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Esports Flashback: CArn, the Long Distance Runner

Ready for a blast from the past? We sat down with a long-distance runner turned professional gamer. His name was cArn, a Swedish Counter-Strike player who loved the game as much as participating in sports. Here’s our interview with him from 2011 where he explained his rise in Counter-Strike.

(Editor's note: We recognize the outdated capitalization of "eSports", but have left it as originally written for nostalgia's sake.)

There is something about long distance runners. Something special. All the way back to the legend of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce a Greek victory over the invading Persians – dying just as he had delivered the message – long distance runners have been surrounded by respect. The endurance, the discipline and the determination shown by Pheidippides are still sought after qualities in today’s society.

No longer a kid, this particular long distance runner has paced himself to become a great professional gamer. For more than six years, this Swede has been at the top of his game. Since his first international Counter-Strike event in 2003, Patrik Sättermon has won more than 20 International competitions, establishing himself as one of the best – ever.

As a boy, Patrik Bo Sättermon wasn’t very different from most of his peers, with sports as the exception. His enthusiasm for floorball and soccer far preceded that of his friends. In his own words that was what he “loved and lived for”. Love sometimes withers over time though, and Patrik concedes that he eventually lost the motivation to keep training.

"I still loved to compete in floorball and soccer, but I didn’t enjoy the training anymore. Inevitably it led to me losing interest in competing in sports."

"Timing is everything", someone once said. And for Patrik Sättermon that certainly is true. Coinciding with his loss of interest in sports, Counter-Strike was released in its beta form in 1999. Now with plenty of spare time, and a history of playing QuakeWorld CTF, Counter-Strike was a perfect match for him. In that period, he says, it was all about the new game. Losing his interest in sports didn’t mean losing his interest in competing, and soon Counter-Strike filled the void that floor - and football had left.

"It was so rewarding to start playing Counter-Strike seriously after having lost the motivation to train in sports. I got to prove myself against other players and teams."

Practice Makes Perfect

cArn faces the camera clad in a SteelSeries headset.Source: SteelSeries

Patrik quickly got a reputation as one of the best players in Karlstad. Not that it says much, considering that the city itself only holds fifty-some-thousand inhabitants. Located in the Southern Värmland, Karlstad – once being one of the most important cities in Sweden – is mostly known for its ice hockey team Färjestad. The gaming scene in the city, much like in the rest of the country, snowballed pretty quickly around the release of Counter-Strike though. Still, without a decent gaming café until 2004, the local LANs were where Patrik earned his initial respect.

"I quit sports at 15, which was very beneficial for my gaming career."

"I think I got a reputation as one of the best in my city pretty fast, after bashing the best players at the local LAN-parties. I also played with some of the best local teams, but they were hard to keep together due to differentiated goals and ambitions."

Some of the players from Karlstad with the highest goals were Patrik and his childhood-friend cruZ. Having lived in the same neighborhood since age two, the friends had set their sights on competing with the very best of Sweden. And they had the skills to back it up. Playing in ArchAngels and later Team Gamers.NU, the couple rose through the ranks of Swedish Counter-Strike.

"It's pretty random where you end up. Take me for example; I quit sports at 15, which was very beneficial for my gaming career."

For cruZ it was more or less the other way around though. After graduating from school at age 19, cruZ called it quits on Counter-Strike. And since 2006 he hasn't figured in an official tournament.

It's clear that Patrik is fond of the time the duo had together, but as he also says it was cruZ' own choice.

"cruZ and I had a great run together, but eventually he felt about CS the way I felt about sports - he just didn't want to spend hours after hours practicing."

And practice makes perfect. Patrik Sättermon knows that better than anyone else. Having played in the same team for four years, an incredible feat in a gaming scene where the normal lifespan of a team is shorter than a month, he readily accepts the cons of his career choice.

"I try to be very serious with it (practicing). I love to win, and I know that if I don't put enough effort into it, I might get replaced. On the other hand it's always hard to find the balance; there are definitely friends and relatives I would like to see more."

"It all comes down to what you want to do at the end of the day though. Do you love what you do and how you live? In my case, I do indeed."

What is so evident about Patrik Sättermon, in the way he interacts, plays, eats, sleeps, practices - and most other things he does in life - is the structured professionalism he approaches everything with. How many 25-year olds, making good money and travelling the world, would live with their mother and father? Patrik did. Why? Because it gives him a solid base in a life that can otherwise be a bit unstructured.

"When you are a pro gamer, you live half your life in a suitcase."

"When you are a pro gamer, you live half your life in a suitcase. It's always comfortable coming home to my parents (after events). And it wouldn't have made sense to move out anyway, since I would only be home around 50% of the time."

The constant evaluation of pros and cons also had influence on his decision to move out of his parents' house. In 2010 he left his native Sweden and moved to London, closer to the FnaticMSI headquarters. Closer to a life where Counter-Strike may not be the most important thing. That is at least what the rumours were saying this winter; that Patrik would step down in early 2010 and take up a more administrative role within the organization. And to him, that decision will be taken later rather than sooner.

He does concede that being as succesful as FnaticMSI currently is, plays a great role in his enthusiasm for the game. At the same time he doesn't hide the fact, that he is already handling things in the organization when there aren't any events around the corner.

"You will find me working on content on the website and working closely with our sponsors; MSI, SteelSeries, Bigfoot networks, and Slappa."

Postponing Retirement

cArn readies a fake punch while facing the screen.Source: SteelSeries

"It's just too fun and too challenging to stop playing (Counter-Strike). Being a player in FnaticMSI, having amazing friends and teammates and the possibility to go around the world, is just so rewarding. I'm really having the time of my life, so it's easy to postpone my retirement."

And most probably the amount of tasks won't get lesser by the time. Patrik is elegantly sidestepping questions about his future whenever asked, but with his recent move to London in mind, it is hard to imagine that he doesn't have a clear cut plan.

Humor As A Keystone to Success

cArn playfully flashes two thumbs up.Source: SteelSeries

That could mean that retirement is near, but Patrik has openly admitted that it would be hard to quit the FnaticMSI-team unless he had found a player who could fully replace him. It isn't just for fun that the team's website describes Patrik as ”The Godfather”. The responsibility he feels for FnaticMSI and his fellow players, go beyond much of what is seen in eSports today.

"I think where we differ from our rivals, is that we work hard on integrating the young players from day one. The trick is that we always try to have a good time - and with the ridicioulous sense of humor that Harley (dsn), Patrik (f0rest) and I have, I think it's easy for the new guys to relax and enjoy playing with us."

Having followed the team for over four years as an eSport-reporter, Marc 'Nix0n' Winther from fully agrees with Patrik's statement.

"They (FnaticMSI) often go off the rails in the fun they make at stage-matches or player-presentations," Marc says. "It doesn't matter whether it is important matches, or even Grand Finals. They might come out with funny hats, multi-coloured wigs or oversized glasses blinking in different colours."

Marc believes that this specific approach is one of the keystones in the success that FnaticMSI has had. Even more he says, it has made the team one of the most beloved of all times. Both amongst opponents and fans.

Another thing to note is how flat the hierachy of the team is. It isn't an odd sight to see f0rest walk off with five heavy laptops or team-captain Patrik fetching water for the rest of the players. The job of doing the boring tasks, or even paying for the food at a restaurant, are not determined by age, rank or experience. Rather they are determined by a good old game of Rock-Paper-Scissor – making them fun and competitive, instead of boring and uninspiring.

Whatever it is though, it works for them. FnaticMSI has been the most succesful CS-team ever in terms of both first- and top 3 placements. For Patrik, that isn't something he likes to brag about. Actually he is usually downplaying the success the team has had. In a recent interview he admitted that he wants his team, to be more successful than the legendary SK.swe anno 2003, before he ”hangs his mouse up”. But haven't they already surpassed them?

"I think we have achieved more than any constellation of players that SK-Gaming has – over time. We've been ranked number one in the world longer than anyone else, so in terms of stability I doubt any team will challenge us for a long time."

Patrik is in general not very keen on being compared with others. The reluctancy stems from his experiences with what he describes as ”nonsense questions to create manufactured stories”. And for a second he is pulled out of his usual calm and quiet self, as he describes how he has had interviewers who he has told to ask proper questions. He expects that the honesty he contributes with in the interview, is met with honesty from the interviewer. As long as he knows the intentions behind the questions, he will give an honest answer. Or a polite, but honest rejection.

Questions that he will never shy away from however, are those about Harley 'dsn' Örwall. The couple have been playing together, almost with no exceptions, since Patrik joined in 2004. Since 2006 they have played together in FnaticMSI, and Patrik isn't hiding the fact that Harley has played an extraordinary part in his CS career.

"I wouldn't be sitting here, doing this interview, if it hadn't been for him," Patrik says.

And he is probably right. With the exception of three events, the duo has been sharing every piece of International Counter-Strike success they have had. In an interview with Harley admitted that Patrik was one of the players he studied and respected the most, and the opposite might very possibly also be the case. Atleast that is the feeling you get, when Patrik speaks about Harley.

The FnaticMSI teamleader gladly admits that Harley is ”not just an awesome AWP'er and team-mate, he is also one of my friends outside the game”.

Being Swedish, having the history that Patrik and Harley have, one will inevitably compare them with Emil 'HeatoN' Christensen and Tommy 'Pott1' Ingmarsson – the most iconic duo in modern Counter-Strike. For Patrik though, that is exactly what they are; icons.

"In regards of performance and achievements, I think we’ve performed better. Obviously Heaton and Potti are two of the most legendary players in the history of gaming, so in terms of their star status and reputation they are on a different level than us. To be honest though, it's fine for me. I only care about winning titles and keeping our consistency."

I Don't Like Not Being in Control

cArn shows off some of his humorous poses, flexing.Source: SteelSeries

Observing how Patrik Sättermon performs during on-stage matches at International events is a study of total control. His calm and quiet way of handling himself and his team is in sharp contrast to some of FnaticMSI's closest competitors. To think that the calmness showed by Patrik is also a personal trait, is however wrong.

"It's a funny observation that people see me as a calm person, because I think that people who know me, would think otherwise."

"It's probably because I am so comfortable playing in front of crowds. I almost never get nervous, but that's because I have a vast experience in International tournaments. And outside of the game, I'm like most guys – trying to have a good time, which means not being calm and in control at all times."

Patrik in game is another question though, and as he explains, he doesn't like not to be in control.

"It (lack of control) can cause me to make stupid mistakes, both individually but also as the in-game leader. When that happens it's not a nice feeling at all. Fortunately, that doesn't happen often."

A Modern Day Adventurer

cArn poses with his hands behind his head.Source: SteelSeries

For someone living at their parents' place at 25, Patrik is surprisingly adventurous. Or maybe it's not so surprising after all. Trying to make a living out of electronic sports can be a challenging task, with a cash-flow that isn't exactly like one from a nine to five job. Patrik has the full support of his parents, and has had it since the day they realized just how much of the world their son was really experiencing.

"At the moment I have a lot of motivation, because I've realized that the thing we call E-Sport is actually going somewhere."

"My family has always been advocates of travelling, so as soon as my mother and father found out that I had the opportunity to go to all of these amazing places, they have been very supporting and interested in what I´m doing."

And as for the financial aspect of the life as a pro-gamer, Patrik is keeping a positive outlook on things.

"At the moment I have a lot of motivation, because I've realized that the thing we call E-Sport is actually going somewhere."

"I think with my experience as a player for many years, there are many things I can help out with, and I look forward to being a part of bringing the FnaticMSI ship towards unexplored destinations."

It's quite obvious, after talking to Patrik, that the unexplored destinations are quite a big part of his life. They are sought after rewards in a business that – at times - leaves too little time for the things he'd rather do. One thing you won't hear from Patrik are complaints though.

"I'm quite adventurous, and I like to do new things all the time. And I have the opportunity to do something I love and the world is my playground, I would be an idiot whining about anything."

Forced to point out something he is missing out on, Patrik targets socializing with his friends as what he miss the most. But as he also says, the dedication can pay off. Big time.

"Missing out on beer and soccer with your friends because you are stuck with practice can be annoying, but it pays back big time when you have just won a tournament in Seoul and the nightlife awaits you."

And that's what he keeps pushing for: Another exotic destination. Another title. And another reward for his fantastic dedication.

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