mentally before the performance. Other factors have also been marked as the ability to adapt to opponents, communicate adequately with teammates and rely on their abilities.

In addition, they must be able to develop themselves and their staff (i.e., they must engage to improve their skills, analyze their own performance) and define various types of goals (short term, long term and the process itself). Regarding performance barriers, some were identified as confidentiality issues, inadequate coping strategies for anxiety, past achievements and mistakes, harassment, lack of personal and team development (e.g. knowledge about the game, team dynamics, communication, individual skills), difficulty in separating personal life from the career.

All of these aspects are related to what the community has referred to as “mindset”.

For Natália Zakalski, the psychologist for the Brazilian League of Legends powerhouse CNB, mindset is “a set of attitudes both inside and out. That is, to prepare for the game, to train and to play in itself, demand an adequate mindset, a mindset prepared to face whatever it is.”

For her, for excellence in the game, whether in esports or in traditional sports, one must prepare the mind for each moment: “The moment of training requires concentration and focus on learning, so the mentality for this moment is different, it must prepare the mind to meet these demands.”

“Already in the context before a decisive match, the mentality should be focused on levels of activation and anxiety, so that these are at optimal level and can have high performance,” Zakalski added. “During the game, one turns to the need for concentration and focus, but together, there must be a level of anxiety and activation that leads to action and decision-making, as previously said, for high performance.”

Natália also emphasizes that mindset does not fit only in a specific context, but in a global way: “To look for attitudes of preparation and action within the mental spectrum, is also to seek a mindset, but a mindset within a larger context, which will dictate the attitudes of everyday life. This is intrinsically linked to the motivation of the individual who acts. Therefore, someone who seeks to improve mentally, seeking to activate their mentality for the right moments, with the right feelings and the right thoughts, is structuring a mindset not only for the game but for their everyday life. “

Another point addressed was the issue of depression in professional gamers, which is something that is fundamentally linked to motivation and mentality.

Zakalski tells of one of her players, Gustavo “Baiano” Gomes, who recently announced that he would not play the League of Legends Super League with CNB due to the diagnosis of depression.

The topic got more attention than usual after it was reported that Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco, head coach of North America’s FlyQuest, has resigned after angry reactions to his comments about the depression.

He described depression, anxiety, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as “fabricated nonsense.” He later issued an apology stating, “I was surprised to realize how uninformed I was about mental health, especially since it’s an important part of my coaching responsibilities.”

Considering this context, Zakalski commented: “The sport is very new and here in Brazil, we are very raw yet. In Korea there are trainers who have really studied to handle these situations. Already here everything is very new, it is difficult to find someone who is trained to be a coach. We have studied a lot about the role of the trainer within the athlete’s performance.”

“The role of the coach is very important. We have studied a theory called Self-Determination Theory. This theory says that the coach provides elements that favor self-esteem, the athlete’s autonomy — thus better preparing the athlete to deal with these pressures,” Zakalski explains. “Here the coach still does not play as strong a role as in traditional sports, but this is getting more and more professionalized and coaches are learning more and more. But you still lack the ability to deal with it.”

Even so about the role of coaches in their relationship with athletes, she added, “I’m trying to apply a model that is proven to work in traditional sports to see if it works in esports. Within this theory I study, if a coach fosters athlete autonomy, he contributes to the development of a smarter athlete in terms of technique and tactics, as well as the player’s commitment to practice and good social relationships. They need to feel safe, welcomed and connected in the environment they are. If there is no such connection, especially in LoL, where the boys live in a house, away from the family, with unknown people, of course they would miss their family.”

“The environment created within this house has a very strong impact on the athlete’s emotional processes, and this element is key to the quality of the sports involvement of these athletes. So sometimes we think it’s the player who needs the therapy, but it’s often the coaches themselves and staff members. It is common to see non-player members of the team who do not want to attend therapy sessions because they think only players need it. Coaches need guidance on how to handle it, because that makes a huge difference. The idea of my studies is to understand better the function of this environment created by the coach, the environment that they are inserted.”

Finally, about the elements that would be linked to this distance from the players, she added: “The environment they are inserted makes all the difference in this. So sometimes the problem is not even something like ‘let’s treat that particular athlete with therapy, bring psychologist’, sometimes it’s not that. I strongly believe that the environment is important and has a very strong impact on these emotional processes, being the key to the quality of their income. We already have surveys that show that when coaches act in a controlling and authoritarian, coercive way there is a very high probability of failure. In short, the coach is primarily responsible for the performance of his athletes, the influence he has on the actions and decisions taken is very great. It’s also no use just treating the player and not looking at the environment in which he lives.”

It is of paramount importance that the teams within the esports have adequate psychological support that is able to contribute to all members, not only to the players. Above all, further research is needed in this particular area so that it is possible to delve into the reality of esports psychology.

It is essential to recognize the importance of the environment in this process, which is a key factor in the team’s future success as well as the wellbeing of their players.

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SonicFox: “I’m gay, black, a furry and the best esports player of the year!”

SonicFox: “I’m gay, black, a furry and the best esports player of the year!”

On the night of December 6th, Los Angeles hosted the fifth annual award ceremony of The Game Awards 2018. Among dozens of nominations, a separate category was dedicated to esports.

Winners were determined by secret voting of the jury (90% of the assessment) and voting of the viewers (10%) in social networks, Discord and on the website. This time around, fans could even vote via their Alexa device. The esports jury was made up of representatives from 17 leading publications covering video game competitions. Among them are ESPN, DotEsports, GosuGamers and even Forbes.

Best esports team – Cloud9 (LoL)

They did not win the World Cup, as OG did in Dota 2. They did not earn many titles, like Astralis in CS: GO. They did not even make it to the final of the 2018 World Championship, unlike Fnatic. But they were still called the best esports team of the year. In addition, their mentor received a statuette in the nomination “Best Coach of the Year.”

For the American League of Legends scene, their story is just a fairy tale. In the fifth week of the summer split, the team ranked 10th in the LCS. After several substitutions, they managed to break through to the second line of the standings and reach the playoffs. After losing the regular season finale, Cloud9 defeated TSM in the regional qualification finals and reached the world championship.

In South Korea, they landed among teams, which they called the “group of death.” The audience waited for failure, and the Americans were able to break through to the second round, where in a tough match against Gambit they won with a score of 3: 2. They made history later, when they got into the semifinals of the World Cup. Prior to this, the American team submitted a similar result only once – in 2011.

However, maybe what earned the favor of the jury and the fans wasn’t the the story of Cloud9, but cosplay from Sneaky instead?

Best esports tournament – LoL World Championship 2018

It seems that League of Legends takes awards in this category almost every year. The biggest stadiums, the most ambitious show and the biggest numbers of views.

According to Newzoo, in 2018, viewers watched 81.1 million hours of content from the World Championship on Twitch and Youtube. And the peak number of spectators of the tournament was almost 2 million people, and that’s excluding Chinese platforms. LoL even managed to step over the 1.1 million viewers on Twitch at the same time.

This year, the League of Legends World Championship was hosted by South Korea. The tournament started from the Play-In stage in Seoul, then moved to the group stage in Busan (the quarter-finals were organized there), the semi-finals were held in Gwangju, and the grand final was held in Incheon at Munhak stadium.

The audience occupied half of the arena with a capacity of almost 50 thousand people and watched the show with The Glitch Mob, Mako, The Word Alive and Bobby from iKON and the virtual group K / DA. By the way, the latest clip has already exceeded 100 million views on YouTube.

Best esports moment of the year – underdogs Cloud9 defeat FaZe Clan at ELEAGUE Major 2018 Final

A little more glory to American esports. This is not an incredible breakthrough of OG for The International and is not the exchange of Nexus in the KT vs. IG match. Cloud9 managed to snatch a victory in the Major of CS: GO in the second overtime of the third final map.

And this is after losing the first Mirage card, which was their pick.

On Inferno, the first half ended with a score of 8:7 in favor of FaZe. Then rivals managed to bring the game to 15:11, but Cloud9 at the last moment equalized the score. Then the Americans held out the first overtime and only on the second try were able to snatch the final victory.

Best esports game of the year – Overwatch

Well, time to listen to another bite of grumble on the insolvency and unpopularity of the Overwatch League. However, the jury and organizations that invest millions in the purchase of slots, franchise league obviously liked.

Yes, the viewing figures were hardly impressive for those who are already accustomed to the millions on Dota 2, LoL and CS:GO broadcasts. At its peak, OWL gathered at the monitors a little less than 350 thousand spectators excluding the Chinese audience. According to Newzoo, YouTube and Twitch viewers watched a little over 5 million hours of content, which is incomparable with other disciplines.

But the genuine interest of large investors and a significant expansion of the league in the new season suggest that the Blizzard project was a success at least at this stage.

Best esports player of the year – Dominic “SonicFox” Macklin

This guy in a recognizable blue cap and with a tail behind him managed to circumvent Alexander “s1mple” Kostylev and Jian “Uzi” Ziao. He is not so famous outside the fighting game scene, but it is impossible not to admire his achievements there.

Dominic is one of the most versatile players capable of achieving success in almost any game. At EVO, he won in Injustice in 2014, in Mortal Kombat X in 2015 and 2016, and in 2018 became the champion in Dragon Ball FighterZ. And while he managed to participate in competitions and other games of the same genre.

This year, Macklin won the Injustice 2 Pro Series, won first place at the Canada Cup in two disciplines, and at SoCal Regionals 2018 entered the top 3 in three games at once. His main victory this season was the fourth EVO league title, after receiving which he promised to give $10,000 out of his prize to another player, Curtis “Rewind” McCall, whose father has cancer.

But at The Games Awards, Dominic will be remembered not only as the best esports athlete but also as the author of the most impressive speech. Of course, he came out on the stage in his Sonic mask and with a blue tail, sincerely surprised at his victory, thanked all those involved and then openly declared:

“For those who might not know. I’m supergay. I want to say hello to all my LGBTQ friends. I’m gay, black, furry – in fact, everything Republicans hate so much – and the best esports player of the year!”

At the same time, the guy’s sincerity touched the community enough that the ESPN journalist called this speech the best moment of the year in the gaming community.

It should be understood that esports is rather a pleasant addition to the main award of The Games Awards. Some nominations were announced just one after another, and some of the viewers decided that they needed esports only to attract new viewers.

So do not be discouraged if your favorite team or player did not get a statuette. Champion titles in their game are certainly much more important for them.

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US Army wants YOU for their esports team

US Army wants YOU for their esports team

The recruitment command of the US Army announced the opening of an esports team for the armed forces. Participants will compete on behalf of the troops in computer game tournaments. According to the military, they want to get closer to a younger audience.

The fact that the US Army wants to create an esports team (or even more than one), became known on November 10. This was written by staff sergeant Ryan Mou. He explained that army esports athletes would compete across the country. In addition, they will test simulations and training programs that are developed for military purposes.

As Mou explained, such a unit should appear in the army and that the soldiers themselves asked for it. They also proved to the leadership that this way the army can get closer to a younger audience and overcome stereotypes about the service. According to him, people will be able to see that in the military service there can be many different career opportunities.

The composition of the esports team plan to collect not from recruits. Now directly applying to the army, civilians or veterans can apply for participation in it.

In addition to the esports team, the US military plans to gain a fitness staff. They will also represent the army at competitions.

On November 14, in the comments on gamesindustry.biz, this information was confirmed by the spokesman for the US Army Recruiting Command, Kelly Bland. The army will select for several disciplines. While aware of her plans for Tekken and League of Legends. All participants will work on the Fort Knox base. In December, the armed forces will arrange a Tekken championship, the winner of which will present the army at PAX South in January.

In September 2018, military speaker Hank Minitrez told ABC News that the US army would be looking for recruits in esports. According to Minitrez, in 2019 the army will work more with potential employees through social media and will continue to cooperate with major esports organizations. For the current year, the US army received 6,500 fewer recruits than planned.

In January 2018, the United States Air Force sponsored ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018. At the major, Air Force Sergeant awarded Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham with the MVP championship cup. After the tournament, the parties extended cooperation to several ELEAGUE tournaments in CS: GO, but representatives of the Air Force assumed that they would start collaboration in other disciplines.

In July 2018, the US Air Force became a partner of Cloud9. The agreement is valid until May 2019. Together with the army, the club will release several clips about the team, players will fly in a fighter jet, and will also become familiar with the work of the sappers.

For the first time, the US Army became interested in computer games in 2000. Then the armed forces invested in the project America’s Army – a free first-person shooter game in which users could try on the various roles of the military.

According to gamespot.com, over 10 years of development, the US government has invested 32.8 million USD in the game. Since 2013, America’s Army: Proving Grounds shooter is available on Steam.

The headquarters of the US armed forces has already created a profile of the esports team on social networks. Pages are available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch.

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The renaissance of the western civilization

The renaissance of the western civilization

2019 will be quite different for competitive League of Legends — the pre-season patch has brought some changes to known mechanics, EU LCS has adopted the franchise system but it’s the transfer window that’s stealing the scene last week.

With changes in top Korean teams and pleasant surprises in the West, check out the changes made last week by teams around the world.

KT Rolster gave the starting foot in the wave of departures of the Korean teams. Support Mata was the first to leave the team on the 13th, followed by his duo partner Deft, the midlaners PawN and Ucal and the Rush jungler. The situation of the current LCK champion may get worse in the coming days, with Smeb and Score contracts expired.

Expected changes also reached SK Telecom T1. On Tuesday, the team posted on twitter that, if it is for the good of the nation, Faker stays for the 2019 season with Effort and Leo, but not before announcing the departure of seven members: Thal, Untara, Pirean, Blossom and the trio Blank, Bang and Wolf.

On the other hand, Khan, Clid, Haru, Crazy and Teddy are the SKT reinforcements for the season, highlighting the great top of Kingzone. It is only necessary to decide the direction of the coaches kk0ma, PoohmanDu and Bengi, whose contracts have expired.

The next in line for the desperate? Kingzone DragonX. Today, the only survivor of the squad is the jungler Cuzz, with all other players leaving the team or with contracts expired on November 19. Khan, Peanut, PraY and GorillA are officially out, while the status of Rascal, Bdd, Hirai, Supreme and ActScene technicians, is unknown.

The last Korean team that is in trouble is Gen.G. We expected a lot from the Samsung Galaxy after winning the 2017 World Cup, but the maximum it achieved were two fifth places in the LCK with two different names, first KSV and then Gen.G. With this, Ambition, Crown, Haru, CoreJJ and Mong will not dispute the next step for them, but with CuVee (top), Fly (middle), Ruler and Life (support) still secured, the damage may not be as complicated.

The west may still be asleep, but dead it is not. After announcing the entry of singer Drake as a partner in October, 100 Thieves made an ambitious import: Bang will be the Aphromoo duo partner for the 2019 season. In addition to the legendary former SKT, Huhi’s exciting little ad was made on the 20th, along with the extension of Ssumday’s contract until 2020. Of embezzlement, only Ryu, who becomes assistant coach for the team alongside Cody Sun.

Team Liquid also moved to try to repair their last weak performances on international stages, and already has two heavyweight reinforcements: former Gen.G member CoreJJ, who replaces Olleh. In the duo lane Doublelift gets a new partner in Jensen, who shined atby Cloud 9 in recent years.

On the other side of the Atlantic, as the spotlight turns to the news of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), rumors indicate the formation of a European super team. ESPN sources have reported that G2 is getting Caps for the middle lane, and is willing to even put Perkz, its acting midlanner, in the marksman’s position. Another name polled by the team is that of Mikyx, a Misfits support whose contract has expired in recent days.

And speaking of Misfits, in addition to the possible departure of Mikyx, Sencux and Jesiz, with contracts expired, the top Alphari bid farewell to the team. The Frenchman Soaz was announced as a substitute for the player, and Febiven also joined the team in search for the LEC title.

With transfer window still wide open more roster changes are sure to follow. The question is, just how powerful the western teams can get?

Kira: “I was very happy to play Galio”

Kira: “I was very happy to play Galio”

After a subpar start to the 2018 Season World Championship for Gambit Esports, team’s midlaner Mykhailo “Kira” Harmash took time to share their experiences at the most important event of the year.

In their opening match, the CIS representatives faced off against the Taiwan Regional Finals winners G-Rex. The 36 minute long match proved to be less than challenging for the team from Taiwan. To put things in perspective, Gambit failed to take down a single enemy turret in the entirety of the match.

Harmash and his team managed to bounce back in the second game against Kaos Latin Gamers. Gambit pulled a reversal and beat KLG in a 29 minute game. Kira’s Galio proved to be instrumental to his team’s success. GMB overcame the second hurdle for a much-needed confidence boost.

Tomorrow Gambit will face off against G-Rex and Kaos Latin Gamers again. Two teams with the best record in the group will progress towards the next round, for a chance to get into the main event.

After the dust has settled, Mykhailo “Kira” Harmash in a short interview talked about their team’s performance on the first day of the event.

Vie: You seemed like a completely different player on Galio than you were on Malzahar. How did that game go for you?

Kira: I’m really happy that on this server all skins are unlocked and that I could pick the one I really wanted. I was very happy to play Galio. I feel very confident playing him. There’s a lot of engage potential there and I actually feel useful for once. Unlike some other champions.

Vie: Tell me about your first game. It really didn’t go so well for you. What was the idea behind those picks?

Kira: We knew he had to play around top and mid. In the middle, I had to play a painfully passive game against my own wishes. At one point it was getting really frustrating because we could’ve easily killed Syndra there, gained a lot of vision control, and win the game thanks to our bot lane.

Vie: It looked like you will play around your bottom lane, but something collapsed there. 

Kira: PvPStejos didn’t call Diamond to top lane, because we wanted to protect our bot lane in case they start playing really aggressively there — like they usually do. Our coaches scouted them really well and told us exactly how to play this one. The execution of that plan was the problem. Especially in the middle lane.

Vie: G-Rex is still a major dark-horse, it couldn’t have been easy to scout them. Did they play the way you expected them to? 

Kira: I think it was what we expected. It may not seem like much, but it really helped that two of our guys have already played against one of them before. I mean Toyz (G-Rex coach). Some of the things never really changed since the Taipei Assassins days. We knew some things and we were ready for them.

Vie: Thanks for your time, Kira. Any parting words?

Kira: Thanks for watching, hope you enjoyed it. The first match wasn’t very good, the second one was a bit better. I think the next one will be even better and we will show some cool things. We will do our best.

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BIG Acidy: “Playing in a team that expects you to play well is pretty stressful”

BIG Acidy: “Playing in a team that expects you to play well is pretty stressful”

The up-and-coming Estonian top laner Markus “Acidy” Käpp shared what it’s like playing for his first professional team — the German BIG.

The young talent joined Berlin International Gaming (BIG) earlier in May, one month before turning 18. Since then, Acidy helped his team take second place in Premier Tour 2018 Summer Hamburg where they finished behind the reigning German champions EURONICS Gaming and ahead of mousesports, SPGeSports, SK Gaming, and others.

With the goals set on the European Masters 2018 Summer Split, BIG isn’t pulling any punches.

Käpp told us about breaking into professional gaming, competing at the highest level, learning to deal with the pressure, his roots in the Baltic League of Legends scene, and sharing the top lane with his teammate Juho “NilleNalley” Janhunen.

Vie: How did you decide to pursue the path of a pro player? 

Acidy: I spent most of my time after school playing League. I’ve always loved the game and competing. Winning as a team is so much better than winning alone, so I decided to join a team to improve my team play and communication to become better as a player.

Vie: How hard was it to explain it to your family, friends? Were they accepting of your choice, or was there mistrust?

Acidy: My family didn’t like it at first because my grades in school were dropping and I wasn’t doing any physical activities. When my grades improved and they saw me going to some Baltic LANs they realized how much I like doing this. After that, they were pretty supportive of me. My friends, on the other hand, have become a small fan club now, they are always asking when I’m going to play or how I’m doing in soloq.

Vie: Speaking of the Baltic scene. Do you think there’s any hope for it yet?

Acidy: The Baltic scene currently in general is pretty bad. There are lots of good players from the Baltics such as Puszu, HeaQ, Sirnukesalot etc. but not enough for the Baltic scene to be strong. They recently announced that Baltics will have a spot in the EU Masters, so maybe in a few years there’s hope for it but I doubt it.

Vie: What’s your opinion on the professional play so far? Is it exactly what you thought it would be like? How do you feel about the overall level of teams in the German league?

Acidy: In the professional play the most important thing is communication. I’m quite talkative in-game, so I didn’t have that problem when I first started out, but playing in a team with four good players that expect you to play well is pretty stressful.

Early on I would be so nervous that I died a lot to ganks because I was so focused on not dying in the lane that I would forget to ward or watch the map. Professional play has a lot higher highs and much lower lows. Beating a good team is such a great feeling and losing to a bad team just has you depressed for the whole day thinking about what went wrong. The Top 4 teams in Germany are at a pretty good level, but we’ll have to wait for the EUMasters to know for sure.

Vie: You have two top laners on the roster currently. How does that work?

Acidy: NilleNalley plays in the ESL Meisterschaft matches and in the upcoming LANs we split the games. I play blue side games and Nille plays the red side because of our different champion pools. I didn’t go to the Premier Tour LAN because I massively underperformed in important matches. So I benched myself so that the team could still go to LAN.

Vie: Isn’t it hard for the rest of the team as well, having to play with two different top laners every other game?

Acidy: It’s definitely hard, but [learning to adapt and] playing different styles is important for a team to succeed and do well.

Vie: There has been some talk about the Korean imports lately. Where do you stand on the subject?

Acidy: Europe has players from very different countries and cultures, so importing Korean players doesn’t really change much in a team, as long as they are actually good players. Being able to speak English well isn’t that big of a problem in my opinion since it can be learned pretty fast. For example, Huni and Reignover, they didn’t know English that well when they first came to Europe, but they are good players so the language barrier didn’t stop them from succeeding.

Vie: You just turned 18 a few weeks back, are you done with the school yet? What are your plans for the future?

Acidy: I still have one year of school left and I don’t have any big plans after that. At the moment competing in LoL is what I enjoy doing the most, Io i want to give it a real shot and see what comes after that.

Vie: Thanks for taking the time. Any shoutouts?

Acidy: I’d like to shout-out to my interviewer and all the readers of this interview.

Follow Markus “Acidy” Käpp on Twitter @Acidy_