Esports once was an industry many thought would never truly rise, but with the help and passion of individuals, League of Legends and Riot Games have surged forward an industry that has struggled to find legitimacy around the world for so long. Like any legitimate sport, these talented individuals go beyond just the pro players and expand into other areas such as coaches, analysts and shout casters. Oceania and the Australia region in particular have found much success in this area, and now the distinct Aussie accent can now be heard shout casting local arenas and studios across the country.
Many of our talented shoutcasters have now been utilised all around the world, covering the biggest and best League of legend events in the grandest stadiums all over the world. One such shout caster is Jake ‘Spawn’ Tiberi, a former player, coach and now caster for Riot Games. I sat down with Spawn to ask him about the local scene, what it takes to be a caster and what 2017 has to hold for him and his colleagues.
Brad Weston: First of all, how has your PAX been?
Spawn Tiberi: PAX has actually been a lot of fun. I’m a Melbourne boy myself, so coming back down to PAX is always one of the highlights of the year. Hanging out at the Logitech booth, casting community games with the Chief members as well as a bunch of panels with other pro players and casters. Overall, it’s been amazing.
BW: Well, you guys generally go to a lot of events where there are a lot of fans, but you probably find yourself shoutcasting and working most of the time. Does PAX act as a good opportunity for you guys to mingle with fans?
ST: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even after our panels we hang out as much as we can, get a bunch of photos with fans. Also, talk to as many players as possible, because that helps keep you grounded. There is nothing more fun than when we have a break walking through the indie game section of PAX and actually play games with people, because that’s ultimately what brought us all to casting.
BW: On that note, how did you start off? You’re traveling all around the world and just recently have returned from a monster tournament all around the United States like Worlds. I can’t imagine this is an easy role to come by.
ST: I actually started off playing a lot; I was at university, I had a job, but I wanted to go pro. I ultimately wasn’t good enough, so I moved into a little bit of coaching for team’s like The Chiefs, and then Atlus reached out to me and asked if I wanted to give casting a crack. I did, and my first cast was the Winter Regionals, and off the back of that, I fell in love with it.
BW: What were you originally doing at university?
ST: *laughs* I was actually doing Biomedical science, then history and literature and then I went to finance, so I went through a couple of swaps.
BW: And now you commentate professional video games; bit of a right turn.
ST: *laughs* Yeah you can say that.
BW: Well, it obviously all worked out in the end for you. I touched on this before but a lot of shoutcasters in the Oceanic region are find success overseas. Papa Smithy, Pastry Time, yourself. What do you contribute to that?
ST: I don’t know, maybe it’s just that we are loud. *laughs* In all honesty, Papasmithy and Pastry Time where like the grandfathers of casting in League of Legends, but then you also have these really good casters from other games as well. So, I guess it might just be that we are really passionate here in OCE, especially as Australians with all sport. So, I feel that passion fuels other ways to get us involved, even if we can’t play. And that’s what fueled me: I wanted to be a pro player. I couldn’t do it, but I could talk and grind through VODs and get good at this.
BW: Obviously, it isn’t an easy position to get, though. There must be limited numbers and self-training. Are there any other avenues Riot are pushing forward to kind of spur this industry around pro play?
ST: Yeah, you know we do try with things like the UOL and Challenger tournaments that need to be casted by younger guys. One of which is Rougey, who makes appearances on the OPL every week, and we really try to foster that relationship there and build him up to our level. My job pretty much, as Caster Manger, is when people reach out, give them as much feedback and advice as possible, and help them out and find them a position. Obviously, not everyone can make it, but when people are ready, we do try and make it easier to transition to.
BW: So, what’s your personal favourite moment from your casting career?
ST: I have a couple. So, obviously, this year at Staples Centre. That’s hard to top. Two [that]come to mind are my first ever live cast at the Winter finals at Supanova in Perth. It was the first time Chiefs got dethroned by Avant Garde in a five-game series, and I got to cast it with Atlus, who is one of my best mates. That one’s hard to top, but if anything tops it was International Wild Card Melbourne. I got to cast with all the European talent like Sjokz, Quickshot, and just getting to attend an international event locally was amazing. Also, Chicago Theatre — a place meant for opera and plays and stuff — and getting to see a League of Legends event on the stage was phenomenal.
BW: Yeah, it’s funny you make that point because I was just thinking before how cool the Chicago Theatre setup looked and how surreal it must be to have an event there. A place that had Kanye West play like just a week earlier. It’s definitely all elevated now.
ST: Oh, yeah, you’re totally right. And, I mean, Madison Square Garden is the home of sports, Staples Centre the home of the LA Lakers and the Clippers — oh, and Rod Laver Arena is no slouch as well. It really is special walking into these places of greatness for sports and music and culture and being able to take it over by adding Esports to that mix.
BW: So, what’s next for yourself and the OPL casting team? What’s 2017 going to bring?
ST: Well, 2017 we have live games; that’s huge. Being able to interact with all our players and fans and do skits. It’s going to be super fun, and I hope we bring you guys a lot of cool content. In all honesty, for me right now, I’ve just been overseas for nine weeks, I’ve just done PAX, so I hope I just get to chill at my parents’ house in Melbourne. Go behind closed doors for a little bit, take a break from social media, take a break from Snapchat and just relax.
BW: Maybe play a bit of League of Legends for yourself?
ST: Yeah exactly, I don’t get to play all that much anymore. I try and play as much as possible of course because I still love the game. I think it’s important to stay passionate about the game, and I’m OK — I’m a diamond player — but it’s more of a fun thing. I watch more VODs than anything to help my shoutcasting.
Special thanks to Spawn for speaking with me at PAX Aus 2016! To see Spawn and his casting mates in action, make sure to tune into the OPL split come 2017. For additional information on the Oceanic pro scene, check out http://oce.lolesports.com/ for all the latest information.