A Closer Look At Romain Bigeard, The Most Interesting Man In esports
When people think Unicorns of Love, chances are they think of Romain Bigeard, their hyperactive and, often, half-naked manager. Romain, also known as “Khagneur”, has become so synonymous with the European LCS team, that many people accidentally think that the Unicorns come from France – Romain’s home country.
But beneath the extravagant Frenchman is someone with a Bachelor in History, a manager who has to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. And at 29 years of age, he’s actually one of the oldest EU LCS managers on the scene. Why he doesn’t care about his age, how he originally became a part of the Unicorns, why he loves his job and why his parents allowed him to be a porn actor are a few matters amongst others we discussed in this interview. Enjoy.
Hey Romain, I hope you’re doing well! The first question I have for you: Were you always this crazy? When you were growing up, as a teenager, as a kid even?
(laughs) I’ve always been a happy kid. An energetic kid I guess. I take my energy from people. I would consider myself to be an “IRL Support” in a way. I love being on stage and doing stuff for the team, but I’m not doing this for me, I want to support the team. I want to showcase how good they are. This is obviously a lot easier when we’re winning, when we’re proving ourselves on the battlefield, it’s a bit more difficult when are losing though. But yeah, I’ve always been a happy and energetic person I guess. I mean, we only have one life! So I’d rather give it my all and not complain too much – which is a bit hard for the French (laughs).
I heard that you have a Bachelor in History! How did that happen? And how did you join the Unicorns of Love?
(laughs) Yeah, I do! It’s a long story. Basically, I did my High School degree with a focus on science and I wanted to do Chemistry, so I went to a Chemistry-focused university. But it turned out that there was a lot of Maths involved, which wasn’t for me. I thought my love for Chemistry would compensate that, but it didn’t. So I just started working in factories, as a bartender and did that for almost a year.
Then I restarted university with a focus on literature, history and philosophy, with a bit of languages and geography mixed in as well. This trained me to go to a top-level university eventually. This is where I got my gamertag “Khagneur” from: The first year is called “Khagne hypokhagne” and then comes “Khagne”. I loved this time! It was a very positive experience for me because these people challenge you a lot, you need to read a book a day and have six hours long exams. Your teachers are made up of pure brain power. I remember that, in order to become a teacher in this field, they had to write exams about “What is it like to be a peasant in the middle of Italy in 1645?” for four hours. So they need to know everything about everything. That was really amazing, I really enjoyed this time in my life, I just learned so much.
When we got our preparation for the top-level university I wanted to do something in the field of Journalism however. And luckily, because the training beforehand was so top-notch, I was able to transfer all my studies and semester points to a different university and I finished my Bachelor of History there. The stuff I enjoyed the most was ancient history – Roman history, Medival history, Greek history, loved it!
After that I, obviously, needed to find a job! I really liked video games so I wanted to find a job in this scene. One of the easiest ways to work in the video game industry, other than creating the video game itself, is by selling the video game aka marketing. So I went to a Business School that taught me marketing, communication these kinds of abilities, already keeping in mind that I wanted to work in this specific field. Back then I was more interested in events, Paris Game Week, gamescom etc.
So I did my first internship and had to learn about the whole ecosystem first, which is something you don’t quite grasp as a normal customer. You just read an article and go “Oh, the fact that they reported on this game must be because it’s good” when in reality some PR-guy was pestering the journalist to write about his game. That way I learned a lot about the “back-stage” work of a PR-manager, I learned how to get the right people interested in my products and to talk about it.
The first step of marketing is knowing your own product. The second step is getting awareness because there’s no way you’re going to buy my product if you don’t know it exists. Creating a positive narrative for your product is actually only the third step. So my PR work taught me how to communicate effectively from a company’s perspective.
For my second internship I got to work at Activision Blizzard, which was a huge opportunity of course! I ended up being the only intern for ten months and it was just an amazing experience: This is where you really learn how to sell a game. I got so lucky with the titles as well, it was the year Diablo 3 was released, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, a huge Call of Duty and Skylanders was selling like hotcakes as well! I got to travel to all kinds of events – and in the meanwhile, esports was rising!
For my third internship I worked at Razer in Germany, which focused on Social Media and event organisation, rather than standard PR work. Razer was a good experience as well: Their brand is amazing, they don’t have fans, Razer has a cult! People are tattooing the Razer logo on their skin, so you know that’s some solid branding. I suppose they liked what I did while I was there because they offered me my first job, partially because esports had grown so large that they needed someone to take care of that scene.
Again, I traveled a lot, met a lot of players and teams, which included the Unicorns of Love. After sponsoring them for about three months and working with them I realised that they were pretty small and could use some help. I knew quite a bit about esports, so I thought to myself “Why not leave your job to go with them?”. Lots of people at the time thought I was mad, because why would you leave a secure job at a top-level company to work for an esport team, which could literally be out of LCS in two months?
And they were really, really small at the time as well.
Yeah, they were super small for sure. But it was the best call ever! (laughs) I’m having a lot of fun and that is what’s most important! It’s a long story, but the main motto behind my life so far is that I always wanted to do what I like. Even when there’s not a lot of money involved. I’d rather not be rich and smiling every day I wake up than be rich but have absolutely no time to enjoy it.
I also have to give a shout-out to my amazing parents: My Mom and Dad were always super supportive of me, whatever I did. They said “Whatever you do, just go all in on it and make sure that you’re the best! You wanna be a porn actor? I don’t care, but you better be the best porn actor ever, and you better work really hard to be an amazing porn actor!”
(laughs) Is that really what your parents told you?
Basically! Well, my mom never said stuff like this, but I literally quoted my Dad here! Work hard and have fun, that’s the most important thing. So right now I’m half clown, half businessman (laughs). Which is really cool, because I have the brainy side of things and the fun side of things in my life both at the same time.
When I asked Sheepy about the first time you guys met, he told me that you showed up at his door in a pink onesie, asking for the Manager position. Is that true?
Yeah… (laughs) I was originally going to a LAN-party with friends but I knew that if I wanted this position, I needed to meet him in person. But I was living in Hamburg at the time while they lived in Berlin. So I rang him up, he asked me to come around. “When?” “Tomorrow.” What he didn’t know, was that I had to take a flight to France in the evening. So I packed my bag for the LAN-party, took all of it with me on my way to the gaming house in Berlin, showed up at his door, had a really good talk for 30 minutes and then I left again to catch my flight. Yeah… That was a bit stupid.
The next talk went a lot better though: It was a dinner with his Dad, the CEO of UoL, his Mom, his sister, the cat and Sheepy himself at the Mallant mansion in Hamburg. Really nice evening, we just talked for hours on end.
And this time you didn’t show up in a pink onesie?
I… Hm, well, let’s say it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, they don’t care that much about the way you look rather than what you have to say (laughs).
You mentioned that you, as the manager of the Unicorns, need to know the product that you are representing by heart. What do you tell sponsors, investors and general business people when you need to describe the “product” that is the Unicorns of Love?
We have fun, we’re adaptive, we’re reactive. Whatever you wanna do? We’re in! We don’t have a long validation process because of our small size. So we can go crazy, we can go wild, we have no limit. As long as it’s fun and nice, we’re going to go for it. The only thing that we won’t do is something toxic, trash talk and stuff like that. We’re pink, we are Unicorns, our playstyle is fun to watch. We are different. Which is actually really important in the booming esports industry. And our most important quality for a sponsor is, in my opinion, that we’re really good at catching the audience.
Obviously the Unicorns have progressed from being a small, unknown team that almost had to face relegations at times to a top-tier team in Europe! What was the most important part in that process?
We built a solid core. That’s why we’ve been successful during the past season as well, it’s because we’ve kept working with the same people. The management hasn’t changed in years, we know each by heart. I don’t need to talk to Sheepy to know whether he has a good day or a bad day, the same applies to Hyli or Csacsi and we’ve been working with Exileh for more than a year as well.
Samux and Xerxe have fit perfectly into the team too, partially because I think they’re smart people but also because we’ve been here for two-and-a-half years now. If there’s a problem, there’s a good chance Sheepy and I already know the answer to it because we’ve faced that problem before. So when there’s something wrong, the players usually can keep focusing on the game and we’ll fix it. It sounds like a standard practice, but a lot of teams are still trying to figure out how to train efficiently. They don’t really know because there’s no book on esports training. It all comes down to experience and improvisation. We failed many times but now we know what we’re talking about, which is why Xerxe and Samux had an easier time joining us rather than a team who just qualified, who still have to figure out lots of things.
There was a really solid foundation to begin with on which this relationship could be built on?
Yes. And I guess we’re just nice people and they are too. Honestly, a toxic person would not fit well with us. They’d break pretty fast.
You mentioned this in your famous speech that you gave on the analyst desk, that you’d never sign a player that is toxic.
Yes, because I think toxicity just doesn’t work. This is not something I believe about League of Legends, but about life: If you’re an asshole, I believe you’re going to pay for it. You’re not going to go anywhere. You need people.
Human beings only have come so far because we have this special ability to transmit knowledge and work together. Alone we suck. This is true in- and outside of the game. If you start having bad communication, if you kill this link binding us together, it’s never going to work. War is not going to work. Trashtalking is not going to work.I believe you can only benefit from being nice. It’s fun for you, it’s fun for the person you’re talking to.
This doesn’t mean you should be avoiding problems! That’s different. If you have a problem, you need to address it. If something is not going the way it should be, you should speak up. But it’s about the way you communicate. Everything is about communication, inside and outside of the game, it usually comes down to communication being the problem. We both see the same situation: I want to go for A, you want to go for B, I go for A, you go for B and that’s why we lost. We both know the game by heart, we both are pro players but we lost because we were unable to communicate correctly. So that’s what we train a lot, to make sure everyone’s on the same page and we all go for B next time – no matter whether it’s the right call or not. As long as we work together as a unit, our chance will be there.
I believe that when players know how to communicate, that’s when they reach their maximum potential.
You talk a lot about being nice, you smile a lot and always seem so energetic! But so many people out there don’t have this kind of attitude. What is your secret to happiness, positivity and energy that is just through the roof?
I unplug myself a lot in order to make sure that I get my energy back. I’m a geek too. I like being alone in front of my computer and just playing games. I like being alone a lot. I could spend a week alone in a forest without any problems – just give me a book, a dog, a ball and I’ll just sit down and rest. I’d love it. So that’s how I get my energy back. And I know how to spend it properly on the things that matter to me.
Yeah, I have a lot of energy, but I also take it from people: Whether it’s the people around me or the fans. And at the end of the day: We’re lucky! I’m not allowed to be sad, I can’t be sad! I probably have the best job in the world, I have great people around me, I’m allowed to do what I want… If I’m sad? We’re fucked man! If I’m sad? What’s the message for a guy who works a shit job because he’s desperate for money and has a lot of problems? He’s allowed to be sad – I’m not! Definitely not.
We’re living in a country that isn’t at war. We get to work a job in a booming industry that is super fun, I… I have no excuses to be sad. I can’t. And I’m mad at people working in esports who complain! If you complain about working in esports? Change the industry! Change it man. There are thousands of people ready to kill to get a job like us. If I’m out tomorrow, my successor would love it. And they could be great at it as well!
When I started working for the Unicorns of Love, I had a rough idea what it’s like to be a manager. But now I’m doing something completely different, and I’ll be doing something even more different in six months time as well. Because we’re just facing new problems on a daily basis.
But yeah, I can’t be sad man. If I’m sad, we’re fucked!
What do you think of Mondays?
Mondays? Oh, that’s a really good question! How do we know it’s Monday in the Gaming House? It’s because I cook Spaghetti Bolognese. And that’s the only way the players know it’s Monday, they enter the kitchen, smell the pasta and go “Oh, is it Monday already?”
Sometimes they just don’t realise how lucky they are. Most of them never had a real job. They don’t know how much Mondays suck in real life. They don’t know how melancholic Sunday evenings are because you know that you have to wake up early and you’re going to miss sleeping in for five days. They never experienced this. They barely have an alarm clock!
Being a pro gamer is an amazing job. It’s not easy! Careful. But it’s an amazing job. I believe you’re not really allowed to complain about it. If you complain about being a pro gamer, go work in the real work. Go work a job where you have to sweat your ass off in tough conditions, then we can talk again. Have an alarm clock that wakes you up at 5A.M. only to commute for an hour and a half. The longest commute they have is thirty seconds – from the bed to the computer, with a fridge in the middle.
It’s the best job in the world. But most of them don’t realise it, because they’ve never had a really tough job before. So it’s my duty to teach them how lucky they have it. Not saying it’s easy. I’m saying you’re fortunate. It’s different.
When we left Hamburg, after losing in the EU LCS Spring Finals, I felt like some of our players felt like it was just another day at the office. That it wasn’t anything special. But we were on the final stage, in front of ten-thousand people! This might be the last time this could happen in your career! Yes, you’re training hard, you’re trying to be the best, but you need to realise how special this is.
Maybe in ten years, maybe even two years, you’re career is over! Because League of Legends could die or some other reason, so you’ll have to go back to living a normal life and have a real job. You’d be so nostalgic about your time as a pro gamer and I really wish none of our players has to look back thinking “I wish I would’ve lived the moment more” or “I could’ve done better”. I hope they understand that.
Are you kind of a Good and Bad Cop in one person?
I think I’m just a good cop. They don’t need a bad cop. If they don’t understand it, being mad at them isn’t going to change anything. It’s like in-game: If your toplaner is 0/6/0 at ten minutes, screaming at him isn’t going to change anything. So try to make him laugh, maybe that’s going to make him play better. (laughs)
Do you feel like a mother sometimes?
Yeah man, on a daily basis (laughs). I can see my Mom in my words sometimes! Luckily I had a really good Mom. I’m a Mom, a brother, a father… I don’t want to be a friend though. I really don’t want to be a friend. That’s not my job. It’s a bit easier since I’m five to ten years older than them, depending on the player, but being friends is not necessary.
We don’t need to be friends. Everyone just needs to have respect for one another. We’ve had so many players on the team now and that’s one of the key things we discovered. You don’t need to be friends with your teammates, you just need to trust them that they’re doing the best they can to win. If you’re a Jungler and believe “I could be doing much better than my Midlaner right now” then the team is doomed. You’d never commit to the call he makes. Respect is the most important thing, more than friendship. Luckily we have a lot of respect for another. It’s good.
Friendship could even be a dangerous factor, because friends could be scared about being honest with one another?
Maybe, but I mostly think it’s a positive thing. It’s amazing if you can have it, but it’s not a necessity for a team to work. Respect is.
You’re turning 30 next year…
Maybe 29? I’m so lost with my age. I was born in 1988 and I was born in October, that’s all I need to know.
So you *are* turning 30 next year. Is that an age that you’re scared of?
No, it’s cool! But it’s not going to change anything, is it? I forget my age most of the time. If you would’ve told me three years ago that I’d be working for an esports team within the next six months, I wouldn’t have believed you. So maybe in six years I’ll be fishing shrimps on the coast of Canada – who knows? Maybe, I don’t know, I don’t care. As long as I love it and I’m having fun on a daily basis, I’m in. I’m in if there are nice people involved. It’s important to laugh. As long as I laugh every day, it’s a good life.
I think that’s a beautiful note to end the interview on. Is there anything you’d like to say to the Unicorns and EU LCS fans?
hank you to all the amazing fans we have! Have you seen our fans? Have you seen their banners? They even keep on cheering when we lose, it’s amazing man. I’m sad for them when we lose.
As an end note: Enjoy life! You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow! Maybe there will be a World War 3 in six months? Let’s enjoy things right now. I don’t mean this in a “YOLO” type of way. I’m just saying we should try to smile every day. So even when you lose, you’re having a good day.
Thank you very much for your time!