"I've got everything to win but nothing to lose."
This interview will feature a rather unfamiliar face to many of you, unless you're well aware of all the latest happenings revolving around the Quake scene. Literally a no-one until a few weeks ago, the Irish's name firstly resonated when the qualifiers of the Dreamhack Summer 2012 got revealed. Nobody expected his name to be featured, including the young talent himself. Luke “Lukelawlz” Hanlon will make his first appearance at a major gaming event this weekend being only 16 years old, making the teen one of the first juveniles to ever compete at this stage. Luke was kind enough to catch up with us for a quick interview, right before leaving for Sweden.
It's been a long road, but you're finally living every gamer's dream; you're about to head off to Sweden to compete in one of the world's largest e-sports tournaments. How are you feeling?
I feel excited, to say the least. I've watched many streams of QL tournaments over the years and it always seemed like it would be fun to be playing there. I'm looking forward to travelling there and meeting everybody I've played against over the past few years.
You were practically a distant figure of the scene just a few months ago, but now you're joining your gaming idols in the list of the best Quake players around the world. How did you get to this point?
Well, I just saw the sign-up post on Esreality and I decided to just send in an application. 2 months later I got an email from an admin telling me that I had been invited to play
What do you think was the reason behind your application's approval?
I guess they saw my epic video of me beating czm and thought they had to let me in. I put it under "notable achievements". They must have been impressed by my epic railgun skillz.
The American being blown into dust.
How do you think you'll fair against the world's soundest names? It is your first competition of such significant calibre, you'll obviously be confronted to the biggest challenge of your gaming career so far.
Well my group is hard, but it's certainly not the most difficult one. It'll be two very tough games versus weird and dkt but all I'm going to do is try play my best and give a good game against them.
Are you entering the tournament with high spirits, confident, or rather stressed as it's your first public appearance on such a scale? What are your expectations?
I'm not stressed at all. I've got everything to win but nothing to lose. I just want to play my best and give my opponents a good game. I will probably be playing on stream but that doesn't matter because all I have to focus on is my game.
What strategies and play-style are you looking to adapt against your opponents? How do you expect to match-up with the best?
I don't really know much about dkt as he plays on American servers. With regards weird I have had many people tell me that hes sneaky and sets up good traps but if that’s true I will just have to see on the day. I don't know if I will be able to beat him as he has been on form recently. I just hope I play on the day myself.
And on a more general level? If you manage to get through the groups, what's next?
I'll just take it game by game and hope for the best really. I think the group drawings are random so I don't know who I could potentially come up against.
You were invited to the most substantial Quake tournament of the year with only 16 years of age. That's a hell of an achievement, that only few were able to attain up to now. What are your thoughts on this?
I don't think age has anything to do with skill. Any age can be good at a video game in my opinion.
How would you back-up that statement?
Well it's not about your age, its about how much time you have. Sure, it's easier when you're younger to practice a hobby because school is less strenuous then a full time job. But if you practice efficiently with the time you do have you can improve over time-span of a few years.
Speaking of practise, how did you build up to your current skill level?
I usually play at least 1 or 2 hours after I get home from school. I've done this for roughly 2 and a half years now and that’s how I got to where I am now.
Why did you start playing Quake in the first place?
I found out about Quake when the open beta was announced. At the time I had been playing Call of Duty 4 competitively but I had gotten bored of it and I wanted to try something new. I tried out QL in February 2009 but I found it very difficult (not to mention me not knowing the concepts of green enemy models and various things like that). However, I tried it again in July 2009 and I had some help from some friends like emsixteen with configs and a HUD which helped immensely. Then I found a duel partner who was similarly skilled to me at the time and I played with him day in and day out for a few months.
Back in the days
Why did you decide to wear the TEK9 tag for this competition? Seeing as TEK9 no longer support teams as an organization and the website has morphed into a community portal for the COD4 players, it's a rather curious choice.
I'm an active member of their forums as well as it being a huge honour to wear the tek9 tag at LAN and follow in the footsteps of WSVG winners like Davy Sysmans and Alexander Shulepov.
As a matter of fact I know that you also compete in COD4 at a decent level. How do you manage to balance both games in your schedule? Which title prevails in terms of your personal preference?
I usually played Quake during the day time and COD4 during the night time when everyone in my team was off work and what not. After playing QL for 3 years now I would easily play it over COD4. But if you had asked me this question a few years ago the easy choice would've been COD4 due to its "noob friendliness".
Wouldn't it have been more easy to make your way through COD for the reason you've just stated though?
No, I don’t play games to be successful, I play games to enjoy them. Quake is a difficult game but the most enjoyment I get out of quake was seeing myself improve with practice.
How is your "hobby" regarded by your entourage? Was it easy convincing your parents to fly you off to Stockholm seeing as you don't have any organisation behind your back, or were they rather skeptical at first?
My mother was quite apprehensive about the whole thing initially but my father decided that he would travel with me and she was fine with that. I guess in a sense you could say my parents are my organisation.
How do you feel about all of the sudden attention that's been given to you? You've been featured in many shows already, articles, a lot of support coming from your online mates - slightly overwhelming perhaps?
Well, I don't know where you got that information about me being in articles (apart from this one) but it's nice to hear my name on stream I suppose. However, I have had a lot of people who have wanted to help me practice which I am very grateful for.
You've previously attended local events, but it is needless to say that they don't even deserve to be called a LAN, mainly because the prizes for the top finishers consist of 512MB flash-drives and cans of energy drinks. Do you think that you'll be affected by this contrast while in Dreamhack?
Most likely, but I think it's unfair to compare small local LANs to a LAN like Dreamhack. After all, it's one of the biggest LANs in the world, if not the biggest. There are some benefits to local events though.
There’s less noise, not as many sweaty gamers confined to one area, easier to focus and you feel like you know everybody
Showing-off some swag
Do you think that your passion for games has somehow reflected in your school grades? Did it interfere in some way, or maybe it had a positive impact regardless of popular belief?
I think it has benefited more than anything. I generally try and play on public German servers in games like Counter-strike and Call of Duty just so I can practice the language more. This has helped me improve the languages that I'm currently learning such as German and Russian.
I know for a fact that you strongly admire Anton "Cooller" Signov. How did you react to the Russian's unexpected drop-out of the event? I'd assume you were looking forward to meet one of your gaming idols; hell - I'd wet myself just by watching him drink water with my binoculars.
I was hugely disappointed when I found out that Cooller had dropped out of the tournament. I was looking forward to getting him to sign some pictures of him in the bathtub.
Any other pros you'd like to fan-boy around?
Giving the current state of decline that Quake's been suffering, I believe that this is a rather badly timed moment to shine. Thoughts?
It's the unfortunate truth that Quake is suffering. I don't think its a bad time to shine though, I think that the sooner I get some LAN experience the better because playing online just isn't the same as playing at offline.
When the day of the game's inevitable demise will come, what do you plan on doing? Gaming-wise, and in real life even.
I'll probably just play Quake until the servers are empty really. I'm waiting for ID software to release Quake 5 so we can generate some hype and hopefully ID software will implement some crucial components that were missing in QL.
The next two years in school will be extremely difficult (or so my brother and sister tell me) so I won't be playing as much as I want to focus on working and studying so I can hopefully study engineering after school.
Have you ever contemplated the option of competing on the TDM mode as well, instead of fully focusing on duels?
I've never really been motivated to play TDM, but I'd like to try it sometime.
Bathtub you say?
Any predictions on the turnout of the Quake tournament at DH?
It's tough, as usual, but I'd definitely put my money on rapha and Cypher. I hope that pavel and evil will also do well.
Well, Luke, thanks a lot for sharing your time, and I wish you the best of luck with your performance. All the remaining words belong to you; use them wisely, young padawan.
Thanks for the interview zauron! I'd just like to give a few shoutouts to nicky, glenn, dfb, wakka, freaky, emsixteen, kronic and everyone that I talk to on a regular basis I suppose.