“An accomplishment, to me, is winning the whole thing. I want to go to the next stage.”
Those are the words of Graham “Skamzz” Ellix as he prepares to represent Columbus Crew SC at the first-ever eMLS Cup next month.
He’s already beaten 2010 FIFA Interactive World Champion Nenad Stojkovic for the right to wear the Black & Gold at PAX East in Boston. Ellix defeated Stojkovic, who played college soccer at Cleveland State with current Crew SC defender Josh Williams, at a match in Columbus on March 5th. To say that he started strongly is an understatement.
The first eMLS Cup will see players compete for a berth in the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series Playoff and a chance to become the FIFA 18 World Champion at the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 in August.
“I believe this is going to get a lot of attention,” Ellix added. “But I think getting to that next stage where the eMLS pushes you through into the EA-run events and stuff like that, that where’s you’ll get the most attention. That’s where my end goal is.”
The Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom native is no stranger to the eSports arena, having played FIFA professionally since 2008. He has massive credentials and experience that makes him one of the top players in the entire world. He is ranked as an Elite 1 Player and has been among the Top 100 players for FIFA Ultimate Team Champions. He is also ranked among the Top 100 FIFA players worldwide and Top 25 in the Americas Region.
Interestingly enough, the 25-year-old has a real day job working for Verizon and is married with two children. He’s now based out of Cincinnati, Ohio after moving to the U.S. late in 2012. Yet he has high hopes for the future.
“The people at work, they understand my dream to be able to play FIFA for a full-time living. I don’t know anybody who likes video games that wouldn’t want to do that. My ultimate goal is to do it full-time.”
That sounds like a dream job, especially for the millions that have made gaming their favorite pastime.
It seems as if Columbus Crew SC and MLS have gotten involved in eSports at just the right time. Crew SC joins a number of Ohio institutions, the likes of the University of Akron, Miami University, and Lourdes (and soon Kent State University) to name a few, in the eSports craze. The eSports industry is expected to generate $600 million globally in 2018, but that number is expected to almost triple to $1.5 billion in 2020. It could very well be the “next big thing.”
Ellix got involved with Crew SC almost by chance.
“I heard that the MLS is going to start signing players just through the grapevine and somebody I knew said, ‘Hey, have you thought about putting your name forward?’ At the time, I said ‘no, not really, a little bit here, a little bit there.’ Then I got a call from a company and they said they were going to put me in touch with the Columbus Crew. It all took off from there.”
As mentioned previously, this wouldn’t be his first rodeo by any means. He’s been competing in eSports for ten years; it all started in 2008.
“I was told that there was this website that you could play and bet your own money on there and play for money and I tried it. I thought I was pretty good. I wasn’t too sure. Then I lost to a guy and he actually beat me pretty badly. We actually became pretty good friends through that website. Another friend of mine had noticed a TV show in England that did tournaments where you qualify online and go on TV if you got there. So that’s when I started realizing that I could do it, when that first tournament ended. I made the semifinal which was broadcast on TV. So that was pretty cool. But yeah, I lost in the final.”
Ellix won’t be gunning for second this time around.
“In 2009 I started like going I’m really good at this, I finished second in the whole of the UK for the FIWC. It was a big deal. I was probably a little bit immature. So I didn’t close the game out when I was in the lead. That’s what I would be doing differently now.”
When asked, Ellix said that his favorite edition of the famed EA Sports franchise was FIFA 09, a game where he accomplished great things. But since then, he has enjoyed none more than FIFA 18 even though he admits that this year’s version is not flawless.
Gamers like Ellix regularly spend 40-50 hours a week when a new version comes out and typically will have thousands of games under their belt by this time of the year. Now he’s just finetuning his skills and making adjustments, playing five or six games a day. There’s no question that he has put in the time necessary to win the tourney.
When it comes to real soccer on a real pitch, this 25-year-old is Arsenal through and through.
“I’m a humongous Arsenal fan. I have a tatoo of their crest on my right shoulder. I wish I had put it on my chest. I was scared when I got it because it was my first tatoo. Going back I’d also have to say that Dennis Bergkamp was my favorite player.”
If you are only going to remember one thing, remember the name Graham “Skamzz” Ellix. He has the experience, skill, and passion to win it all at eMLS Cup. Maybe he will be an inspiration for young gamers just like Bergkamp inspired him so many years ago. He’s that good and we’re proud to see him represent Columbus and Ohio on a nationally (and hopefully global) stage.