Written By: Steve Vegvari
I had the opportunity of speaking with 20 year old Manuel “ShuKz” Herbst from Cologne, Germany. ShuKz has been playing Call of Duty for seven years at this point and has carved out his own space in the eSports community.
Being aware of the trials and tribulations of getting onto a large eSports organization, ShuKz has had enough foresight to build himself not only as a competent player, but a influencer online. After leaving Team Prismatic earlier this year, ShuKz worked tirelessly to ensure his team would not only be involved with eSports on his home turf. His efforts meant he would be to be able to travel worldwide and represent his country in every major tournament possible.
Q: Can you give us a little introduction?
A: I’m Manuel Herbst from Germany. Started playing Call of Duty as anyone else. Played for fun in public lobbies. I transferred to Clan Wars, which was pretty big in German at the time. It is basically a 6v6 league. You did not get anything from winning, but it was more challenging than public matches. Midway through Modern Warfare 3, I transferred to Gamebattles.
That was the first impression I got from competitive, playing 4v4. Playing against the best of the best. There came a point where I decided I wanted to be the best and play through it, and here I am.
Q: What made you decide to start competing in eSports?
A: Playing Call of Duty the first time was only at a friends house. I think it was Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 at that time, we just played and had a great time. So, I bought it for my Xbox and in terms of competing, the same thought kept running in my head. I kept saying “I want to win, I want to win” more and more. I just stuck through and it got heavier along the years.
Q: At what point did you decide to put all your focus into eSports?
A: It obviously started when I was a bit younger. I was 14 or 15 when I first played Call of Duty. At that time there wasn’t much you could do with the game at that age. It’s 18+ in Germany and Europe. There was not too much you could do besides online tournaments. I had already seen the major tournaments and figured I had a few years to prepare for that moment. I just wanted to get there.
Time goes by and I turn 18. Black Ops 3 was out and I had my German team. That was the first time we had got an organization that gave us full funding for an event. That was the first moment I saw people were paying for me to travel to other countries and represent them playing a video game. I started making my own brand as a backup; you want to be known not only as a player, but as a person. It got bigger and bigger, and now I have an organization that funds me to participate in North American events.
Q: How did you get involved with Frost Dragons?
A: That’s a tricky one. I’m in contact with the owner and he is an influencer for German organizations. Before WWII came out I was trying to get my team in an organization. I messaged a few German influencers. I asked a few owners what their plans were. The owner of Frost had big plans for year and responded back to me. I got in contact and at first I could not believe he was going to pay for NA events that quick, but now I have the chance to represent Frost Dragons.
Q: What is it about Call of Duty that keeps bringing you back year after year?
A: Good question, I ask that to myself a lot to be honest. I think just in the start everyone played the same kind of games. GTA, Need for Speed, etc. I never played PC so all the PC games never popped onto my radar. I love games and competing. Call of Duty just stuck out to me and now it being the biggest on console, besides Halo. I’d love to play CS:GO or Heathstone but never had the opportunity to run them. I stuck to Call of Duty and enjoy it. I have FIFA in the back of my head like a cushion so I do not run myself dry playing 24/7.
Q: Have you ever considered transitioning to CS:GO or another game if given the opportunity?
A: I would love to think so. Being realistic, I don’t think so. I have never played those game, I have only watched videos of CS:GO. I don’t think I could compete with anyone who has stuck with the game for what, five years now? The game knowledge from those players could not be matched at this point.
Q: Have you been playing much of Call of Duty: WWII?
A: Obviously yes. Not as much time as I’d like as one of my teammates is still in school. I would never cry about it saying we need to play more. In terms of skrims, we could be practising a bit more. For me personally, I have been playing a ton of public matches. It feels just like the old games in public matches. I was not a huge fan of the last two titles so I was not really playing or skimming as much which got me into a circle of doom. I was not as good as I could have been. With WWII I can play without my team and not fall behind.
Q: Have you been enjoying the return to boots on the ground?
A: I started with Black Ops 1 so I love the boots on the ground mechanics. Black Ops 1 is the best Call of Duty in my eyes since it was the game that got me into it to begin with. I really enjoy the return and like it more than the futuristic setting. I may like the Black Op 2 feel the most. Where it is not too futuristic, but more modern than the WWII feeling.
For me as a player I like the boots on the ground as I have never been a player who likes to jump around, I am more strategic. I enjoy flanking and it is a lot easier when on the ground when you can outsmart your opponent with them flying over you or sliding past you.
Q: Did you have to adjust yourself back to that playstyle.
A: In a way, yes. I see myself pre-aiming to spaces where in this game it is just not possible for a player to be. Even in the last few games I did not try to be the best player in the game. I tried to play with my feet on the ground and not worry about wall riding. It was weird at the start, but now I’m back in.
Q: What does your routine look like leading into a tournament.
A: Over the last two or three years of competing I was not salaried. You have to make money in other ways. I had a part time job on the side so I would be waking up around 9 or 10. Than I would go to work for four hours or so until 4, which was great as I play with a lot of UK players and they are an hour behind me.
Now it is just about waking up, do a few public matches, and do a five or six skirm matches. Afterwards we talk over how we did for the day and what to work on for the next day.
Q: What is the most seminal moment for you since getting involved in eSports?
A: It would have to be during Black Ops 3. It was the first time I had played on an open stage in an arena of sorts. Having a few thousand French people screaming whenever you kill an opponent is just insane. I was sniping on mainstage, and everyone was standing up and going nuts.
Q: Any upcoming events you can fill us in on?
A: On December 6th I am flying out to MLG Dallas, which is going on from the 8th to the 10th. After that I am going to CWL New Orleans on January 14th. The plan is for us to attend every event we can. Frost Dragons is behind us and want us to represent them and play for every eSports tournament.
Q: Where can people keep up with you online?
A: They can find me on Twitter.com/ShuKzNorris. My DMs are open, so anyone can ask questions and I will be answering everything. Everything is all love.
For more on Call of Duty and the players, keep your eyes peel on WorldGaming.
Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His enthusiasm and adoration of the video game industry go back to the days of SNES. Find him on Twitter and join in on the escapades.