As mentioned in the first part of our interview with Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, the Overguard is thrilled to get some some unique insight from a global icon and national treasure so well-versed in console esports. We last discussed his background, Overwatch, and New York gaming. Here, we jump into his thoughts on Fortnite’s attitude towards console, PC, and game mode changes as well as his upcoming work with Titan Games and intimate relationship with T-Mobile. Enjoy the interview and catch Goldenboy alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on NBC’s Titan Games in January, 2019.
[Tepojama] Given your background in console esports and firsthand experience with Fortnite’s rise as an esport, what do you think of Epic Games’ stance towards cross-platform play?
[Goldenboy] “I applaud what Fortnite is doing because they’re really not trying to limit the barriers for competitors and they’re allowing everyone to participate. Whether you play with a controller or keyboard and mouse, they want you to play their game competitively and I think that’s really awesome. I know that some PC players will hate it, but the truth is that there are millions of console players so why limit them from not being able to participate in the wider scope of competition? Let them prove they belong there, if they belong there, they will be there. Guys like Ghost Aydan and Nickmercs come to mind … I don’t see a reason why that should be limited, just let ‘em prove that they can hang. Because it’s very clear that with enough practice, the skill is definitely there. Like I can’t imagine Tfue or Cloakzy jumping over to controllers and dominating the game like Ghost Aydan, whereas I can’t imagine Ghost Aydan switching to keyboard and mouse and dominating the way that Tfue does. It’s just your input of choice and that’s really what makes gaming so special: we all just have our preferred ways of play and play should never be limited.”
Epic Games has also pushed the envelope with regards to game updates and encouragement of third-party tournament ruleset variety — like our Fortnite Duo Gauntlet in October. Despite detractors of Fortnite as an esport, what do you think of ruleset experimentation and the game’s overall potential as an esport?
“As far as Fortnite as an esport goes, anyone who is going out there and trying to talk it down like it’s not a thing — I think they’re fools because this is very clearly a fast-growing competitive experience and esport. As far as third-party rulesets go, I think it’s good to see people experiment with a variety of different elements and rulesets, but it’s also been interesting to see how Epic has been engaged with changing the rules as well. A recent update is pretty big and I talked about it in my recent video. I didn’t get it all that much until I experienced it myself, but when you get an elimination you get +50% in health, which is huge and that’s something I saw brought up in the Fortnite Competitive subreddit. People were wondering: “Why can’t I get some value for an elimination” and that makes complete sense, like why don’t you just get value for an elimination? It shouldn’t be “I eliminated this person, I just burnt through 700 mats in this build battle and I don’t have a lot of resources left. Cool I got the elimination, I got some ammo, maybe I got some of their excess resources, but I’m still low on health.” And maybe you get a med kit, maybe you get bandages, maybe you get a slurp juice or a chug jug or something like that, but you’re kind of relying on the sporadic nature of a battle royale game to gift you something in that instance — whereas now you know if you get an elimination, that’s just health. If, let’s say, you’re low on health and you get into a fight, you can bring your health back up. Let’s say you’re far away, you can engage in this fight now and get health. Those kinds of things bring a ton of value to the game and are really going change the scope of combat.
That’s kind of like step one, and then you have the scoring systems where everyone is trying a lot of different things with the kill hunts, duo events, and single events like at Summer Skirmish. There are a lot of different ways and I think that’s what make battle royale awesome and I hope it continues on. I don’t want there to be one competitive format for Fortnite or for any battle royale, I want there to be different formats. I want it to be different or unique a good portion of the time. Sure, let people develop strategy and such, but I equate it to Overwatch where Overwatch has a new patch and from that you get a new meta and the map list at each stage also dictates the meta. That’s the kind of stuff I want to see more of because frankly, in Call of Duty when they don’t add a new map or there are bans and stuff, it just gets so boring. Like World War 2, as much as I enjoy watching competitive COD, that was one of the hardest seasons to watch because it was the same two, three great maps over and over again. Same thing with Halo, when we finally added Forge maps it finally added some mixture and spice back into the game, granted it was a little late in the life-cycle, but it helped because there’s only so many times you can commentate CTF on Coliseum, you need rotations and new things. I think the way that Epic has done the vaulted weapons, I think that’s awesome. The game is completely different from when I first started playing Fortnite to today and I think that’s a good thing, but obviously not for everyone. Some people hate it because they were good in Season Two or Three, but now they suck in Season Four because they relied on a certain weapon or an item and… it’s not for everyone. But for a guy like me who commentates these games and has to be as engaged as I possibly can, it helps to see something different and be treated as something different almost every time.”
Other console-predominant shooters like Halo or Call of Duty don’t seem to have faced the same stigmas against competitiveness, or the need for Aim Assist, that Overwatch or Fortnite have run into. What do you think can be learned from those titles?
“I’ve never met anyone who bad talks Halo. Maybe they’re not a fan of Halo 5 or 4 or Reach, but I’ve never met a person that looks at Halo pros and says: “Oh, they’re not good.” Especially considering that when Halo pros have transitioned into other games, most times they’ve been pretty successful — Ninja was a Halo pro, Hysteria, FormaL, Crimsix — all Halo players that transitioned and it was very clear that the skill was there and more and more players have also made the transition to PC. Competition, at the end of the day, is competition. I know that sounds catty and dumb, but it doesn’t matter where you compete — if you are experiencing the thrill, anxiety, and pressure and suspense of competition then it does not matter whether you’re playing on keyboard and mouse, mobile phone, controller, VR, or in space or wherever you want to if you’re Elon Musk — it doesn’t matter because you’ve experienced competing at a high level. And what I think all these games and communities can learn is don’t downplay anyone. For example, don’t downplay the talent and the skill that women or younger players may have. There’s a lot of potential talent out there, but all players live in their bubbles and they don’t want to try and push out of their bubbles and that’s why we end up seeing such a stranglehold at the top of the mountain — which I get, you gotta hold off your crown. But I feel like the truly great ones have to subscribe to the school of the Nature Boy Ric Flair, which is that ‘to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man. Woo.’”
So, regardless of input, people need to just adopt the Nature Boy’s mindset and accept all competitors. I did that. Speaking of the WWE and different modes of input, your upcoming sports competition series Titan Games is hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson so it must be asked — Is the Rock intimidating or a sweetheart?
“[Laughs] He’s a fluffy bear. Just kidding, but he is not intimidating — he is definitely a very welcoming individual. But when you meet Dwayne Johnson you can tell that this guy has the aura of a person who is a really big deal. And it’s not that he carries that with him, because when I talked to him it was just normal, he was talking to me like I had known him forever. He’s just a really nice, down-to-earth guy. Took time to meet a lot of the fans and would sing happy birthday to people in the crowd, always really nice and he just a gem man. Someone I look up to without a doubt.”
So how has the experience with Titan Games been overall? It’s a little outside of your traditional comfort zone, so what do you expect to bring personally to the show?
“I definitely think that the Titan games is some of the best work I’ve ever done in my career, which is awesome. It was such a unique experience because it was so challenging to have to be “on” everyday when we started filming at 7 p.m., but would go until 3 or 4 a.m. sometimes … Honestly, I treated it like casting a video game and I brought that same kind of energy and same kind of approach and I think that’s something that NBC really liked — that in esports we are always excited, we’re not just there to collect a paycheck, we’re engaged, happy, and giving it our all every single time. I think that just carried into the show and everyone is going to hear it when the show airs on January 3rd.”
Last, but not least. You and T-Mobile seem to have a special, deep bond. When and how did you develop such an intimate relationship?
“The T-Mobile thing was a product of me being me. I did not want to just go out and shill a sponsorship and not add something to it that would make it appealing, so the first time we did the T-Mobile sponsorship was at the OWWC 2017 at Shanghai I think and they gave me some copy to read and it was the first time Blizzard and I were working with them, so everyone was pretty on edge and I didn’t really do anything that unique with it. Then came Australia, which was our first time working with the Overwatch team, which would become the OWL production team, and the producer in my ear was like “let’s just have some fun with this T-Mobile stuff so I said “alright, cool” and I did it. And they loved it. It got the whole stadium in australia to groan, but it proved that they were listening. They were listening to me talk about T-Mobile even if it was corny or funny or a little over-the-top, they were listening and they were engaged. And T-Mobile loved that, because they didn’t want to just be viewed as a sponsor of the World Cup, they wanted to be viewed as a partner of the Overwatch community and that kind of helped springboard that. Then came the T-Mobile MVP xQc meme and the video of me doing like 15 different segues into a T-Mobile segment at BlizzCon and all of that created a culture of it. People always come up to me and are like “GoldenBoy you know what I like more than you? T-Mobile!” and I’m like “Gah, you got me.” And that’s why T-Mobile actually engaged in an actual professional relationship with me, because they felt like I was engaged with their product — which I am and I’m very grateful that that was a possibility.”
Global icon, national treasure, mobile provider endorser, and sidekick to The Rock — we appreciate all sides of the multifaceted performer Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez and are happy to have gotten the chance to scratch the surface of his perspective. For more Goldenboy, check out his Twitter, Twitch, and Instagram before setting your calendars for his NBC debut on January 3rd, 2019. For more Tepojama, check Twitter and under your bed.
* Featured image credit to ESL Gaming *