Geo on medical scare motivating her to pursue esports

KarY 2021-04-29 12:58:57
  Geo "Geo" Collins was kind enough to sit down with Esports Heaven for an interview. She talks about her esports journey, overcoming a medical scare that inspired her to pursue a career in esports, current state of R6 competitive scene, her thoughts on working in a male dominated space and more. Hey Geo, thanks for sitting down for an interview with us. Let’s get right into it. Tell us a little bit about your background. I grew up just outside of London, England with my brother and living between my two parents’ houses. I was a pretty academic kid, and ever since I was barely out of toddlerhood I was working at fairly academically high levels for my age. My parents are really sporty people so my brother and I used to do a lot of sports as children, but he was always better than me. I was way better at creative stuff: drawing, writing, and eventually as a teenager I got really heavily into YouTube content creation. Went and did a degree in theoretical physics, and now I’m here. How did you get into gaming? When we were really young, my mum used to childmind other people’s kids because it meant she didn’t have to find childcare for us. It meant there were always a ton of kids in our house, and we used to spend hours and hours together playing PS1 and PS2 games. Lots of Tomb Raider II, Alone in the Dark, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Crazy Taxi etc. I also used to play games on the PC a bit as a kid, like Sim City 3000, Curse of Monkey Island, and, of course, the Sims. All those hours definitely planted the seed. What made you pursue esports broadcasting as a career option as opposed to a real life job? Let’s be honest, esports opportunities are extremely difficult to come by and extremely volatile at that in terms of stability. I actually had a very well-paying internship secured at a global financial company for business and finance, which I decided to launch into the sun and try to go into esports from scratch instead. This was in my final year of my Bachelor’s degree, where I’d had a big medical scare and, upon learning I was not going to die, decided to throw caution to the wind and aim for something risky that I knew I’d love. I’d done YouTube for years and was very used to being on camera, and for ages I’d liked the idea of working in video games. Esports broadcasting seemed like the absolute perfect route for me. At that point I didn’t care if the odds were stacked against me, I knew I was going to make it work. Oh dear, what kind of medical scare if you don’t mind me asking? After being diagnosed with epilepsy in 2017, I had to have a bunch of tests - MRIs, blood tests etc. It’s just to be sure that it wasn’t caused by something more nefarious. In one of my blood tests, they found some antibodies that shouldn’t be there, and as a result I had to be tested for something called Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis (and potentially cancerous tumours). You can Google it - the prognosis is awful. And the rate of false positives for the tests are ridiculously low. I had to have ultrasounds and a lumbar puncture and spent a number of months thinking I was on death’s door. It wasn’t a fun time.  You started out with casting for Overwatch and PUBG, and eventually settled down on Rainbow Six Siege as your preferred game to cast. What made you settle down on the latter as your game of choice? I actually first considered working in Siege back in early 2018 - way before I decided to pursue Overwatch. But I was really involved with the Overwatch community at the time and ended up there instead. For a long time I was struggling with the idea that Overwatch might not be the place for me (for a number of reasons), but I was scared to take the leap. Friends of mine in Siege had been encouraging me to come for months and months before I actually committed at the beginning of 2020. If I’m honest, I’d mostly just been scared that I didn’t know enough about the game. Then I just realized if I didn’t take the leap then I’d just be stuck wishing forever.  
Also read: Macmate interview on casting Valorant and CS:GO

What challenges did you encounter along the way in pursuing casting as a full-time career especially in R6? I was actually incredibly fortunate in a lot of the ways it worked out for me. When I first told my parents that this is what I was going to do, I fully intended to fund myself through my savings. But my dad didn’t want me eating through my savings, so he offered to fund my ‘salary’ for a while to facilitate my endeavour. It meant I could do it full-time right from the very start. From my first ever live cast, it took less than a month to be offered my first paid league, and a month after that to be signed to an agency. So I was very lucky. But I would say the challenges I faced were a lot more subtle. As a woman, I found there was a sort of expectation that I would do hosting more than casting. Hosting is hard work and it’s not a role to be underrated - but it’s not what I was there to do. And it would frustrate me that male friends of mine didn’t have this same problem. I was pretty resilient and stuck to my goals, and eventually that problem died out, and most people I’ve met in esports haven’t questioned my desire to cast at all.

(Image credit: Aaron Brown)

From your perspective, how difficult has it been to make your mark in a male dominated industry? Are things better now than they were, let’s say, 3 to 4 years back? What steps need to be taken in a bid to further improve the environment for everyone trying to make it into esports? I’ll be totally honest with my answer here: I came from doing a degree in a male-dominated subject, to walking into a job in a male-dominated industry. And at no point in either have I ever cared how many people I work with are women, and how many are men. What I care about is whether being a woman makes my experience different. It’s tiring, for example, when people automatically assume women are diversity hires, because they see men as the unquestioned default. But does it bother me if I’m the only woman on any one broadcast I’m working on? No. It’s important for women (and other minorities) to not be gatekept from industries or environments if they’re passionate and qualified. If I’m a woman who really wants to do something, that should be enough of a reason to pursue it, without any discriminatory hindrance. And honestly, it is nice to work in environments with all types of people in it. It’s quite bland and boring otherwise. But I remember in university seeing so many initiatives trying to encourage women to work in STEM, and I’d always think, ‘Why? Just ensure the ones who want to work in STEM have nothing stopping them. We don’t need to try and push the ones who don’t through the door.’ I feel the same about esports. I don’t think I should be seeing my career as a race to ‘make my mark in a male dominated industry’, because that means I’m evaluating my own performance by my gender, which is ridiculous. When I do my job, I want to evaluate myself as a caster, and ‘make my mark’ as such. The men don’t get asked how they plan to make their mark as men, so I have literally no interest in making my mark ‘as a woman’. As they say, tough times don’t last but tough people do. Any job in esports is mentally taxing owing to the less-than-ideal travel/event schedules, burnouts, etc. that indirectly leads to many health issues; physical and mental. As a fitness enthusiast, how do you deal with such pressure? In Stage 2 of the EU League I had a lot of stuff going on that meant I ended up really burnt out in life in general. Once the Stage was over, I took something like three months off of gaming. I didn’t make much content, hardly streamed, and didn’t touch Siege. I felt awful because I’m a chronic workaholic and I love feeling productive, but I knew I just needed the time away. I’m really glad I did it too, because when I came back, it was such a natural feeling of enthusiasm and being ready to get into it again. Exercise can definitely help. It’s a shame the gyms have been shut for a year, because that’s always been huge for me. The way it makes your mind feel refreshed can’t be understated, and it’s also a great feeling like you’re doing something good for your body. I think a lot of esports people would likely agree the gym can be a godsend. How do you value Rainbow Six Siege as an esports as compared to the behemoth Counter Strike: Global Offensive or the new born baby in Valorant? For a novice like myself, I find it incredibly difficult to get a grasp on the game and it also doesn’t seem too user-friendly from my perspective. Anyway, what makes R6 so special and what would you say to make me change my mind to finally give the game a shot? Rainbow Six is an interesting one because its community is so inherently passionate. That’s not to say others aren’t, but Siege first came on the market riddled with bugs, so it meant the people who loved it were true enthusiasts who grew very protective over their game that others had written off. Over time, the game has massively improved and obviously grown significantly too. It’s definitely one you need to put some time into - it has a steep learning curve that can make it alienating for new viewers or players who are maybe more used to the more accessible CS:GO.  For me, I think the reason Rainbow Six is so good is because of the uniqueness of the strategy required. Every FPS has its own flavour of strategy and how to implement it, but Siege is the only game where you’ll find map destructibility as an inherent mechanic to the way attacks and defenses are played. If games were mathematical functions, Siege would be the hyperbolic sine: the smallest input can have the most monumental effects. You choose to open this one wall? Or even just a hole in a wall? Or you reinforce off another wall? Or you use one piece of utility on X instead of Y? The entire outcome of the game changes. Your options for your attack or defense change in an instant. Coordination and communication are paramount, and then you still need to be able to shoot straight. To me, Siege is the perfect game for someone who wants to explore a multitude of layers for an outcome, but also just enjoys the pew pew. Covid has acted as a deterrent in the “LAN” event category across the globe and many games have been affected including the Rainbow Six Siege World Cup. That must certainly be a bummer, ain’t it? Which country are you rooting for when it eventually resumes in 2022? I mean, obviously the UK! I still have the 2017, 2018 and 2019 UK jerseys from the Overwatch World Cup, so it would be wrong for me to not continue that support in Siege. But, as everyone knows, I am a huge fan of the Russian teams in Siege. So maybe I’ll keep a soft spot of support for Team Russia too. Speaking of which, which team/region is currently the strongest in your opinion and why? Has that got to do anything with the current meta, if any? Oh no, whatever I say here I will be executed by someone. Personally, I think NA is probably stronger from a strategic perspective - but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s guaranteed to win. I think this is the kicker when people argue about NA vs EU: we haven’t seen those regions face one another since February 2020; there is literally no way to know whose method will work better. I think you could take the top teams from all four major regions and they’d all give each other a run for their money. It’s much easier to directly compare teams with the same playstyle than it is to compare regions who approach the game differently. We simply won’t know who’s better until they face one another in person. While we are on the topic, Covid has affected employment opportunities worldwide especially esports where the absence of LAN has hurt people involved. (such as less no. of people being employed, absence of on-site hosting, etc.) Has it been difficult for you as well? For me it’s been okay because my contract with the EU League was a year-long, and my contract with LATAM is also long-term. As much as I miss LANs and want to be working them ASAP, I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve also been pretty secure in my work. As much as it isn’t particularly fun, commentating is absolutely possible to do from home. So luckily that’s been mostly okay. What is your personal goal going into 2021 in terms of your career? Which event are you most eager to cast, provided you get the chance? I’m casting LATAM right now and I want to give it as much as I’ve got. I’ve never watched much LATAM at all in the past so it’s a really interesting learning curve for me to get my claws into. I’m really passionate about North American Siege too, so I’m trying to focus my content predominantly around those two regions now. I’d obviously love to cast SI eventually but I have no expectations on that front. To cast any Major at LAN would be amazing. But I’ve never really liked setting goals for specific events, because failing that goal isn’t necessarily a comment on your ability (or lack thereof). I just want to keep improving my casting, making content, and being as involved with the Siege community as I can. Events will come when they come.  Alright Geo, that’s a wrap. Anything you’d like to say before we sign off? Thank you everyone who’s been so sweet and encouraging and wonderful to me since I’ve been in Siege! You’re the people who make me all the more excited to go to work each day.
You can follow me @Karyb4u. Kindly support us by following Esports Heaven on Twitter and keep tabs on our website for more interesting content. Featured image: Seb Stangel/Way of Live

Latest Poll

first poll

Which region is most likely to dominate Worlds this year?