The spotlights swivel to focus on the aisle between the two packed banks of Call of Duty fans. To a cacophony of the crowd, London Royal Ravens’ Matthew ‘Skrapz’ Marshall appears, hands clutched around every live event’s favourite object – the inflatable beach ball. He boots it into the London crowd much to their delight. They even hit it back to him, just so he can do it all over again. It’s pure ecstacy.
Kicking a beach ball into a crowd may seem trivial in a big-money franchised esports league like the Call of Duty League, but it was a little moment that made the first London Home Series stand out from the majority of other LAN events. Fast-forward a few months to now though, and there are no beach balls, no beers, and no fans making inappropriate gestures behind the analysts’ desk.
“To be honest man, you’ve just killed my vibe,” Skrapz tells me after asking how this weekend’s London Home Series will differ from the first. I’m all too aware that he’s only half-joking when he says this. “Knowing that we’re not going to London with that crowd. That London event, you just can’t top it man!”
While the inflatables, alcoholic beverages, and rambunctious crowd may be long gone, one thing that hasn’t changed is the Royal Ravens’ desire to win their home event – especially after seeing New York Subliners taking a surprise win at its Home Series last week.
STAT: @skrapzg is the ONLY player to kick a beach ball into the crowd at a CDL event this season.
— London Royal Ravens (@RoyalRavens) July 14, 2020
“It’s going to be a lot different, but the guys are still going one-ten,” Skrapz says. “We’re still grinding, we’re still putting in the hours and we’re still doing everything we can to win. So even though it’s online we’re treating it just like the other event and giving our all to try and win it. I can’t wait for it.”
Royal Ravens heads into the second London Home Series in the more favourable of the two groups, and get to kick the event off against joint-bottom team Seattle Surge. You’d think that this would be a welcome prospect for the team, considering they have arguably been the most unlucky with fixtures, having played the top four teams (Dallas Empire, Chicago Huntsmen, Atlanta FaZe, and Florida Mutineers) in exactly half of the 24 series it’s played this season.
However, Skrapz says he’s relished the chance to do battle against the big four so often, even if it has potentially cost Royal Ravens valuable CDL points along the way.
“You know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way than to play the best teams at a tournament to win it,” Skrapz says confidently. “I love playing the better teams. I love playing the sweaty teams over anything. So I don’t really mind about that. We’ve been grinding, we’ve been going hard, we’ve been putting the reps in, and hopefully it pays off.”
This weekend’s event is also Royal Ravens’ last chance to get some CDL points on the board to improve its chances of a high seeding for the Call of Duty League Championship next month.
With Champs moving online for the first time, some pros voiced concerns over competitive integrity and the huge amount of money on the line, with the Championship’s $4.6 million prize pot potentially being the largest for an online esports event ever.
The league has upped efforts to police Champs and uphold competitive integrity with more staff and extra cameras monitoring players’ setups, as well as redistributing the prize pool to ensure a fairer spread of that massive prize pot.
Skrapz says holding Champs online is a “no brainer” and that while he would have liked to have maybe seen less money on the line for a non-LAN event, he is still excited to compete in the CDL’s first Championship.
“I can understand where people are coming from with the whole ‘competitive integrity’ take or whatever, but at the end of the day, we’re talking about people’s lives here. I don’t care how much money is on the line. I don’t care how big the tournament is. If somebody’s life is getting put in risk or danger then it just doesn’t make sense when we can all just stay home until all this blows over. If you think otherwise, you’re just delusional. It’s a no brainer for me.
“I did initially suggest that the money situation could change. Obviously $4.6 million online in one tournament is a lot. I tweeted that maybe some of it should get chopped off and taken to next year. But that’s not the case now and I don’t really mind that at all, it’s still great and I’m still just as excited to play.”
With the Call of Duty League about to reach its climax and teams getting their last chances to rack up some points, expect some intense competition at the second Royal Ravens Home Series. Just don’t expect any beach balls this time around.
You can catch all the action from tomorrow, July 17, on the CDL YouTube channel.