StarCraft II Pro Gamer Jens "Snute" Aasgaard Talks ESports
NEW YORK CITY -- Jens "Snute" Aasgaard, a professional StarCraft II player from Norway who plays Zerg for Team Liquid, was at Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) in New York City to play against the best gamers in the world.
A native of Oppegård, Norway, Aasgaard got his start playing StarCraft: Brood War. After a detour with competitive Dance Dance Revolution tournaments (he was the Norwegian champion in 2004), he moved on to StarCraft II. In 2012, he left Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim to play SC2 pro full-time. He graduated from Team Gamersleague to Team Liquid. He talks about his journey and looks to the future of eSports in this exclusive interview.
How did you become a professional StarCraft II player?
It started off with local competitions in my country Norway where I was just playing the game for fun, but as I attended more and more national competitions I was also able to qualify for international competitions. As I attended competitions around the world I got more and more into it and got a desire to compete and win tournaments. So that’s how I got into it.
How popular are eSports in Norway?
In Norway it’s quite popular. We don’t really have the same history as many other countries like South Korea or Sweden, where eSports truly is established, but we have a small scene and it’s growing steadily day by day, year by year, slowly but surely. There is a decent amount of interest, but it’s not as much as in South Korea.
Can you give us a sense of what you feel you sacrificed to become a pro?
That’s quite a lot of things. I went to university and even if I felt like the course didn’t really fit me or my studies really didn’t fit me, I still had to give up my education so to speak. I used to have a quite normal life before with a full-time job. I had a girlfriend. So I sacrificed quite a lot of time with friends and family. I spent a lot of time on this game.
How much time do you end up in a normal week playing StarCraft II?
During the times I practice the most it can be as much as 10 hours per day, but on a regular basis I’d say I practice about eight hours per day. Apart from that there’s traveling, competitions, and you need to interact with your fans and people asking questions. There’s always something to do in addition to all the practice and all the competition, so it’s a full-time job. When you don’t play your mind is still focused on the game. You think about how to improve and you thing about the strategies to use later in tournaments, so it’s always on your mind.
What’s it like when you’re in that booth knowing that there’s so many people out in the crowd watching?
It’s really special. It’s really easy to get a bit nervous, but it’s something that you have to work with and eventually if you’ve been to enough competitions then you get used to the feeling. But every time I go to a tournament like IEM I’m always grateful for all the fans that appear and cheer for the players. It’s such a truly amazing feeling because we spend so much time at home just practicing and practicing to show our skills on stage and when the crowds appreciates our play then it truly means a lot to us professional gamers.
What do you feel separates Comic Con as an eSports venue from anywhere else you’ve played?
It’s not too different actually from other eSports events. It’s very common for tournaments to be held at convention centers.
But a lot more costumes.
Yeah, you can say that. That’s not as common. Usually the conventions are about technology, but costumes not so much. That’s the first time I’ve been to a StarCraft II tournament that has so many cos players going around.
What impact from a big picture perspective do you feel League of Legends selling out Staples Center will have on eSports, especially with the mainstream that aren’t familiar with it yet?
StarCraft II used to be the major eSports title, but League of Legends has easily claimed that afterwards. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad development because more and more people are getting into eSports. I always like to think it’s like music. Some artists might be less popular than others, but people always follow what they like. If more people start listening to music as a result of some popular band, or more people start watching eSports because of how popular League of Legends is, then that’s also going to impact StarCraft II positively. It doesn’t really matter to me how big League of Legends is in comparison. I just think it’s great that more and more people are getting into eSports.
What impact have you seen the expansions for StarCraft II have on eSports?
From what I’ve seen every time the expansion is released there is a bit of hype around it and new viewers are actually pulled in. From what I know it definitely has a positive impact on the amount of viewers. The last year the viewer count has been somewhat stable, maybe slightly increasing. The fact that Blizzard is releasing new expansions for the game definitely helps the game so that it doesn’t stagnate, so that there’s always something new, something fresh. It’s definitely very good for the scene that the games are updated frequently.
Where do you see eSports five years from now?
I think it’s only going to get bigger from here as more and more people get into it. Computer games have always been big and eSports might not be something that a lot of people are familiar with, but I think with broadcasting services like Twitch TV and streaming online the accessibility of eSports has just improved because of more and more people getting broadband connections. Ten years ago we didn’t even have connections powerful enough to watch each other play online. In five years even more people will be into eSports. Even more people will be playing games, broadcasting their games. I think there will be even more tournaments, even more viewers and more fans and even more hype. It’s going to be great.