Good WiFi was the difference between work-from-home bliss and hell during COVID-19.
But even the best router and NBN plan hasn’t been able to cut it for Australia’s pro-gamers.
Vincent “Vinny” Daniele plays Rainbow Six Siege for a living.
His team, Wildcard Gaming, was ranked first in the country heading into the 2021 Oceanic Nationals; a ranking that counts for little while the pandemic keeps Australia cut-off from the rest of the world.
How did COVID-19 impact tournaments last year and how will it affect 2021?
“It’s gonna be completely online for the majority of this year,” Vinny told 9News.
“We actually qualified for the Six Invitational which is basically the biggest tournament in the game. It’s the top 20 teams in the world which was meant to be held in France in late February, but unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to get out of the country.”
“The event was then postponed until May and at this stage we’re still on track to go but it’s pretty optimistic to think we can get out of the country.”
Does being stuck on WiFi affect your performance or is the internet connection good enough in Australia for you to play international teams?
“It’s basically impossible to play against teams from Europe and America,” Vinny says.
“We sometimes practice against Asian teams, but really that’s the furthest you’ll go away from Australian servers.
“That means that online events aren’t really possible and not being able to play at these offline events impacts the way the global rankings stack up.
“It’s hard to gauge where everybody is just based on the way they’re playing within their own region, since every region kind of plays the game differently.
“At the moment, we’re more focused on being number one in Australia rather than top 20 in the world.”
You joined Wildcard late last year to immediate success, winning the Oceanic November Six Major. Since then you’ve lost your captain?
“A few weeks ago we were extremely confident going into Nationals, but there’s been a pretty drastic roster change,” Vinny says.
“It’s kind of made us re-evaluate our expectations and goals for this season.”
“I’ve come close before to winning Oceanic Nationals with previous teams but I knew when I was joining Wildcard I was joining a pretty amazing pedigree of players that have had unbelievable success.”
“I just had to slot in and do my best to continue that winning form and it was really exciting that we won straight off the bat.”
“We were able to click very early on.”
eSports in general is becoming bigger. We often report on stories like “a 13-year-old has just won $300,000 playing Fortnite” but those tournaments always feel random. What’s your take as a pro Aussie gamer?
“It’s really exciting seeing the way that it’s growing,” Vinny says.
“Obviously, Coronavirus put a hold on those offline events in Australia and I was really excited for what was to come.
“A few years ago you would never consider this a career option but I think it’s becoming more and more accessible for people in Australia.
“It’s really exciting to see that kind of talent that is coming out of the country.
“I think that’s almost entirely due to the fact that events like this are happening and you know, big companies are really buying into this kind of gaming setup.”
Do big companies need to be involved? Smash Bros. has always been popular as a competitive fighter but has never had Nintendo’s money behind it. How important is that support from Ubisoft to you being able to do this job?
“It goes without saying that any company really needs to back-in their games,” Vinny says.
“Ubisoft has really put a lot more effort into eSports the last few years.
“Leagues like Oceanic Nationals, and even South APAC now, are giving more Australians opportunities to make a career out of this.
Why Rainbow Six? We’re talking about a six-year-old game so why is that the one that’s gripped you?
“I got into competitive gaming around 2015 when I first built my PC and I played a game called Counter-Strike. That kind of took a hold of me for a long time,” Vinny says.
“I was introduced to Rainbow Six through a mate and early on I absolutely hated the game.
“But it kind of grew on me until the point that I was addicted to that as well.
“I think my competitive nature just kind of drove me towards a new challenge.
“I think the reason that Rainbow Six really has that foothold in the eSports scene right now is that it’s different. There isn’t really anything like it as a tactical first-person shooter isn’t widely accessible.
“Counter-Strike is probably the closest thing to it but it’s kind of hard to follow and really hard to master.”
Are you dedicated to being a pro gamer or is it just something that you’ve got to talent for and you’re playing these tournaments as a way to earn some cash?
“It definitely takes a bit of dedication,” Vinny says.
“There were a number of years where we weren’t paid players and this was kind of just doing it for the love of the game.
“But the passion is still there and it continues to drive us to be better.
“You can’t really stay the number one team, if you’re really complacent and just worried about the money.”
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There’s been talk of adding eSports to the Olympics for a couple of years, does it feel like that’s getting closer? What do you think it would be that cracks that that glass ceiling first?
“I think a game like League of Legends or DOTA would come to mind first,” Vinny says.
“They’re definitely the most global games and have the widest reach.
“I think it would do nothing but bring more viewership to something like the Olympics and bring a new wave of viewers and there can’t be any negatives from that.
“It would be awesome but absolutely get me watching the Olympics.”
What’s the dream? Will you be working in the game industry for the rest of your life?
“That’s a good question but I actually haven’t thought that far ahead,” Vinny says.
“I’ve got friends at Ubisoft that have said that I’d be a good candidate for certain positions but obviously that’s a career defining move.”
“I think it would be an amazing industry to work in, it’s definitely growing … and to be a part of that growth would be unbelievable for sure.”
You can follow Vincent “Vinny” Daniele and Wildcard Gaming on Twitter @Wildcard_GG or at https://wildcard.gg/