ODPixel: career's origins, rap videos, hypecasting, socials, and more
ODPixel: career's origins, rap videos, hypecasting, socials, and more ⚡⚡⚡ Esports news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!
“A hobby that we’re fortunate enough to get paid for nowadays” is a common phrase from people in esports, but Owen Davies speaks with a notable passion. Actually, passion is his specialty. ODPixel's voice is imprinted in every Dota fan's head. We use his legendary catch-phrases in everyday speech, and Owen's pronunciation is not inferior to the most famous rappers. He is the Gulf Stream in the midst of an ocean of casters: calm, confident, and firm.
Arseny Kuzminsky talked with Owen about the life of one of the most popular commentators on the planet, the fastest tongue in Dota, and, it turns out, a musician:
Starting a career and working at Boots
Plan B and music education
Cloud9 vs ScaryFaceZ 3-hour map
First TI invite
Dota soundtrack and combining music with esports
New Dota TV rules
Commentator’s job and tips for beginners
Most difficult cast
Socials, haters, and Instagram
Can you remember the first time you met Dota? It could have happened a month ago, a year ago, maybe even ten years ago. We all have unique and wonderful stories of falling in love with Dota, and of course, ODPixel does too. In his youth, a simple English lad named Owen entered the Leicester DMU. As a child, he mostly loved Nintendo consoles, had a GameCube, Wii, DS, and now also has a Switch, especially since he did not play competitive titles — he simply did not find them interesting enough. When he moved to the uni, he didn't take the consoles into adulthood: a student’s life would not allow him to spend a lot of time on games, surely.
“I was just on the PC doing work. And so, you know how it is, you're on the PC all day doing your work. You don't want to be doing your work. You want to be playing games." We've all been there, Owen. And then, one day, after starting Steam, he received a full-screen notification, an ad: Dota 2 Beta, Try It Now! “Surprisingly, you know. We don't get many of those nowadays for Dota 2."
I guess we are very much a console nation. Like for me growing up, it was just Call of Duty and FIFA, you know, that's what everyone was playing. Everybody, every single lad at the school would have Call of Duty and an Xbox.
Old school players remember that the beta could only be entered by invitation or key. Owen got one, of course. However, Dota was not his first MOBA; friends showed him HoN, but the reaction was only “Oh my goodness, this looks really complicated. Who's going to have the time to learn this sort of a game." Ironically, there was something in Dota that caught Owen's heart. Not immediately, after several games, of course. "I wasn't thinking, like, oh, this game's incredible, the best game ever, but I was coming back, you know, the next week to try it again." But the immersion was snowballing, and after a few weeks, Owen wrote his friends an invitation to play. So, about ten people with old laptops gathered in his house to play Dota 2 in a kind of LAN tournament. Unfortunately, the majority left the party after a while, but some remained. Can you imagine that the most important thing started when Owen shut down Dota and launched the Habbo Hotel?
“I was doing my degree in music technology. So I already had an interest in sound and broadcasting. I'd worked a lot of online radio stuff. There was an old school game on the internet called Habbo Hotel, like a chat room, but what was very common with it were these online radio stations where you could be a DJ, and basically, you would be just streaming an audio broadcast. You'd get probably about 50 listeners by playing music and talking to them. And this was something I found really fun doing. It felt really awesome to be able to put yourself out there and do something that people were enjoying.”
And then Owen began to think: how to combine his love of talking and Dota? The answer is obvious in retrospect, but a person who was just starting to delve into the discipline did not know the term "esports."
“I still remember when I first thought why, why on earth would I spend time watching some people play the game when I could just play it myself? Who would ever do that? And then it just came to me that when you spent a few hundred hours in-game, you want more than just being able to play it — you want to be able to watch it, to explore things outside of the game. And for me, to get interested in talking about it.
And so I started to look up online how to do the casting in terms of how to actually get opportunities. And I found lots of amateur leagues. So, you know, like these very low down, tier-3, tier-4 Dota, the Ancient and Divine stacks playing in their local leagues. It became very apparent that a lot of these leagues were looking for casters because the players just were very excited to have someone who just wanted to stream their games, you know, so that their friends could watch it. And so I started doing that. For about a year, I was just casting these tournaments. I got only 10 to 20 viewers, but it was amazing. I was able to do it, and I was having people come to chat, just be really happy with what I was doing because I was casting their games, which nobody else would do.
To any aspiring casters out there, a good way in my experience, is to climb by finding Amateur leagues such as @ADota2L, and working with them to cast and stream their games. Did this for over a year before I was casting any known teams, and it was a great way to learn and grow!— Owen Davies (@ODPixel) September 20, 2020
I guess at the time, there wasn't that much interest from a lot of people in casting Dota. It was still a very small group of people that actually thought it was worth doing. So I was doing that for the longest time, just working up to the point where I was trying to get myself out. I was posting on Reddit, putting clips of myself casting.”
And he was noticed. BTS contacted Owen. Yesterday he was casting tier-3 Dota, and tomorrow he will be broadcasting NAVI’s game. Imagine his feelings. These were the teams that he has been watching and building up to be a caster. ODPixel was born precisely in that period when the legendary James 2GD hit him up and said: “You’re casting with WakeyPixel at DreamHack.”
“James gave me the first chance to go to my job at the time at a place called Boots, a retail high street pharmacy, a beauty store, and to hand in my regular resignation and say that I'm done, I'm going to go work in esports. Straight to my boss’ face. She was like, ‘Are you sure? What? Video games?’ I think she thought I was crazy that I was just leaving my job to go and talk about video games, but, you know, it worked out.”
And then the Dream League happened, and Owen was just making sure that he was giving it all at each of the events that he went to. So that by the end of the event, the next event would contact him, saying, “We've got to have this guy, we want to get ODPixel at our event.”
The origins took place five and a half years ago. In a year, Owen achieved something that few of us could imagine: he got the call-up for The International. But before even thinking of TI, he did his best to shine.
“For me, when I was doing the year of casting amateur leagues, I was never really doing it with the prospect of being able to do it full time. That was always a very distant dream for me. I didn't really have a plan. I mean, I never really do have a plan. I'm a terrible procrastinator. I leave everything in my life to the last minute. And I'm, I'm just very bad at looking to the future. I take each day as it is. So there was never really any pressure for me because I did have a job; I was making enough money. I was still at home at the time. I hadn't moved out. There was always the option of me just to continue working in the shop, you know, as most of these stores do, they have a system where you work as a sales assistant, then suddenly become a floor manager and a store manager. And I would have very happily lived a life where I would have done that. Of course, not nearly as happy as I am now getting to do what I love as my job. But so for me, I was never really stressed out about not making it as a caster because I just didn't expect to; it never really was a reality to me that I'd be able to do what I'm doing right now.
It was just something that would be an incredible dream if it happened. So yeah, for all that year of casting, I never felt that I was going to necessarily get anywhere with it. I was only casting because I loved it, not because I was trying to make a paycheck or get a job. I was just doing it because it was a hobby of mine and, and it still is. A hobby that I'm fortunate enough to get paid for nowadays and visit amazing places around the world and do incredible shows.
It is still one of those things that you can’t believe they are existing. It's just crazy. On the other hand, it totally makes sense: the games nowadays are so popular, people love to play them, they absolutely love to watch them. They want to see the pros doing their best. They want to learn how to be the best. And the fact that it happens now is so amazing”.
Owen’s starting point was the Cloud9 vs. ScaryFaceZ game that latest 200 minutes at StarLadder in 2015, and EternalEnvy was the main actor.
Actually, and the most fascinating part was that it happened to be ODPixel’s first big Dota 2 match. “I was casting with Purge, and I still remember when they asked me to cast, and they said, ‘you're going to be casting with Purge.’ You know, I was nobody at the time. Oh my goodness, I thought. Purge, you know, the guy is super famous, it's PurgeGamers, he's the one that makes all the videos.”
Nevertheless, Owen wasn’t nervous, just excited. You could have heard it in his voice. “I made sure that I didn't change what I was doing. I’ve got this opportunity because of what I’ve been doing”. Owen brought in the soundboards and started bringing in the big orchestral music and made it exciting. “I give a lot of credit to Purge because he really did help me throughout those three hours and 20 minutes”.
“I think, me as a hype person, I could just keep shouting and stuff. But as the analyst caster to be able to keep the game interesting, I think it's a lot harder for someone in Purge's position to do. And you know, he nailed it for the whole game. He was able to bounce back off me, considering we'd never cast together before, but it just worked. We jelled together. And he was having just as, if not, even more, fun than me throughout the game. For him, a hardened caster, it was more of just an extreme experience”.
Still, Owen wasn't thinking about that moment as if that was going to be the game that everybody will talk about. He was just casting, casting in front of 70,000 viewers, while nearly a week ago, his ceiling never exceeded a few hundred. “And in hindsight, it obviously was very important that I didn't mess it up. You know, that game, of course, was very important for me in terms of people, just the magnitude of people finding out about me and liking what I was doing. If I'd messed it up, that pretty much would have been it. Everyone would have remembered, ‘Oh, that amazing game, but with the terrible caster, what was his name again?’ But I was able to give it my all, and people liked it”.
Things really did fall into place, and it was obviously a bit of luck that Owen got that game. “And I don’t know what, who, or what sort of greater being I need to thank for that, but they grace me with this three-hour game. It was probably EternalEnvy.”
Five years later, Owen says that he does not differ that much. “I know a bit more about the game, and I imagine my casting probably has changed I'd hope for the better. I wouldn't think I've changed that much at all. I haven't intentionally been doing anything different, you know, I just bring myself to the cast, turn up and ready to talk about Dota.” Owen is excited to talk about the game with whoever he is partnered up with and whoever they are watching. But it seems that he’s being cunning and shy: you can’t stay at the top level over the years and thousands of games. “General improvements, but overall it’s just me loving the game and having a great time.”
After that game, he became famous. Owen got invites to main tournaments and, eventually, to his first TI. “I got the Skype message [it was 2015, yep] and honestly, the other casters in the Dota scene, they're terrible at keeping secrets. ‘Hey, Owen, I think they're going to get you for TI!’ And I told them, ‘Guys, calm down, you know, I'll wait until this is official.’ And then I get the message, and it was still amazing.”
“Because again, the year or so before when I never believed I’d be able to make a career out of it, I never thought that I would be going to TI. I thought, well if they like me, they'll get me to the next one, not for this one. They're going to give me another year, see how I don't mess up if I was still good by then. But yeah, and I got the invite. TIs always have been an incredible treat, a fantastic event to visit, and awesome to tie people from Valve as well, to be there at the event and just have everyone, the people that make the games, the people that play the games, the people that talk about the people that play the games. And everybody's just there.
I guess a lot of people would look and say, well, you're obviously going to go to TI. I mean, that might be true, but it doesn't mean that I'm not still very, very relieved and happy when I do get the message saying, ‘Hey, are you ready for The International?’ Cause it's just always special. It's TI.”
The Rap God
The fastest speaker in esports, they say. The ability to formulate thoughts into speech and release them at great speed is why people call casters talents. Owen can throw punches no worse than Axe Unleashed, while the video he made together with WePlay has already hit 100k views. Owen wrote the lyrics himself.
“WePlay approached me with an idea to make a rap video. Originally, the plan was to do more of a closer parody to Panda by Desiigner, which the beat still resembles; the idea was to have the pacing, the lyrics similar to that. And they gave me some lyrics, and the lyrics weren't bad. It was just that, you know, for me as I'm a very musical kind of guy, you know, I like to write my own stuff. It was the night before we were going to do the filming, so I had to do it in one evening. And I just started writing some lyrics about Techies, recorded a quick demo, sent it to the WePlay team, and they loved it. They were like, ‘yeah, let's go, it sounds great.’ And then the next night, we're headed out to a little studio.
We go record the lines with, of course, Mr. BananaSlamJamma, Mr. BSJ, my hype man, shout out to him. We sort things out; I do get a little nervous making a video like that. People call me the Rap God, but when you're actually making a rap track, it's hard to make it good. Not cringy or all a bit awkward, especially when you're talking about something in a video game where it's video game related, but like you've got to make sure you nail it. It's very easy for it to just become a flop. So I thought, ‘Well, if I bring Brian in at least, he can go down on the ship with me.’ He came in, and yeah, I was able to get him roped in. We hit the studio, went straight to the car parks in Kyiv in the evening to the delight of multiple groups of youths hanging around their cars, watching as me and Brian dance with Brian in a banana suit, probably wondering what on earth is happening, who are these people? But they're all very nice.”
When the recording was over, both audio and video, the WePlay team worked their magic with the editing and released it. And it makes me excited for future things. If I'm back out there with WePlay, if they want to do another thing, and if that was what we were able to come up with within 48 hours, I think we should be able to do something even more epic if we actually have further planning for it.”
Yes, but certainly, ODPixel had rapping experience before: the Manila Major rap. This rap is a co-product of Owen and SirActionSlacks. “We had a great team. Dan, I think, still works with BTS for video stuff, and Moose, one of the original video people of Dota 2, has been around since the first TI.”
As a man who studied music technology at Leicester DMU, Owen is the right person to be asked about how music and esports can combine and prosper.
“I think it's very hard to do. The biggest connection people are gonna see with music and esports is going to be when they're visiting live LAN events. And a lot of events have some sort of intro-acts, music, and things. But I think it's something that's very, very hard to get right at. It has already been done, not too great. A lot of times in the history of esports, whether it be sort of just the wrong act or the wrong type of music, or too long or bad timing... A lot of people go to esport events and just don't want to see a music act. They don't care about music. But I think there's a lot of ways where it can be done really well. Some of the better ways for me are like TI when during the finals, they'll have music during the draft. So when you're in the stadium, watching the draft on the screen, listening to the analyst, but you've actually got these drummers coming in with the war drums during the drafting phase. And it's just great fun, and I'd love to see that sort of extended to the next level.
My idea would be, during the grand finals, having Mr. Larkin, the man behind the music at Valve, one of the guys buying the music and conducting the orchestra, and have him actually conduct during the game. See, here's a team fight. And then you're bringing in the orchestra for a lovely little hit, and it would be very hard and complex to do, but if someone was able to pull off performing live music during the game and have it balanced well with the cast and the game sounds, I think that'd be a really awesome experience for people that were there. Make it again, a situation that really rewards the people that actually go on-site to be able to just be surrounded by this music and action of the game at the same time. I think it would be amazing.”
This year's The International 10 Music Pack was written by Gareth Coker. Owen thinks that this one is the best, keeping in mind that there are many other excellent packs. He’s a fan of Mr. Coker, and he’s not the only one, all thanks to the soundtrack for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Owen says Valve obviously has someone each year that asks, “Who do we want to do the music pack?”
“The tunes were catchy. We've got a really, really good TI 10 soundpack from him. There’s also the downside that we didn't have TI this year, which means we don't get to hear the sound pack in the stadium, between the pieces, but I'm sure we'll obviously have it when TI does eventually happen. They'll use his music maybe to the point where it'd be really awesome if they actually get him to the event and get him to conduct the orchestra, playing his pieces. That would be pretty awesome. So it's sort of fingers crossed for something magical like that.”
But what about the next years and TIs? Owen has a few ideas.
“I'm a big fan of the Japanese RPGs. So I love the soundtrack from NieR: Automata and Final Fantasy. If Valve could get some of these guys, Keiichi Okabe or Nobuo Uematsu, I would be blown away. I'm sure they can, we know Valve, they've got infinite money. They can get whoever they want. That will be the best music pack ever.”
ODPixel is known for his ability to cast the most fantastic moments of Dota 2 games by, as he says, shouting. But if you study what Owen does a bit closer, you will notice a very fast reaction rate to the change of events, excellent short-term memory, and the ability to navigate in an unusual situation. In other words, hypecasting.
“I guess my definition of hypecast is a cast with someone who is able to take what is literally happening, but convey it in a way that is exciting, but not over the top, not overdone. It's just being genuine about the thrill of what's happening in a way that the viewer is also going to listen to you and feel that they're sharing that same excitement at the moment.”
And what about being a professional caster?
“You are a professional caster if you're able to make a living out of it, I think that's probably more down to what the definition of the word ‘professional’ is. So relating to, or belonging to a profession.”
Should the casters be more serious and analytical or fun like Slacks?
“Both. When I first start, I've always felt that we need more casters in the game, contrary to the belief that there are lots of us. I wish we had more courses. And in that sense, I love variety. I want to see more people like Slacks making jokes that the crowd's loving, and I want to see more people 8K, 9K MMR skill level casters with analytics at the end of the day. There's going to be people on both sides of the fence, and I think if it was all of one of the two, then that would be bad.
But it isn't. We have people that appeal to all different audiences. For myself, it just depends on my mood. Sometimes I love to sit down and listen to Slacks, hear some great jokes about the game, but sometimes I'd love to sit down, listen to someone like Synderen, and all the intricacies of the Dota that are happening. I think it's important to have both. And yes, I think it's important to have more; I want to see more people at events and casting to a point where fans are asking for them to be working at events, and they like what they're doing.
And well, if there isn't a lot of other casters, everybody's kind of stuck with me. If I'm doing all the events, people are going to get bored with me; they will want to hear someone else. I really do hope that more people will give it a go and just really put the work in and make the jump. And I think that there are a lot of people already doing that. And so then I sort of just say to the fans out there, keep making sure that you're calling for these people to be invited to events. Tournament organizers aren't going to give someone a chance unless the fans are out there saying, ‘Hey, you know, hire this guy, this guy's awesome, we want to hear this guy or this girl.’ Fans should be vocal about these other commentators that they want to hear.”
Owen wants to help the up-and-coming young talents to rise. He knows that there is a whole bunch of great and talented casters which deserve to be noticed. “I was sort of toying with the idea of maybe starting some sort of video series where I bring on one of these commentators each week and just talk to them. So people can find out about who they are, what they do, what they've been casting, where they can follow them. I would imagine it would not get a lot of views, but it would still get views from someone who may have never heard of this commentator. And because of that, might then follow them and give them a chance, listen to them. And maybe they're going to be the fan that listens and thinks, ‘Hey, this person is really, really good. I'm going to go to the Reddit thread and say that I want to hear this person commentate, give this person a chance.’ I think it is important.”
Dota TV and Streaming
Valve has recently released a statement regarding streaming tournaments and Dota TV. Owen sees two sides of the situation and agrees with both.
“I can see the emotions from both sides, and I'm not gonna lie, I would watch big streamers casting games when technically they shouldn't be because I am interested to hear what they have to say. I know that they shouldn't be doing it, but they were allowed to, so, you know, why not? For me, it was always a case of originally the system was flawed. I never felt that it was the fault of anyone using it. Sure, it was not necessarily a good move for them in terms of if they were thinking about what's best for the overall scene, but I'd like to think they weren't doing it maliciously.
They were doing it because they were allowed to, and they knew that their fans love to listen to it. So I'm not gonna lie; it is a little bit sad that this is gone now, and they can't just jump into any games and do it. But, you know, as I say, I sat on both sides. I also understand why it has to change. And I think if anything, we were just kind of lucky as a community at least for lucky in the sense of those that like to watch those streamers do what they were doing outside of the official tournament stream. And obviously, with these rules, they still can do that, but they do have to follow quite a strict set of guidelines depending on what the tournament organizer sends out there.
Obviously, it hurts for those streamers that just wanted to casually jump in and jump out, but overall, I do think it is the right move in terms of making sure that the competitive scene can grow and get better funding and have bigger interests from bigger brands. I don't think it hurts the upcoming casters too much. I know there's been some discussion on all these sort of guidelines, on what assets, what adverts you have to run. But the reality of it is if you do want to become a caster, when you actually get the job, that’s what you're going to have to be doing, right? When the events hire me, they're going to say to me, ‘Here are the assets, here are the ads. Do you know how to run this? Do you know how to play all the ads? Do you know how to queue them all up? Do you know how to make sure you're switching between the assets? Do you know how to edit the overlays for the brackets?’ Because that's what you're going to have to do when you actually get the job. Originally, you're doing it for your argument as well, why I'm not getting paid, but then you don't have to do it. Don't cast that, do what I did, you know, cast amateur leagues, leagues that will happily get you to cast. They're not going to be telling you to watch or play any ads or run any overlays cause they don't have them. They just want someone to cast their games. When you're streaming a tournament, you have to follow the rules.”
By the way, are you currently on a contract with someone, or are you a freelancer?
“I've always been freelance. There was a period where I was working a little closer with BTS. They were helping me to get jobs, sort of. They were looking out for opportunities like deals and things, like an agency. But that didn't last too long. Tournament organizers hit me up directly on the email when they want to hire me. I'm sure there are probably better ways I could do it. I probably should have an agency, someone to do the deals for me, but so far I've got to where I've got, pretty much just done it all myself. And that's pretty much how it works best in Dota anyway rather than being tied to at least, for me, to a set studio because there's so many studios, a lot of different organizers running events in Dota 2. So I feel it would be a pity if I was tied down to just one of them because it would mean potentially missing a lot of other opportunities to work.”
What should a young and inexperienced caster do?
“That's a hard call to make. I was actually in that position when I was starting originally; I did get offered a contract. I can't remember what the company was, like five, six years ago, before people started to hear of me, and so they did offer me the chance to go travel and live wherever they were and, and be on-site and cast for them. Obviously, it had a very, very low rate. It wasn't good pay at all. But I did contemplate it. I didn't take it. And it was definitely the right move not to take it because they weren't paying anywhere near what I should have valued myself, even at that point when nobody really knew me. So I would just say when it does come to contracts, I'd be very careful. I don't think you do need to be signing any big contracts tying it with any org if you are a new caste; II think if you are going to make it, you're going to be doing it on your own. Don't just jump and accept the first deal that you get thrown because if you're taking it seriously, you're going to get something better down the line. Just a flat rule to avoid big restricting contracts as a caster, because it's just not really the scene. We’re not like League of Leagues, where you would sign a big contract because you're with Riot — it's the same people doing all the events.”
ODPixel’s Tips For Beginners
With power comes responsibility. And the possibility to share experience with those who are just starting their way. Owen seems shy.
“I never really feel like I can give guidance because everyone, in my opinion, has to do it their own way. I don't think there's necessarily set things to do that will work for everybody. But, in general, I just think it's important for people, a thing that I noticed for myself, to just cast as much as you can, but don't burn yourself out. You have to enjoy doing it and don't do it purely because you're expecting to get somewhere. I casted it for a year because I enjoyed doing it and it was no stress. I was still having a normal life around it, I wasn't taking up all my time with it. So I just do it because it's fun. And then in terms of getting to the next level, just make sure you keep a good recording of everything that you have, set up a YouTube channel, have your Twitch VODs saved, and do reach out to tournament organizers. Send them your clips, send them videos of your casting. Because that, for me, is probably the second-best way to get invited to an event. The best way, of course, is to be at a stage where you're not the one reaching out to tournament organizers saying, hire me, but your fans are. The people following you are reaching out to tournament organizers and saying, ‘Hire them, hire them for this event.’
So, you know, the ideal way is to just build your own personal brand by just reaching out and connecting with the fans, having that conversation with them in Twitch chat, after the games come to an end, making sure you have a Twitter that you're active on and that you're responding to people on and just make those connections with the viewers. They're the people that are going to help you make it. The reason why I was able to get where I got to is not because of my connections; I didn't know anyone; I turned up out of the blue. I didn't know any of the players, any of the people casting it, to me, at the time, when I was tuning in and watching like LD and Godz cast, they were there on a whole different level to me. I was like, ‘Dude; these guys are the famous casters. You know that I'm so far away from that.’ So yeah, just making sure that you really respect your viewers, respect your fans, the people that have gone to the effort of listening to you and following you and then just grow that to the point where they're there, asking for you to go to events, messaging the tournament organizers.”
Can you recall your most difficult, physically or morally, cast?
“Definitely the first TI finals that I did. Because as I said, I don't really get nervous, but TI finals were something else. I did not sleep at all the night before finals, and that's never happened before. I just couldn't; my brain was just working overtime, like, ‘Oh, you're doing TI finals for the first time, don't mess up, people are watching, everybody's watching.’ I know I was no longer casting to a hundred people in my bedroom; I was casting to all these people from all around the world that are not even Dota fans, you know because everybody watches The International.
It was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I was able to get through it, though, with a bit of a boost of an energy drink before I stepped out there. And you know, it obviously worked out, we had the Ceb moment, pretty happy with that. I mean, that's obviously the dream, you know, I've done a TI finals and made something that people remember. But yeah, afterward, I felt dead, all my energy was gone, and the nervousness obviously continued after it. Oh, did I do a good enough job? Oh, no, I messed up a little bit at this stage. I wasn't as excited at this point.
But of course, it was amazing. A lot of fun during the games; I had a great time. Whenever I'm casting, it doesn't matter what happened before the cast or what's happening after; I'm just having a great time during the games because that's all I'm thinking about, what I'm talking about. So it was great fun, but definitely the hardest cast. So, I look back, I'm happy, obviously feel that I could do better, but that that's gonna always be the case.”
You know that most newcomer customers face both criticism and applause. How do you deal with the haters at this stage?
“Obviously, that is definitely one of the challenges. When you're putting yourself out there, you are going to have people that don't like you, and that is going to happen at all points. I have a lot of people that don't like me; I'll get negative comments, everybody gets negative comments. I mean, unfortunately, that is the way of the Internet. That's the way of life: someone's always going to try and bring you down. The best thing is to just don't overthink the negative comments. By all means, sometimes the negative comments might have something you can gain from them, there may be a little over-exaggerating whatever it was, but maybe there's something there that you could improve. But at the same time, you got to remember that some of the comments have nothing; they’re just someone who wants to hate. You know, people love to go online and put someone else down because it makes them feel better. So you've got to master being able to distinguish what are actually constructive responses, and what are, you know, trolls. But when you're styling, definitely focus more on the people that do like you. The haters will turn up and disappear again; rarely it's going to be the same person that is just consistent with the flame that they post about you.
So just make sure you don't bring yourself down too much, reading the bad stuff. Think about the people that are loving what you do, remind yourself that one of the reasons why you're putting yourself out there and talking about the game is because you want to make people happy; you want to give people a good time and just remember that there are people out there that are having a good time listening to you. Perform for them, not for the people that are going online and writing a whole load of rubbish about you.
Still, a caster’s work is a tough one. Owen shares his feelings about being live on a broadcast. For example, limit and control yourself.
“As a good caster, you've got to have different levels: you've got to be able to correctly match the rise and fall of the action in the game. You better not be getting all excited about something that everybody else at home is calm about. That's definitely part of it, just being able to naturally flow with the game, the way that the game's coming at you. But at the same time, you know, in terms of having a limit, you got to be ready to also push it past the limit. You know, Dota is a fascinating game with so many things that can happen that you have gotta be ready for when that incredible moment does come or something entirely new happens, something you've never seen before. Now, one of the great plays, like Miracle’s Shadow Fiend, when he was dodging this Warlock back at Dream League. And I think you'll listen back to the casting, and it's just me, going, ‘OH OH AH BWEH,’ but it works. You know, that was funny. That was me, my natural reaction. I wouldn't say, be too careful about limiting yourself. If you are screaming too much, people will start to tell you. So, you know, it's just finding the balance.”
Do you practice articulation exercises?
“No, not really. I just cast a lot. I think that does depend on your voice and your accent. I’m obviously quite fortunate to be a native English speaker and having a British accent. That obviously doesn't have half the appeal to some of the viewers; they do like me because they like my accent or for some people, it doesn't work at all.
I really respect people casting in English when English isn't their native language. I mean, that's just sort of blows my mind, and we have so many people that are just amazing at doing that. And even if you do have a bit of an accent, it can still work for you. I do recognize I'm very lucky. I have it very easy because it's just my first language.”
What is your biggest challenge with your job right now?
“Keeping it fresh, keeping my casting in a way where people do still enjoy listening to me, which I don't quite know how I'm doing. Honestly, if I was listening to me for as long as people have listened to me over the years, I would be probably incredibly sick of me. I'd be like, ‘Dude, can this guy shut up?’ So, I don't know how I'm still able to do it, and people still love me. And honestly, I cannot thank the fans enough for enjoying what I do and allowing me to keep doing what I do. But yeah, it's definitely the biggest challenge, event to event, making sure that when I set up in casts, people don't just go. Yeah, keeping it original enough, but at the same time, keeping it me so that the fans that do just love me, still love me, but also the people that like a bit of everything still find something from my casting that keeps them interested and doesn't make them bored of me. So I, again, just thank you to everyone that does like listening to me cas, and I'll continue to just do my best at making sure that I stay entertaining and I stay original.”
We all noticed that you started working on your Instagram lately. It didn't happen before, and now you post a lot of stories. Why?
“Well, first off, I had like eight thousand followers, and I found out that you needed 10,000 to be able to put a link in your story. So that was sort of a goal for me. I was like, ‘Oh, I just want to have that,’ so I can put the Instagram story when I'm going live on my Twitch stream and put it out there. Personally, I don't really like social media. For sure, a lot of great things have been accomplished because of the connectivity, but I think there's a lot of very dark sides to social media and what it's done to us as humans. So at least being just solely on one, I only was on Twitter. I feel like at least there's a bit more freedom if I try and be active on another one, rather than having everything on the same one.
It's not great that I'm on it because it is social media, but again, I just don't really like the idea of social media. I do recognize as well in the position that I'm in I kind of have to use social media; it comes with the job. But now Instagram is an alternative to Twitter. You know, on Instagram, you can just post a picture, and people will press like and say, “Great picture.” And on Twitter, it feels like everything becomes much more of a conversation. You know you post something, and people will be more willing to write a bit of rubbish. So I just wanted to post some cool pictures, and people press like on that. Instagram fits that bill.”
As a person from the United Kingdom, why are there not a lot of UK pro Dota players?
“I guess it's probably just down to the fact that Dota is not too big in the UK. I mean, we have had players that have reached pretty good MMR, played in some teams. Two names that come to mind are Rime and Beesa. Beesa made it to one of the Summits; he was playing with usually North American stacks. But why there isn't more, I don't know. It's weird. I mean, there are other esports where the UK is pretty good. Like VALORANT, and I believe there's a lot of UK players at the top of that right now. And Rocket League. Also, lots of these FPS players as well. From my personal experience, I can understand that I was never surrounded by the people. I didn't know anyone else that played Dota. Like when I was going through school and university, those sort of PC games weren't played; I guess we are very much a console nation. It was just Call of Duty and FIFA when I was growing up; that’s what everyone was playing. Everybody, every single lad at the school would have Call of Duty and an Xbox. I guess it was just a similarity of the US: UK tends to copy a lot of American trends.
In the UK, it’s just less PC gaming on as a whole. And I guess with that; there are fewer people playing. There are still people playing there, UK Dota is alive, there are little tournaments, but nothing at the top because we just don't have that frequency of players. There's still promise here and there, you know, ‘the UK player reaches the top 10’ or something. But maybe one day we'll get some new time. Recently, we got a new talent in TeaGuvnor, right? TeaGuvnor‘s from the UK, and he was a professional team coach. Now he's out of the country, you know, he's doing a lot of stuff with WePlay. So he's sort of stepped out, but, you know, he's still got those UK roots like me.”
The longest conversation is over. The recorder was stopped, the notebook was put aside. “Good luck with editing,” he says jokingly before leaving.
Thank you, Owen. See you soon!