Cella: eSports Star • Page 2

The story behind StarCraft II's head coach. 

Obviously everyone expected something from Boxer's team, but they were up-and-comers. SlayerS won the GSL in sensational fashion, trouncing several top teams on the way to a classic final in which they sniped the heavyweights of team Incredible Miracle and took the tournament 5-4. It's probably the best final the GSL has had to this day. SlayerS (and Boxer) won their first major Starcraft II trophy, Cella took home the 'best coach' award – and also won himself the right to coach Korea in the World Team League.

Cella refers often in our interview to wanting to prove himself in this capacity and in early May, after two wins in the two GSL tournaments he'd coached in, Cella was promoted to SlayerS head coach. He announced the news by pretending to resign via tweet, a fine troll of his loyal fanbase."The basic duties I have don't really change at all – working out strategies and schedules with the players, picking the order in matches – the only thing I get is more respect. From my teammates, and from the other coaches."

Cella's first tournament as head coach was the same month: SlayerS once again triumphed, with another heavy-hitting run through the contenders before an epic final series against team MVP. And once again, Cella scooped best coach. He shrugs his shoulders. "We won the GSL. I thought that proved me as a coach. Then we won the GSL again." He looks pretty convincing.

Blazing onto the scene as head coach of SlayerS is one thing, but Cella's also long been known within the StarCraft II community for being one of the best and funniest streamers around. "I love streaming," he says, "maybe too much." Thousands of Starcraft II players, from pros to those trying to climb out of Bronze league, broadcast their practice and ladder games.

Cella's livestreams are like a show. All of the elements are there. There are catchphrases ('Holy Check!'), special guests, commercial breaks, singalongs, and if you only watch one Cella clip then please make it this 46 seconds of fried chicken appreciation. The enthusiastic English ("I want birthday sec!") and constant K-pop are just the icing on the cake.

How many hours a day do SlayerS players put in on StarCraft II? 'Ten hours a day or more, but a very minimum of ten hours.'

All of this is interspersed with brilliant play from Cella and other SlayerS players like Ryung and Min, a reminder that this is a window into the Barcelona FC of StarCraft II. This strange medium, the livestream, offers more intimacy than almost any other: watching what another person's watching, seeing what their hands are doing – and occasionally seeing them on camera.

Cella's livestreams show an infectious passion for the game and for those who play it, at any level. One of the highlights in StarCraft II's brief history happened on Cella's stream on 8th May 2011 when, while listening to some Queen, he decided it was time to visit livestreaming players who only had a few followers.

Into the rabbit hole Cella went, bringing hundreds of followers from his stream, typing things like YOU ARE NOT ALONE and NEVER GIVE UP in the chat, before moving on to the next streamer. Audience numbers jumped from single to triple digits in seconds. "It was a joke at first," says Cella, "but later on it became serious for me. I know how it feels when you are not a famous gamer. When no-one is watching you, and you have no fans.

"Even though you're doing something you really really like, if nobody's watching you and if no-one's supporting you, you give up. Because that's how I thought in the beginning." Cella seems almost sheepish here, despite his awesome jacket. "I am somebody who likes to get a lot of attention. That is my character and I understand that need, people who think like that, and I just wanted to support and encourage, give them the message: 'don't give up – I am watching, I am helping, and one of these days you're going to be famous so please don't give up.'"

Cella's army of admirers.

For a community that often lionises elitist attitudes, one-upmanship and – especially – making losers feel bad about themselves, Cella is a panacea. He's a winner who's not a douchebag. And he's also probably the best opportunity you'll ever have to press your nose against the glass and watch a top, top pro-gaming team mess around. Making the GSL even more popular in the West is clearly a key aim for GOM TV and Blizzard, and it's telling that, of all the representatives they could have chosen, we're speaking to Cella.

He still plays, missing out on the current GSL qualifications by a whisker, but you sense there's been a career shift – Cella will talk about proving himself as a coach all day, but when you ask if that now takes precedence over playing he's coy. "I do spend more time coaching at the minute than playing," he says, "because SlayerS is not happy yet."

Why not? "It was easy," says Cella, followed up with an exaggerated grimace that suggests it was anything but. Then that big old grin comes out again. "SlayerS is not happy because anyone could do it once or twice," he says. "We feel lucky, but it's just a few. After many more wins, maybe we can relax." He settles back, catches my eye one last time, and repeats slowly: "Maybe."

It's a little glimpse of the humility and steel behind the resolutely upbeat SlayerS Cella – streamer extraordinaire, crooner, fast food aficionado and all-round charmer. And it's a manner of speaking that seems to naturally fit the head coach of SlayerS. Because that's fighting talk.

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About the author

Rich Stanton

Rich Stanton


Rich Stanton has been writing for Eurogamer since 2011, and also contributes to places like Edge, Nintendo Gamer, and PC Gamer. He lives in Bath, and is Terran for life.


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