When I was young, there was a single game that changed my life. My father brought home a demo disc of Doom and I’ve been hooked ever since.
From there, it’s been a straight line through the ages of FPS games. I got an Xbox, and Halo was it for a while. Hard to believe Halo is almost 20 years old at this point. But my first online FPS was Rainbow Six 3 and that was where things really kicked off for me competitively.
It wasn’t quite where my esports journey started, though. That was something entirely different and hard to believe.
My love for the Rainbow Six games led me to compete, but it was nothing like you see today. But I became known enough in the scene that I was asked to playtest Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon in San Francisco. Coincidentally, the World Cyber Games were going on at the same time.
When I left the playtest, my mother was driving us back and we passed by a bunch of tents where people were playing games. It looked like a giant celebration to me. I specifically remember there being a GameSpot truck that had a huge TV on it where people were playing Halo: Combat Evolved.
So me, not knowing any better, strode onto the grounds and started playing Halo with these guys. I started destroying everyone, too. But then, the crowd gets that hushed whisper going on as someone comes up to challenge me.
I had no idea who the guy was at the time, but he kicked my ass in the 1v1. Turns out, it was Walshy. I asked him who he was because I was curious who could kick my ass. He told me that it was the World Cyber Games and this was a giant tournament.
I simply told him thank you and left. It wasn’t until later when I was home that I researched who he was and found out about esports. Ever since that moment, I’ve wanted to compete.
I became obsessive about competing in games. You look at the work ethic of athletes like Kobe Bryant, that was me. I knew I didn’t have the best aim or the best shotgun or the best shot, but I prided myself on finding a way to win through hard work.
I played Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Chrome Hounds, Splinter Cell, it didn’t matter to me. Until a friend told me I should get Gears of War.
I fell in love with Gears of War and played my heart out. I was naturally good at it. I competed in GameBattles and was one of the top players. Then MLG announced they were going to pick up Gears and it hit me; I was going to compete at one of those events that Walshy was at.
I didn’t do great, but I got top 16 the first time I competed and third place at my second event. I competed for a while, but eventually, I took a step back from being a pro player. It was then that I took a look at what I wanted to do, which was commentating. My podcast, On the Flank, started here.
Turns out, it was pretty popular for a game that didn’t pull good numbers. I was able to create storylines and interacted with the community in a way that they loved. People noticed, and I was asked to be a desk host for a season. The transition was pretty easy; commentating requires you to have a very outgoing personality, and that’s certainly not something I’m lacking.
It was a match made in heaven, until it wasn’t. When I went to ELEAGUE, there was a player that wanted to physically fight me. I take that kind of thing seriously, so I told the development team that if something happened, I was simply defending myself.
As it turns out, they wanted to get rid of me and this was the perfect excuse. They fired me after that, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to stay in esports, but I knew it would never be in the Gears scene.
Without them being terrible people, I wouldn’t have found my new home in Rainbow Six Siege. I love this game and the scene an incredible amount. If I hadn’t found a new home here I wouldn’t be in esports anymore. It has, undoubtedly, changed my life for the better.
It started with actually getting my first job in the Rainbow Six scene. I saw that there was a casting call of sorts on Twitter for an analyst where you had to record yourself like you were on the desk and they would pick a winner from the submitted videos.
I took a slightly different route with my application. I sat down with myself and asked and answered questions as if I was an analyst and I somehow won. I wish I still had that video. I know for a fact that I was spewing a lot of bullshit because I knew nothing about the game.
But I spoke with confidence and my delivery was great. They sent me an email that I was the winner and I nearly missed it. I’m terrible when it comes to things like that, but by chance I had opened my email and there was their message. I was so happy and emotionally overwhelmed in that moment.
You look at scenes like Rainbow Six Siege and you see a passion like no other. You see that in a lot of the FPS scenes and many of the lower tier games. They develop this cult following, like some movies do. Those fans, those dedicated fans, are what make these scenes really special. No matter what happens, they’re going to love the game and be there for everyone. Even Gears of War, which is like Tier 30, changed the lives of so many people because it was their exposure to esports.
Rainbow Six Siege is even more special, to me and the community. You look at this game and you see something that’s unique. Other games, even something brand new like VALORANT, you’ve seen it before. VALORANT, Overwatch, CS:GO, Destiny… these could all die tomorrow and there’d be a game that could take their place.
But Rainbow Six Siege, there’s nothing like it. You can destroy things and blow up walls. You get to create your own map. It takes you months to even begin understanding the strategy behind this game, and I think that’s why people are so drawn to it. That complexity, that challenge, is rewarding for players and fans alike.
For me, the Rainbow Six Siege scene has helped me on my own personal journey through life. I’ve undoubtedly matured during my time in the scene. I’ve realized I just can’t go randomly tweet and be reckless with my words anymore. I had to grow up because people look up to me now and I’m in the spotlight.
It’s taught me the value of confidence and really believing in yourself. It’s human nature to feel insecure, and I am just as much a victim of that as everyone else. At the Six Invitational 2020, we were in the Place Bell arena in Montreal. There was something like 3000 people in attendance, maybe more. I had a serious case of imposter syndrome. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I reminded myself of everything I had gone through to get to that point and it’s no surprise, I did get through it and it was a big moment for me.
One of those things I went through was an infamous Reddit thread. This incident was the one thing that really made me consider quitting the scene for good. We were casting in Poland and doing it in the middle of the night so we could be on for the U.S. audience and this guy… he just blasts me on Reddit.
I was exhausted when I read the comments and it enraged me. I was tired, I wanted to sleep, but I was pinpoint accurate in my casting and had to say something. I stood up for myself and I think it earned me a lot of respect in the scene. I wasn’t someone that was going to back down and they respected that.
The subreddit would do it for all of the new casters. There was definitely a lot of gatekeeping and I really think this was what helped change that attitude. After I said what I said, a lot of the other casters started speaking up for themselves and those kind of threads just disappeared.
The scene has become a lot more accepting in the past few months, but we still have room to grow. I love all of my fellow hosts and casters, but if you look at the talent list, it’s pretty homogenous.
Then here comes Velly. A black desk host, analyst, and caster. That was huge for representation and I’m glad that I can be a role model for those underrepresented communities. It’s vastly important that they have a voice in the scene. It’s important that we continue to move forward as a scene to be more accepting and to bring a wider variety of people into our midst. I was so happy when they brought JessGOAT onto the desk. Giving everyone someone to look up to in our scene is a goal we should all be looking toward.
It also makes for a more entertaining show when you bring different people from different backgrounds and cultures together. You get different dynamics because of that and the scene gets to grow. I like to think my flair and jocular nature has rubbed off on the rest of the scene and made the scene all the better.
I can’t begin express how special the Rainbow Six Siege community is to me. After that first event I did, I left the venue in tears because I thought I would never see those people again. I had tried my best; I was energetic and funny, but the crowd knew I didn’t really know the game.
I look back on my journey to where I am today, at all the shit I had to deal with, and I wouldn’t change a thing. That journey, no matter how dark it was at times, brought me home to Rainbow Six Siege. To my family that I have grown to fiercely love. Those hardships made it even more worth it.
Nothing can take Rainbow Six Siege’s place. It’s changed my life, and whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with the craziest motherfucker to ever hold a microphone.
Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article