Doing My Part

I was never looking for a career in esports, it just kind of happened.

It all came from volunteering and wanting to be part of a community. 

I’ve always been a passionate esports fan. Back in the day, I used my PC to play the first Halo on Xbox Connect. Even though the connection was bad, I loved it. Once Xbox Live came out I played a ton of Halo 2 and won some LANs locally competing in Halo 3.

I wanted to see the best players in the world compete so I began going to MLG events. My friend Erik and I drove all the way from Michigan to Orlando. There was a player named Walshy, a legend really. He grew up not too far from me. He was someone I always looked up to, and the fact that he would take the time to talk to me in the halls at an event was an impactful experience.

Before starting High School, I managed to convince my parents to help me purchase a gaming PC, as I had been wanting to learn how to make websites and how to use Photoshop. In high school, I made my own website called Virtual Ownage where I would review games.

A few years later I was living with my roommate Cliff. He would stay home all day working on his art. He also hung out in this guy Brandon’s stream. Brandon worked for Turtle Rock Studios doing character modelling on an upcoming game called Evolve.

Once the game was finally released Cliff played a ton, and was winning nearly every tournament in the game’s small esports scene. The tournaments didn’t have the greatest graphics, and my training in photoshop and OBS put me in a position to help upgrade the stream quality.

Cliff suggested I volunteer to help out and that I could cast as well, which I had never done before. After that experience I didn’t pursue any more casting, it was just something to do at that time.

My friends and I had a tradition where every winter and summer we had a Dragon Ball Z party. Big thanks to Pat and Bryan for hosting it. We would all get together and bring our PCs and consoles to play video games and watch an arc of the DBZ storyline – and eat a ton of junk food. They were always a great time. 

One summer I show up and all my friends who have PS4s were playing this game I never heard of called Rocket League. We had so much fun and were laughing our asses off just trying to hit the ball. I played all night and when I got home I bought it.

At that time I was trying to “get good” in Counter-Strike playing in ESEA, I played every day for a year and a half. I was only a 10 RWS player after all that time so realistically that probably wasn’t going to happen. I gave up on that almost immediately to play Rocket League – I was hooked.

Like in all games I played I wanted to compete in Rocket League, but there were no tournaments. All of the tournaments were on PlayStation, but I didn’t own one and had the game on steam. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

I stumbled across this post on Reddit by A guy named CloudFuel who was hosting a tournament by the name of “PC NEEDS LOVE.” We made it to the semifinals before getting steamrolled by Cosmic Aftershock.

I had so much fun competing with my friends, and one of the things I appreciated most about Rocket League is that I was playing a brand new game so pretty much everyone was on the same level.

I saw CloudFuel was running more tournaments, and I wanted in.

I volunteered, just like with Evolve, to help make the broadcasts better and get involved with the community. That’s also when I returned to casting. I was actually casting the same tournaments I was competing in which is wild to think about.

I wasn’t doing it for money since there was none, or fame or anything like that. I was simply doing it because I loved Rocket League – and still do.

When Twitch invested into Psyonix and the RLCS was created they looked to the community to help with the league. I got a call from Goldenboy and he said Twitch wanted me to be a caster. I felt honored to be considered.

 I had actually cast a Gamers for Giving Rocket League tournament with him a few months prior. As a Halo player, casting with Goldenboy was surreal.

That first season of RLCS was tough. I had an amazing job at the company Steelcase, but I was working 4-5 days a week and using my vacation days to travel to Burbank for the broadcasts.

By itself, casting wouldn’t have paid enough to continue living the lifestyle that I had, plus I needed health insurance since I was an independent contractor. Eventually, Steelcase let me go part-time and keep my benefits which I’m so thankful for.

By the time Season 2 rolled around I had been bugging Twitch for more analyst work so I could be in esports full-time, but they ended up offering me a job where I would be working with the RLCS. I’d be able to help the league and be involved with the community, just like I had done so many times before. They took a chance and hired me, so I was getting paid to do the thing I love.

Even though working at Twitch was a dream job, it wasn’t exactly picture perfect yet. I was having a lot of anxiety from picking my life up and moving it to California.

I had never lived outside of Michigan or been so far away from my family before, and for the first six months, I was alone while my girlfriend finished grad school. I always try to be positive and I loved my new job as well as the people I worked with. That’s how I dealt with the problems I was facing at the time.

Even still there were issues. Working for Twitch and being involved with the RLCS put a divide between my fellow casters and I. Things were different than when I was a peer. Now I had to be more calculated as a representative of Twitch. Things were finally in a really good spot by the end of Season 4. When Psyonix decided to take over it was like a barrier was taken down between us, and I could return to just being friends and focus on casting.

Even as things have developed with my career and as a caster, there is something that will always be special to me – Gold Rush. Especially Gold Rush 1 in particular.

The idea was to put together an international event in a relaxed environment since we thought the community would enjoy that, but we weren’t sure how to do it. We decided to crowdfund the entire event such as travel for the players and equipment for the stream. Furtive Racoon was so critical for getting us set up with Smash and the infrastructure to make the funding possible.

There were some people that were skeptical, especially because we needed to raise nearly $10,000. We figured we’d set it up and see how the community responded, and their response was amazing. They were 100% behind it. Watching the donations come in, and the items in the shop disappear was unbelievable.

We hosted the event inside my tiny one bedroom apartment, and it was amazing. 

I’m so thankful for everyone who contributed to both Gold Rush events, whether it be donors, players, our casters Quinn Lobdell and Corelli, Furtive, and our European liaison Jonnyboi. We loved being able to put on those events for you.

In a million years I never thought I would be where I am today. All I wanted to do was help and be a part of a community and it has taken me way further than expected.

Photo Credit – Gamers for Giving, Nick Montemarano and psyonix, and Jamesbot

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