Mon October 02 2017
The ESL African Championship finals at the annual rAge expo is only a couple of days away, and its arguably the most exciting weekend of the year for local gamers.
To officially mark the first time that Kwesé Gamer and ESL Africa will be exhibiting at rAge, we invited professional commentators Jason ‘Moses’ O’Toole and Lauren ‘Pansy’ Scott to lend a helping hand on the talent deck for the livestreams.
Before his arrival in South Africa, we asked O’Toole a couple of questions regarding his career, his expectations for rAge and how he prepares for casting big tournaments.
Regarding South African esports teams, any international commentator will be forgiven for not knowing an awful lot about them.
O’Toole is in the same boat as most, only knowing that Bravado Gaming attended the Dreamhack 2014 Major, and falling out in group stages.
“Outside of that I’m essentially going in blind!” O’Toole said.
The key to a good caster is being prepared for a broadcast, and with very limited knowledge on the SA teams and how they play, he has a lot of reading ahead of him.
“I will likely prepare on the flight over, looking at the teams and players and some of their past results. And then upon arrival sit down and chat with the casters who primarily work for the African leagues and try to put some of the results in context,” he explains.
He continues: “Mostly just try and nail down the small things - who are the favourites, any potential teams that could upset, player names and which are the players to watch out for.
Having attended many gaming expos across the world, does he have any expectations for South Africa? “I’m coming in with no expectations at all,” he said, adding “I’ve been told I will be surprised at how energetic and passionate the fans and crowd at the expo will be for CSGO.”
“I’m sure I will still be surprised and blown away by the experience though. On one hand, I can’t imagine how it would differ too much but on the other hand, I imagine you guys in Johannesburg will be able to find a way to surprise me!”
Hopefully commentating at the ESL African Championship will rank favourably on O’Toole’s list of memorable castings, as most of his favourite memories involve the environment he was surrounded in.
“Casting games of CSGO with the Dubai marina on one side and the skyline on the next was a profound moment. Casting the grand finals of the MLG Major in Columbus amidst a crowd of fellow North American fans was amazing,” he recalls.
O’Toole also fondly remembers walking around the cities of Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and Krakow (Poland) and being amazed at the architecture and buildings not found in his native USA.
“Most of my favourite events are because of the environment created by the city and the people who are there.”
Speaking of commentating at world-renowned events such as ESL One: Cologne 2017, DreamHack Masters Malmö 2017 and ESL One: New York 2017, O’Toole has probably seen it all, done it all, and hung out with most of the top-tier players.
That is what one would think, but O’Toole still gets a bit star-struck when he is around the likes of Niko from FaZe, Forest from NiP, or s1mple from NaVi.
“Those are the obvious ones and there are plenty more that go along with them. We are so lucky to have such talented individual players who can do things that most other players can’t. You always feel like they can win any situation,” he said.
As for an individual team, O’Toole has always had an admiration for Team Liquid.
“At the moment, they are one of my favourite teams. Basically, any time a North American team has a chance to do something great I get excited. I think some of the other commentators like Redeye, Anders and Natu have footage of me watching Liquid’s heart-breaking triple overtime loss to Flipside at the Major Qualifier for PGL Krakow. Completely on the edge of my seat full of nerves, jumping and yelling with every play.”
Being away from home about 300 days out of the year can take its toll on one’s sanity, but luckily O’Toole has some ways to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work.
“It’s always relaxing to find an authentic restaurant in a part of town and just sit down with a drink and order some good local food. I also travel with a Kindle, so I make sure I always have a new book ready to go on the flights.”
But even when he is relaxing, O’Toole isn’t very far from video games.
“The Nintendo Switch has helped curb my gaming needs during travel when it’s hard to get to a PC. When I’m at home though, usually play a variety of single player campaigns or League of Legends. I only play the ARAM version of the game, because I can just turn on some music, turn off the brain, and frag out,” he explains.
When the lights eventually dim on O’Toole’s commentating career, he imagines himself in some position behind the scenes, probably producing high-level content.
“There are so many stories that need to be told, that aren’t being told. So much content that can be produced that nobody is doing. I had an exciting time producing the CSGO’s Greatest Games episode at the beginning of this year, and much of my year has been spent trying to find time to get to the second episode, but my schedule (and that of players) hasn’t allowed it.”
He explains that in the current CSGO ecosystem, “we are missing some of the greatest stories out there. If we want CSGO to get to the next level and continue growing and get out of this stagnation, we need to have a better focus on telling those stories.”
As a bit of a cheeky questions, we asked O’Toole if someone in South Africa told him to ‘turn right at the robot’, would he know what to do or what that means.
“Nope, I’d have no idea. But I’d try to play it off. That would fail and I would end up asking for help before getting lost.”