This article is sponsored by McDonald’s.
Eight of Australia and New Zealand’s top two StarCraft 2 players will come head-to-head during the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series ANZ season four event. Held Aug. 26 at ESL Studios in Sydney, Australia, the event has a $10,000 AUD prize pool, as well as two tickets to the 2017 WCS event in Montreal. For players looking to make a name for themselves on an international stage, it’s important to break out of the Australian scene.
Six players have qualified online earlier this month, but two players, Ethan “Iaguz” Zugai and Sean “Probe” Kempen, qualified automatically by finishing within the top two in the season three event. Ben “Crimson” Macdonald is one of those six players heading into the offline event this weekend, where he’ll come up against the region’s top players.
We spoke with Crimson ahead of the StarCraft 2 WCS ANZ season four tournament about working full-time as an accountant and balancing that with life as a StarCraft 2 pro.
You’ve been active in the scene for over five years now, with an enviable commitment to competitive play. What ignited the passion and how have you maintained your drive?
Crimson: The passion for RTS games really just came about through being a fan. I got into RTS with Warcraft 3 and Brood War in high school with a group of friends. Being able to watch and play games together, cheer on favorite players, and talk about the crazy games we were watching was a lot of fun. As a gamer since a young age, I was fascinated by these more competitive and sporting kind of aspects. I look back on these times as my “innocent” times of gaming if you like, the golden days of being a complete noob but loving the game anyway.
As for maintaining the drive, well that’s kind of a whole story in itself. My relationship with the game has evolved a lot over time. In the earlier days, I struggled a lot with deciding what I wanted to do in my life. I had an on-off relationship with SC2 where I just couldn’t consistently commit myself to trying to become good. I was kinda stuck between uni/life and the game, with the end result being I wasn’t really happy with either.
Eventually I think I’ve kind of found my way though. It’s funny how, even this far along, the game is still teaching me so much about myself, particularly with regards to the importance of mindset and hard work. I think these lessons, combined with the well-spirited nature of our local scene and beyond, are why I’m still playing so much seven years on.
While you’ve been active for a long time, opportunities like the new WCS live format haven’t been seen since 2012. What did qualifying for season three, and then a back-to-back qualification for season four mean to you at this point in your career?
Qualifying last season was massive for me. I pushed pretty hard to get back up to speed with the game at the start of the year. To have such an amazing event arrive out of the blue… I had to be there. I really felt like I owed it to myself to make it. I’m very glad I did, it was a phenomenal event and I’ll always be grateful to those who made it happen. Having been and experienced it, qualifying again this time around became even more important for me, so I’m extremely excited for it once more.
We remember talking to you backstage at the last event and you were ecstatic with achieving your goal—a win on-stage. Is this still the goal going into season four, or have you set your ambitions higher?
It was an amazing experience, but the ambitions are definitely higher now. Given my fairly busy “life” workload, it can be a struggle to keep them in check at times. With that said, I definitely intend to crack the top four this time around. I’ve mostly worked hard on my mindset recently, trying to be more calm and confident when playing the better players as I have always under-performed terribly against them in the past. It became something of a mental block, so I want to show I can hang with the best of them when I’m on point.
What does life outside of StarCraft look like for you right now? Do you have a direction you think you’re headed, or some future goals outside the game?
It’s fairly busy. I have a full-time job as an accountant and I’m studying towards becoming a chartered accountant as well. So balancing that alongside SC2 and other life stuff is a challenge at times, but I’m getting better at it. No major life goals right now, though I should be done with the study aspect soon and I’m looking at working a little less for next year—maybe with a push towards practicing and streaming more.
You seem to have huge support from friends and the ANZ community who will be cheering for you at the event. If someone in the crowd makes a sign for you—what’s one thing you’d want to see on it?
Haha, well that’s nice to hear. I guess there’s a lot of silly personal jokes for me—Uncle Ben, old man, 3vo, etc. So anything that’s sort of jokey would be fun to see.
Do you have any final shoutouts or thoughts leading into the event?
I wanna give a shoutout to my team SYF, my teammates, and our sponsors—Turtle Beach, AKRacing, and MSI—for their continued support. It’s always appreciated. Major thanks to ESL Australia, McDonalds, and Blizzard for putting this amazing event on. Thanks to all my fans on Twitch too—I promise I’ll be back streaming shortly. Finally, thanks to my friends and family for supporting me.
The WCS ANZ season four finals are this Saturday, so make sure to grab some tickets if you want to attend the event.