Maniac: "I think great stories require favourites playing their best Counter-Strike"
With the experience of the IEM Rio Major fresh in his mind, Mathieu "Maniac" Quiquerez reflects on life as a broadcast talent and the state of the CS:GO scene.
Maniac is one of the most prolific on-screen talents in Counter-Strike, gracing our screens for the majority of the big events on the calendar. He was also a successful player in the early days of our game, sporting a couple of big event wins from 2014 and even a top-four placing at the ESL One: Cologne 2014 Major.
2022 was as busy as ever for the Swiss analyst as he worked the four big events of the year, both Majors and IEM Katowice and Cologne, so who better to ask for insight into life on broadcast as well as for thoughts on the state of the pro scene right now.
During BLAST Premier Fall Finals Maniac took some time away from the camera to chat about the aforementioned topics, his team and player for the year of 2022, and even give a bold prediction for CS in 2023.
So I'll get the drama out of the way first. You were overlooked for the Esports Awards initially, does something like that bother you?
Genuinely I wish it didn't matter to me, but I try to be honest with myself and the emotions within and I was a little bit bothered at the time. Not that I believe I need this validation to be happy in my life, but I thought I had a really great year and I performed well, I was very strict with myself in how I wanted to improve in my career, and I thought that I could see my name in there, at least I was hoping to see it. That's the genuine truth.
Once it wasn't the case, of course life goes on (smiles). You cannot give it too much weight, you can just accept that you were disappointed, live with it for a few days, then move on and keep working, which is what I did. I think I processed it the way it was supposed to be.
Was it nice to have that outpouring of support after, because a lot of people vocally stated you were overlooked and should have been on that list?
Yeah definitely. Not only from the fans, because I always appreciate any show of support and I like to think that maybe humbly for a few people I make a difference and they appreciate the broadcast when I'm on and the energy I put in, that matters to me, but also when I have some of the key actors of the scene coming in and speaking on my behalf. It is obviously a great boost of motivation and validation, but I am far from thinking that I am perfect at what I do, I still have a boat-load to learn and improve on, and I think it's an evergreen job…
Ongoing always, isn't it?
Absolutely, so the validation is always nice.
It's almost better to get it from your peers in a way, the people who know what they're talking about.
Yeah absolutely, again you cannot lie to yourself and say that fans' opinions don't matter because that's just not true, right? I think as human beings we like to be appreciated and we like to be celebrated, there's no way around it, but there are just a few voices out there that mean a lot, especially from the professionals of the broadcast, people who I know who have been around in the industry a long time. When I get praise from these people, for example when Richard Lewis goes and says he appreciates what I do, that means something to me.
Looking at the analysts we have in the scene right now we have people like you, Pimp, kassad, YNk. Do you think you have to have been a pro player to get into the analysis side of things on the broadcast?
No I don’t think so, if you have a genuine true passion for the game and you find the vein that you want to be in and own it, you can make it without having that etiquette. I do believe that being a former professional gets the foot in the door way easier, which is what happened to me. When I stopped in 2018 I had a level of credibility on the desk that was extremely high because I was fresh off the professional scene, so people wanted to know what I had to say about the game. This is just a foot in the door, I think once you realise how much this is a unique job, you're not just a former professional talking about the game you are a broadcast talent, an entertainer, you have to educate but also entertain people. You either except that challenge and turn a new page in the book of your life, and you try something new, or you don't. I think you can do it without being a professional player, it just helps you get there.
Have you had any thoughts about returning to the professional scene, particularly as a coach, or maybe had any offers?
I think I might have had a few people asking me if I would consider it. I never had a real concrete offer, that didn’t come my way, but I also don’t believe that I would because I am aware of how much time it takes when you have to follow a team 24/7, I think it's an incredible investment. I am very happy with the balance I have in my life, not that the talent life isn't also at times exhausting (smiles), at the moment we are in a rush, fresh from Rio and then to Abu Dhabi. It can be exhausting and can be tiring, but I am very happy with where I am and I always want to improve in what I do and I take this as if I was a pro player, just in a different game, my game is entertainment. There are days when I am good on the server and days when I am not, there are things that I have to improve and things that I have to change, so it's very rewarding. It's very challenging but very rewarding, and I don't really want to leave this space right now.
Moving on to some Counter-Strike questions, how was the Major from your point of view? You have a unique perspective being a broadcaster behind the scenes.
I think the Challengers Stage and Legends Stage was very unique, it was a learning experience for everybody. Fascinating to see the turnout and the atmosphere for some of these games, I think players probably don’t realise how strange it is, I come from a time when we used to play in a gymnasium for that stage of the tournament, so I appreciated that. It also burnt a truck-ton of energy for me, having to work in that environment for two weeks and match the energy that is behind you was extremely tiring, obviously I am happy to put that kind of effort in for the Major, it’s the time to do it.
I think the playoffs didn't deliver what we were hoping to see, but there is a reality in that you don't control the teams that make it through, you don't control the stories that come out of a tournament, so we had to work with what we had. In the end I still believe we managed to tell the stories of some of these heroes, seeing Jame for example lift a trophy at the Major, someone who had been criticised a lot for his playstyle, it was a sweet story of vindication. So yeah, it burned out a lot of energy for me, I was happy I was there and gave my everything. What happened in the playoffs is not something I could control, unfortunately.
How do you feel about where the scene is at right now, post-Major? We have no clear number one team and I think a lot of people would struggle to do a power ranking right now, is it a positive thing to have an era of uncertainty?
There are pluses and minuses, I think. When your favourites are a little bit fragile, you are missing out on some of these key matches in moments that should matter, right? Technically if you could ask someone "hey would you like to see FaZe vs NAVI in the final of a Major?" then everybody would say "oh yeah, that would be incredible, the closing of 2022, oh my god what would happen?" obviously you don't control that. I do think that it's great to see, for all of the teams out there in the top say 10 or 12, there is a way to trophies. It was not always the case in Counter-Strike, there were periods of time where if your name isn't FaZe, Astralis or NAVI, you're not putting your hands on a trophy, that's it. So I appreciate that openness and that we can be surprised by players, but I do think that great stories require favourites playing their best Counter-Strike. If there is an upset, good, then I am absolutely happy to see it, I just want whoever upset a team to have that sense of having earned it.
We still have a bit of Counter-Strike left to be played, but who would be your team of the year and player of the year if I put you on the spot now?
I think FaZe have done enough to earn that title…
Three of the big four events this year!
Absolutely, I know that there have been a few tournaments where they missed the mark, Dallas is a good example, the Major is very obviously on that list, but you cannot take anything away from what they've been able to do in 2022. Truth be told they still have two tournaments to play, as we speak now they could lift a trophy in Copenhagen and one in Abu Dhabi and that would close out the greatest year in the history of CS:GO. I don't think anyone can push them away from that seat, they will be my team of the year.
When it comes to player, I also believe that s1mple has done enough. It is true that he has slowed down significantly in the last few weeks, and there is nothing against that, but his dominance over the Counter-Strike world in the beginning of 2022 was so marked that I don't really know who could challenge him honestly. I even cannot come up with an argument for ZywOo, so that must mean I'm honest (laughs).
If you had to make a bold prediction for 2023, a team or player who will surprise positively or negatively, who or what would it be?
Damn, a bold prediction… (laughs).
I know I am putting you on the spot here (laughs).
Yeah, I'm just trying not to come up with some BS answer and give you something I actually believe in...
Alright, I believe that both NAVI and Vitality will change roster, and that they will both look better with a different roster.
That's a bold prediction, I'll take it!