With the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships fast approaching, we spoke to our Home Nation teams to learn more about them, and their involvement in the event.
In this piece, we are going to focus on Rocket League, and a few of the amazing individuals representing the Home Nations.
Codie ‘itsCodie95’ Hardaway – Esports Wales
Codie, also known as ‘itsCodie95’, is the Rocket League Game Manager for Esports Wales, and is working hard to get the Welsh Commonwealth players on top form.
Outside of esports, Codie is a Toyota Manufacturing Production Member – which is his full time role when he is not coaching and managing.
However, his esports journey has only just begun, in that he was only introduced to the industry in 2019.
Codie said: “My journey in esports has only been relatively brief in regards to most people, I was only introduced to esports in 2019 during Season 5 of the Rocket League Championship Series and it’s been a slow build up to becoming esports staff in November of 2021.”
Getting into esports can be quite a daunting task but, for Codie, getting involved with organisations and groups around you can make a world of difference.
He said: “My personal advice would be to pay attention to your local national esports communities, such as Esports Wales, and follow any directions that their teams may follow. A lot of our community within Esports Wales are also involved with Esports courses in colleges and universities so there are several directions that are easily accessible within the communities themselves.”
In terms of getting ready for the main event, Codie has been working tirelessly with his team to ensure that Wales puts up a solid battle at the Championships.
He added: “Preparing myself and my team for the CEC has been a relatively smooth experience, the team all get on fantastically and we’ve all made it incredibly smooth and easy for each other as possible.
“I know that going into the upcoming finals we are incredibly confident, we have put in a lot of hard work that led us to sweeping everyone during the qualifiers.”
As this is the first ever Commonwealth Esports Championships, there are elements of the unknown. However, people like Codie have high hopes for where the event can go in the future.
Codie said: “I personally think that the CEC2022 will be a massive paving stone for the esports scene in the UK in general, especially in regards to international teams such as Esports Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and hopefully bring it into mainstream media.
“I would love to see the CEC become a mainstream esports event that would elevate esports in the UK to be a European powerhouse when it comes to the talent pool for player selection. Becoming a go to aim for professional players to compete in, I would like to see the CEC provide inspiration for aspiring young players to come up through the ranks and represent their countries at what they do best,” he added.
Aaron ‘Gillzo’ Gillen – Northern Ireland
Competing alongside Jxffa, Smokez, and Pengu, Gillzo is one of the men’s representatives in Rocket League for Northern Ireland.
Although Aaron and his teammates did not qualify for the finals, they all took that in their stride – and didn’t let that stop them from being proud of representing their country.
Having first stepped into esports over a decade ago, Aaron is well-versed in the scene, and has high hopes for the Commonwealth event.
He explained: “My first baby steps into the world of esports would’ve been in a game called ‘War Thunder’ where I participated in Squadron battles with other players from my in-game squad way back in 2012 at the tender age of 13. However, for me personally, these were more for fun and I didn’t really view it as “competing” at the time.
“My first true experience competing in esports was February 2019 when I competed at my first LAN event in a Rocket League tournament hosted by RL Ireland in Ballymena. This is when I began to see that esports was much more than just playing a game online, and that there were many opportunities available from it.
“Since then, I’ve competed in 3 more LAN events and many more online tournaments, winning a few along the way! I also had the opportunity to work with the Ball State University esports team in Indiana, USA, in 2018 when I attended the University for 6 months as part of a study abroad programme with my university in England. It was there where I learned a lot about the content creation and production side of esports,” Aaron added.
Aaron said: “It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when you first get involved due to the number of avenues you can go down but my honest advice would be that no matter what aspect of esports you are interested in, whether it’s playing, coaching, casting, production or content creation, just give it a go. If you start something then think you might prefer to try something else, that’s perfectly fine! A lot of esports is just about getting your name out there and building a network of contacts, where you go from there is up to you!”
Initially, Aaron was unsure about who was going to be on the squad with him – but as soon as the players were confirmed, the team rallied together to be the best they could be.
Aaron explained: “Once we knew who was in the squad it was just about trying to get used to playing with each other and trying to adapt to everyone’s playstyle! After that we tried to find out who was on the team for the other nations to see if we could see how they play and how we could counteract them to try and gain any advantage we could. We also had a media day with DOTA 2 and eFootball teams, which was definitely a unique experience to say the least. But overall, we’ve just been focusing on trying to enjoy the experience and take as much of it in as we can.”
The CEC is set to be one of the biggest esports events in the UK this year, and everyone involved has different thoughts on how the event could get even bigger.
“I think the CEC is a perfect opportunity for the esports scene in the UK. In my opinion it brings a lot of both national and international attention to the world of esports, which currently isn’t reaching its potential in the UK. Hopefully the success of the CEC will encourage people to invest in the industry which will in turn help elevate it to the next level, where we will be able to have a structure similar to places like Asia and America, in which esports are beginning to be shown in the same light as “traditional” sports.
“Moreover, ideally, I would like to see the future of esports in the UK start at the grassroots. I think introducing esports in schools and colleges is one of the best ways to get people involved as it removes some of the stigma in kids about esports, like it’s only for ‘nerds’. This can lead to something similar to the US system where people are getting full scholarships to universities through esports instead of potentially having to choose between them, which in turn is setting them up for a successful life even after esports. I also think that this pathway opens more doors for esports to have a showcase in mainstream media, which will massively increase participation and overall views surrounding esports,” Aaron said.
Tickets are still available for the upcoming Commonwealth Esports Championships in Birmingham, and can be purchased here.
Want to keep up with all things CEC ahead of the 6th and 7th August? Make sure to follow all of the Home Nations on Twitter for updates, and keep your eyes peeled for more content.
Esports Northern Ireland