Dmitry Smith: ''Popularity of Russian games isn’t profitable for the West. It’s an ideology''

The president of the Сybersport Federation of Russia on all one must know about computer sport

Dmitry Smith: ''Popularity of Russian games isn’t profitable for the West. It’s an ideology'' Photo: resf.ru/

The final leg of the Cybersport League of Tatarstan ended in Kazan, which found the republic's representatives in the first official cybersport championship of Russia. President of the Сybersport Federation of Russia Dmitry Smith also arrived in the capital of Tatarstan. Realnoe Vremya's sports staff didn't lose the chance of face-to-face talking with the head of the union of participants of the most rapidly growing sport in the country, as well as in the world. Smith's exclusive interview with Realnoe Vremya tells about perspectives of Tatarstan in cybersport, how it will change and when we should wait for it at the Olympics and why there are so few Russian products in the world market.

''Popularity of Russian games isn't profitable for our western partners because games aren't an ideology''

Let's start with the recent event. Do such championships take place across Russia? Or did Tatarstan get the right as an advanced region in cybersport?

Speaking about tournaments, in general, yes, they take place in all regions of the country. Speaking about tournaments of this level when everything takes places in such a wonderful place and such a big number of spectators gather, no. Unfortunately, it's isolated cases. There may be about ten regions of this kind in Russia.

So can Tatarstan be called an advanced region?

Undoubtedly. Tatarstan and specifically Kazan have hosted many amazing events in the history of our federation (since 2000). Little Challenge Cup, which our federation organised, took place here a bit more than 10 years ago. But then it all was more a backchannel – just about 600 participants. But if we compare today and then – it's a colossal difference. In addition, you can see the amount of interaction in the foyer, how many different possibilities there are for spectators. The development is colossal. Look what partners we have today. It's quite powerful support, a person from the sports ministry also came. I will repeat that Kazan has always occupied an important position in the Russian Federation.

You say Tatarstan here is among leaders. But after talking with some local cyberathletes, I have an impression that cybersport in the region is in embryonic form. They are mainly guys who gathered at a university.

Let's separate one thing from another. Our primary task is to develop mass cybersport, not professional. The professional sport can't exist without the mass one. Our task now is to build a sports reserve school, so that they will have a clear structure, understand how they can achieve success. This is why, first of all, we focus on large-scale involvement.

Our primary task is to develop mass cybersport, not professional. The professional sport can't exist without the mass one

Does Russian cybersport have such money that's paid as prize in tournaments in Asia or North America?

Let's analyse what prize money consists of. In an international competition, very gamers create the major share of prize money. Buying the compendium, they automatically invest 25% in prize money. So the organiser of a competition gets 75% of income just by selling objects in the game. Prize money in same China is created by public structures. They invest huge money in cybersport and want to become the centre of the planet in this sport. Every country has its own specifics.

If earlier only teenagers were interested in cybersport, now the audience is growing, and it's becoming more interesting for partners. If only computer companies were our partners only 10 years ago, now look – it's companies making energy drinks. Both sports brands and shoemakers are also catching up. The area is developing. I wouldn't say all is bad in Russia. No, we don't have prize money like in China or the USA. But I travel around the world a lot and say that Russia is in the top 10 in the level of development. And as for sport, our country is among the leaders.

Does Russia know how to make games at the international level? Is it ready? Only Belarus with World of Tanks and Ukraine with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have been known at the moment among the countries in the post-Soviet space.

Why are you saying the tanks were made in Belarus? All turns on evaluation criteria. If we're talking about the place the company was registered in, it is Cyprus. If we're talking about the person whom this game belongs to, the major owner is really a Belarusian. Going deeper, we'll see the code for this game was written in Petersburg. The same thing happens to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Yes, Ukrainian programmers wrote it. But, in fact, it's not so easy.

So if we're talking about the Russian programmers who can write a code, we have many programmes of this kind. If we're talking about a label, same Armada is quite a decent game, it belongs to Mail.ru. Or Warface, for instance, people from all over the world also play it. Russian programmers are in demand worldwide. And we have piles of ideas that others constantly try to steal.

But if we ask whether a Russian product is popular around the world, here we face a political lobby. The popularity of Russian games isn't profitable for our western partners because games aren't an ideology. It's very difficult to promote an ideology on the international stage.

''All turns on evaluation criteria. If we're talking about the place the company was registered in, it is Cyprus. If we're talking about the person whom this game belongs to, the major owner is really a Belarussian. Going deeper, we'll see the code for this game was written in Petersburg.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

''I think cybersport will be on the Olympic programme in 2024''

Vasily Utkin has recently said that cybersport is a game, not a sport. Can you comment on this?

Then he denied these words and even tried to say the contrary. In general, this position is quite changeable. But my dad always said, you know, that you can't love or not love a thing until you understand it. So the majority of those who try to malign our sport didn't understand it. For them, there is a clear equal sign between games and a computer table.

When our sport was officially recognised as sport, gamers didn't become immediately athletes. If a person sat and skive off school to play something, he was a skiver and will remain it. Not what he plays but a training system makes an athlete so. An athlete has a coach, a team, training schedule – it's what an athlete is.

Is cybersport closer to football or biathlon or volleyball and basketball in terms of popularity?

If we assess the audience that watches transmissions, the audience is, naturally, very close to same football. And the picture is so not only in Russia.

How soon should we wait for this sport at the Olympic Games?

This question hasn't been officially solved yet. But I think cybersport will be on the Olympic programme in 2024.

''Not what he plays but a training system makes an athlete so. An athlete has a coach, a team, training schedule – it's what an athlete is'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Apart from a widespread version of the development of humankind, there is an alternative one like people will get tired of computerisation and the virtual world and it will become trendy to enjoy ''natural life''.

You're rather saying about mass gaming, not cybersport. In case of gaming, yes, people can dive into this, become autist, not care about what's happening in this world, lose interest in studies. Meanwhile, athletes are quite active. They go to competitions, communicate, lead a normal life. If we look at the majority of professional athletes, they simultaneously study at university, have girlfriends. Moreover, they have fitness coaches.

So what's the future of cybersport?

It can have two paths. Firstly, it's different elements of augmented reality, some exo-costumes, sensors that will enable to completely manage your profile. And a person will already be in a special room in which he will move and make its characters move. So there will be a completely fixed connection, that's to say, a person will compete physically, though at a distance.

Secondly, if a new type of controller is invented. You're young enough and don't remember what a buzz the creation of the mouse caused. People had been playing on the keyboard. I remember I was extremely enthusiastic about the new possibilities. Now imagine that some new sensor gloves will appear. In other words, so to speak, pianists who will, in fact, play with this manipulator will appear.

''We can't oppose traditional cybersport to a harmonic person who loves to both go running and go for a walk with his girlfriend. It's not a substitution of the usual world. It's an addition of new worlds guys compete in.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Nevertheless, we can't oppose traditional cybersport to a harmonic person who loves to both go running and go for a walk with his girlfriend. It's not a substitution of the usual world. It's an addition of new worlds guys compete in. This sport won't 'burst', its entry barrier is too low. Cybersport has a rule ''easy to play, hard to go pro''.

By Erik Dobrolyubov. Photo courtesy of the Russian Cybersport Federation