Riot Games is based in Santa Monica, but Berlin is also one of your many offices around the world. With more than 20 branch offices, you are in a strong position to see the strengths and weaknesses of the local industry. What made you choose Berlin? Which local advantages convinced you?
At Riot we are always striving to provide the best possible service to players. When we were looking for a location to launch our activities for players in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland, we wanted to find a home that provides us the best international reach within that region but is also attractive for relocating talent to grow our team. There’s no need to explain where or what Berlin is, and Berlin offers a great mix of international creative, technical, and publishing talent. It also helps tremendously that it’s a location where it is very easy to get around with English.
Riot Games just joined the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition as a founding member, which is aiming to close the gender gap for women of colour in tech and to double the number of women of colour graduating with computer science degrees by 2025. How did you become involved with this initiative and what is your role in it? What are the next steps for you – in the project and internally as well?
We became involved with Reboot Representation through our contacts in the social impact and technology industries. Two of our corporate social responsibility pillars are in the areas of education, citizenship, and opportunity. We thought that the goal of Reboot was a bold one and in line with all of these pillars and that Riot could add unique value. As a founding member of the Coalition, we have a seat on the governance committee where we collectively decide on where to allocate resources, what activities to pursue, and provide oversight on organizational design. We are committed to a minimum of three years of investment to the Coalition and we meet with our industry peers on a quarterly basis to approve funding, share best practices, and help identify new opportunities for each member to help move the work forward.
How did you experience the evolution of eSports – from your perspective specifically with League of Legends and as a phenomenon overall?
I think “esports” has become a catch-all phrase for the excitement of playing together, competing with each other, and celebrating the best. Playing games has always been a social experience throughout history. I vividly remember the feeling of going to the arcades after school, playing the latest games, beating high scores, watching the best players, and being watched playing. Back then it was many small groups. Nowadays games fill stadiums with tens of thousands, and many more play with each other and watch online. But the core feeling and form of expression has stayed the same. Esports is just the latest manifestation of this. It’s great to see how accepted professional gaming has become in all its forms. We are humbled that League of Legends was able to contribute to this and helped develop a high level of professionalism. But there are also many other great games fueled by the passion of their communities. Esports is nothing without the dedication and love of players.
The newly rebranded League of Legends European Championship (LEC) kicked-off in Berlin this year with the preliminary rounds of the Spring Split. In what ways is the studio location in Berlin beneficial for eSports tournaments and how would you assess the infrastructure here for a growing eSports scene?
Berlin made a few early steps that helped grow the professional esports scene here. For instance permitting non-European players to play here without an overly complicated visa process was beneficial. That’s possible across Germany now but it definitely gave the region a head start. Also, when you talk to businesses outside gaming, government bodies, and such, esports has a high acceptance and teams, companies, and players feel welcome here. To be frank the international air connections could be better but other than that it is currently one of the best locations for esports in Europe.
As mentioned above, you also have the outside perspective on Berlin. In comparison to other big games industry hubs, what challenges will Berlin have to face as a games and eSports location?
That’s a big question not easily answered briefly. To compete internationally when it comes to development, Germany needs to build up a much stronger and larger creative industry. Technology and project management are strengths of the region. But games are emotional, international products. In order to deliver on a global scale we need more creative vision holders that dare to be bold while keeping an international, multicultural view. There are regions, also in Europe, that are much farther in that regard, such as Scandinavia or France. For major esports it could help to have better international transport connections to bring global events to the city. Fiber internet connections for offices and private locations are also surprisingly underdeveloped.
Thank you, Hannes!