Esports Heaven caught up with Eri Neeman, the charismatic host at ESL events as well as the creative mind behind the famed Macho Man contest that grabbed the eyeballs of our community.
In this interview, Eri speaks of a variety of topics such as his humble beginnings, his foray into Dota 2, his suggestions to newcomers willing to take the plunge in the industry, macho man contest as well as how fitness is much needed in today's world.
Take a read!
Hi Eri. Kindly introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, my name is Eri Neeman. I'm a Host. I love to entertain people and I love memes. :)
Who introduced you to the world of gaming? Which games did you first play or rather got you addicted to this industry?
The very first time I played a game was a Father's friend of mine. It was double dragon on the Famicom. I was always into gaming. I actually had a show on it here in the Philippines called MOG TV. It had a similar format as Attack of the Show or X Play if you remember those shows. :)
My very first intro to esports was back in 2013 for this event called MSi Beat it organised by Mineski Events. This was the first time I saw competitive Dota and casting live.
One thing I fondly remember was instantly connecting to the audience. I believe anyone who grew up playing games can connect easily. That was most likely the case for this event.
I had a great time hosting it and seeing professional players come in as a special guest and compete with the local community was nice to see. Everything built up and followed after that. Always thankful to Mineski (now MET Events) for bringing me into this industry. :)
When did you decide to pursue esports as a way of career? I'm pretty sure you must have had other jobs before you decide to go full in!
I am actually very active in two industries. Esports and Life Events (Socials). Both are industries I love and enjoy.
I have been a Host for about 12 years. I decided to really go all in on hosting and not anything else (I used to do TV, Acting and Radio) 3 to 4 years ago. Like full on. Nothing else. Just a Host. I believed I needed focus at that time to really get to a certain level.
Then here we are. It worked out. :)
I vividly remember the Macho Man contest at MSI Beat IT 2013. If I'm not mistaken, that was your first venture in Dota 2? Were you the one who came up with that idea?
Hahaha, you're right. That was where it was born. I actually came up with that idea on the spot in that event. We needed to kill some time and I thought that would be a fun thing to do. It was. Hahaha. I still remember how the crowd responded. Good times.
Macho Man contest was well received and rightly so was a recurring theme in the next few tournaments. How did you feel that this particular contest just exploded in terms of entertainment and popularity?
I tell you now bro. I never thought it would have blown up the way it did. It blew my mind. After it hit it's highest point at ESL One Manila back in 2016 I thought that was it. Then I get a call from ESL that they want to continue the game for ESL One Frankfurt 2016 just a few months after.
It had a trailer and all. In front of thousands of people at the Commerzbank Arena. That was simply a wow moment for me. Esports and Dota has brought me all over the world. I would have never thought of it. I'm very grateful. :)
According to Liquipedia, you weren't familiar with DotA or Dota 2 as you've never played the game before. Yet you decided to venture into hosting a Dota 2 tournament. How difficult was it to get a grasp of the game, the community, etc when you practically knew nothing about the game? What did you do to overcome such a hurdle?
Well first thing I wanted to do was be upfront about it.I remember the first thing I said at the very beginning of hosting the GMPGL back in 2013, "Hey guys, I don't play Dota, but I'll school you in Street Fighter 4.
"Why did I do that? I wanted to be open and honest.
A Host is about connecting with the audience. If I pretended to know about the game, then that would get in the way of me connecting with them as that would be dishonest.
Plus, I feel the community would have been more annoyed with someone pretending to know about their game than someone who chose to be honest to them. I personally would have been if I were a fan of the game.
Just be honest. Don't pretend. You can always learn about the game as you go along. That's a fun journey in itself. In terms of overcoming it, I knew I was being hired for my skills as a host. I may have no years in playing Dota, but I have years of experience as a host and as an entertainer. That was what I was bringing into the table.
There is this longstanding discussion in the industry over the years. Just because you love games, doesn't mean you'll get a job in the esports/gaming industry.
Your love and passion for something doesn't get you the job. Skills do. You get hired for a particular skill.
If an interviewer asks you, "Why should we hire you?" You say, "I love gaming and esports. To the core of my bones I do."
That won't get you the job. The collective love of something builds community, but collective skills is what builds an industry.
We have the love and passion. So much of it. It's wonderful. But to continue to build this industry forward, we need that same group of passionate people to have a particular set of skills.I continue to improve my skills as a host and entertainer.
For as long as I am wanted, I am grateful and happy to host for the Dota community and for esports in general. I have played Dota. It's a f***ing hard game. Hahaha. But I know more about it now than I did years ago. I can follow the games now compared to before.
But I don't think I would have gotten here if I didn't have my skills as a Host.
Later on, you were recruited to host ESL One Manila in 2016. How did you end up landing this gig?
Mineski suggested I be a Host. ESL gave me a shot. I will always be grateful to Mineski for that. That opened so many doors. Thank you Roro and Lon for that opportunity.
I'm also very thankful to ESL for giving me a shot. I've had the pleasure of working with them from then till the present and have built friendships with the wonderful people there.
Thankfully you've become a staple in the hosting category at ESL One events following your success at ESL One Manila and Frankfurt 2016. To what or whom do you attribute this success?
Years of grinding and just trying to get good as a Host and entertainer. I was hosting since I was 17. I did radio, acting, stand-up comedy, comedic writing and improv over the years. All have helped in being the kind of performer and entertainer I am now.
I was ready to take on an opportunity because I paid my dues to get to a particular level. There are no shortcuts. You have to get the time in. You simply can't get experience. That takes years.
Even if you manage to take advantage of opportunity by being at the right place at the right time and managed to get into an industry, how will you sustain it? You have to constantly deliver. If you don't, then they'll get someone who can.
I worked hard. Paid my dues. I failed for years and pushed on. That's why I'm here. I'm so grateful. It's incredibly fulfilling.
This question might appear simple but is tricky in nature. Which events do you like hosting the most? ESL, Manila Masters, MPGL or Galaxy Battles II?
I enjoy hosting events. Period. :)
I love hosting for and entertaining people. All those events were extremely memorable and had their highlights that I'll always remember.
GMPGL is where the global Dota community got an idea of how the Philippine scene was. That pushed the industry forward. I had a great time doing all the segments for that event. I still remember the laughs and reactions of the crowd. :)
ESL One Manila was our first international tournament. That was an extremely big deal for our country. Everyone felt the love of the Philippine community those days. It put us on the map. The Manila Major followed after that. Then that's when it was echoed that Filipinos are the best fans in Dota. That was wonderful.
The Macho Man and all the fun moments in between will be something I'd always remember. I worked with an international production. Saw how they did it. So how international talent did it. It was a great thing to experience.
Manila Masters was the first big event with international teams where it was all majorly produced by local production Mineski. To be able to scale an event of that magnitude was a huge step forward for us in the industry.
The Battle of the Rages and all the other segments were a hit. Except for "The Hype Off' That could have been so much better. That was the most time I worked on producing segments. Two months leading up to the event. I asked Roro (Mineski CEO) if I can have a team to put together segments/content for the event. He gave me a shot and his trust. We delivered. That was awesome.
Galaxy Battles 2 had so much going against it and so many challenges. But the team decided to push on and we managed to turn it around and end on a high note.
We got to meme the Shanghai Major and they were open to poke fun at themselves. I remember some guys having tears after all of that. We all gave each other hugs. Those were the bright moments I remember from what was suppose to be a dark dot in the Philippine esports industry. We pushed on and never gave up.
I love events. All events are unique with special moments to remember. :)
What are your views on the five teams that pulled out of ESL One Mumbai scheduled to begin next week?
It is what it is. But I'd rather focus on the eight teams that are flying in and set to give their best for the Indian fans.
The talent as well (myself included) are extremely excited to experience the passion of the esports community which we've heard so much about.
Lets move on to hosting. Can you give some tips to other aspiring talents trying out to become hosts?
You have to get good. First and foremost. If you aren't good enough, then people who are will get the job over you. Look at the best in the industry and make it a goal to get to that level. That would give you the highest chances of success.
I took up improv and stand-up comedy to get particularly good as a host. I attribute those two things for my particular style as a host.
But nothing beats stage time. Nothing. You need experience. You need to be comfortable onstage. When you are comfortable that's when you can start to be authentic.
The best ones for me are the most authentic talents. In all aspects of entertainment. You connect to those who are authentic. Not to those who are fake or are trying to be someone they are not.
Once you are good enough. That's when you start putting yourself out there. Build a talent profile. Build a website. Build a talent reel. Show those that provide jobs why they should hire you. Make it easy for them to see your work. Reach out to organizers and producers. Have a professional profile and send it to them.
It's not enough to be the best anymore in this world. People are constantly putting themselves out there. You have to put yourself out there. Even if you are the best, but if no one knows about you, how will you get hired?
Get good. Be professional. Put yourself out there.
Work hard. Work smart. Love and enjoy what you do because when you fail (and you will) it's that love and passion that will drive you to get up and push forward.
Surround yourself with good and positive people. Do it one day at a time. Embrace failure. It won't happen overnight. But do all of that and be honest with yourself and the people around you, you will get there. :)
Judging by your Twitter posts, you've become a fitness freak, hitting the gym regularly and maintaining your health. This is one area the general gamer seems to neglect. How important is health for gaming according to you?
It's so important. Before when I was overweight (230lbs at my heaviest) I was getting sick most of the time. My knees and back started hurting more. I was hyper-acidic. I remember breathing heavy after moving around the stage after a certain while for events. It got in the way of doing my job properly.
I have a family now. I have a wonderful life. I want to live long. So I decided to get healthy. I feel great now. I feel strong. It's one of the best decisions I've made for myself.
Gaming is sedentary but I'm happy to see Pros incorporating fitness to their training. It does make a difference. Dexterity, mental toughness, reaction times, hand eye coordination, you'd be able to perform better within those aspects if you were healthy and physically fit.
It doesn't necessarily guarantee a win, but it will give you a competitive edge.
I believe over the years that stereotype of gamers not being fit will fade. It already has. Gamers are getting extremely fit. More now than how it was years ago. The more mainstream we get, the more responsible I believe we will be in that regard.
Did you get a chance to beat Redeye at pool/snookers yet?
Sigh... not yet. We just haven't had the time to do it. It's about the show and the work when we do events. So we really need to allot extra time to be able to have that match. We will definitely have it though. :)
Eri isn't your real first name, is it? Tell us your real name : )
Ari is my real name. It means reproductive organs here in the Philippines. That's why I changed it to Eri. Highschool was hard. Hahahaha...ha...haha..ha (cries in a corner)
Alright. That's a wrap. Anything you'd like to say before we sign off?
To the Dota community, thank you so much for taking me in and accepting me. You've given me wonderful experiences I will always remember. I am so grateful for that. I am here and will be happy to give my best to entertain everyone for as long as you want me. :)
If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.
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Headline image courtesy: ESL