InsaneGame meets up with Koen Schobbers at a café terrace in Oss on the day the AMC (Amsterdam Medical Center) officially announces his top athlete status for his internship becoming a surgeon. This is a huge recognition for esports as a sport! Later that day DTV has an interview with him as well. Talking with Koen turns out to be very companionable and to be able to get as much out of the time we have, we throw his bicycle in the back of my car to get him to DTV in time. The final result is a combination of Koen Schobbers as a person and esports knowledge and -experience.
Koen Schobbers is a very versatile young man. He studies medicine, is a show host for FoxSports, a professional TrackMania gamer, Dutch Esportbond- and Acer ambassador and founding member of the athletes commission of the IeSF. Besides that, he streams on Twitch (Koenznl) and organizes parental information gatherings on gaming. My first question was if he’s afraid of getting bored, but that’s not the case at all. Being a show host is something he accidentally ran into. He never expected to love it the way he does and it brought him to the point he had to make a career choice.
“There came a moment in time I thought I had to choose between medicine or esports. I’ve started hosting in March 2016 and it’s something I’m good at. People think a have a future as a show host and I love the combination with my gaming as well. However, I can’t study medicine and game at the same time. All the people I’ve talked to about this choice I had to make said my career as a surgeon is more important, but, I didn’t want to quit my study, nor give up my career in gaming. Through my internship in Biomedical Sciences I came into contact with Mrs M.P. Schijven, MD MSc PhD at the AMC. She’s a surgeon and conducts research into systematic review of serious games for medical education and surgical skills training. I talked to her about it last November and she said: ‘why don’t we try to find a way to do both’. Last Thursday I received the confirmation of my professional athlete status for my internships. I’m really happy I’m getting the chance to do both, thanks to Mrs Schijven. My choice for surgery is a great combination with my gaming skills. Lots of eye-hand coordination, teamwork and overview are required, the same as in gaming. I want to use those skills in the operating room as well”.
Do you think gaming should be used as a means of learning in the educational system?
“In ICT for sure, but in medicine too you can see the rise of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality*. However, primary- and secondary school need to adapt as well.
The Dutch educational system hasn’t changed in a long time and things kids have to learn today might not be relevant in our future society which will be very different due to technology in 10+ years. To what extent can and will the system anticipate to that. Besides that, a student is so equipped using digital learning at home with their computers, they’re getting bored in class with books only.
Students shouldn’t dictate how material is presented in class of course, but I do think more can be done to keep it interesting and, as an educational institution, you should keep up with time. If you can get a student to learn by means of gaming, with or without a competitive element, he will acquire more knowledge which is the whole point of education. Apart from that, it’s the parent’s job to teach their kids discipline. You need to have some sort of intellectual capacity in life. Whether from a book or by digital learning is not relevant, kids need to be taught the basic rules of learning”.
What method do you use to study?
“Marking out my study subjects is definitely a problem for me. I always finish all my assignments to be sure I did everything I could in case of a bad grade, but I tend to immerse in a subject. You have your basics- and in depth knowledge. Sometimes you’ll need to go deeper into things to be able to understand the basics, but you can easily get lost in details as well because the human body is one big puzzle. Studying like that takes way too much time and you acquire a lot of knowledge that’s not relevant for the subject you need to learn at that time. In the end I realized learning like that took up too much time and I needed to find a different way of studying. I now make resumes of which I make another resume of which I take the key items. That way my way of learning is much more focused on the actual assignment “.
You also give counselling to parents on their gaming kids. Are your own parents your role models?
“I started playing TrackMania because of my dad. From the start they said I wouldn’t be allowed to play if my school results dropped. So, if I wanted to keep playing, I needed to make sure my grades were up. That’s the discipline they taught me. There’s more to life than just your computer, but by all means, do what you like doing. My parents always said your education is important, but everything besides your education may be even more important. Your time off is as important as your time in school. My father and I used to play games together and he went to events with me. They’ve always supported me and that support expressed itself in my behavior towards them. When they said it was time to eat, I quit my game without whining. It’s because of them I became who I am gaming wise and also in the way I approach my education in combination with my gaming career.
What I try to do in my counselling is tell the parents there should be more balance between time off, school and having a hobby. They think gaming is a problem because they’re not used to gaming as a means to spend your time off, so they sometimes simply literally pull the plug. That’s something you should never do. As a parent you’ll create a distance between your child and you that will grow even bigger during puberty. It shuts down all forms of communication with your child. It’s better to show interest and sometimes play a game together and then say: ‘it’s dinner time after this game’s finished’. That way you’ll keep in touch with your child and it’s far easier to get him away from the computer when necessary”.
InsaneGame: There seems to be an impasse in The Netherlands between traditional enterprises and esports. What strikes me every time I have interviews for my website is the humble attitude of esports companies towards traditional businesses. I understand that attitude might have been necessary a couple of years back, but nowadays the tables have turned. Esports worldwide and in The Netherlands too are a strong, fast evolving and highly interesting market for traditional businesses. It’s them that need esports now to reach their clientele. Why is it so hard for esports to change their attitude. If you present yourself as needy, you are being treated as needy. When will you realize it’s your time to call the shots?
The same goes for the interaction between the DCL (Dutch College League) and 2Basics last year that caused for a lot of problems. This would have had consequences right away in traditional business life, however, not in esports. This year, AXE and Taco Bell are sponsoring the DCL, which is still not enough for what’s needed moneywise. The same goes for the E-division. The way it’s being presented and the means and facilities made available are almost shameful. Why is that acceptable for the world of esports?
Koen; “I notice how traditional businesses still don’t get esports. Many of them want to be a part of it but simply don’t know how, which is why I advise trade and industry on this subject. They’re losing clientele and know they can regain them through esports, especially the youth, which is one of the reasons they’re interested. They often do know esports has an international aspect to it, but are not fully aware of the fact that most of the people who watch esports have a fulltime job. This potential revenue makes the esports business very interesting and as a company you will want to reach that group too, besides the younger generation.
Looking at my own professional growth. At the start of my Acer period they said;’ if you want a raise, you’ll have to ask for it yourself’. I presented them with 6 strong arguments and got my raise. That’s the way esports should act as well. When Team Acer closed I was asked to become Ambassador by Acer Benelux. The first year they provided me with Acer Predator hardware which I needed for my games. Only when other companies got interested in me, Acer gave me an exclusive deal, also due to being consistent in the high level of my performance and having an open relationship with Acer.
The world of esports has to present itself for who they are and what their value is. Esports’ market value has gone up dramatically and will continue to go up. Working in esports in The Netherlands means putting in a lot of unpaid hours, much work is done voluntarily, like at FoxSports. That’s actually a bit unacceptable, but money has to come in first before salaries can be paid.
The thing is, as it is now, a lot of esports related companies are asking for sponsorships, also people who had left esports and are now hurrying back because they realize there’s money to be made. Those people are only in for profit while the ones that have always been in esports for the love of it, and therefore have most expertise, are the ones missing out. The freeloaders only pretend to have expertise. So when you’re interested in esports, always check sponsor applicants on their continuity.
The main question companies have is when to invest in the young generation, but when companies want to wait until esports has proven itself to be worthwhile profit wise, they’ll be too late. They’ll already have lost their position in esports. The gaming industry is developing really fast and is so much bigger than they realize.
Many channels might refuse to show esports today even though it’s a very professional world, as we’re currently proving with the Dutch College League. FoxSports is now reaping the benefits of broadcasting Inside Esports and the E-Division. A smart move at the right time, because esports is growing fast. Still, I do see our program on open channels (FoxSports is a paid channel) like RTL in the future showing an even higher level of professionalism by our athletes.
I have worked with a fitness instructor, dietician and had an obligation to participate in sports. All top athletes need to be physically active because a healthy body means good focus and endurance during a game, which you absolutely need. It would be wonderful when Dutch esports athletes, in our competition, could have the same professional lifestyle as pro soccer players do.
Sleep, rest, healthy diet, the top in esports is very professional, however, the focus in media is almost always on amateurs. They, just as in soccer, might eat pizza’s indeed. The thing is, soccer is always in the media from a professional point of view, everything that happens after a game in the amateur league, like drinking beer and partying, is never shown. In esports, the biggest tournaments and world championships are never shown on television. That way, people will never form a correct opinion on esports, being a top esports athlete and all you have to do to get- and stay at the top. If channels would only broadcast amateur soccer where all that happens after the game is equally important as the game itself, people would get a wrong image of soccer as well. Parents would tell their children:’ don’t play soccer, I don’t want you to become a beer drinker’.
If you keep thinking at an amateurish level and don’t broadcast the professional esports world, apart from Inside Esports, the image of gamers and esports will never change to the great- and awesome world it truly is. It’s my job to change that. Being a show host means being a representative of esports, the same goes for me being ambassador of the Dutch Esportbond. When someone says they’re not interested in esports, that’s fine with me, but you can’t judge without having done some research on it and know what you’re talking about. Get to know esports for what it is and only then form your opinion”.
There were plans getting the WC to The Netherlands, is that still happening?
“This year’s location is Busan, Korea, but I think it would be really great to get it to The Netherlands and show people how big esports is. Like Ahoy last year (LCS spring split) which was sold out completely (2 day event)”.
Are you interested in the ECS (Esports Championship Series) by Faceit en Twitch** because of your role in the IeSF athletes commission?
I actually haven’t heard about that league and wonder what they’ve done marketing wise on social media. From what you’ve just told me it’s a great initiative though because the players and teams are under a lot of strain. Holidays are important, but dealing with emotions after a game lost or won is even more important. Professionals are not given time for that, they just have to keep on going. Sure, there’s a party after a tournament, but no time to relax or evaluate. They have some days off, but basically, when the season starts, you just have to keep on going”.
So Koen, tell me, do you have any hobby’s?
Hahaha, I do a lot of things because I don’t reflect on my choices too much. I just want to go and will find out in the process if it works out or not, it’s a matter of trial and error.
*Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that connects reality and virtual reality, it’s a mixture of reality with a virtual additive or enrichment. There’s extra digital content added to your visual field.
Virtual reality (VR) is the creation of a reality, so a fake reality.
** The ECS is a league where the gamers are co-owners of the league and can therefore define their fringe benefits. Holidays, salary and paid sick leave are all part of this league. The only game played in the ECS for now is CS:GO. For more information, see: http://insanegame.net/en/2017/01/17/escon-and-why-you-should-know-about-that/
Koen Schobbers Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/koenznl