Every moving object needs a driving force and a medium on which to move over, the physics behind that notwithstanding. The same could be said about AEC, because behind the ongoing tournament, there are various talented individuals working to ensure the success of this venture. This week marks the start of a new series: Meet the Country Operators, where we will be getting to interact with the valued country operators who have been working in partnership with the AEC executive team to spearhead the success of Africa’s first esports league.
Our first guest this week is Mahmoud Otto, a young Tunisian esports business leader who is also the AEC Tunisien Country Operator.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Mahmoud Otto. I’m Tunisia’s Country Operator and I’m the CEO of a Tunisian organization called Hannibal Knights, which has been at the forefront of the AEC Tunisian event.
If you were to have one superpower, what would it be?
Getting things done. From what I’ve noticed, I’ve seen people talking about what they want to do and what they want to achieve but they don’t actually get it done, even though they have the means to do so. They usually act like they need some help in order to do it, especially if they don’t have a clear image of the goal to be achieved. From my point of view, however, I take the time to fill out any blanks in the image and strive to go forward.
What got you into the gaming scene?
When I was a kid (laughs), I started out on an Atari back in the day and then I moved to a Nintendo. Back then, I didn’t have the means to get the games myself, so I used to frequent the local gaming places, and that’s how I got hooked. I actually remember playing a lot of Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation 2, for almost an entire summer. That also pushed me to know more about games and how they’re made, and the communities surrounding the games in general.
What got you into esports?
That happens to be as a result of the first multiplayer game I played about 8 years ago, League of Legends. I used to grind (diligently play the game in order to improve your skills) the game really hard back then; was an Ekko one-trick, climbed to Gold III and peaked at Diamond III, and at that point, I was really hooked to the game and the community around it. As I got involved with the community, I realized that there was a cycle: teams would be formed for local competitions, but they would never carry on and become permanent. I sought to fill out the missing piece by solidifying the existence of these teams. When Stade Tunisien, a football team in Tunisia, opened its esports branch, I was brought on board as its manager and from there we started working on player contracts.
What has the journey been like?
At first, it was really cool and fun, but as soon as COVID-19 came, it started becoming a bit of a struggle. We’d managed to get some really good brand deals and sponsors to come on board with us for 2020, but it all fell apart as a result of the pandemic. However, we’re still very hopeful about next year and we pray that things will get better.
What is your vision for the African gaming scene?
I feel like the esports scene in Africa is underrated, and that was one of my motivating factors for getting into the Africa Esports Championship. Compared to other continents, game developers have put in resources into developing regional tournaments across the globe, while neglecting Africa, or only including a specific part of the continent. The main reason why I got into AEC and worked hard to get people to participate is in order to uplift the African image and send a message that we can still do it, despite the challenges that we encounter.
What was your main focus for AEC 2020?
At first, I wanted to give the best image possible of my country to the continent, on our efficiency in running the local tournament and the level of professionalism that we brought. I also wanted to try and bring in sponsors and bring the local federation (Tunisian Esports Federation), but unfortunately, with the advent of the pandemic, the former started to back out as they weren’t too invested in the idea of sponsoring an online tournament. Given that slight setback, I diverted my focus to ensuring that we delivered the best experience for the local qualifiers.
That’s great! What advice would you give to a person who is interested in entering the esports scene?
I would tell them three things:
i. Don’t think you can only make a living out of simply playing a specific game. There’s a large market for esports related services that you could also choose to partake in. You don’t have to be good at the game to provide something for the community.
ii. Don’t be afraid to volunteer when you’re starting out. Volunteering is a good way to gain valuable experience.
iii. If you’re good at something, never do it for free.
Excellent! Any final words, as we conclude?
See you all in the Grand Finals, and I hope Tunisia can bring the AEC cup home!