Call Of Duty Pros Lightning Pandas Discuss ESports Popularity

Professional gamers Shane “Shane” McKerral and Sandro "Ramba" Spick discuss the popularity of eSports in Europe.

The Lightning Pandas have the most colorful jerseys in all of eSports. The European Call of Duty team was founded by Shane “Shane” McKerral after he left Epsilon. Coming off Major League Gaming (MLG) Anaheim 2014, the team made it through to the fifth round of competition, emerging as the most successful European team in the tournament. The quartet of gamers also made it through to the 2014 Call of Duty Championship in LA in April 2014. Captain McKerral and teammate Sandro “Ramba” Spick discuss their pro gaming careers in this exclusive interview.

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How have you seen the Call of Duty Championship evolve over the last few years?

McKerral: “COD has literally blown up over the last few years. At my first event we were playing for absolutely pennies. The viewers on stream were probably less than 1,000, but here we are. We’re playing for a million dollars. And with the last Call of Duty Championship they had over 500,000 viewers, so that speaks for itself.”

What are the challenges when it comes to Call of Duty and having to learn a new game every year?

McKerral: “It’s all about the communication with the team. That was the barrier in our team because I’m Austrian and Ramba is from Switzerland. We speak German. That was a language barrier between us and that’s why we couldn’t communicate as well. But I think the communication and then just grind out the game is all you have to do.”

What do you feel the strength is when it comes to your team?

Spick: “The strength of our team is that we all get along. When someone makes a mistake, someone will point the mistake out and then we’ll fix that mistake. It’s to make our team play as perfectly as possible. At the end of the day, for every team, it’s just communication and getting along with each other. And we get there as a team because that all comes together.”

How has the level of competition evolved from last year to this year?

Spick: “It’s harder for the European teams than for the Americans. Last year Complexity dominated everything, but now there are about five or six American teams that can win it. That’s awesome because nobody likes a team that wins everything all the time.”

How have you see things evolve?

McKerral: “It’s pretty evolved. I think Black Ops 2 changed everything. That was the changer for the whole community, for the whole Call of Duty eSports.”

What impact did bringing in pros to the development studio early on have with Call of Duty?

McKerral: “The problem with the Call of Duty franchise is that so many people buy the game. And from the eSports side of it it’s probably less than one percent of people that like eSports. So it’s hard to get their attention sometimes. The most important thing for the eSports people is when the designers speak to us because we know what COD needs. They are the best players in the game and they know what makes the game the best. They know what makes the game exciting to watch, and so all this communication between us and the designers will go far.”

What’s your favorite Call of Duty Ghosts map and why?

Spick: “My favorite map is Octane Domination. I’ve played the S&D role because it’s quite an open map and there are so many buildings. It’s just nice and easy for me to go around and shoot everyone in the back and go hide and run away again.”

Do you have a favorite map?

McKerral: “I’m also playing S&D and I like to sneak behind them and come behind the enemy lines.”

Do you guys have a favorite weapon?

McKerral: “We both use an S&D and the most recommended weapon is the Mtar because it’s so useful from all ranges. Nine out of 10 players will use the Mtar just because it’s the most practical weapon for the role they play.”

How have you guys teams from different countries play different styles?

Spick: “The Koreans only play against other Koreans, so they can’t learn new things, whereas in Europe we can watch American streams all the time. The Americans always tend to be better. I have no idea why, but with Call of Duty that’s the way it always has been. That’s also because there’s more to play for in America. The problem we have in Europe is a language barrier, so each country only streams against teams from their country.”

How have you seen eSports evolve in Europe?

McKerral: “The European scene has grown a lot since last year. With the language barrier it’s pretty hard to find teams over the whole of Europe to compete with each other. You don’t ever see a team with one French, one German, one UK, and one Swiss player on it. In America it’s easier to find other good players.”

Spick: “Also the country is just a lot bigger as well. That always helps.”

What stands out as a favorite match in your career and why?

McKerral: “The G2 Finals. We played against Team Kaliber and we destroyed them. We were the underdog and everyone likes a little cliché underdog story, don’t they?”

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site