Veteran host Alex “MACHINE” Richardson sat down with us before the semifinals here at the FACEIT Major in London to discuss the event in his hometown, the UK players, Janko, and more.
VPesports: Let’s kick it off with the basics. What’s it like for you to be hosting this event, a Major for Counter-Strike here in the place you’re from?
MACHINE: It feels different, I don’t know why necessarily other than of course the fact its where I was born and raised. When I saw the crowd queuing up on day one of the arena I was kinda like these are all guys I could’ve gone to school with. It just feels much closer to home. When I’m in Texas, there’s a clear disassociation, like yeah they like esports but they’re from Texas. There’s a disconnect that doesn’t exist when I’m here so it feels very real. So when I see that stadium packed out and cheering for Counter-Strike I’m like good job everybody! It makes me proud, especially since UK isn’t a huge presence in esports, at least in the competitive side of things apart from on-camera talent – we seem to be good at that. We can talk.
I think it’s really really cool and puts a big smile on my face when I say we’re in London and everyone cheers. We’re almost proud to be the esports underdog and we’re showing what we can do. Birmingham did it first and now we’re doing it here.
VPesports: So you’re not supposed to have any bias when you’re up there, but when smooya and dephh are up there on the stage, is part of you rooting for them?
MACHINE: I was definitely for the Challenger and Legend stages, I definitely wanted to see them succeed. I think it was really easy to support BIG because of their Cologne run and I already had a taste of seeing a UK player do well. smooya being the top-rated player coming into the top eight I kinda was already like “my boy!” even though he is an 18-year-old with a lot to learn. I did predict compLexity and I did predict BIG, but let’s leave it there *laughs*. There was no real bias, it was more of a case of just hoping for good CS. Unfortunately, its a very different experience and the people they were playing against are very used to this and the pressure definitely got to them.
VPesports: Knowing some of these teams and players better than most and the struggles they may have gone through or be going through, what are your thoughts going into these semifinal matches?
MACHINE: So if you started with MiBR and Na’Vi, I’ve always struggled to pinpoint Na’Vi and their strengths. It’s very easy to talk about Astralis – they practice less than others but they practice well. I can talk about the fact that they’ve got one of the most consistent AWPing presences to ever grace CS:GO and they’ve got people like dupreeh who is clearly one of the best players in the game, they’ve got xyp9x who is doing things no one else can in clutch scenarios – that’s easy. With Na’Vi I get lost, I always have to go “well, s1mple and electronic.” Then the conversation is pretty much just s1mple and electronic, and it makes it hard, especially on the desk to make a case for Na’Vi winning. But they keep doing it and they do it well. I think I get lost in the roles a bit too much and Na’Vi doesn’t necessarily adhere to them the same way other teams do. I think that games going to be really good and just getting to see coldzera vs. s1mple. That’s happening, there’s a clash of styles there.
Getting to see my boy Janko on a semifinal stage. That warms my heart, just seeing how happy he is. At the end of the talent journey, he definitely was burnt out and seeing him just rejuvenated and wearing a T-shirt. I’ve known that guy for years, seeing him in a T-shirt still freaks me out – he’s a suit man through and through. That first game I’m just excited to see stars collide, but speaking of stars – Astralis – that next game. I do think that’s the main event as long as Liquid show up. I’ve had a couple seeds of doubt sewn with a couple of these big leads Liquid has thrown away and I just think if you’re playing against Astralis they’re not going to let them go unnoticed. I think it’s just exciting for anyone who loves Counter-Strike. Same for MiBR and Na’Vi but for different reasons. I think Liquid and Astralis are two of the most prepared teams outside of BIG but they don’t have the firepower. So seeing two of the most prepared, regimented, and hardworking teams and definitely most professional. These are teams that have clear practice areas, regiments, and probably two of the best coaches in Counter-Strike. Seeing those two collide with Liquid finally doing what we knew what they could do and Astralis with another day in the office.
VPesports: When Janko moved to coaching, some other talent made joking tweets like “someone pick SPUNJ up,” etc. Is that something a lot of the talent, the ex-pros at least, want?
MACHINE: I don’t think there’s a sudden demand to be running away from the desk. I think with Janko, as with all humans, when you see something that can be done and done well, the idea remains. I think for some of the ex-players, there is an appeal to it. It’s that drive, wanting to be a part of it. You get to watch it from the sidelines and you know you probably can’t pick up that mouse and keyboard again – you’re just so disconnected from it now. But to be able to be a part of the victory and to see the hard work paying off. Chad said it best to me, we were talking and he said “do you know what Janko has that we don’t? He has clear markers for achievement.” Like we cast a Major and we get a pin and we can say we did the Major and that’s what we get. He puts in hard work on a map and they beat a good team 16-4 on it and he’s immediately like alright, we put in the work and this is our reward. The same way you’d turn in a report at school and you get an A and an immediate response. For us, we get a tweet from someone else we don’t know who either says good job and from someone else saying you hate us and we move on. I don’t get a direct feedback loop of you could’ve done this better or that better and if I did I can’t trust it because it’s not from colleague or co-worker. I think that’s one of the bgigest driving points of wanting to get into the likes of coaching for the ex-players. They miss the direct feedback, the evidence of your hard work.