Michael Elbaz, eSrael Gaming Interviewed
INSIDER ESPORTS – Insider eSports sits down with Michael Elbaz, the manager of eSrael Gaming to talk about current worldwide events as well as eSports in Israel.
While Insider eSports focuses on gaming news and entertainment, we are people too and we recognize that there are many problems in the world. One major one, of course, is the events happening in the Gaza strip. Israel has been fighting in Gaza city, and many – over 1,000 at the time of this writing – have been killed.
Insider eSports sat down with Michael Elbaz, the manager of eSrael Gaming. We incorporate both current events in Israel and eSrael Gaming in this exclusive interview.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, would you mind telling us a little about yourself, your team, and the position you hold on it?
My name is Michael Elbaz. I am the manager of the eSrael Gaming organization. I have been around the eSports scene for about eight years, taking part in many important projects related to the development of the eSports scene in Israel. eSrael Gaming was founded in 2001, by Jeremie Klatzkin, the Owner and CEO. He has been one of the most influential people in Israeli eSports, and I'd like to think in our community as a whole as well, as he was the founder of zonerank. eSrael is considered to be the highest echelon of Israeli eSports as we are the top team in any game we participate in. We have participated in many competitions ranging from local events, to events on the world-wide scale (including ESWC, WCG, etc.)
How did you get into the gaming scene in Israel? How long have you been playing?
As I said before, I have been a part of the gaming scene for about eight years; since I was a young boy. I never was a great player per say, but I have always been a part of the top gaming sites and communities. In the last eight years, I have founded three successful gaming magazines and I am currently working on a new project which should be great!
Would you mind sharing some more information about this project?
I'm not at liberty to discuss it at this time, but let's just say that I feel it will put Israel back on the map as a contender in international eSports.
Can you give our North American readers some insight into the Israeli LAN scene? Is it competitive? How often are events held?
In Israel, there are great times for eSports, and there are bad times. Israel is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, founding many useful products including the Core2Duo processing system. But our scene is dependent on the amount of funding we have; in a given year, we could have six great events attracting over 2,000 players each, while in another year we could only have one. This type of situation can only negatively affect our community, but we have [made our way] through it.
In our events, players ranging from ages 13-24 are normally in attendance. Cash and sponsored prizes are given out by many of Israel's top computer and technology companies, including our sponsor, www.webgame.co.il Israel is currently assisting in the process of the development of the new Intel processor, the i7, we hope that this amazing advancement in technology will provide a much needed boost to our technological community and gaming scene.
As an Israeli citizen you are required to join the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). Can you tell us a little about your day to day duties as a soldier?
I am currently serving in the Israeli Navy. In the Israeli eSports scene, all players put their gaming careers on pause for three or more years to serve their country, many of our top players are forced to stop at the same time, which can affect our scene. But when they return from active duty, our competition once again flourishes. There are many paths to choose from to serve our country, and there are really only a few of us who are lucky enough to be able to maintain a gaming career and a career in the army at the same time. My daily routine looks something like this: For four days a week, I serve in the army in the morning, and come back home at night. My schedule allows me to be home 3-4 nights a week to attend to my team and their needs. But of course, I am always reachable over my cell phone 24/7.
Has the current war made you and your fellow teammates put gaming on hold? Has the war had any impact on the gaming scene, if any at all?
Not necessarily in a direct manner, but because of the war, the gaming scene receives less funding, so in a way, we are hurt by the war. Also, there are many players that live in the South and are currently under intense war conditions because of the Hamas attacks. They are unable to play and are living in fear of an attack at any given moment.
Do you feel the war is being depicted accurately in Israeli media, especially in North American media?
Nope. As a soldier, I know what's really going on over in Gaza and I know the suffering that both our and their citizens have faced every day for the past eight years. The citizens of the Gaza Strip get hurt because of the Hamas, and it's wrong. The Hamas has been using [their] own people as human shields; they have no sentiment for life.
How has the media portrayed competitive gaming or First Person Shooter games in Israel? And even more specifically, during high periods of tension between Israel and its surrounding Arab countries?
They really don't discuss gaming at all; it's not like the United States. Normally we would see one reference to gaming or FPS gaming per year.
How do you feel your team differs from the eSrael we saw face compLexity in CPL 2005?
In the Israeli scene, player substitutions are considered a big deal. The players who took part in CPL 2005 and 2006 don't really play for eSrael anymore and have retired from gaming. But eSrael, as an organization, is more experienced. We are prepared to make our move to come back to international competition and will be doing so shortly.
By the way, compLexity vs. eSrael was great to watch and was a big thing in Israel!
Can you give us some insight into the sponsorship scene in Israel? How easy is it for an aspiring Israeli CS team comprised of a few local friends to gain some support from, as an example, a server company? Do you feel your sponsors are providing you with adequate support to sustain your team?
To get a local game server sponsorship is a pretty easy thing to do for basically any team. But to reel in the big fish such as Intel, or any other big technology company, it is much more difficult. Israel is considered as a part of the Middle East, and is associated as such in a negative manner so the companies of Europe are normally careful to invest money over here. Generally, big sponsorship is restricted to the top tier teams, if any team at all.
What are you looking forward to as a team and an organization in the near future?
I want to make eSrael Gaming a world-wide name once again. I would like [for] us to soon compete in international events in Europe and the United States and show the world that Israel is only standing a foot behind them.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, do you have anything you would like to add? Anyone you'd like to give a shoutout to?
First of all, thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity, and thanks to WEBGAME who were our main sponsor at our last big event, VGames Chanukkah. Let us all pray that this horrible war and bloodshed will end soon.
We would like to thank Michael for the interview and his contribution to Insider eSports. Stay tuned for more exclusive interviews.
Images courtesy of FoxNews.com.
Graphics created by Andy Price.