Back in 2013, I got to work with ESL for the first time at GamesCom, more specifically WCS for StarCraft 2. I was co-hosting the event with RedEye on stage as an interviewer and in turn, this led to a gig with BlizzCon the same year. After that, I had conversations with ESL a couple of times about potentially working on events, but I never got the chance to actually do them, mostly because of scheduling. Finally, they managed to figure out a way around my OGN responsibilities as at the time, I was not doing as much content related to League of Legends. ESL contacted me and proposed we do a project together. I was very thankful they reached out to me as I felt we both enjoyed working with each other two years ago. Tasked with the responsibility to host multiple games this time, I jumped at the opportunity right away as it was an honor.
How difficult was it for you to bounce between League of Legends and Hearthstone?
It was a little bit difficult to be honest. Thankfully, I had a good amount of basic HearthStone knowledge as I am involved with Deck Wars online. Of course when it comes to League of Legends, I have watched and played more in general. In addition, my PTL appearances require me to keep up to date with all that’s happening in the regions. I was a little bit worried after Day 2, thinking that I am unprepared for HearthStone, but ESL had prepared a great cast ensemble with Gnimsh, Frodan, ek0p and DoA which would rotate between matches. In general, it felt pretty good and actually, the crowd was awesome.
Chobra interviewed by Travis Gafford
There were a couple of reddit threads praising your hosting skills during the day and almost unanimously agreeing that you should do more events. How does one take such acclaim?
I feel very honored and thankful. I have been telling a lot of people that this is my first time hosting on a big stage and in front of a crowd of this capacity. The last time I hosted on my own was probably college and although I did some stuff at OGN, it was mostly on-air production rather than live audience. It has definitely been a long time. I enjoyed hosting at school, but it cannot compare to a project of this caliber.
Truth be told, I was anxious during Day 1 before going on stage, so I am very happy that the fans are supportive. In addition, I’m glad that with all the good words, there is a decent amount of constructive criticism. What many noticed is that I have indeed taken some inspiration from caster Jun in Korea. People refer to Rivington in NA as a very capable “hype” caster so I simply tried to mix the Eastern and Western style in a sense. I respect both of them immensely and it was quite the task to actually pull the mix off. On the plus side, I am in a unique position not only because of my English and Korean fluency, but also because I understand how both approaches work in their respective regions.
Many viewers actually described it as a mix between EU hostess sjokz and caster Jun. Was that a good comparison in your opinion?
I’m glad people see it this way as it’s exactly what I was striving for - a good balance between the East and the West. When I first moved to Korea two years ago, the regional difference in casting was one of the first things I started studying. When I tune into the Korean OGN, they are mostly hyped and energized, but what you need to take a closer look at is where the casters actually start “ramping it up”. This also includes intonation among other things. People in the west have tried to emulate it, but it usually fails because if you follow the same patterns, but in a different language, it’s not going to work.
The famous caster Jun
Linguistics is an important part of the bigger picture. Sometimes I query friends of mine who study the field and try to find out the root differences between the two languages myself and then tie that into their cultural peculiarities. At the end of the day, I’m glad to have successfully tried this on a big stage, given the positive response. There was some criticism from the west which was fair, as I have not seen that many live sports events or concerts. It’s definitely something I want to work on in the future and I thank everyone for sending me certain events which I can study and improve from.
What are the unique aspects of William Cho, the host?
Something I have always strived for is being a fan even on stage. I do not mean to say that others disconnecting themselves in that particular way is bad. For example, analysts naturally put up a very specific “persona” on camera simply because it’s their job to analyse - they have to be very critical or need to look at an in-game event very carefully. Even though I used to do some analysis in the past, I now do more play-by-play and hosting, because I want to stick to my own style. At the end of the day, I’m just a fan too, I enjoy the game and that’s exactly the reason why I was so appreciative of the chance I was given this weekend by the organizers. Some people may not agree with my style, but I get to be on-stage, do things my own way, enjoy the action with the fans and share the emotion with the players in the post-game interview.
Seeing Spirit shaking with adrenaline after Worlds, Lustboy smile or Bjergsen being very confident about his play, it’s just sharing those moments and the emotion that passes through you with everyone. It ties directly to the way I got into eSports. Long story short, I visited the MLG offices and while “camping” outside, I got to meet and talk to all the eSports celebrities at the tournament. From then on, the connections were established and here we are today. I simply never want to lose sight of that root and that’s how I want to be on stage as well - I want people to know that although I am out there presenting and talking with the players, once that is done, I will still go backstage, sit down, watch the game and experience the same thrill as you.
Are we going to see Chobra the host more often after IEM Katowice?
I certainly hope so. A lot of it comes down to scheduling as my priorities still lie with OGN. Hopefully, we will find more chances to make this work as I do want to fine-tune my style and create more ways to connect with the fans while being on-stage.
What are your thoughts on GE Tigers going out in the Semi-Finals?
First and foremost, I believe this is a good thing. It’s a good wake-up call to Korea, because in the past, even when Korean teams messed up, they still came out victorious and it became a running joke. They had the luxury of dropping a map, but then still climb back into it. Clearly that’s not the case anymore. I don’t buy the whole “other regions bought off Korean talent” thing as I don’t think that is necessarily the reason why the region has become weaker. I think the talent pool has always been there and it’s just a case of going back in time. There was a period where Korea was actually weaker than North America as the region was still learning the game. In addition, EU teams like M5 and CLG.EU did pretty well against Korean competition. I see this as a reminder that now every region has to study others in order to not be caught off-guard. Hopefully, GE Tigers took that to heart.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Spirit is the driving force behind WE’s success here at IEM. What can you tell us about the youngster in terms of his Chinese stint? Is he a one-man-team at this point?
Obviously during the regular season, most analysts would agree that Spirit has been exceptional. Some may even go one step further and say they feel bad for him as he is doing so much work and yet, WE is last in the LPL. I think with the new roster that can change. They have been playing with this new constellation for only a couple of days so we should give them some time before making judgement. These specific players are chosen for a reason and now is their time to work on their communication and execution. I sincerely hope they can fix that, because having watched Spirit in Korea, I can attest that he is one of the most emotional players. While it is true that it can be a drawback while losing, the amount he has invested in the game is enormous. Everyone hates losing. We all saw the game at last year’s Worlds where he was clenching his heart in disbelief that they just won. As a fan watching the game, I’d like to see that more.
CJ Entus really dropped the ball in Poland. What is the current status of CJ in your opinion?
CJ Entus LoL
Coming in I actually expected CJ to drop at least one map in the group stages. While they have improved some aspects coming into 2015, they still seem inconsistent and have weaknesses who are easily exploitable by a team who researches them well enough. This is what happened in Poland. Certain players were getting caught out which led to a break in communication. I think they have a lot of work to do when they go back home. These losses will also echo through Korea and their competitors in OGN are bound to find out ways to use the information gathered in Poland against CJ. The team has historically performed well in international tournaments and while I think that this is a wake-up call to them as well, it didn't come as a shocker.
Reflecting on the whole Katowice experience, what lessons will you take home as both an analyst and a host?
I’ll start with the analyst point of view. I think this was a very refreshing weekend for any expert in the game, because it has been so long since we had multiple story lines unfold in front of us. Usually the formula is we have the Koreans, we have the underdogs and then everyone in-between. That’s definitely not what ended up happening in Poland, so I’m very happy about that. Just because we are regionalized you can’t really take into account that the number one seed in region X will necessarily perform well. In short, league positions do not really matter that much on an international setting. At the same time, region to region comparison does not matter as much until we actually see the games played. This will put the Mid Season Invitational and Worlds 2015 into a lot of perspective and in some ways, build a lot of anticipation for the future international events whether those are Riot-based or ESL. So I’m really excited about it in terms of analysis.
As a host, it served as a great reminder why any of us do this. If you’re working back stage, there are many times where everything falls together perfectly and you feel great. However, there are twice as many moments where there are minor hiccups, delays, stress and afterwards you just feel like you’re laboring away without feeling that inner satisfaction, especially if you start questioning yourself. But then you see the stage, you see all the fans that came out to watch their favourite players and realize that you get to interact with all those people who share that same passion. So remembering all of this I can say that I chose this, because I love it. Obviously I have goals just as any other working person, but I started by giving myself a two-year timeline to see where eSports life takes me. Here I am today, still doing what I love so I think it’s a good reminder that we do eSports because we love the game and we have tons of fun.
Thank you very much Chobra. Any final thoughts?
Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak my mind. I just have so many thoughts and emotions running through me after this weekend. A big thank you to all the fans that came to Spodek and cheered for their favourite teams, to those who supported my work and everyone involved. I do realize it didn't go as good as we envisioned it, but despite this, everyone was really nice not only to the players, but to organizers, hosts and all supporting staff as well. You can tell Katowice is definitely hungry for more eSports, so I’m happy that IEM has chosen to create an event here. At the end of the day, shout outs to all the fans and of course ESL for giving me this opportunity.
Images courtesy of ESL, Helena Kristiansson, TeamLiquid, GameSpot, YouTube and onGamers.
Former lead editor and interviewer for SK Gaming
Follow me on twitter - @Adddler or LINK
iNNERFiRE - multi-game journalist and Editor-in-Chief: 2012
onGamers - League of Legends Feature Producer: 01.2014 - 02.2015
SK-Gaming - League of Legends Lead Editor: 11.2012 - 08.2015
My journey into eSports started in 2004 when I accidentally caught a small video on TV from the WarCraft 3 WCG 2004 final. I opened up the SK Gaming website from my father's laptop and never stopped reading to this day. In early 2010 I started writing at a Bulgarian news website simply because I disliked how the current editor was handling his job and with time, I got to be Editor-In-Chief. My main writing interests back then were StarCraft 2, QuakeLive and League of Legends.
Fast-forward to 2012, after a small hiatus and moving to England to attend university, I decided to start writing news posts again, inspired by a couple of industry figures who have taken their turns taking eSports writing to a new level. With the beginning of IPL5, I was given a trial with SK Gaming which was successful and I never looked back.
In early 2014, onGamers presented me with an incredible opportunity to join their ranks which I took. Although I believe my 2014 was rather poor (in terms of work ethic and results), I have made changes during the winter break to ensure that sufficient effort will be made to repair that. Unfortunately, due to the collapse of the team, the project was at a stand still which marked the end of my stint with the oG crew.
I continued producing 1 on 1 interviews with SK members until July 2015. After that, other commitments arose and I figured I could not provide the flow of content I promised my superiors and took a step back, leaving SK.
If you are an eSports fan who is looking to get into writing or simply want to chat about eSports across the years, you can always find me on my twitter - @Adddler . Below you can find some trivia about me.
BroodWar / StarCraft 2
BW pro: sAvi0r and Flash (for different reasons)
BW race: Terran
BW series: Hana Daetoo MSL
SC2 pro: Creator and Stephano (different reasons)
SC2 race: Terran
SC2 series: ThorZain vs Polt at DreamHack Open 2012 and any big final played by King MvP
StarCraft related article: God of the Battlefield
Pro: Alexey 'Cypher' Yanushevski
Map: Aerowalk, BloodRun (100% Eastern European choices)
Series: Cooller vs Cypher. Especially the brilliant defensive Cypher game on Aero (game 4).
Rivalry: Rapha vs Cypher
Quake related articled: The Quadra Interview and the one and only Cypher PoV
League of Legends
Pro(s): FORG1VEN, Faker, WeiXiao, NaMei and Mata.
Position: AD Carry
Series: All the World Elite games at IPL5, KT Bullets versus SK Telecom T1 K OGN Summer 2013 Final and LPL Summer Final between StarHorn Royal Club and EDG (The perfect Jinx game by Namei).
League related article: Most of TeamLiquid.net's takes on the 2012 and 2013 OGN tournaments.
Team: Fnatic (2008-2009)
Series: AGAiN vs Fnatic at WCG 2009. Literally broke a cup after the game. One of the most emotional series for me as a spectator.
Gfinity League of Legends - August 2013 (SK Gaming)
EU LCS Week 5 London - June 2014 (SK Gaming / onGamers)
GamesCom 2014 Cologne - August 2014 (SK Gaming / onGamers)
EU LCS 2015 Week 7 Spring Split - March 2015 (SK Gaming)
Intel Extreme Masters Season IX Katowice - March 2015 (SK-Gaming)
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