Clinton "Paperthin" Bader is an American commentator who works in VALORANT and PUBG. He currently resides and works in Korea. Some of the notable events he had the opportunity to cast were VCT 2021: Korea Stage 3 Challengers, and Masters - Reykjavík. On the PUBG side of things, he is currently casting the PUBG Continental Series 5: Asia. He has cast similar notable events in the past as well.
Clinton sat down with EsportsHeaven to talk about Masters Berlin, particularly the Korean side of things, as well as a little bit of the PUBG scene in Korea. He also shared details about his foray into casting, and the challenges talents face in this highly competitive industry.
Thank you for taking the time to give us an interview, Clinton. To start, what is your opinion on the recently concluded Masters in Berlin? How was it compared to events in the past?
I thought Masters Berlin was awesome. There were so many great teams, with players being able to showcase their abilities, especially on LAN was so hype. My only feedback for the event would be I would prefer the playoffs to be double-elimination, but other than that I thought it was incredible from start to finish.
What do you think about F4Q’s and Vision Strikers’ performance?
I think F4Q did about as I expected. On maps like Split where they can fully utilize their strengths of being a phenomenal close-quarters fighting team, they shined, being able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of even Sentinels. We got to see how impactful a player like Bunny can be with Raze’s blast packs, and there were a few stand-out moments for some of the other members. But at the end of the day, they don’t have the consistency and long-range firepower to compete on maps like Breeze and Icebox.
For VS, they were fantastic in their group, not dropping a single map in their “group of death” and I had high expectations for them going into the playoffs. But, they ran into the buzzsaw that was Gambit and dropped the series 2-1 (being the only team to take a map off GMB in the playoffs). This took a lot of steam out of the sails for the region, despite being a top 5 team at the event. However, I think VS will learn from this and work on their glaring deficiencies (not having Viper on Bind, for example). Overall, VS is a stacked (hehe) team top to bottom and will come back even stronger for Champions.
How do you think the KR scene matched up against the rest of the world?
I think what we have right now in KR is a top 5 team in VS, capable of potentially even winning a global event at some point and a lot of individual talent outside of VS that hasn’t put it together yet in terms of strategies and consistency. F4Q is kind of a one-trick pony. Nuturn looked a lot less powerful without Lakia in the lineup and was inconsistent during Stage 3. Damwon hasn’t been able to find the right mixture of players to back T3xture up. TNL is mentally boomed against VS. Also, KR hasn’t adapted to the meta outside of their region (the lack of quality Viper players is really painful), so it is going to take some work for them to get on to the level of NA and EU. We have one team that is at that level, now we need to see some of the others step up as well.
Could you tell us about your background and how you got into casting?
So, I’m originally from a rural town in Wisconsin, USA. I graduated from university with a degree in Physics, but after a while, I started to focus more on a career in IT. After about 7 or 8 years in IT, I got kind of sick of it and of living in America, so I decided to uproot my life and move to South Korea. I was initially an English teacher here, but I was doing some side-work for some esports companies as well. Then, when PUBG came out, I got pretty obsessed with it. Eventually, AfreecaTV started their own PUBG Esports league, and when the call came out for English casters, I threw my hat into the ring and made an audition tape. They liked it, so I started casting and streaming PUBG full time. I have since been doing the PUBG majors and Asian events, and have now begun working in Valorant as well. I have always loved tactical shooters like CS, so I jumped at the opportunity to cast Valorant.
What inspired you to get into a casting role? Did you delve into anything else relating to your field before you arrived at your destination, like playing competitively yourself, etc.?
When I was in high school, I did competitive public speaking, as well as played the oboe as the first chair in our school orchestra, so performing in front of people never really scared me, and came kind of naturally. Even into University, I still dabbled in some of those things, I even had the scholarship to play the oboe at my college. I also really liked to listen to radio baseball broadcasts of my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, and always admired the broadcasters, especially Pat Hughes. I would often listen to the games just for his broadcasts during the seasons when the Cubs were bad.
As for how I got into esports, I started to get into it during the MLG era, particularly Halo 3. I really fell in love with it when it first came out. I spent a lot of time playing and competing in the game, even going to a couple of MLG LAN events to compete (but never did that well). I was always watching esports when I could, whether it be Starcraft, Halo, CS, LoL, etc. I always wanted to work in esports in some fashion, and share my love of it. I kind of wanted to be like an “esports ambassador”, someone who could show the world the legitimacy and excitement of competitive gaming, and so casting seemed to be a natural fit for that.
You had the opportunity to cast for the Stage 3 Challengers’ event and even Masters Reykjavik. How do events conducted by developers themselves differ from community-based events, be it in terms of organization, structure, etc.?
This is a really good question! There isn’t a whole lot of difference from the caster’s side, to be honest. But what differences there are, I think comes down to just a matter of the level of funds available. Obviously, for a community-based event, the budget will be a bit lower. So, a few cameras, maybe fewer bells and whistles, but more support staff to smooth things along, etc. These days, community-based events have done such good jobs at getting the most out of their budgets that they look and feel great. From a behind-the-scenes caster’s perspective, there usually isn’t much difference in what we have to do for our jobs. T
he setups are usually great for us in terms of headsets, monitors, etc. So we just show up, have pre-production meetings, do a rehearsal, talk with staff and other talents about storylines we want to build, specifics about how we want to cast the games, talking points, etc. Then, we yell at games. But yeah, really from my perspective, my job isn’t super different between the two scenarios. I am always just trying to bring the best broadcast I can for my employer.
You are involved with the PUBG scene too. Could you brief us about it?
PUBG is my first esport for casting, so I have a lot of love for it. It’s a battle royale-style game, and what sets it apart is the difficulty inherent to mastering the game at the top level. First, the gunplay is insanely technical and difficult. Strong recoil on the guns, differing bullet velocities, each different gun and type of gun have very unique styles and feels. It’s honestly a wonderful game and super fun to watch. Tournaments are running all the time, and the prize pools are massive. The top PUBG pros are some of the highest earners in all of esports. I think a lot of FPS fans if they truly gave PUBG esports a chance, would come to quite like it.
The PUBG Continental Series 5: Asia is coming up in a few days and you will be one of the casters. How do you feel about the event? Anything, in particular, you are looking forward to?
So this is the last PCS leading up to The Global Championship in November. Teams from China, Korea, Japan, and Chinese Taipei all are competing for $250,000 in total prize money, and the possibility to qualify for The Global. It’s a super exciting event, with a lot of the potential favorites to win PGC this year playing, including GenG from Korea, the reigning 2019 global champions (there was no PGC in 2020 due to Covid-19). I am excited to see if a Korean team can come out on top this time, as all of the PCS events for the last 2 years have been dominated by the Chinese teams. But seriously, the overall quality and talent in PCS Asia are insane, so you should be tuning in!
What motivated you to start casting for Valorant? Why go with Valorant and not any other title?
I want to stick to FPS titles for my casting, for the most part, so a lot of games that are popular here in Korea for esports aren’t my jam. When it was announced Riot was making a tactical shooter, I was all-in. I wanted to get in and play it as soon as possible and see what its viability as a competitive game was. Much to my delight, the game is awesome. It looks and feels so smooth for an FPS, you lose track of the fact you are using a mouse and keyboard. And because each character in Valorant is unique with unique abilities, it offers a ton of strategic depth as an esport. Especially since I am more of an analyst for FPS esports, Valorant appealed to me. It has so much more going on than meets the eye.
What did you do or maybe even aspire to before your foray into esports broadcasting and had you not opted for this career, what would your current occupation be?
When I was entering university, I was keen on either being a music performance major (playing the oboe) or becoming a physicist. I was interested in trying to work at a particle accelerator like CERN in Switzerland. However, I kind of fell out of love with music throughout my studies and the same with the high-end math required to advance in the field of physics. I really just kept gravitating back to video games and esports outside of school.
If I had not taken the leap of moving to Korea and completely changing my life, I would probably still be working in IT somewhere. IT is great, a lot of really cool stuff to do and work in the field, but esports is truly where I belong.
Which esports games outside of shooters do you enjoy? Would you ever consider being involved in a different title?
I am pretty addicted to the mobile game Summoners War and have even done some casting for it in the past. Hopefully, I can be involved in it more in the future. It is a gatcha-style game, but there is a lot of depth in the tactics and strategies involved. I wasn’t able to do the SWC this year due to conflicts with PUBG and Valorant casting, but hopefully next year I can squeeze some in. I have been grinding to try and get into the top ranks of the competitive mode of the game.
Outside of that, I watch a little bit of LoL, mostly to see how my friends who cast it are doing and to learn from them. LoL has some of the best casters in the world, so I like to study them and try to learn from their performances. But I have zero desire to cast it myself.
If there were esports for strategy games or tactical games, I would be all over those though. Like, if there was Final Fantasy Tactics esports or something, I would be sprinting to be a part of it haha.
Coming back to Valorant, what has been your favorite moment or highlight in the VCT KR so far? Riot has also announced that the VCT Champions will be taking place in Berlin. What are your thoughts on that?
My favorite moment was probably the emergence of Hyeoni as a potential superstar Jett player. Like, we already have a lot of REALLY good Jetts in Korea, so having someone blow the doors off Nuturn like he did, right after they had gotten 3rd at Reykjavik was beyond impressive. It was just during the qualifying stages, and we had heard whispers Hyeoni was pretty good, but none of us expected him to just dominate NU as he did on Bind. Now he has even been picked up by Nuturn, so he will likely be playing for them in the APAC Last Chance Qualifiers coming up in the middle of October. He is definitely a player to watch out for.
As for Champions, I think going back to Berlin is fine. I would have liked somewhere else, but due to the ongoing pandemic, it makes sense to use Berlin again for the time being to hopefully make sure all the teams can get visas and such. I am definitely looking forward to the day we can have some Valorant LAN majors in Asia though!
Finishing off the interview, how would you describe the esports casting scene in terms of competitiveness, opportunities, and the like? Furthermore, do you have any suggestions on how those who aspire to walk in your footsteps should hone their skills?
Esports casting is insanely competitive, especially for new big titles, like Valorant. There are, also though, a lot of opportunities across all esports and various tiers of each title. Making the transition to being a full-time caster is scary, your career is constantly in flux, and you have no idea what each year will look like as you are independent, often signing contracts event to event. However, some people thrive on flux and change and, personally, I am one of them. Instability is, in itself, a kind of stability for me.
If you want to get into casting, first and foremost get good at public speaking. Join a club or program that focuses on that, like debate or forensics. Any kind of performing helps as well, whether it be music, theater, etc. Also, work on your voice. Learn how to project, how to use your diaphragm, even learning some singing techniques helps too. Lastly, focus on being the best you can be. The easiest and best way to get a job as a caster is to be good at your job.
Once again thank you for taking your time out to answer this interview. The floor is yours for any final things you’d like to say, shoutouts, etc.
First, thanks for having me for the interview! It was a pleasure to sit down and answer some questions with you! Secondly, if anyone wants to check out any of my casts, be sure to tune into VCT KR (and maybe some other Valorant events coming up in the future ;) ) or PUBG Esports events like PCS or PWS! Third, I do stream from time to time, and you can follow me on various social media, I use the handle @paperthinhere for all of it.
Featured Image courtesy of PUBG esports
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