Team Sidewinder was formed in September 2007 with the combination of three of the country's top gaming teams: Online Gaming Addicts, Parallax and NewType. Since then they've grown to accommodate eight competitive teams with over sixty gamers.
They play not only PC titles such as Call of Duty 4, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike and Battlefield 2, but also Xbox 360 games, including Gears of War and Halo 3. If you're planning on attending xLAN (and quite frankly, who isn't?) then you'll have to get used to being gibbed by a TSW member repeatedly.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Jan Birkeland, aka norwegiankiwi, for a chat about the team, and where all this success is taking them...
GP: Can you tell us a little bit about how you all managed to come together as one team?
norwegiankiwi: Team Sidewinder (TSW) started out in September last year, when three teams, each at the top in their individual disciplines, joined forces. The Online Gaming Addicts, Parallax and NewType formed a multi-gaming team that would compete in several different games under the same banner. Since then TSW has recruited another PC based team as well as two teams competing on the Xbox 360 console.
GP: You must have applauded the news that video gaming is to be an official welcome event at this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing. Has this changed your focus somewhat towards attending events like the Olympics?
norwegiankiwi: In its current form, I can’t really see video gaming as ever being part of an event like the Olympics. That being said, gaming has seen a huge competitive growth in the last few years, and is becoming more mainstream. This means bigger and more frequent events, and combined with increased media coverage (especially TV) I think there is room for international gaming competitions to mirror sports events. The closest event is the World Cyber Games.
GP: What’s your most eagerly anticipated title due for release this year? Is there anything you think you will form a new team for?
norwegiankiwi: Being a large team, it is often hard to determine what games will be big. Battlefield 2142 is an example of a game that we put a lot of effort into, but that ultimately failed to grab the market's attention. This year we are looking forward to games like Frontlines [Fuel of War] and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, but any game that is quickly picked up by the online community is of interest to us. Forming a new team to a specific game happens quite a while after the game's release, so it’s hard to predict what will happen.
GP: Roughly how many hours do each of you practise every week, if you take time off does it take you a while to catch up to your previous skill level?
norwegiankiwi: Depending on the match schedule and time of year, most of our players practice a few hours every day. There are some off periods, especially over summer, and some more intense times before big competitions where training takes a front seat. You do get rusty if you haven’t played for a while, but our players are skilled enough to quickly pickup the pace.
GP: What words of advice would you give younger players who want to aim towards competing professionally?
norwegiankiwi: Professional gaming in New Zealand is still a long way off, and making a living off gaming is reserved for very few people worldwide. Gaming should first and foremost be about fun and enjoyment, not competition. If you want the competitive edge, challenge yourself to play with and against the best of the best out there; practice makes perfect.
GP: Is the ultimate goal to be able to game to earn a living, or will the money always be secondary to the entertainment component of gaming?
norwegiankiwi: To us, the money will always be a secondary objective. The reason behind forming TSW is to gather up a group of gamers that can support each other and have fun competing in something we all share a passion for. Being able to make a comfortable living off gaming is a pipe dream at the moment, but in the future there should be more opportunities for this.
GP: Your current focus appears to primarily be first-person shooters. Do you have any plans to expand to the likes of RTS or MMORPGs?
norwegiankiwi: We primarily play shooters for the team-based action, and we don’t have any current plans to expand to MMORPGs or RTS games. That being said, we are absolutely open to everything, and we strongly believe that gamers are gamers regardless of platform of genre.
GP: Good luck for xLAN coming up – are there any teams in particular you’ll be keeping an eye on, or do you think you’ve got what it takes to come out on top?
norwegiankiwi: xLAN will be a lot of fun for us, and we’re really looking forward to it. There is a lot of focus on the competitive side, but we also enjoy meeting up with our players and other teams we only know from online. We certainly have the talent to win some competitions, but like sport, nothing can be predicted.