Victor Goossens is the founder and manager of Team Liquid, one of the oldest and most respected StarCraft teams outside of Korea.
What does it mean to be a professional gaming team manager? Is this your day job?
I think at the basis of running the team lays recruitment. Although we have a solid team right now and recruitment has a lower activity than before, you still always have to look at possibilities. A team needs good or popular players, and without that it is nothing, just like any other sports team. For me this means following the top competitions and players enough to have a good enough sense of the scene to make decisions.
Then added to that there are a lot of various things, such as arranging travel for tournaments, preparing for tournament matches, working on the promotion of the team, and just generally working to keep a good team atmosphere. Now that we have the team established, we are going to put in a lot of effort reaching out to sponsors that are possibly interested in sponsoring Liquid. I consider running the team and running teamliquid.net my main job, but I still have a few other things going on--most of them involve poker in some way.
How did Team Liquid start out? When did you realize that it was going to be a big deal?
Team Liquid as a team started out as a fun team of top players to hang out with and feel connected to. Although it has always been at the top of the foreigner scene, it was never a pro team until SC2 was released. Most of the Team Liquid members from StarCraft: Brood War had Team Liquid as their fun clan and another team that actually sponsored them.
After we started with this fun group, the team and its name became more known, and a few years after starting the team I just became more and more annoyed with all the BW sites around. The quality of the very biggest sites was just so bad that I thought this community deserved more. That is when we started teamliquid.net and focused on our news section and our forum. I definitely felt like it was going to be the biggest BW site in the non-Korean scene, but those days being the largest non-Korean site wasn't that big of a goal, as everything was much smaller than it is now. I never would have imagined it could get to the point we're at right now.
How does age factor into a player's competitive viability? Does SC2 have the same age ceiling that SC1 had?
There is some decline in a players speed, so as you get older it becomes harder to compete. But there is some other reason to do with age that I feel is often overlooked, and that is the mental aspect. A regular sports athlete can only train a few hours every day, and usually does not train at all the day of a match. This is not because they don't want to, it's because the human body cannot handle training athletic sports 14 hours a day.
In gaming, however, your body will not give up on you very easily, so to be at the top of the StarCraft: Brood War (and StarCraft II as well, though to a lesser degree) scene, you would have to play 12-14 hours daily. When a player goes through this process day in and day out, he becomes very mentally tired of it when he starts to near the age of 30. Often you would see players quitting when getting older, and this is always referred to as a sign of players becoming worse with age, but I wouldn't underestimate the mental motivation that a player needs to continue playing past a certain age.
Although [older-player dropout] exists in SC2 as well, it is all a bit lessened. Blizzard opted to make SC2 in such a way that the mechanical and precision requirements play a smaller role, allowing the player to focus more on strategy. Although you need a lot of practice for strategies as well, the fact that these mechanics have become less important definitely means that players are able to be at the top without refining them 14 hours a day. This all comes down to SC2 requiring less speed, and thus the age ceiling of professionals will undoubtedly go up.
What does it mean for a player to be a member of Team Liquid? Are they sponsored or paid a salary?
I think that because Liquid has such a long history and such a large influence on the non-Korean scene, players often enjoy being on the team more than they would enjoy being on other teams. I try to make sure that the team chemistry is good as well, so that everyone enjoys themselves and likes their teammates. Also, the team has a sponsor, which they use to pay salary, flights, and hotels for the players.
How does your partnership with Korean pro team oGs work?
We share a house where some of our players live together with some of their players. This elevates the practice level of both teams and helps us in the Korean scene by having a strong partner there, and helping them in return in the foreign scene.
Where (and how) do you think eSports will grow from now on? Do you think StarCraft II has staying power as a spectator sport?
If I look at Warcraft III, the previous Blizzard real-time strategy game, it still had $10,000 tournaments being hosted eight years into its existence. It also never had gigantic prize pools like the one the Global StarCraft League is putting up. All signs point towards SC2 staying around for a very long time.