Last October, the International Olympic Committee stated electronic sports could be recognized as a sporting activity, so the next step might be the 2022 Asian Games including eSports as a competition. After that, there is a chance for the 2024 Olympics.
“That’s what I’m hearing,” Graham “Skamzz” Ellix said. “I’ll be 30 by then, and I have two kids at home, but it would be great to see it make there, for sure.”
Ellix, who has been competing professionally since 2008, was talking after reaching the knockout round of the first eMLS Cup tournament representing Columbus Crew SC. Ellix was eliminated by Cormac Dooley “Doolsta,” representing the Philadelphia Union, by a 3-2 score, a result that might have signaled a turning point in his career.
“The second goal was a rough goal to concede,” Ellix said. “I actually intercepted the ball and it went flying back to him, and it was with a high-rated defender I had intercepted with. So, now you’re a defender down because of that. The last goal, I covered my angles completely well, there was nothing else he had, there was no angle for him to score. And he scored a cross goal on his weak foot. Sometimes it’s meant to be, sometimes it‘s not.
“Definitely discouraging, I can’t lie. I’m 26, the kid I played against is 17. You’ve got to look at it as a nine-year difference. He’s going to be a little sharper sometimes – mentally I would say I was probably more focused on it than him. Give me a week or two and we’ll see where I’m at.”
Ellix, from Bristol, England, competed for Team Dignitas before moving to Cincinnati when he was 19. Ellix still displays the youthful spirit necessary to participate at a high level at the controls of EA SPORTS FIFA 18.
“Definitely have that,” Ellix said. “But it’s like, knowing you’ve got kids at home, decisions have to be made. We’ll see.
“Realistically, I’d like to make this my full-time job. I asked somebody what a ballpark [figure] would be they could make, and for what I need to be making, I guess we’ve got a long way ahead. It would be nice to help run these scenes, stuff like that. Most of them are kids, 17-18. I’m 26, [Giuseppe] Guastella [32 years old] is the oldest. If I don’t make it to that level, hopefully I can get involved with the scene. I‘ve made a big name for myself there.”
The eMLS Cup winner was set to earn $10,000, and the top finishers qualify for the next round of the Global Series Playoffs on the way to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018. Last year, the FIFA Interactive World Cup champion earned a $200,000 prize.
When Ellix started playing FIFA, he could not have predicted the increased level of competition and interest.
“I started off with my friends and there were, like, little bets, like shave your eyebrows off if you lose,” Ellix recalled. “Stupid stuff. At the end of 2008, when they released the 2009 game I really realized I was pretty good. None of my friends were good enough to keep up with me at that point. That’s when I took off and made a TV show — X League – I made the semifinal and lost in the final on a penalty shootout, if I remember correctly. That was when I realized I’m pretty good at this. Tournaments started popping up here and there, sponsors were coming after me. Sponsors would pay for accommodations, but it was nothing like what it is now.”
Ellix played goalkeeper and supported Arsenal as a youngster.
“My granddad was from North London, so I got brainwashed pretty early,” Ellix said. “Gaming was a way for me to get away from troubles and stuff I had at home. When I was in a game I was on-line with people I didn’t know in areas of the world, areas of England. So, it was nice to have a friend on line you could turn to and not just your friends outside. It was pretty cool, most of my closer friends are probably from on line, believe it or not.”
Rules for the eMLS Cup required teams to have at least three MLS players, including one from the team being represented. Ellix went with the Crew’s Gyasi Zardes, but left off his Arsenal favorites.
“You’ve got to keep your heart out of it,” Ellix said. “Obviously, I’m a big Arsenal fan and it would be nice to put Jack Wilshere in there. But when it comes to FIFA it’s an unfair mix. He’s not the fastest player in the game, and Ultimate Team FIFA seems to be pace and physicality. You lose a little bit of skill base. [Andres] Iniesta, for example, one of the best midfielders in the world, right. But because he’s older he doesn’t keep up with the younger players who are faster.
“It’s weird, because everyone bases their team on pace, and then we come here and then the game plays super slow. There’s so much respect, nobody wants to give the other person the ball. But when you get that last break you want to have the pace to be able to get in behind.
“Like Chris [Holly] yesterday, he got David Villa in, and Villa only has 66 pace, and the defender caught him instantly, and it was just over. In real life, David Villa might be able to push himself on, but in the game he has a stat base you can’t change.”
Ellix advanced as the No. 5 seed in the eMLS Cup, having lost twice to Dooley in group play. Before the next round, Ellix stressed the importance of opening the scoring. Then, Ellix had to rally from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before falling. The difference turned out to be two left-footed finishes by Paul Pogba.
“He won the first two by a lot, today obviously was a tighter affair,” Ellix said on Saturday afternoon at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. “There was a lot more on the line. It was who could get the first goal. I came back twice and conceded late. He killed the game off and it was a very mature performance by him.
“Doolsta and I, we hit it off pretty well. Like I said, he’s a cool kid. It was a friendly kind of game but there was a lot on the line.”