What's up Crew Members! We've got a real treat for you today! (This will be especially nice for those of you who love the sports games.)
We recently had the chance to interview Matt Gutkoski, or as you may know him - Top Shelf Cookie - the latest champion in the NHL Gaming World. What did we learn? (Other than the fact that Matt's a really nice, normal guy who hasn't let his new fame go to his head)? Keep reading and find out!
Photo Credit: nhl.com
CGC: What was the first NHL game that you remember playing?
TSC: The first NHL game I played was Gretzky’s 3D Hockey on the Nintendo 64.
CGC: At what point did you realize you were one of the best people in the world?
TSC: I realized this year, around April when I won my first tournament. The Columbus Blue Jackets held their own esport tournament, and I had to go through several of the best players in the game from the US and Canada to win the tournament.
CGC: How did you initially hear about the NHL Gaming World Championship?
TSC: I heard about the NHL Gaming World Championship last year through I think the NHL’s website. I remember googling NHL 18 tournaments and finding it, and I was able to qualify last year for the US Regional, where I placed 3rd. Then I found out it was coming back for this year through Twitter.
CGC: How was your experience leading up to the finals?
TSC: My experience leading up to the finals had a lot of different emotions, mostly excitement and just enjoying the moment. To qualify for the US Regional, I had to score a goal short handed to tie a game, and then eventually won in OT. I still think about that game (my 3rd out of 5 to qualify), because I very well could have lost and I would have not had a chance to win the tournament. During the US Regional, I was very confident that I could win it. I just felt that if I was playing my best, no one would be able to beat me, which is something I hadn’t felt before. And then the World finals was a blast. I had never been to Las Vegas so there was so much to take in from scenery, the people I met there, playing at one of the best facilities for gaming in the nation, it was all surreal.
CGC: How many hours a day/week do you dedicate to playing?
TSC: I typically play around 4-8 hours a day, usually around 6 hours. It varies depending on the workload I have from college, because I know that school comes first and I have to make sure my grades are where I want them to be.
CGC: What was going through your mind when you won and were standing there with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman receiving a check for $50,000?
TSC: I was just thinking that I can’t believe I was able to do this. I’ve always thought about how cool it would be to become the world champion this year. I know I had what it took but it’s very hard to be playing your best on the most important day in your gaming career. Knowing what was on the line created a lot of nerves so I was happy I was able to overcome the nerves and just play my game. Gary Bettman was such a nice guy, he welcomed me and shook my hand. I am so fortunate to have gotten to meet him and have that experience. The check was gigantic and I actually still have that with me back home because although it does not carry a cash value, it signifies so many memories and experiences.
CGC: What’s life been like for you since your win?
TSC: Life has been relatively the same, although I have gained a large following and have gotten a lot of opportunities to speak about my gaming career and becoming the world champ. From interviews to speaking on the news, it has been a lot of fun and I’m happy to have been able to bring the championship home to Columbus.
CGC: Now that you’ve won the Chip, are you done or do you plan to go back and win as many times as you can?
TSC: I would love to have the opportunity to go back-to-back. I know I’ll be playing NHL 20 everyday when it comes out and will try to compete in all of the tournaments there are. Going back-to-back will be very difficult, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.
CGC: They gave a little taste of what to expect in NHL 20. What would you like to see added/changed in the game?
TSC: What I would like to be changed/added to the game would be to have more ways to deke the opponent and get by their defenders. The game currently has several dekes to use but there are really only two dekes that are worth using when playing competitively. The other dekes tend to make you lose the puck and end up hurting you rather than helping you. I also would like to see hitting become more effective defensively. I love taking the body when I play defense, which wasn’t the best way to play defense this year. I felt that playing offense at a high level was more important than playing defense at a high level, so I hope there’s more of a balance in the next game.
CGC: What other games are you enjoying while waiting for the release of NHL 20?
TSC: I’m currently playing a lot of Fortnite with some friends. I’m not nearly as good in Fortnite as I am in NHL, but it is a good, fun challenge for me and keeps my coordination and awareness in check. I also occasionally play call of duty and PUBG, and I’m looking to play some story mode games since it is the “offseason” for NHL.
CGC: Lastly, if you could give advice to someone looking to be a contender, what would it be?
TSC: My advice to someone who is looking to compete in NHL next year is to play as many of the better players as you can, and it is okay if you lose games. There are several modes in the NHL game where the better you play, the better players you are going to matchup against. A lot of people “back out” or leave the game once they see they are matching up with someone who is good to avoid losing. I cannot stress this enough about how bad that is for people who are trying to compete. There is no way that someone is going to become a better player by only playing weaker opponents. This past game alone, from September to December, I lost to some of the best players 10-15 times in a row! Although it wasn’t fun to lose, I know that it has made me a better player and my results have proven that. Lastly, be confident going into games where you’re playing good players. I know it’s easier said than done, but confidence is such a huge factor. You have to believe you can win. If you’re playing games expecting to lose, you’ve already lost before the game has even started.
We want to thank Matt for taking time out of his day to answer our questions - he's truly a nice guy. We'd also like to offer him another huge "Congratulations" on his well-deserved, newly-earned title and rank as NHL World Gaming Champ! (If we're lucky, maybe we'll get a chance to test our skills against his in September when NHL 20 drops!)
Until next time....GAME ON!