How Did I Get Here?

There is a song by Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime, and it has that line: “You may ask yourself: How did I get here?”

I wake up in the morning, and that song is in my head so often now. I can’t believe I get to do this.

Before I discovered esports, I spent nearly 10 years as a producer.

At the BBC, I became a senior producer for live coverage platform that was created for the London 2012 Olympics.

My first contact with esports was online coverage of the 2015 League of Legends World Championships at Wembley Arena.

We were just there because it took place in London – an excuse for the BBC to cover a video game. I had to learn the game very quickly.

My job was to build and edit the live coverage and keep the project on the rails. Stress and Deman were doing our live commentating on the actual broadcast, while I worked with Pulse on the text commentary.

I got thrown into the deep end and I loved it! There I was, getting the train in every day with fans, checking out Reddit to check what they were saying.

I remember thinking during that week: “These people are awesome.”

Everyone was wearing their Teemo hats. The production was amazing, and Riot Games was fantastic.

After the event, I thought to myself: maybe it would be great to work in esports, especially since I’ve always played video games.

About seven months after Wembley, I left the BBC and moved to Twitch – making my mother very upset – and moved into gaming full-time.

At Twitch, the shows I was working on lasted around eight-to-ten hours per day, with up to five days of non-stop interviewing content.

On the occasions when we didn’t have enough hosts, or when I didn’t have the budget for more hosts to cover the hours of the show, I sometimes just popped up on stage myself. I decided maybe I could also do some hosting in my spare time too – especially as it meant I could get more involved in the esports side of things.

My boss at the time, Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham – a legend in esports – was very much a proponent of me hosting. He said that it would make me a better producer.

My first proper stage hosting experience in esports was the ESL UK Premiership Hearthstone Finals in Jan. 2018, and I had a bit of a laugh with the players; it was very memey and very jokey.

It all came to a point where I was really enjoying the hosting side of my job, so much so that I was having to turn some opportunities down because the day job came first. I realised that I would have to make a decision at the end of the year: Did I want to try hosting full-time or not?

The answer to that question was forced upon me, as I was made redundant by Twitch in March 2018. I wasn’t the only one to lose my job, and it was nothing personal, it just happened.

I went straight to a coffee shop and contacted a few people to try and get the ball rolling as soon as possible. I was also booked to do the final episode of “The Bridge” on Ginx TV, which I had been co-hosting for the previous four months, so I had to put my emotions aside and get through that.

There were definitely times during the first few months after leaving Twitch when I lay on the living room floor, staring at the ceiling thinking: “Oh my God, what am I doing? I can’t do it.”

I felt very conflicted about the whole thing. I was lucky to have some savings and the support of my boyfriend. If I didn’t have support from people around me, I don’t think I could have done it.

When I went full-time into hosting, I hosted two big events, both of them happening in a two-week stretch. It was a crazy couple of weeks.

First up was PUBG at DreamHack Austin 2018 on the desk. It was my third desk host and my first with an audience present. (I attempted to sing happy birthday to Shroud. It wound up being a solo effort, much to my shame.)

Straight after that, I hosted the E3 PC Gaming Show with Sean “Day[9]” Plott. His girlfriend, the incredible Brit Weismann, was my colleague at Twitch, and I met him through her. He is amazing!

That event changed my life. With a reach of around two million, suddenly people knew who I was.

PC Gamer had started talking to my agent before I was made redundant from Twitch – their Brand Director Tim Clark saw me present the ESL UK Premiership Hearthstone Finals and thought I’d be a good fit for the show.

After that, I went on to desk-host the CS:GO FACEIT London Americas Minor Championship, then straight to Las Vegas to do some more PUBG with Richard Lewis and the team on WSOE. Then, I started getting booked for shows.

October 2018 was the first month when I was busy every single week. I went to three different countries, and I was home for only three days – it was a bit of a taster for what my 2019 would be like.

It seemed a little like fate that I went back to where I started my esports journey.

To think that I worked in the LEC on week 8, years after covering the 2015 Worlds quarterfinals in Wembley, is mad – especially working with these guys, and with Machine even.

But not everything is perfect. I definitely found some of the comments tough at first – learning how to shut out the negative voices can be a long process.

When I initially appeared on-screen – people would say things “grill grill grill,” “hot girl,” “ugly af” – I felt that people question whether I should be there in the first place. I had to avoid Reddit during the IEM Katowice CSGO Major Championship as some of the comments were particularly unfair and it was a waste of energy reading them.

All broadcasters get these negative comments and comparisons to one another, but I’d sometimes read very sexualised comments on sites like the HLTV forums (the posts pop up in the sidebar of the homepage and articles I read to do my research) and it can be disheartening to see yourself dehumanised in such a way.

I definitely started second-guessing myself, because people were questioning why I was there, among other things. When you start questioning things, you stumble. You question your own knowledge.

With more events under my belt, my confidence and knowledge are growing, but I particularly want to improve my performance onstage, because that’s the space where I need to trust my own voice more.

In the LEC, I was backed up by an entire production team, and I have a lot of people fighting my corner. Since guesting for the weekend, I’ve been visiting the Summoner’s Rift to learn more about the game.

It’s tough being an inexperienced player because people you end up playing with don’t communicate well because no-one knows enough about what they’re doing so I’m hoping to find people to play with in the near future.

I’m also lucky to know fantastic women in this industry – I’ve been talking to Laure Valleé from the LEC ever since I met her at the Esports Awards in 2018, and we message quite regularly.

 Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere has also been an incredible support in my career ever since I met her in the PUBG Global Invitational Berlin, and we kept in touch ever since; we fangirled over each other over drinks in London, and I bloody love that woman. She’s absolutely amazing! And caster Froskurinn is the ultimate role model. 

Outside of League, PUBG and CS caster Pansy, CS analyst Potter and fellow host and interviewer Smix are my favourite people to work with.

I don’t know how long I’m going to keep doing this; so, I’ll just keep making the most of it. 

Hopefully, the people at home will understand and not disown me when I come back to visit!

This whole journey has been crazy, but at the same time, it feels like the most natural thing in the world.

For the first time, that is not as scary as I thought it was going to be.

Images: Riot Games, ESL, and Dreamhack

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