Meet Gaunter O'Dimm. Or at least some dude dressed as Gaunter O'Dimm, a mischievous, devil-like bloke from The Witcher 3 and competitive gaming's own Vanna White.
His job is to walk players to their seats and stare at the camera like that theatre undergrad who is all about getting into character and strolling around the lobby while all of the parents are still grabbing their programs. Unfortunately, while the real Gaunter O'Dimm likes to run his mouth and pontificate in-between trading people nefarious gifts in exchange for their souls, the one at this weekend's Gwent tournament never said anything.
Gwent started as a mini-game in The Witcher 3. Then developer CD Projekt Red decided to make it into a standalone game, even positioning it as a potential new esport. Hence this weekend's Challenger Tournament, a competitive event with a $US100,000 ($135,345) prize pool for top players taking place before the game's even been released.
By recruiting prominent players from other esports, like Hearthstone's Jeffrey "Trump" Shih and Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy and Dota 2's Peter "ppd" Dager, and pitting them against rising competitive stars from the Gwent closed beta, CD Projekt is trying to show that its more straightforward card game, closer to poker than Magic The Gathering, has a bright and exciting future ahead of it in pro gaming.
And then there's the guy stalking the tournament stage in a tunic and cowl. Inspired by Leland Gaunt from Stephen King's Needful Things, Gaunter O'Dimm is a testament to everything that elevates The Witcher 3 above most other games like it. He's evil, witty, and subtle, and likes to kill people by freezing them and floating wooden spoons through their eye sockets.
It makes him the perfect foil for the game's silver-haired protagonist, who prefers to negotiate his way safely around foes rather than judge and condemn them with boring righteousness. "Time's a marvellous plaything," O'Dimm says at one point, to which the witcher responds, "and a great spice to use in gingerbread."
His pants might be a bit too blue, and he did seem to be missing in action right before the tournament's finalists, veteran card player Lifecaoch and streamer Noxious, were supposed to be seated, but kudos to that guy for taking notes on monster deck strategy with a quill.
It was weird, unsettling, and creepy. Hearthstone might have millions more players and be working off of an established formula, but in the end it doesn't have an O'Dimm cosplayer. Like they say, if you can't beat'em, trot out an in-between gigs actor and let him chew on the scenery.
You can watch the matches from the quarterfinals and semifinals here.