It’s not exactly uncommon for an esports competitor to hop from one game to competing in another. But it’s definitely rare to see someone come back from a failed esport, join one dominated by the general public, and come away just as successful, if not more successful, than they were in their first esport. CLG’s Fortnite superstar Harrison “Psalm” Chang defies those odds.
yourstandard.us spoke to him after the Fortnite World Cup about the strategies he used to place second and win $1.8 million at the tournament, as well as how it compares to any tournaments he won as a Heroes of the Storm pro for the three years he competed there.
yourstandard.us: You utilized a very safe playstyle throughout the finals, with low kill counts but high placements. Why is that?
Psalm: In Fortnite, there are two playstyles. You either play aggressive, or you play passive. My train of thought is, “If I’m in a tournament with 99 of the best players in the world, there’s a chance that every fight I take might not go my way.” That being said, a passive playstyle is the safest and most consistent path to scoring the most points. It’s about eliminating as much risk as possible. Obviously, an aggressive playstyle worked out for Bugha, but he’s a beast that plays on another level.
What tournament or competition is the place for an aggressive playstyle then, if any?
Open qualifiers are much better for playing aggressively. Competition there isn’t top tier, so you can rely on getting as many eliminations as possible to advance. That allows you to climb the leaderboards so you can qualify. It’s almost a different game entirely than when you’re in a closed circuit against the best of the best.
You’ve received some backlash from fans for not taking many fights in the finals. Does that bother you at all?
They can be mad all they want, but I’ve got $1.8 million in my bank account now.
Fortnite is known for being a mostly fast-paced game with chaotic turns in every match. When you slow it down and play it more methodically like you do, does that change how the game feels to you?
I knew coming into the tournament that I would be following a very strict game plan, a game plan that eliminates risk by avoiding engagement. I knew I’d have a very low kill count. It’s a very strategic and methodical approach to the game—rotating very precisely, making sure I make it to certain spots at the exact right time. When you take a fight, that all goes out the window. You don’t know how long the fight’s going to take, you don’t know where the fight will start, and you don’t know if you’re even going to win. That puts a lot of holes in any game plan, so by slowing things down and taking a more consistent approach, that can save the entire game.
In our last interview, you told us what you planned on doing with any prize money you won. Now that you have the $1.8 million to back that up, what are you excited to spend that cash on?
To be honest, I don’t think my lifestyle will change that much. After winning that money, I don’t feel any different internally. Certain parts of my life will certainly be upgraded a notch for convenience’s sake, but I’m not going to go too crazy. I’m going to help my family out, invest a lot of it, and save.
From your years as a rather successful Heroes of the Storm pro, did you ever come close to a prize pool like this?
Not even close, not even close. My total winnings across all the tournaments we won probably only came out to near $100,000.
Do you miss Heroes of the Storm at all?
Kind of. Winning with a team feels a lot different than winning by yourself. And while winning by yourself is incredibly satisfying, knowing that the money in your pocket and the cheering fans are there as a direct result of your actions, there’s something to be missed about the camaraderie you feel from team-based games like HotS.
There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the large prize pool at the Fortnite World Cup, specifically around young children being awarded hundreds of thousands, and in Bugha’s case millions, of dollars. As an older player, do you think there’s any merit or validity to that controversy?
It’s nothing new. Kids have been making that kind of money, plus much more, in many different industries. I don’t understand why the concern is being voiced now. My personal opinion is that they’ll be fine as long as they get some financial advisors, which isn’t complicated. Gamers are also wired a bit differently. If you have a 14-year-old pop star that travels the world and has millions of fans, you’re exposed to a lot more glamor. I don’t really see that happening, at least in the way people are concerned about, with gamers. It seems like there’s a lot less risk for financial abuse.
Fortnite had a rocky start as an esport or professional competitive game. Do you think that payouts as big as this one will convince naysayers that Fortnite can be a successful esport?
There are only a few things a game has to do to become an esport. First, how much is it paying out? Can players make a living off of it, and what kind of living would that be? Second, what kind of viewership does the game achieve during tournaments? And if the game hits both those checkboxes, which Fortnite definitely does, the third point doesn’t even matter. If the tournament pulls in the viewers, and there are enough viewers to justify the prize pool, it’s an esport. Fortnite doesn’t need to prove anything else.
Last question, just because it’s so fresh, how do you feel about Ninja’s move to Mixer as his exclusive streaming platform?
I’m actually quite excited to see how it’s going to pan out. I don’t think it’s a good idea to allow Twitch to monopolize the streaming community. Mixer is far, far behind, though, so this move from Ninja might be exactly what they needed.
All photos via CLG.