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Overwatch’s Diamonds in the Rough: An Interview with Antoine “HammerKick” Bournier on the French Overwatch Scene and Autism in Gaming

HammerKick Interview

If you are at all familiar with French Overwatch, then you probably already know the subject of our interview. Antoine “HammerKick” Bournier is the founder and caster for CastersNest, a French Overwatch broadcasting service, as well as being one of the main writers for Avecle6, otherwise known as the French Overwatch team. HammerKick is as sincere of a person as you will ever meet and has a passion for growing the French Overwatch scene that cannot go unnoticed.

I hope you enjoy learning more about HammerKick’s story of how video games have helped him with autism and how the French community has rallied around him, in the next iteration of Diamonds in the Rough.

 

HammerKick, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me to tell your story, I really appreciate it! For those of us who may not know much about you, would you mind giving us some background about who you are, how you got into Overwatch, and your story coming to the game?

HammerKick Interview
Image Courtesy of HammerKick

My name is HammerKick and I am from France, as you can probably tell from my accent! I started playing Overwatch during the beta in 2016. Before Overwatch, I had some background in esports, mostly as a player. I played Dota 2 for two years competitively and I went far in a major qualifier, but that was basically it. I was done with Dota, so I decided to go to Overwatch and played competitively for a few months.

Then, with the help of a French streamer called Althéa, who was at the time a streamer for GamersOrigin Overwatch (GOOW), I got into streaming. Basically, I was like “Hey, streaming looks fun, let’s give it a try”. I streamed a bit on my personal channel and Althéa, who was on the GOOW channel, was like “Maybe you can join the channel”. So, I applied and got through with the help of Althéa’s recommendation. I started streaming on GOOW, and then they started casting tournaments.

There was a tournament called King of Nordic, which had top-tier EU teams like Misfits and Fragsters. When I saw that, I thought, “Maybe I could start casting”. I ended up casting it with Lutti, who’s one of the OWL casters and with Gamers Origin. So, I did it and found it fun. Then, DDaFox joined Gamers Origin. I talked to him and I told him “Hey, maybe we should cast together,” and that’s what we did. We started casting online cups together and, in the beginning of January 2017, we started covering ESL tournaments.

HammerKick Interview
Image Courtesy of Liquipedia

That was until the end of March which was when I decided to leave Gamers Origin. DDaFox left afterward, and together we had the same idea of developing the French and European Overwatch scene on the French side, so we built CastersNest in order to cover all the amateur tournaments. We started growing, finding partners, casting lots of tournaments, and as of today, we’re the main French channel for the Contenders Trials/Open Division part of European T2, and the main channel for French and T3 EU cups. For example, we recently cast the EGE Cup, which had like some of the best French teams, including orKs White (Top 6 Open Division).

For reference, how big of an operation is CastersNest? How many casters and writers do you all have employed there?

HammerKick Interview
Image Courtesy of @CastersNest

We started as four casters: DDaFox, Bemo, Atao, and myself. Atao ended up casting Contenders with O’Gaming, DDaFox retired to a managing role and Bemo had to stop, as well. Right now, we have around ten casters, still recruiting at the moment, three producers and a community manager. We’re partnered with Overtown, the biggest French community for competitive Overwatch, which has all the esports and Overwatch news. It’s French news for Overwatch, basically. You can find scrims, a team and so on – like the O.W., but for the French community.

Was it after you started CastersNest and got it off the ground that you started writing for Team France?

HammerKick Interview
Image Courtesy of avecle6

No, I started writing very late, around that time I wasn’t writing at all. In September 2017, I started wanting to write stuff, so I started my blog. I started writing my opinions about OW, and I also talked about myself, and one post really helped me go through a difficult situation. In my time playing Dota, I wrote an article about being an autistic person in the gaming world. At the time, I posted it on the Team Liquid forums and then I decided to repost it on the blog while adapting it to my current situation.

At first, a few people were like, “Yeah, that’s really cool!” and then it was being shared massively. I was surprised by how many people were affected by it. I had no idea there were so many people in my situation and I was glad that my post helped some people. I then kept on writing and had a lot of fun with it, and will continue to do so.

Recapping that article a bit, what is it like being an autistic person in the Overwatch community? Has Overwatch helped you?

I’m going to talk about my general perspective of gaming from an autistic perspective because I first experienced all of this when I was still playing Dota. As a person with Aspergers, your main issue is with social interactions. You have issues finding friends and talking to people. In front of a monitor, you don’t have these issues you can just write your stuff or talk in your mic. By communicating this way, I started getting more confident in talking to people and got better at taking criticism because you get flamed in game, and so on. This actually helped me a lot in real life as I went into high school and met people who played video games. I was ready to make them my friends because of the confidence I gained playing video games, and they’re still my friends: one of them even ended up playing with GamersOrigin.

Five years ago, I had issues talking to people, had social issues, and was doing stuff that was weird to other people. As of today, you would not guess I’m autistic. Everyone in the French community has been really supportive of me and I hope to do the same in return.

For those of us who may not have as much exposure to French Overwatch can you give us more of a glimpse into the amateur scene? How does Overwatch in France compare to other EU countries?

HammerKick Interview
Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

We have the biggest amateur scene in Europe. Have you seen avecle6? It’s an insane thing that’s happening for France, and it proves that our scene is bigger than others. There are a lot of people playing at different levels, like, for example, the EGE Cup that has sixteen teams. We did a tournament with no cash prize in April that brought in ten teams. We have one coming soon and almost all slots are filled, the majority of teams being French. There would be enough teams in France to completely fill a cup like this, in my opinion.

Even at the lowest levels, there are teams and small communities that will gather themselves to watch those games and that’s very exciting. The French scene is one of the biggest in the world, for sure.

With all of this in mind, what are your future plans within Overwatch?

My goal, first of all, is for CastersNest to continue casting more and more tournaments. We would love to expand into Contenders and even bring in more casters, maybe even getting to Overwatch League in the future – that would be cool.

For myself, the goal right now is to cast Contenders and Overwatch League.

 

A big thanks to HammerKick for participating in the interview, best of luck to you!

 


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