(Image via Carl-Edwin Michel's portfolio.)

Interview: Carl-Edwin Michel, Organizer of Northern Arena

Sep 8, 2016
(Image via Carl-Edwin Michel's portfolio.)

Esports Edition traveled down to Toronto last Thursday for a day of interviews at Northern Arena. While we were there, we talked with Carl-Edwin Michel, tournament organizer and co-founder of the company running the tournament: the Canadian League of Gamers.

The first thing that struck us about Carl-Edwin was how excited and positive he was–he has a contagious sense of enthusiasm that’s hard to resist when you’re in the same room. Carl-Edwin is all smiles and energy, and he rarely breaks eye contact. 

Our interview took place during the morning on September 1st, before the tournaments at Northern Arena had officially started.

Esports Edition: “Thanks for chatting with us, Carl. So, first question: you’re the CEO and co-founder of the Canadian League of Gamers, and you’re hosting your first major tournament, Northern Arena, here in Toronto. Have you had time to eat or sleep in the past couple months?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Eat? Sleep? I don’t know those words. [Laughter.] No, obviously we’re trying to stay as sane as possible. There’s a lot going on, but it’s a lot of fun–we’re excited to have all these big teams coming and creating something really great for the esports community here in Canada. We’re starting with Toronto, and our plan is to have other cities involved down the line, but it’s great to be launching here at Fan Expo this weekend.”

Esports Edition: “What other cities are on the roadmap?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “So, we have Montreal in November, and that’s the next big event. After that, we’ll be going to Vancouver–we haven’t announced any dates yet, but it’s coming pretty fast.”

Esports Edition: “What games are we going to be seeing at Montreal?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Definitely Counter-Strike. We’re going to have Hearthstone, for sure. Two other games as well–one is a console game, and the other is a PC game.”

Carl-Edwin Michel and Esports Edition's very own Herbert Lemus.
Carl-Edwin Michel and Esports Edition’s very own Herbert Lemus.

Esports Edition: “Can you tell us a bit more about the Canadian League of Gamers? It was founded late last year, correct?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Yup! Late last year. I was working closely with my business partner on the Canadian Video Game Awards, and after a while, I started discussing some ideas with him. ‘Hey, you know what? I’m a big esports fan, and I think it would be good to start a league, or at least a few events here in the country.’ And he was like, ‘Well, I don’t know…’ [Laughs.] But after a while, he finally came around, and we decided we were going to make it happen. We started talking to a few partners, and Bell was one of the first big companies that said, ‘We want to jump on board. We want to help you guys build this.’ And that’s the story behind the creation of the Canadian League of Gamers, and Northern Arena.”

Esports Edition: “You were the spark that ignited the flame then, eh?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Oh yeah. It’s my baby, right? It’s all in my head. It’s really cool seeing it come to fruition.”

Esports Edition: “Before co-founding this organization, you worked as a journalist and a broadcaster. What’s a piece of advice you wish you’d given to yourself five years ago?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “That’s a really good question. There were all the relationships I had before I started this project, and I wasn’t really aware of what they meant. Now, a lot of those people are helping me build this–so, yeah, if I had to say something to myself a few years back, I’d be like, ‘Hey, make sure you’re smiling at that guy, because he’s probably going to help you someday.’”

Esports Edition: “Keep your contact book up-to-date and leverage the power of networks.”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Exactly.”

Esports Edition: “So, now we’ve got a super easy question–what does it take to run such a large and successful event? There must be a secret sauce, a secret recipe.”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Well, you said it’s secret, so I won’t tell you, eh? [Laughs] No, no, I mean, there’s a lot. It’s the team, right? Having the passionate people, I think it’s all about that. The team that we’re working with–those guys and girls, they’re really passionate about esports or video games in general . So, for them, when I brought them that idea of [the Canadian League of Gamers], they were like, ‘This is great! Let’s go, let’s do it.’ Right off the bat, they were excited about it. We just built off of that and…this is where we are now.”

Inside Northern Arena.
Inside Northern Arena.

Esports Edition: “The world of esports is still experiencing lots of growing pains. What are some of the issues that you think need to be addressed moving forward?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Visas. That’s the big thing–I don’t know if you heard, but Luminosity can no longer make it just because it took so much time to get their visas. And they were on board, plane tickets were bought, everything was ready to go, but it was a bit too difficult to get visas. I think that if there is something that needs to be better in the future, it’s helping us bring those international players here. I guess that was the only big problem–but, at the same time, you’re organizing events, there are always things that come up.”

Esports Edition: “Hiccups.”

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Carl-Edwin Michel: “Exactly, yeah. But, overall, it’s pretty smooth sailing, so we’re really happy about that.”

Esports Edition: “What role do you think a game developer should play as far as their game’s professional scene is concerned?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Well, it depends. I would not suggest that a developer or a gaming company push a game to be an esports title. There’s a lot of that right now, because it’s the big craze. ‘Esports! Let’s create a game for esports!’ And I think it comes naturally–you can see that all those big esports titles were not meant to be esports titles, right? League of Legends, Dota, CS:GO. Those games were there for years before they became actual esports titles. Create a game that is great, and build your community. If you build your community, your community is going to bring it to the next level.”

Esports Edition: “It’s about being authentic to the audience–if you’re building something for the sake of building something, then people won’t buy into it. Especially in the esports community. They can smell bullshit from a mile away.”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Exactly.”

Esports Edition: “Last question: if you could bring any video game character to life as your personal sidekick for this tournament, who would it be?”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “…Wow. That’s a good question. [Pause.] I have a lot of favorite video game characters, who would it be? [Pause.] Ezio. Assassin’s Creed.”

Esports Edition: “That’s perfect. Especially in downtown Toronto, with all the buildings. He can take care of business.”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “I have so many things to bring from the hotel to the arena, I could just have him take it all.”

Esports Edition: “And if you’re missing, like, a pen or something, he can grab one for you from someone else.”

Carl-Edwin Michel: “Right? Perfect!”

Esports Edition: “Carl, it was a pleasure to meet you, thanks a lot for your time. Good luck at the tournament!”

We’d like to thank Carl-Edwin Michel and the staff at Northern Arena for inviting us. Interviews were conducted by Patrick Valoppi, Herbert Lemus, and J.P. Corner. Check back throughout the week for more!

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J.P. Corner
J.P. Corner is Esports Edition's Executive Editor. He was introduced to the wonderful world of esports by his older brother in mid-2014, and has a degree in Literature from Bard College. You can contact him via Twitter at @jpcornerGG.
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