Meet the Swedish Politician Who Streams 'Hearthstone'

Rickard Nordin is using Blizzard's blockbuster card battle game to raise awareness for esports legislation

'Hearthstone' – which is a popular esport – is the vehicle for Nordin's political push for gaming to be treated as a sport Credit: Blizzard

There is a unique tranquility in watching a man calmly break down Scandinavian political policy while piloting a Beast Druid deck. So if you're like me and you're in need of a reminder that government isn't always stupid and evil, I highly recommend the Hearthstone Twitch stream of Rickard Nordin.

Nordin is a member of the Swedish House of Parliament, representing the liberal-agrarian party Centerpartiet. He's also a lifelong gamer, and recently he announced his intention to stream weekly Hearthstone sessions. In a Reddit post, Nordin said he's interested in making sure that esports professionals enjoy the same legal visa status in Sweden that they do in the U.S., which means he's essentially advocating for a piece of legislation through Twitch. He's also advocating for esports to be given the same policy consideration as regular sports in terms of schools, colleges and access to funding. I'm probably an easy mark, but I'd absolutely attend more town hall meetings if they happened on Hearthstone boards. I spoke with Nordin about Heroes of Might and Magic, the Swedish games industry, and what it's like convincing other members of Parliament to take esports seriously.

What gave you the idea to stream Hearthstone and talk about politics?
I've always been quite quick with political communication in new ways. For example I had the first political app which promotes a specific person in Sweden, in 2010. I have been playing Hearthstone for quite some time and have started watching streams and soon realized that I have a unique possibility here with combining my job and my joy. I also feel there is a huge political interest out there, just waiting for the right channel. In one way this is just being where the people are. Some politicians stand outside the supermarket discussing food prices. I'm on Twitch discussing esports.

What's the gaming culture like in Sweden? Has it grown over the years?
It's great and it sure has grown. Not only in computer games, but also in boardgames. Nowadays most people are gamers, most without knowing it. The Swedish Studio, King, who made Candy Crush has made sure of that. We also have a great tradition with the Battlefield series and many other great games from Sweden. All of that comes from a great technological interest, especially in gaming. We also have some of the most successful teams in esport ever, which of course is big idols for young people today.

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You mentioned you're interested in making Sweden a bigger force in esports. What would you like to see? More major tournaments in Sweden? More teams based in Sweden?
We actually have some of the biggest tournaments and best teams in Sweden already. I'm thinking of Dreamhack and teams like Fnatic, Ninjas in Pyjamas and also players like Orange and Ostkaka. It would be great to get even more and better teams and tournaments, but that's however not my main goal. I'm more interested in the political aspects. Today gamers from a number of countries can't get visas to tournaments or work permits. Schools that focus on esports cannot open in the same way as other schools which focuses on other sports and there are some strange tax regulations as well. I just want to level the playing field so that esports is treated the same way as other sports.

As a politician, what are some of the ways the government can help facilitate the growth of esports?
Well, my goal is to fix the problems described above. I also want to promote all the good things about esports. Team spirit, learning the English language, quick decision making, thinking strategically and logically and so on. There are so many prejudices – about people sitting at their computers instead of playing outside and meeting their friends – to fight that I guess I will have plenty of work to do before it's fully accepted in society.

Is it difficult getting other politicians to understand the potential of esports? I'm just imagining a young democrat trying to convince the Trump administration to invest in League of Legends and it's somehow not happening. Can't think why.
Well, that's one of my goals with streaming – showing my fellow colleagues what the potential is. There are so many great things that come from esports and the possibilities to do good things are endless. I've gotten great support and many curious questions from the colleagues in my party, but some rather harsh comments from some other politicians. You can't win them all, but I aim to win enough.

There are so many interesting, inventive developers based in Sweden, from major EA-owned properties like DICE to indie studios like Paradox, Starbreeze, and Frictional. Do you take any civic pride in the quality games your country is producing right now?
Definitely, I'm so amazed with all the great games that Sweden has produced over the years. We're good at building strong teams that work towards a common goal and together with a country that's open to new technologies, I guess that's a great foundation for building game development studios.

Do you plan to continue streaming?
For sure! This is not a one time thing. My plan is to stream every Tuesday 19-20 (CET) at least until the summer. But after this great start, with lots of viewers and so much positive feedback, I might make it permanent. I'm also available on Twitter and even if I will mostly stream in Swedish I've promised to try and answer some English questions as well.

Last but not least, we have to ask this, do you think Shaman needs more nerfs?
Haha, I guess Ben Brode is the one to decide that. I have great hope that with the new expansion the game will be more exciting and well-balanced. I'm really looking forward to it!