I don’t wear gaming clothes. Not because I don’t like the games they depict, but because they too often look like sandwich boards advertising a product, and that bothers me. That’s why when Nate Eckman showed me his new clothing line, ULT, I was agreeably surprised. The ‘esports lifestyle apparel’ collection has more in common—aesthetically speaking—with Los Angeles street fashion than with your typical gamer threads. Black, white, grey. Minimal. A subtler approach.
I first came into contact with Nate when he reached out to me about our recent interview with CS:GO esports caster Lauren ‘Pansy’ Scott. It turns out he had studied Philosophy as a young(er) man. Our website is called Existential Gamer. We immediately got along. I met up with him over coffee at E3 and demanded he answer my questions about ULT, philosophy, and… Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight definitely comes up.
You studied philosophy, and now you work in the world of gaming and e-sports. How did that transition occur, and what has remained of these studies in your daily work?
Studying philosophy was my first serious life pursuit. I would spend my summers in the library reading philosophy. In high school I created a philosophy club. I traveled across the country to find the best collegiate program for me to become a professor in the field. To my dismay, the other students in the program I found myself with were not interested in discovering the path as much as they wanted to adamantly proclaim their version of the answer. They pre-supposed they were right and I found myself seeking a different experience. I decided to study studio art but didn’t feel challenged enough. I switched to filmmaking which seemed like a complex creative process. Eventually entered an MBA program for audio engineering but then found creative marketing. I’d never felt so creative until was marketing a video game. I found myself in the traditional marketing and advertising world, consulting on gaming and esports – the things that I love. I wanted to become the expert in my dedicated field of study. ESports. To this day, philosophy is at the core of every brand and marketing exercise I undertake. Philosophy is a belief system. Our beliefs determine our reality. These are fundamental elements to my approach to esports and the decisions that we make.
When did the idea for ULT first germinate, and what is your purpose with the line?
I’ve been working with publishers for years on custom products, contemporary art collaborations, brand partnerships and unique products for the community. However, none of those projects truly enabled me to do exactly what I would have wanted from a design standpoint. I love esports. I also love design. It pains me to see bad products available for the community. It pains me to see players and fans who are so passionate about esports having to wear clothes that they feel embarrassed by. The sensation of shame should not exist when it comes to product design. The purpose of ULT apparel is to offer something modern and wearable – something that makes you feel confident and comfortable. ULT products exist because there was an absolute void in the market from my perspective in defining modern esports lifestyle apparel.
“I love esports. I also love design. It pains me to see bad products available for the community. It pains me to see players and fans who are so passionate about esports having to wear clothes that they feel embarrassed by.”
You mentioned you designed the pieces with help from (designer) friends, what was your collaborative process?
Yes, design mentors in the LA streetwear scene inspired me. Getting to collaborate with designers I have known for a decade on my own line has been an amazing experience. The Seventh Letter is a family and we are proud to collaborate with Casey Zoltan. For the signature ‘kills’ piece that was only available at our launch event we featured collaborative designs from DualForces, The Seventh Letter and Cruizer Co. Each of them have such distinct lettering styles. I worked with each artist and designer on their own inspired version of the lettering for the word ‘kills.’ Each artist and designer is completely unique but absolutely modern and very ‘LA’ in aesthetic. I love sharing the experience and process of discovering the path of the design. I worked with other artist friends and family who I absolutely trust. These people know me very well and I can express the idea for ULT very openly. Ideas have a way of inspiring creativity and bringing people together. Creating ULT has been a lot of creative responsibility because actualizing the idea takes serious dedication. I needed to work with people who understood me and why I was doing this. ESports is worth it. The community deserves great products.
What is the game you’ve played the most in your life?
Probably League of Legends. Maybe a close second would be Skyrim. I also got hooked on Destiny for a while. More recently Overwatch.
“Shovel Knight could win game of the year 2 years back to back and I would not complain. For shovelry!”
What is a game people would be surprised to know you enjoyed?
Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight could win game of the year 2 years back to back and I would not complain. For shovelry!
The world of e-sports can be quite toxic. How do you deal with that side of the scene?
Ignore it. Don’t contribute to it. Be positive. Do what you love. Focus on the things you can control. Create better things for the community. Better products, content and experiences. Make friends. Be a part of the community and seek out experiences and new people who love what you love. Don’t be afraid to do what you know and share that with others.
Do you plan on collaborating with specific teams on gear, or are you trying to build a brand that caters to the whole scene without ever being specifically affiliated?
Ultimately I want to service the greater community. The fans. But I do want to support specific teams that I admire. I am from North America obviously, but that is not the edge of the world for esports. It’s a big pliable world. I want to share the ULT brand and our design philosophy with other receptive and like-minded people. That process will continuously evolve but the brand will be consistent.
If you could design a perfect e-sports event, what would it look like?
Everyone in the world that does not know about esports would be there together in one place. They would get to see first-hand what we know and love. They would get to feel the incredible excitement of that shared passion. They would all realize how special this is and they would be inspired too.
What’s your favorite game to watch people play competitively?
CS:GO spectating is awesome.
What’s next for your company Ultimate Media Ventures? I’ve heard rumors of an outlet called Fragd?
Now that ULTesports.com is fully operational we are now focused on launching Fragd. We are excited to share our vision for esports lifestyle content with the community.
“We are a continuously evolving culture. More and more women are making esports what it is and what it will become.”
Aesthetically, e-sports tends to have a macho, militaristic vibe. Do you think that will ever change?
Yes absolutely. We are a continuously evolving culture. More and more women are making esports what it is and what it will become. Also, generationally, we will naturally shift out of the current mode and in to something entirely different. This is the nature of things. Change is inevitable. We can choose to be the ones to create that change.
What kinds of games would you like to see played competitively (that aren’t currently)?
Shared VR esports games. Cross-platform. Headset agnostic. Live spectating and socially dynamic experiences.
When do you believe the world is going to end, and how?
Not in my lifetime. Probably a plague. Something will wipe out the tech and then madness will overtake everyone in a fever of desperation.
You can check out all the pieces in ULT’s first collection on their website. Or follow them on twitter or instagram.