If the Columbus Blue Jackets ice hockey team couldn't be world champions, at least it's gaming representative was, right?
Matt Gutkoski, also known as his Gamertag 'Top-Shelf-Cookie', won the NHL World Gaming Championship on Wednesday in Las Vegas. His glory to follow? Being considered the best NHL 19 player in the world.
Oh, and taking home $50,000.
We got to chat with Gutkoski following his victory - discussing how his rise to stardom came, what's next, what the esports world is like and the other games he dabbles in.
Chris: You probably didn't ever dream about this all happening as a kid, but when did you start to realize you could potentially be a world champion in something like a video game?
Matt: "I started to believe that I could win the whole tournament around April, which was when I won the Columbus Blue Jackets tournament. I had a little bit of success prior but never placed highly in tournaments, so once I got a tournament win under my belt, I felt I could take the whole tournament."
What were your expectations heading to Las Vegas about how you’d play?
"My original expectation was I would win one series, which would guarantee me a second or higher placement. I had a pretty good feeling though that if I got past my first opponent, I would win the tournament."
How’s it feel to help put the Blue Jackets on the map a little more?
"It feels pretty cool. Having been supported by the jackets has been such an amazing feeling. My favorite team, my hometown team, is supporting me playing videos games, and that’s incredible."
What’s next for you in gaming?
"I’m not sure what’s next, to be honest. The gaming world championship is the last tournament for NHL 19, so I’ll probably be playing Fortnite, call of duty, or PUBG until NHL 20 comes out in September."
How do you see esports growing in the near future?
"I see esports growing a lot in the future. It’s essentially the same thing as to why people watch regular sports. Many people have played actual sports growing up, and they watch pro sports because they admire the skill that the pros have and how great they are at what they do. That’s the same thing with esports; many people play video games and they want to be able to watch the best of the best play the same video game that they play."
For those who think esports is not a real “sport”, what would you say?
"I would say that although there isn’t the physical drain that comes with sports in esports, the mental game is practically the same. Players need to think ahead of the game. In my case, thinking a pass or two ahead before it even develops, reading my opponents passes, things like that. Also, coordination is huge, which is also in regular sports. Quick reactions and fast hands are needed for a player to be great, and that’s the same in most sports."
If you could win a world championship in one other video game, what would it be?
"The other video game I would love to win a world championship in would be Fortnite or Call of Duty."
Any superstitions you have before/while playing?
"No superstitions really. I just try to play my game and what works in the previous game, I will try to repeat and use in the next game."
How badly would you beat me in NHL 19 if we played right now?
"Chris, you’re a nice guy, but I would hand it to you at least 10-0."
Debatable. Most important of all - do the Jackets bring back any of their UFAs?
"My gut feeling says Bob is going to Florida, Panarin is staying, and Duchene will go to Nashville."
Last but not least, favorite "The Other Guys" quote?
"Aim for the bushes."
Follow 1st Ohio Battery