Earlier in the week, I sat down with the UK’s Isaac “Boombox” Charles before he left for Los Angeles and the Overwatch World Cup. Boombox, is a current professional Overwatch player specialising as a support. Often referred to as “Best Zenyatta EU”, he played in the NUEL for the University of Durham before joining UK team Cyclone. He was later picked up by eUnited before the team disbanded earlier this year.
Check out the interview below.
Q: Many thanks for doing this interview Boombox. Now, what have you been up to since Contenders?
Not a lot really, I guess. Just trialling for Overwatch League teams, playing Destiny 2 and sleeping.
Q: What was it like going from being a student to playing Overwatch professionally, both in the UK and Europe?
I mean it was obviously a big change. Just, being at university I guess it has some of the same routines gaming does. It’s just a lot more stressful for exams while in gaming, it’s just you practice each day, you have a schedule, you go to an event or you play in a tournament and that’s your, sort of, “exam”.
Q: What was the transition like? How did it happen?
I was playing in a team (Cyclone/Ex-Cyclone) which, I guess, wasn’t as known as eUnited, but was still being really successful in scrims and smaller tournaments. And then eUnited wanted to replace the person who played in my role, so they contacted me to trial for them and after playing for them, they wanted me and it went into contract discussions et cetera. At that point I decided to go full-time.
Q: What was it like balancing pro life and university life?
Well, I guess it’s a hard balance because it’s hard to do well in both, so it’s like you have to commit to one or the other and, in the end, I chose gaming because it’s something I really like. It’s doable if you study and game, but a lot of the people who are the best at games commit all of their time. I guess it’s a choice you need to make.
Q: Do you fancy yourself as one of the best then?
Erm, maybe? I don’t know, I think I’m a bit biased on that topic *laughs*.
Q: There’s been a lot of “Best Zenyatta EU” flying about, what are your thoughts on that?
There are a lot of good players who play in my role, but I would say I’m up there with them. Maybe not the best, but maybe able to compete with the best.
Q: What was being part of your university’s (Durham’s) esports scene like and playing in the NUEL?
It’s nice to meet people who go to university who have similar hobbies and enjoy gaming because a lot of the time, when you meet people at university, they’re not really into gaming and they’re into other things per se, whereas you meet a lot of people in the Durham Esports Society who play games and who you play with who you probably wouldn’t meet otherwise.
Q: You went from Cyclone/Ex-Cyclone to eUnited, playing with pros such as Kruise. What happened in Season One of Contenders? I think you guys were tipped to be quite a strong team, but it didn’t quite happen like that. Can you give me your perspective?
We took a break since Season Zero, so we only started practising as a team four days before the first match which, because of the World Cup, I guess we couldn’t do like weeks before which was kind of inconvenient. It’s not really an excuse, I guess, as a lot of the other teams practise that much as well. But then after the first week going so poorly it kind of demotivated the team almost, having a loss so early against a team (Team Gigantti) which I guess went on to win the whole thing, but at the time no one expected them to be good. It was kind of a demotivating loss and at that point it’s hard for teams to come back. It went downhill from there and then after losing some more weeks it was kind of the giving up point.
Q: How was the experience in general, being on eUnited with the whole team around you and everything?
It was definitely a fun time and I got on with everyone on the team. It was like almost a family. Like, we would play other games together, we would have fun. We never really disliked each other. Some teams’ players don’t like each other, they play to get on whereas in that team everyone got on. The core of the team, like I think three players had been playing together for six or seven years in other games like Battlefield and winning tournaments and things. So it was kind of a nice experience and, I guess it’s not something I dreaded like, “Oh no, we’ve got scrims.” It was something I enjoyed and wanted to do.
Q: EUnited broke up after Contenders and you released a mysterious OWL tweet quite recently. What was that about?
I like owls.
Q: Do you have any off-season transfer gossip that you can share with me?
I mean, all the teams that played in Contenders, I guess their goal is to end up in the Overwatch League. So players which you think should be on a team probably are, but then there are some people who didn’t get on there. There are a lot of players from a team called Rogue who are French and won a lot in the western scene for numerous months who didn’t get on which is quite a surprise to people and it’s the same with my team, eUnited. Quite a lot didn’t get onto teams.
Q: Kruise on stream said something along the lines of “Only Boombox from eUnited got onto an OWL team.” Do you have anything on that or know if anything has changed?
It’s probably still the case which is, to me, surprising because I think all the people on eUnited deserve to be on an Overwatch League team. Like, after two years of playing the game and always being relevant and then suddenly not being taken over some people who played in one season of Contenders as their first tournament… yeah.
Q: You and Kruise are selected to play on the UK team for Overwatch with the first match being on Friday against Sweden who topped their group, albeit with a worse record (9-3). How does the team feel going into it?
Sweden is a stronger team since replacing a player and building themselves around the Misfits team, so I guess it’s going to be a hard match, but it’s not really a match where there’s a lot of pressure. We’ll all play our best. We don’t really gain anything other than national pride and I guess “self-pride” or ego. I don’t feel like there’s any pressure, so I feel like we’ll play our best and hopefully perform well.
Q: How much have you guys been practising in the build-up to LA?
We have been practising, but not as much as we practised last time which is unfortunate because we had some issues in that regard, but we should be practised enough.
Q: In the last round of the World Cup, there was a clip floating around of you getting a quadra-kill after flexing onto soldier to see out the point on Lijiang Tower. Can you talk us through that play?
A lot of the time where it’s the last seconds of a koth point, as a Zenyatta you usually die early in the fights, so you want to get back to the fight as fast as possible to help your team and have a numbers advantage. If you swap to a faster hero you can come back and catch people off-guard and if you get a kill it’s worth it as you probably wouldn’t have got it if you’d stayed on the Zenyatta. I guess that was my thought-process.
Q: As a team, do you have any surprises in store for the competition?
Well, I think this meta, everyone’s going to have their own take on it because no-one knows what this meta is with the Mercy change. I guess some things we do could be surprising.
Q: Do you think any of the other teams, such as the USA, have a chance against South Korea?
I think they do. South Korea is a strong team obviously, but a lot of teams going into it have the attitude “Oh, there’s no way we’ll win this.” If you go in with that attitude then there’s no way you win. That team’s beatable, but it’s a mentality thing of everyone saying “Oh, they’re gonna win” which, I think, causes them to win even more. I think some teams do have a good chance like, I’d say, the USA has a pretty good chance.
Q: How do you think a team could beat South Korea? Do they have any weaknesses?
Well, I guess they lack synergy, almost, because there are players from three different South Korean teams, so they’re not going to bond as well as say, a full lineup. You could argue that Lunatic-Hai, as a team that have practised together, would beat them. I think a lack of synergy is what could lead to their downfall.
Q: Final question, do you have anything to say to any of the eUnited or UK fans who are going to be watching and supporting you at the tournament?
It would just be, err, be grateful that we got this far? I don’t know *chuckles*. I mean, we play to win, it’s more that even if we lose, people shouldn’t be doubtful of the UK. We’re a small country and we still came in the top eight worst case, which is still a pretty good accomplishment. So I feel like we’ve already done fans proud because a lot of people going into the Qualifiers were like, “Oh, UK won’t get out, they’ve got no chance” because of last year’s, I guess, failure, whereas this year we’ve proved them wrong and didn’t lose a map. So we’re just there to play and hopefully people enjoy watching our games.
James “Nilknarf” Franklin