After requesting an interview with Matt Akhavan, we met at the Blizzard Arena and discussed what the responsibilities are as a team manager, thoughts on collegiate Overwatch, and what college students can do to become involved in esports.
Greeted with an ecstatic “UCI Esports!” we quickly noticed how cold the room was. We joked, “They don’t call it the Blizzard Arena for nothing.”
Matt Akhavan is currently a manager for Misfits Gaming and UCI Esports.
Whose idea was it for the entrance today (1/31/18) ?
Today’s entrance was the Naruto run with the rasengan. We all knew that we wanted to do the Naruto run. It was one of the ideas that had been floating around over the weeks, but it was somewhat hard to do. There’s the camera man in front of you, so you can’t be running too fast. It’d look weird and they’d already be on the stage, and then the viewers would think “what are they doing?” So, we added the rasengan because we thought it would be funny and more recognizable. We really just want to be entertaining and have people enjoy our team coming on stage, and eventually when the wins start coming up, we’ll be a team that everyone loves to watch all of the time.
General thoughts on collegiate Overwatch
Collegiate Overwatch is something that I’m excited for. There are more schools that are investing into building infrastructure like professional teams. Schools are taking more interests in esports so that students have an easier pathway as competitors to showcase their talents and pursue a career. It makes it easier for parents to be more accepting of the idea that students can go to school possibly getting a scholarship for playing games and getting a degree. While esports may be a student’s plan A, the degree is also available if esports doesn’t work out or going pro doesn’t work out. So, I’m very fond of collegiate esports, Overwatch, Tespa, and everyone involved with the collegiate scene.
The Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate Championship is happening February 17th. UC Irvine, UC San Diego, University of Toronto, and UC Berkeley will be competing. Who will you be rooting for?
UCI! I think we came out really strong. We’re completely undefeated. I’ve seen the other schools play, they’re all really good. We’ve gone to UCSD a couple of times. They always have LANs and other tournaments that happen throughout the school year. They’ll be a fun team to watch. West coast best coast by the way.
We recently had LA Valiant come to our school and host an awesome viewing party. Are there any chances of Florida Mayhem doing something similar in the future?
I would love for an event like that to happen especially since I go to UCI. Although, I believe there are marketing guidelines which wouldn’t allow Florida Mayhem to have such an event because its Gladiators/Valiant territory. We are going to be doing events in Florida. We’ll be doing viewing parties, sending cool merchandise, and making it as fun as possible for the fans in Florida. As far as doing stuff in LA, we’re a bit restricted.
LA Gladiators is hosting a college night at the Guildhall tonight and fans will get to play board and card games against the Gladiators team. Do you think that you could beat Surefour in Connect 4?
I’m actually really good at Connect 4. Ever since I was a kid I was always three or four steps ahead. If I don’t win, I at least tie. If I’m about to lose …
*Matt makes a motion of releasing the Connect 4 discs from the grid and we both laugh about it*
All of the pieces drop and it’s a draw.
What are the general responsibilities that you have as a manager for Florida Mayhem?
As a manager, I manage all of the day-to-day. This includes anything that happens at the studio and any gear that the players need I can purchase. I work with the Overwatch League operations team, the IT department, anything related to game day, practice structure, practice culture, infrastructure, and acquisitions for both players and staff. As you know, Florida Mayhem only has 6 players. I’m assisting in acquisition of players and we have a handful of people on the team working with that as well. Those are my main responsibilities as of right now.
Any advice for someone looking to become a manager?
I would say that you need a degree, which is why I’m getting a degree. Having experience is the most important aspect of becoming a manager. It’s really hard to trust somebody to manage all of the day-to-day and make sure you’re getting everything in on time such as paperwork, contracts, and visa acquisitions. You’re doing the business as well as the day-to-day for the players. Becoming more dependable and learning how to communicate effectively is something that you learn in college just through interacting with your peers. You also learn time management and meet deadlines. Just the fact of you having a degree signifies that you put in effort through a 4-year program that’s pretty intensive for most students. I think that says a lot about your character if you finish your degree.
Any advice for someone looking to become a coach?
If you want to be a coach, the biggest thing is to create content or to get experience. I’m very weird about this and I’ll say that you should be willing to work for free, but I also don’t think that anyone should work for free. If you’re an organization, you should pay your interns. This is my opinion, but I also think that if you’re not willing to work a job for a free and donate your time for the experience, then you don’t really want it. For being a coach, you have to make content. Put your content on YouTube. Refine your skills. Someone sees your YouTube video, it hits Reddit a couple of times, and that’s when you get people interested in what you’re doing. You then have a portfolio to show people when you’re applying for a position. Overall, it’s about networking, experience, and having a portfolio to show.
As a student, what advice or tips would you give to other students or people in college who would like to get involved with esports
Try to do something locally with your school. At UCI, we have our esports program along with TAG. Other schools have clubs related to gaming and esports as well. Try to do as much as you can. You need as much experience as you can get. Work hard and network. I would say I was very fortunate for getting involved. I lived in LA and I volunteered for teams and at events. My volunteer work was approached with “Hey, you’re really good at this, let’s offer you something more full time.” Then you continue building on top of experiences like that.
Shoutouts to UCI Esports! My favorite school! Thank you to all of the Florida Mayhem fans that have been sticking with us. I know that it’s been tough to watch our team falter but, we take every loss harder than you guys do and we practice so hard. Everyone wants to win, and we try to stay light-hearted and have some fun when we go on stage for the fans.
Follow Matt on Twitter. Entrance and interview photos taken by Oshin Tudayan.