TP TALKS TO... Professional FIFA eGamer Kurt Fenech

by Stel Stylianou

’With FIFA19 about to launch, Stel Stylianou talks candidly with FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 semi-finalist Kurt about his pro career, issues with FIFA 18, rage quitting and that YouTube video.’
 


ON GETTING INTO GAMING AND TRANSITIONING TO PRO…
I’ve been playing professionally for a few years now, but FIFA only starting eSport-ing in 2017. I wasn’t allowed to play last year. There were issues with eligible countries including Malta, which is where I’m from, so 2018 is my first proper year. It’s all about improving my game, qualifying for events and showing what I can do, then seeing what happens.


SOME eGAMERS HAVE THE LIKES OF MESSI AND RONALDO IN THEIR TEAMS, BUT IT’S NOT THAT EASY, OR DOWN TO TALENT. YOU HAVE TO BUY THEM. FAIR?
Yes, because home play vs pro play have different rules. At home, you buy your own players (but it’s you vs the game; it’s for fun so the stakes are different). At events we’re given EA accounts with every player available so it’s an even playing field.


ON HIS PLAYING STYLE…
It’s pretty unique and unmatchable. Very attack-minded. I don’t like keeping the ball too much, so I prefer to play direct, fast, to score many goals as I can. I scored the most goals at the last FIFA eWorld Cup so I think it’s working.
 


‘If Internazionale created a FIFA team, I’d be tempted to play for them. A lot of football clubs have approached eSports in the right direction. Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in particular have done a fantastic job.’



ON BEING UNCOACHABLE…
As ePlayers rather than physical ones, a lot of what we do is about tactics, strategies… playing the role of the manager but in the minds of many players, with the literal ability to make them work together. Physical managers don’t have that ability. So coaching in our area – what’s a coach going to tell me that I don’t already know? A benefit of coaches is that they keep players calm, but there are other ways to do that. I can control my emotions. I can play better when I’m angry. I know I’m in the minority; it’s personal preference.


ON PEOPLE WHO QUIT OUT OF RAGE… (#BeenThereDoneThat)
*Laughs*
 I got a lot of interaction with that. At the time I thought (and still do) it was the right decision. I actually finished the game, contrary to popular belief.



‘Driven to combatting the FIFA eSport titles, and with a popular YouTube channel where the latest video has already hit 70,000 views, his FIFA 19 video tells another story…’

ON NOT BEING IMPRESSED WITH FIFA 19’s GAME AT ALL…

I only started the channel a few weeks ago, but it’s a really good platform for me. I can express my views more naturally in videos.

I played the Beta version and I just gave my honest opinion. After the year we’ve had on FIFA 18, I don’t think the game is at the level it should be. I was shocked. I expected some massive changes, but it went the other way. It’s only a Beta so there’s still hope, but I can’t see how they can fix so many issues by the time the game launches – and with such big budgets and staff, it shouldn’t have to be rushed; it should be ready. We can’t really judge it until the release, but…



‘There are a lot more parallels between pro footballers and pro eGamers. Pro footballers play against lower league opponents and notice a difference in quality. Professional eGamers can tell the difference in game play quality simply by picking up the control pad.  Same result, different approach; a bit like Chelsea vs Arsenal.‘



ON WHY FIFA 2018 WAS A ‘BAD YEAR’…
There’s a skill gap in gaming – bigger than people realise - which ultimately decides the competition. On FIFA 18 the skill gap wasn’t great. For example, if we played a tournament 10 times, there could be 10 different winners. Ultimately, the best players will stand out, but it’s scary. So much stuff can happen, and it’s not very fair either.

There were a lot of issues that needed addressing, but the number one thing that killed it was the kick off glitch. I.e. if I scored a goal, my opponent had a higher chance of scoring straight away from kick off because – for some reason – my defenders weren’t awake. That shouldn’t be in the game, but it was rife this year.

I understand people want everything to be as realistic as possible, but that’s unrealistic. There’s not enough time. Our games last 6 minutes, not 45, so this has to be considered. The game has to be faster. A big issue was the length of time people were able to keep the ball and how hard it was to press.


 

‘People might think I was trying to stop people from purchasing the game. It’s the complete opposite. If you watch a game at the weekend, your natural instinct is to want to play it, whether it’s virtual or real. If I want the game to improve, I have to say. ’


‘Critics say I should send feedback straight to the EA, but they’ve never asked me to review their games. My interests are in how I enjoy playing the game and in discussing it with other people who are interested too. If they care, they will notice – and this will probably be much more effective in getting their attention than an email. If not, as gamers we decide what we like to play and what we don’t; the number of people playing will speak for itself.’



 

‘FIFA Online is a massive phenomenon. Quickly transitioning from being hosted on YouTube to now being on Sky Sports, with the FIFA eWorld Cup being held at the O2 Arena.’

 

ON BEING A PIONEER  OF THE eSPORT REVOLUTION…
It’s massive. Even the production of the events – particularly at the O2 – was truly special. It didn’t disappoint at all. Entering the arena, you’re like “wow”. People who have headlined here include Anthony Joshua, music icons like Beyonce and Michael Jackson… and here we are. It’s amazing.

If we can get the basics of the game correct, we can take it to the next level. A problem is that there are too many ‘yes men’ in the industry – even some of my peers. If we can be straight up, honest and admit why FIFA 18 didn’t work as well as it should, then we can move forward. A lot of people just say “Oh, that’s not too bad”, then move on. This affects the game, and slows progress, not just of this one point, but the industry as a whole.

But this is just the beginning. Things are improving and growing quickly. It’s an exciting time.




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