A little story about never giving up and update about my Doping in eSports article

January 14, 2015

First of all, the promised update on Doping in eSports is coming. And some people will not be happy about this.

It only takes a bit longer than expected because I want it to be even better than my first article, and this involves talking to a lot of people that are at least as busy as I am, collecting data and last but not least writing the damn thing in my still rather bad English. Yes, talking and writing more and better English is on my To-Do list for 2015 and I promise it will get better. I could just pay someone to proofread and correct for me, but as a proud German I have a strong need to improve and be more efficient by nature. So I’ll tackle that issue myself.

I hope as long as the message comes across you will be forgiving.To be honest, it is hard to work with four different languages on a daily basis, especially with the medication I hopefully will not have to take any longer.

The Doping problem itself has not changed, companies like Riot Games are still ignoring the issue, and almost all tournaments still have no regulation for neuroenhancement or illegal substances, but the awareness level of the fans and also players is a lot higher than it was before.

I had a representative of the Korean eSports Association contact me by the end of last year to tell me that they are working on regulating substances that can be used for doping in eSports for all Korean cyber athletes. I had a lot of awesome journalists contacting me for Interviews and to give me a chance to voice my opinion about why I think a clean eSport is important. And I am extremely thankful people are willing to show interest and make up their minds about the topic.

I got a lot of support from people visiting my website agreeing that for eSports to be the great sport we want to watch with our kids in stadiums shortly it has to be a clean and safe sport. I will continue my journey in 2015 and who knows, maybe something does change this year.

That’s it so far for the update on the article, now something personal.

Nine years ago in 2006 when I got offered the chance to work at Universal Abit, I had to manage Abit’s representation at the German Games Convention.

With 183,000 visitors, 2,600 journalists, and 368 exhibitors from 25 countries in 2006, the Games Convention was the second biggest gaming event in the world. In the years before I had the pleasure to learn from people like Robert Krakoff, the CEO of Razer, a brand specialized in computer peripherals for gamers and today’s CEO of Razer Min-Liang Tan, how it’s done correctly.

Razer did not only have the best organized and structured Exhibition booth and show floor I have seen to date, but they always stuck to their cultural company slogan For Gamers, by Gamers. Making each exhibition they attended a superior experience and celebration for their fans and customers from all around the globe visiting. It was not about selling products to the press or customers, what they did was to sell emotions instead. The feeling that you had a great piece of hardware for a reasonable price. Something you could put your trust in to make you a better gamer, no matter if you were a professional or just someone coming home from a hard day of work playing some Counter-Strike or Starcraft with friends or family.

When I got the call from my CEO during the planning stage that he rests the trust to accurately represent the company and brand in front of the press, fans, our European customers and partners like Intel on my shoulders I felt very uncomfortable.

I was 20 years old and never studied marketing, all I had was passion and love for the job I was doing, and what I learned from personal experience along the way in the years before, most of it adapting and learning from the guys at Razer and my mentor at SK-Gaming, Alexander Mueller.

I was stressed out. The day I arrived at the Exhibition I got a call from the Taiwanese office that something important came up, and I would have to run everything by myself for now. I supervised the building of our booths; I tried to manage all the meetings, our partners, the representation on the show floor, talking to the fans and brand enthusiasts we had and all the little problems that came up here and there on my own. I got tremendous help from my small team but on Friday night I broke.

I woke up with a horrible chest pain in my hotel room in the middle of the night, hardly being able to breathe an ambulance was called and I thought I had a heart attack.I was not drinking alcohol or smoking at that time, so the first diagnosis of holiday heart syndrome by the doctors were quickly thrown out of the window when the blood results came back.

The following days I had to stay in the hospital, the company took care of rebooking my flights and tried to get daily updates from the doctors. The managers coming from Taiwan just in time took over for me and finished the exhibition, which luckily was a huge success in the end.

The doctors in the meantime couldn’t find anything. My heart was fine, but I got told that probably the tremendous amount of stress I had triggered the symptoms of a heart attack.

I was not happy. Getting told that there is no explanation for when you just experienced a life-threatening event was very disturbing. I took a two weeks vacation and after consulting with doctors and my family made the decision against my career and for my health to quit my job at Abit. Because all the money in the world is worth nothing if you are dead by the age of twenty-three. Abit was unhappy to let me go but understood my situation and wished me the best of luck for my future. Giving me a great employment reference and lifting my non-compete as a parting gift.

My health in the meantime kept deteriorating. I had almost weekly episodes of the same heart issues I had the night at Games Convention. With slight periods where I was completely fine. I went to hospital after hospital. Nobody was able to help or find the cause of my problems. There was a point where I had given up hope that I could live a normal life again.

But I kept going, SK Gaming gave me the opportunity to work remotely and without any pressure, being my second family for a very long time.

Then two years ago in 2012 I went to Games Convention again with SK. The event where it all started. This time with a lot less responsibility, mostly taking care of the broadcasting of the event to our fans and partners and creating video promotional material besides managing our newest talent and Interviewer Eefje Depoortere.

I didn’t feel very well for the whole week. At some point, I started getting excruciating chest pain against the advice of the exhibition medical team I decided to go back to my hometown by train and directly went to the ER of the hospital I had been so many times before.

A young doctor took care of me; they kept me in the hospital overnight being concerned and kept monitoring my vitals. When I woke up the next morning, the room was full of doctors. In front of me the young doctor who helped me the day before with a smile on his face.

He asked me to take two pills right away and said, “I found out what’s wrong with you.”And then he started explaining.

After seven years, they finally found out I have a very rare and hard to diagnose form of a common autoimmune disease and that they can treat and help me to get better, but it will take time. My whole body went into overdrive for periods of time and then for a reason they still can’t explain regulated itself back to normal, making it impossible for the doctors to find out the cause without being incredibly lucky I this time got into the hospital later than usual.

For the past two years now I took my daily pills and got my blood work checked every month and besides some serious side-effects from the medication I started getting better. I finally went back to the hospital in Germany last month to have a lump removed that developed as part of the recovery and the doctor told me that for now the status of the disease is “inactive.” Leaving me with a 100% of physical working capacity again.

They can’t promise that it won’t go active again or predict when, but at the moment I am quite happy. I had to make a lot of hard decisions during all these years, I had to build my career from nothing again three times now, and there were times when I was about to lose hope.

But I didn’t, and I am alive. So no matter how big the stones are life is throwing at you sometimes. Never give up.

Bjoern Franzen

Personal blog of Bjoern Franzen
Marketer, eSport consultant and Developer

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