Brendan "Valdez" Valdes is one of the newest StarCraft II casters in Korea. I wanted to learn a little bit more about the man that commentates one of StarCraft II's most prestigious leagues, and he was kind enough to spare me some time for an interview!
Brendan Valdez in Korea
I'd like to start by getting to know you a little bit. Can you tell us how you got into eSports, what was the first game you followed, and do you keep up to date with it?
I first got into esports when my brother told me about the SC2 beta, and how there was a whole competitive scene behind Brood War especially in Korea. Due to my competitive nature soon after I got into SC2 I started following the competitive scene, even trying my hand at a couple of LANs. Yes I do still keep in touch with the scene ;)
When did you first come to Korea? Did you come over for a specific job or did you get on a plane and simply hope to make it in eSports?
I first came to Korea when I was lucky enough to win a trip from a raffle. Azubu was inviting 5 lucky entrees to Korea for an all expense paid trip for 5 days and VIP seats to the Azubu/OGN Champions Season 1 Finals for League of Legends. Originally I had no plans to stay in Korea past those 5 days, but after extending my flight multiple times and convincing Azubu to take me into their company I decided I was going to try to stay here as long as possible. I got my break into eSports when they needed a fill-in for Season 2 at OGN, and I gladly accepted the offer.
What has living in Korea as a North American been like for you?
It has been extremely different from my life in New York City. Coming to Korea marked the first time I had been outside of North America. It was definitely tough getting used to the new diet and culture, and it was my first time being a minority in any country. Even so, my experience here has been quite comfortable overall outside of the occasional inconvenience, and I would definitely recommend any fan of eSports to make at least one trip Korea, short or long.
The first time I ever saw you cast anything was World of Tanks on GomTV with Tasteless. How far do you think you've come since then? What have you done to improve your casting in general as well as in specific games?
I have definitely come a long way since then, but I still feel like there is much more work to be done. You can never be satisfied if you want to continue improving haha. From a newer broadcaster's perspective I feel like the most important thing I've done to improve my casting has been to focus on my overall technique rather than my specific knowledge of a game. Of course you have to know what you're talking about when it comes to a game like StarCraft, but a good portion of what makes a broadcast enjoyable for the viewers is having good chemistry with your co-caster, improving your voice technique etc. A lot more goes into broadcasting than meets the eye.
So you came from a MOBA background at OGN. Can you tell us what transitioning to StarCraft was like, what did you do to prepare for your first season of Proleague? What was it like switching to StarCraft in an era when many players were switching away from StarCraft?
Valdez commentating StarCraft II at the Nexon Arena
Transitioning to StarCraft was not too difficult for me. I had clocked numerous hours into the game, reaching high masters for multiple seasons before switching games. The biggest thing I had to prepare for when it came to Proleague was learning all the players and improving my casting as I was still a relatively new broadcaster at the time. I had no qualms switching to SC2 at that time; I lived in the land of StarCraft and I was happy to join the club!
What were your previous experiences with StarCraft? When you first came over to Proleague how much of your knowledge was from earlier time you'd spent with StarCraft versus preparing in advance of Proleague.
I think I answered most of this in the last question, but most of my actual RTS knowledge came from when I played the game heavily. Most of what I had to study before Proleague came down to the new meta and learning all the teams and players.
So we've seen you casting with a lot of different co-casters. I'm curious how your casting changes when you're paired with former pro like mOOnGLaDe as opposed to someone like Wolf. Do you feel you take on a different role, and have different objectives depending on your co-caster?
Valdez seen here co-casting with Wolf
My casting definitely changes especially when it comes to comparing casting with mOOnGLaDe or Wolf. With Wolf since we both don't have an extremely deep knowledge of SC2 we spend most of the broadcast bouncing ideas off of each other and in general try to be very high energy and "hypey" whereas with mOOnGLaDe we take on the more traditional broadcasting roles of host/play-by-play and analyst. Overall we've all had a lot of experience casting with each other, but as with any casting duo it takes a bunch of time to truly get it down.
When you're preparing for your casts how do you split your time? How important is playing to you, versus watching VODs or studying the match histories of the players that are going up against each other.
I spend most of my time examining the match histories and recent results against the race of the player's opponent, as well as rewatching any VODs of games I can't remember or didn't catch. The big upside to living in Korea and casting two of the major SC2 leagues here is that if I'm not casting it I will almost always watch it live. It is extremely easy to keep in touch with the playstyles and match-ups of the players playing on any given day. I play the game in order to keep in touch with the meta, and also because I straight up enjoy the game.
Is there anyone Korean or otherwise outside the KeSPA system that you'd like to see participating in Proleague as a mercenary?
The guy that immediately came to mind when I read this question was Parting. For such a strong player it's a huge shame that he's been banned from playing in Proleague. As for foreigners, I can't think of many players who could come over and be successful in Proleague against the caliber of players Korea has to offer. Maybe Snute?
Is there anyone in particular you take inspiration with in terms of commentary? If so what do you look to emulate about them?
Being a big hockey player and fan a lot of my inspiration for broadcasting in general comes from Sam Rosen, a play-by-play caster for New York Rangers games on MSG. You can never watch this guy without being excited even if you know nothing about hockey or even sports in general. He brings the kind of energy unique to only a few in the business, and I strive to be close to as good as him some day.
Are you currently casting any games besides StarCraft? If so what's your favorite non-StarCraft game to cast?
I'm currently only casting SC2, but I also very much enjoy casting MOBA games such as Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends.
As a caster living in Korea you have the privilege of having your finger on the pulse of Korean eSports. Is there any game you feel is on the rise in Korea? What should we in the west be looking out for?
Heroes of the Storm is already becoming huge not only in Korea but in all of Asia. Once the big Heroes leagues begin, this game definitely can challenge any of the other big games for the top spot.
Do you have anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Many eSports fans, SC2 fans especially, have a tendency to become elitists for their particular game due to their overwhelming love of the game. This often time leads to people shunning and even despising other games purely because they feel like the popularity of the new game will kill their game. I encourage everyone not to feel threatened, but to simply spread the love. NEVER inhibit yourself to playing only one game; rather enjoy all games and the idea of being a gamer. If you truly want your game to grow then show everyone why you are so passionate about the game in the first place. Spreading hatred and being angry is an easy way to push people away.
Do you have any shout outs for us? Where can we find your stream and social media?
Thank you so much for the interview! It was a pleasure :)
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