For those of you who don't know me (and that's most likely most of you) I've been a commentator, host, presenter, MC, shoutcaster for almost 10 years now so I guess you could say I am old skool. My love affair with games and esports however goes back even further than that.
In the 1980's I was lucky enough to grow up during the start of home computers and consoles and took much pleasure from hours playing ZX Spectrum, C64 and Vic20 games into the early hours of each morning, then struggling to get to school with a lot of nagging from my parents.
When I left school and got a job, it was only to purchase a shiny new Atari ST and then an Amiga so that I could play Sensible World of Soccer, Grand Prix 1 and Revs. By the mid 90s however I was on a to a low grade PC, my first home version costing me over £2,000 and from memory had a whopping 8mb of RAM and a Pentium 60 core. This was good enough at least to play Doom and then Quake and it was around this time I discovered TEH INTERNET! In 1994 however, connections weren't cheap and it cost a small fortune on dial-up modems that were terrible for both gaming and browsing.
Despite that, I had discovered the wonderful world of Quake online, or QuakeWorld as it was back then and regularly hooked up with friends online to do battle in the virtual world, often doing pretty well unless I came up against Sujoy warming up... I was also playing a lot of RTS around this time, Dune, Command & Conquer and then Total Annihilation completely took me. The shame of it, at the time, was that I couldn't see how good I was online in these games and I longed for the day I was able to test my tactics and strategies against humans, having long ago defeated the computer on even the craziest of settings. Micro? Macro? You better believe it CPU player!
It's odd then perhaps, that forward fast to 2012, I have never played an RTS competitively online. In the late 90s however, it was all about FPS and in particular two games I fell in love with Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. I was never much cop at Q3 however, although CTF was fun, but in UT for some reason, I excelled, again particularly at CTF. By the mid 2000s I'd won a whole host of tournaments online, the most prestigious you could win back then including EuroCups, Nations Cup, premier league titles and notched up more than a dozen wins on LAN. The trouble was, LAN wins back then got me a few hundred pounds at most, nothing like the size of the pots these days.
In 2002, I was asked by a friend at ClanBase if I'd "Shoutcast the Eurocup game tonight". I had no idea what it was or how to use the stupid winamp software, but I gave it a go and to my amazement and delight, I loved it and those who tuned in seemed to enjoy it too. From memory we had about 50 people on the stream that night and it was in audio only (we were a long way from having broadcast video ready at this point and HD wasn't even invented!). I did more and more games over the coming 18 months and each time loved doing it. It also put a bit of pressure on the team I played for as I couldn't practice with them whilst casting.
In 2004, the great djWHEAT approached me and asked if I'd like to jump in to a casting role with Radio iTG which at the time were just starting on the road to covering tournaments via video streams. I was fairly reluctant initially, but Marcus and Alison and the guys at iTG were all so friendly and helpful that I joined up in late 04 alongside another Brit Stuart "TosspoT" Saw who was also just starting out on the casting road.
As we'd head off to the next tournament through 2005 paying our own way, air fare and hotels sometimes too and never for a fee, there was a sense that we were somehow the pioneers of this video game broadcasting thing. Along with TSN who were the only other major station at the time, we pushed the boundaries of what was possible and in many respects were way ahead of our time. What we really needed was everyone to have a better internet, HD to come in to play and to have the ability to stream from events using it. We also needed better equipment, more knowledge, better stages, cameras, personel and most of all tournaments to wake up to what we could deliver and why it was so important to deliver an experience for the home viewer and not just those attending the event in person. Thank god in 2012 we don't have to battle for these things any more.
By 2005, it was obvious to me that I wanted to do this full time. I was actually made redundant that year by chance and asked to take a year away from the finance industry, so it was perfect timing in many ways. I signed up with iTG throughout 05 and 06 and attended a ton of events, far too many to mention here, but most of the big stuff Quakecon, World Cyber Games finals and ESWC for example.
It was at WCG Finals in Singapore 2005 that I met a rather scruffy, shockingly red headed grunge looking kid by the name of Nick Plott (some of you may have heard of him!). Frankly, my first impressions weren't good. He couldn't timekeep to save his life, regularly turned up late to meetings, didn't follow the on stage instructions and was generally bloody hard work to work with, yet something about him stood out. He was bold, incredibly quick witted, talented beyond measure in the way of words, incredibly funny and most of all passionate about his game. When you matched that to his obvious deep knowledge of BW and his instinctive calls being spot on, it's not hard to see why he is probably the most celebrated and most visible caster in the world today.
I was commentating on FPS throughout this period, but steadily building knowledge across a wide range of games, not just Unreal Tournament and Quake, but Counter Strike, 1.6 & Source, FIFA series, Dead or Alive and a whole host of others. In turn this lead me to being a very flexible caster, yet never did the RTS bug grab as it had in the 90s and but for a single guest cast with Rotterdam for a Warcraft 3 game did I find my way path crossing with them.
In late 2006, I was faced with a decision many early shoutcasters had to deal with. I’d pretty much run out of money, had two kids and women to feed and clothe and a house to pay for. I couldn’t go on any longer not getting paid to attend events or cover tournaments. It was no different for others at this time either but most were a lot younger than me and had less responsibilities although it should be said djWHEAT was in pretty much the same position.
I’d decided to “retire” in late 2006 from shoutcasting and instead go back to finance or some other boring job that paid the bills, but Oliver Aldridge, a long time friend who I’d worked with at a few Multiplay i-series events persuaded me to start up a new streaming company called QuadV believing that we could do big tournaments and make enough to pay the bills at the very least. In March of 2007 after months of planning and preparation we launched the company with our first stream, going out to more than 2,000 people on our opening night. It was also the day after my 3rd child was born and I got a few stearn looks from the woman at the time but I have to mention my ex here. Sara was phenominally supportive of my decision to persue commentating and hosting as a career and not only financially did she support me through the tough years but emotionally persuaded me to carry on when I was most worried about everything.
QuadV picked up a number of big events, including WCG Finals and nationals, continued the i-series events and worked with ESWC and a whole range of European tournaments to bring live coverage. We even managed to stream in HD back in 2008, much before most had even contemplated it. I was incredibly proud of the people who worked at QuadV, mostly as volunteers and it spurned many of the great European casters we have today including Joe Miller, Deman & TosspoT.
During early 2007, I also got a call from a man called Neil Porter. It was a pretty odd telephone call too. I’d never heard of Neil or met him before, but my number had been given to him by a mutual friend and he asked if i’d like to test for the new CGS tournament TV show due to be filmed in 2007. I agreed and within 2 days was flown out to Los Angeles to work with djWHEAT in a movie centre on what was a qualifier for the tournaments. By then, Wheat and I had worked together a lot and we naturally bounced off each other well. The broadcast was a success and they signed me up to do the entire year. Before the end of the year, they’d signed me for 3 years and sorted out my green card to live and work in the US at great expense. They got me a car and and an apartment, looked after my contract negotiations and treated me like a superstar.
I completed more than 100 TV shows with CGS during 07/08 covering all of the nationals, regionals and the main league season in the USA as well as the world finals for both seasons. At the same time I was also working for Sky in the UK on their series and on Eurosport for the re-runs. I’d got some voice work on radio adverts and then Xleague.TV came along on another channel in the UK. I worked with Australian TV on another project and was flying all over the place, China, Singapore, Korea, Australia and all over Europe and the USA. Life couldn’t have been better, although it took it’s toll on my relationship with my family and children.
In late 2008, the recession took hold in the US and the UK and the CGS was pulled. Within a week, a snow ball effect had lost me every single TV contract and tournament contract I had bar two. Gone were DirecTV, Sky, EuroSport, ESPN Asia and a host of other top tournaments. I was left with Xleague (Which fell over a few months later) and the WCG finals through my connections with Samsung and ICM. Fortunately, Heaven Media signed me up to help run their expanding esports empire of websites and I spent 18 months with them using my previous management skills to increase their traffic and staff and learn social media inside out at the same time, just as it was taking off.
During this time I also split with my long term partner of 12 years and moved out. It was a particularly low point in my life, but stayed in touch with esports throughout, doing the odd event here and there when time allowed (I had my 11 year old daughter living with me after the split for nearly two years).
And then something strange happened. During my absence from prominent casting, the whole industry changed. The focus on getting esports on TV was lessened and two major forces blossomed in online TV. The internet improved, broadband got faster for everyone and Twitch and Own3d were suddenly giving casters and streamers the chance to make money doing what they loved. In turn, more tournaments popped up and gained prominence and they gave birth to the modern style of tournaments with hosts and casters who actually knew their stuff, prepared properly and delivered an experience we could only dream about 7 years ago via HD streams with stunning stages and tournaments.
I’d held on to the WCG gig right through to 2011 and when I went to Korea at the end of the year, esports was getting bigger again. Bigger perhaps than it had ever been before outside of Korea. Viewerships at MLG and ESL events were exploding, sponsors coming in that had never touched video games before and there was a sense for me that this was the second coming or maybe it was the first coming, we’d certainly seen nothing like this before.
My Korean adventure was of course short lived with just the WCG finals to commentate on, but the reception I got and the new fans who I met that had no idea who I was affirmed my suspicion that I would have to start all over again if I wanted to do more events. Luckily for me, I was asked to do a couple of big events in 2012 with ESL at the IEM Ukraine stop and the World Final. Sandwiched in between would be Gadget Show Live (which i’d done for the last 4 years) and an AMD experience day hosted in London. From these gigs alone, it pushed me in to the minds of others once again, especially as a host.
2012 has been exceptionally busy, there is no doubt and especially as I have a full time job to hold down too. I’ve been with Fresh Egg for over 2 years now as Head of Social Media and they are a growing and well established digital marketing agency in the UK. The role is important and I take it very seriously, but I just can’t leave esports alone. The only issue I have now is lack of holiday time to do all these events. With WCS Europe Finals and Valencia the following week I’ll have clocked 16 events this year already and there are more on the horizon.
I’m thrilled at the response on both TL and screddit to my recent hosting of WCS Germany and UK and again at IEM Gamescom and hope that I can get hired for many more Starcraft events in the future. Lord knows I love the game and the players and the community too and whilst I’d love to commentate on the game one day, I think my best position is probably limited to hosting tournaments. If that’s how I am able to contribute to the community, then so be it, I am just happy to be asked to do these events and play a small part in making them professional, fun, interesting, exciting and engaging.
At some point however I am going to need to make a decision about my career. I am so blessed that I have two jobs I absolutely love doing, but with the amount of events I am now being asked to cover, I can’t realistically give my best to both roles for much longer. Sadly, the insecurity of not knowing if I will get another gig means I can’t just leave my full time role and do commentating and hosting full time and likewise I have a comittment to Fresh Egg to see the job through of building a social media team to rival any of the great agencies in the UK and beyond.
It’s a tricky (but nice) position to be in and if the right offer came along to work in esports full time, I’d seriously consider it, but for now, I’m happy and very proud to have been asked to host at WCS Europe Finals. I’m well under way with my prep for the event which I can already feel is going to be a monster.
For those who left comments I didn’t answer and to all those who posted on screddit and TL that made me feel so welcome in this community, I’d like to thank you. Part of the love of any game is the passion from its community and you guys have it in bucket loads. Apologies for the lengthy blog and congrats if you made it to the end!
TLDR VERSION: ReDeYe was a nobody, then he was a boss, then was a nobody again and now he’s baller (alledgedly).
See you in Stockholm in 14 days time or online if you can’t make it. Peace.
p.s. FUCK - I just realised I'd probably have taken less time and written less doing an AMA - FML