Capitalist: “Missing last year’s Epicenter and missing main event for TI were the biggest blows and really reinvigorated my work ethic for the TI8 season”

KarY 2018-07-17 06:34:51
Today, we interview Austin "Capitalist" Walsh -- former in-house caster for joinDOTA, a person who has been a staple name in the Dota 2 community for a long time, a man with many talents who has diversified himself not only as a caster but also as a panelist, a host as well as an interviewer. He is well known for his duet casting with William "Blitz" Lee and has been a constant presence at TI's and other established events. In this interview, Capitalist talks about the inaugural DPC season and his views on how Kuroky, Solo, FY and Puppey have showcased their strength as leaders, the struggles he faced as a free agent post his departure from joinDOTA and how he diversified himself into other roles due to Blitz taking up the coaching role, and most importantly his opinion on the topic of new casters trying to break out in Dota 2. Greetings Austin. it has been an eventful year for you and the Dota 2 scene in general. We've seen many teams go high and dry, back to back events, and new breakouts. Kindly sum up the inaugural DPC season for us in brief. I think most of the season was about establishing the dominance of VP & Liquid. It really feels like the first year in recent memory where the top 3 of the tournament will be the teams everyone expects. In fact, the TI qualifiers ended up running that way as well, where every single team expected to qualify did, with the exception of Team Serenity. This DPC season has really showcased the strength of good captaining in Solo, Kuroky, FY and Puppey. The strength of character and strategic value these members bring to their respective teams are essential for the long-term success they’ve found this year. How do you view the new DPC season as compared to the old one? Tell us what you like and dislike as well as what could have been done better? It’s pretty clear that Valve is trying to exert less control over the Dota system and I think that’s probably for the best. People will naturally gripe and compare these DPC tournaments to the old Valve Majors but I think that’s a bit unfair as no TO ever has the same power and money that a developer can bring to a tournament. However, it did feel a bit like the Wild West of Majors and Minors due to the lack of both uniformity among tournament formats and a more scrupulous vetting process of tournament organizers. That said, it seems clear the next season will be a bit better protected. Also, I believe the Minor into Major system that Valve has announced for the next year will set better pacing for the year, establish flowing storylines and denote definitive differences between Minors and Majors. BTS Summit 9 will be the last event held before ti8. In your opinion, in what mindset will the attending teams come to this event in terms of competing or preparation? Practice, practice, practice. I’m going to watch the tournament for hero metas and nothing more. You left joinDOTA almost a year ago and have been a free agent since then. You've been a busy man by being part of almost every DPC event and that's finally coming to a halt after a tedious year. Tell us about the transition from being an in-house caster for jD to casting events across the globe. I didn’t know what I was going to do after leaving jD, but I did know that for my career and my own happiness, I needed to leave the project. At the time, I had no idea if BTS or ESL or anyone else would be interested in hiring me full time but I did know that my career and my personal growth would stagnate if I didn’t take risks. It was an incredibly stressful time for me, for various reasons. Quitting my job, moving internationally, relationship stresses, financial costs of losing a salary & moving, etc. It makes my recent move down to California look like a cakewalk by comparison. Shortly after leaving jD, you made a post outlining a set of points that you put in front of yourself to achieve and then come to a decision about your career in this industry. If my memory serves right, you gave yourself one year's time and that time is nearly around the corner. Where do you presently stand on this topic? Actually that year ended last year after TI7. I won’t try and hide the fact that that whole season was a bit of a disaster. I wasn’t invited to as many tournaments due to Blitz returning to coaching and no longer having a casting duo to entice TO’s. Instead, I had to spend most of that year doing panel work and kind of reinventing myself as a panelist to get hired to events. Missing last year’s Epicenter and missing the main event for TI were the biggest blows and really reinvigorated my work ethic for the TI8 season. Despite the year’s failures however, I did learn that even in a bad year, I was still able to do well enough to keep myself satisfied. It cemented my desire to continue working in Dota for as long as I’m able to and that happiness I derive from doing what I love. While Blitz coming back for this season certainly helped my brand and getting invited to tournaments again, I actually believe that the work I put in last year laid the groundwork for this season’s success. I was able to get an invite from almost every tournament I would’ve wanted to attend and said yes to all of them excluding two. A large part of that was due to the appeal of hiring someone who could both panel and cast at a tier 1 level.

(Dynamic duo: Capitalist and Blitz) My apologies for not particularly paying attention to the timeline. Moving on, you're one of the diverse personalities in esports. A commentator, a host, an analyst and an interviewer - you know it all. Tell the community the basic difference about these roles and what can one do to be better at it if they decide to make a go at it? So a play-by-play commentator is there to call the action and tell the story of the game. This means not only accurately hyping the moments that deserve hype but also crafting narratives that give the players’ successes or failures greater meaning and context than the narrowness of one action or one game would allow. A host is a greater storyteller, who weaves the individual stories of each team or even each player into an epic narrative that spans the whole tournament. Another role of the host is to smooth out the interactions of the panel while setting up each panelist for success. Sometimes this means setting up a panelist for a joke, other times it means giving an analyst the space to break down the points they need to. Different panelists have different strengths and weaknesses and your job as the host is to steer the discussion and direct that atmosphere of each panel to fit your panelists. The touch you have on the panel and the tournament’s narrative is subtle, yet constant. An interviewer is someone who can bring out the personality of the players and set them up to tell the stories they want to tell. You don’t want deep analysis from your interviewer. Instead, you want him to be a conduit through which we can access and televise the emotions of the victors, and sometimes the losers as well. An analyst is a guy who analyzes. Thanks for talking about it in detail. Let's talk about the new DPC season announced by Valve. From a pure casting point of view, the halved number of DPC events do not help new or aspiring casters in anyway as opposed to the inaugural season where chances were plenty for new talents to successfully break out into the scene. Even if we assume the number of third party tournaments will be significantly higher, how can we make sure the established talents aren't the only ones to be given preference? How can the scene develop if there is dearth in giving new talents a chance except certain events that are willing to take the risk? This is probably the segment that will make me sound like an asshole. After all, it’s in my own best interests to make sure established talent aka Blitz and myself, continue to get as many job offers as possible. That said, I highly recommend any new casters to try their luck at another game. I wrote a giant essay just now about esports lifespans and such, but cut it out to simply say that Dota has reached a peak as an esport. There is no shame in that. The talent pool has reached capacity. So, if Dota’s support system will only grow smaller from here, and the talent pool is full, where do newer talent expect to fit in? That answer to that is that you must be able to provide something unique and replace someone already in the scene. Not only do you have to be better than them, you have to demonstrate such a superior product that it will outshine people who have spent years growing a fanbase. Fortunately for some, LD and Merlini retiring opened a couple slots, but those slots are likely to be taken by established talent who previously didn’t quite make the cut. Hell, I’m hoping them retiring will secure me a slot at a TI main event. Just look at Trent. Trent is someone who’s grinded, studying thousands of games, has casted tons of tier 2 or 3 games. He’s funny, smart, quick-witted, charismatic, good looking and has a pleasant disposition. He’s been in the scene for years. He still isn’t “tier 1” talent, though he should be imo. (Tier 1 in this context means being essential enough to be invited to 50-75% of the year’s events). How is someone new expected to be able compete with that? In fact, why should they be able to? Surely, Trent has earned every single invite he gets in the future and I think there are very few people who would argue that someone newer should be invited instead. As long as current talent continue to meet or exceed the bar they set previously, and don’t decline in quality, there’s little reason to take their jobs away to subsidize another person. It’s not like working only 2 or 3 events secures someone financially for the year. That’s why I always try and tell new talent to only cast Dota if it’s purely for their own pleasure and not in hopes of securing a career commentating. The road to becoming a full-time commentator was already narrow years ago when I was trying to make it, and it’s only gotten harder and narrower since. Nowadays, you have to be very talented, work hard and even get lucky for potentially years just to have a chance. That answer is as honest as it gets and I think it sheds a good amount of light on things that most are unaware of. However, let's move on to the next topic. The pinnacle event -- The International 2018 -- is fast approaching and this time its going to be held in Vancouver, Canada. How excited are you about the change in venue and the reception the event will receive? Furthermore, what do you expect from this TI? Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m well aware of what a great city Vancouver is, and it’s a great replacement to Seattle. You appear to be moving to a new place, at least that is what i deduce from our talks earlier. Are you shifting? I moved to Los Angeles for a couple of reasons. First, was that I’ve been living with my mom renovating a house for the last two years. With the house almost finished and school done for my girlfriend, it was time to get our own place again. She’s trained in special effects and wants to get into the industry so we moved near Hollywood so she has that opportunity. A lot of my friends live in LA, so it’ll be nice to have a social life outside of esports events. There’s even a few esports companies like ESL and BTS that I might get the occasional side gig as a result of being so close. This will be the first year that I try and diversify my talents into other projects as well as another run at some content creation. That concludes this interview. Thank you. Anything you'd like to say? I routinely get people who come up to me at events and tell me about how they followed me when I was at joinDOTA, or when I was casting with Toby freelance or even going farther back to the early days of streaming or casting HoN. I will forever be eternally grateful to every one of my fans who have supported me in this journey.
Feature image credits: ESL Image credits: joinDOTA If you like my work, follow me on Twitter -- KarY.

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