Interview with Team Dignitas Managing Director ODEE
Sat 2nd Nov 2013 - 8:18pm: Interview
As a founder of Team Dignitas, a gamer and a father, we find out a bit more about Managing Director: Michael 'ODEE' O'Dell. We started talking about his gaming career, as ODEE also started out as a professional gamer before going into management. ODEE continues by giving some insight in the life of a Team Dignitas manager and shares his experiences.
You've been involved in the competitive gaming scene for a very long time, can you tell us a bit about how you got so involved - and what led you to create Team Dignitas?
ODEE: I really first found the competitive scene in 1998 through a service long gone called Wireplay. Wireplay was a client that made it easy for you to find servers in games and join them quickly to play. This is also where I played my first tournament in Duke Nukem and of course I was hooked as it was such fun. I can still see the map in my head now, I played it quite a lot! I read people like Fatal1ty were earning money and I wanted to do that too, so I set out to climb the eSports ladder....
Quake III was out in early 1999 and I quickly moved on and played that at a high level in the CTF mode, which is where I found r2k. We both played CTF and we were bloody good playing for the National team which for me, well I was very proud.
In 2003 the Battlefield 1942 demo stole me from Quake, it was amazing and still today I think BF42 is one of the best games out there in terms of what you could do in it. I wanted to go Pro in this game so I started a team, I used some Quake III players and after a few months realised that they were not going to be the best. I had a Counterstrike moment and stole the best players and approached the top team at the time: LCD. We got in and after LCD merged with Kompanix I became one of the leaders of Team Dignitas. Not many people know but that original Battlefield 1942 team is what created Team Dignitas. Many of the originals such as NewmaN, SpadEs and Cougar had a big part in building our company and still do, helping and deciding our next moves. One promise I made 10 years ago was that the original team will be rewarded for our efforts one day, that day is getting closer.
Managing Team Dignitas must take a lot of time and effort, how many people are involved behind the scenes now?
ODEE: Good question, let me count, … probably about 50-ish, but the main management part of our staff is approximately 10. We have directors, squad managers, editors, commentators, event staff, graphics guys and an LoL analyst now. I would like a personal trainer for some squads eventually and a sports psychologist, too.
What is an average day in ODEE's life like?
ODEE: There isn’t an average day anymore, what we do has so many diverse aspects to it, this is why I love my job, right now the only constant is the Gym. To give you an idea of what it could be like below;
Morning: check my emails, this involves talking with sponsors, new opportunities from literally anything or deal with mails concerning players from sending new gear to booking travel.
Midday: hit the gym. By lunchtime a lot of our management team and players start joining our teamspeak which is basically my office. We discuss all the projects we have going on. MrDogbert and Lumpy are key people now for us on the business side of the team so we discuss projects we are doing. Right now for example we are looking for our UK gaming house which will be in Manchester.
I may have to go and meet people so I head to London a lot or visit sponsors at their offices. Last week I went to Bolton to see our sponsors SCAN Computers. If I am at home I also have a lot of conference calls it seems.
By late afternoon our news crew are on, Sui and MepH are extremely important parts of our organisation and both have a lot of duties to do. So we talk and decide on things but both have a lot of decision making abilities.
By dinner time most players are on and starting to practise so we monitor them and check on what they are up to. Also during this time I watch a lot of streams and spam NewmaN faces in Twitch TV chats. By 10pm UK time the American players we have are in full swing also.
Bedtime is normally 1am – 3am for me.
As a gamer and father, are your daughters taking to gaming like you did?
ODEE: Not yet, of course they play games but I do not think they have the competitive edge just yet. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did eventually, of course they have my genes. I let them play the games they want to play and limit the time they play. Actually, they are not allowed to touch a computer until 4.30pm.
Why do you think there are so few competitive female gamers compared to male?
ODEE: The million $ question, I simply do not know. There is no reason why women cannot play at the top level. I think a lot of the competitive titles over the past 10 years have been games girls wouldn’t necessarily want to play for fun. Again I am not saying girls can’t play those games I think it’s a case of do they want to. I think the MOBA genre is more appealing to female players in fact also to normal gamers. I hope that female gamers come through, I would love to see more women at the top in eSports.
Down to the nitty gritty, do you have any pet hates about gamers?
ODEE: My main one is those that try to short cut their way to the top, with the least amount of effort. After that there are lots, such as whiny players - who doesn’t get pissed off with them? There are lots of other things that annoy me but I wont put them down here just in case! Players know what annoys me. Our managers know what annoys me - I moan about things that annoy me to them a lot!
If you could change anything from the past 10 years of Team Dignitas, would you change or adjust anything?
ODEE: I think the only thing I would have changed if we knew at the time would have been to have a bit of a reserve in the deposit account for the years where the economy was tough. Other than that no, everything we have done has been amazing and building our brand, company and contributing the entire scene has been a fun ride.
What future aspirations do you have for Team Dignitas?
ODEE: Sustainability is the main aspiration, we are a business and we have staff as well as players, so we need to make sure our income is more diverse in the future. We want to continue building our brand, expanding into new areas and regions which is our plan for 2014.
What is your worst and funniest eSport moment?
ODEE: The worst by far is the 2012 MLG Raleigh incident where our team was disqualified from the tournament after agreeing with Curse to **** around in the final by playing ARAM. It was a completely moronic decision by all those involved. Unfortunately, we were not able to have a manager at the event as we were stretched that weekend. If only someone was there to stop it, oh wait, there was …… you know who you are grrrrr!
The funniest moment was probably during my time in Championship Gaming Series when my CS team called me saying their apartment was flooding. They called me to come check at 2am, I promptly locked myself out of my apartment just wearing boxer shorts. I then went to the room and found that they had ripped the stop cock out of the toilet and flooded the apartment but carried on playing XBOX by raising the wires above the water ……………
What are your top 3 moments of Team Dignitas in eSports since it began?
ODEE: It is really hard for me to even attempt to answer this as every time we win or a player we support succeeds, then our goal is complete. We have had many World Champions throughout our ten years in existence, everyone I remember.
What can a player do to get spotted by a professional team such as Team Dignitas?
ODEE: It is really easy, basically you have to believe in yourself but not only that you must self-recognise that you have the ability to be the best. That’s the theory done, after that you must have natural talent, what we do isn’t easy, it’s bloody tough to be the best. Once you understand the basics then it is a case of competing, if you have the talent we will find you, competing in tournaments is how you progress.
Tell us something about you that no one knows in eSports yet!
ODEE: I am allergic to Penicillin.
ODEE: It is not what you know, it is who you know!