A unique journey from a stable "normal" career into one of the most brilliant minds in League of Legends, Kelsey Moser has had quite the unique journey. She's a veteran of the field, and has explored a plethora of avenues, including coaching, casting, talkshows, and writing, boasting one of the greatest work ethics in the space.
This week, she sat down with Esports Heaven to discuss said journey, how she goes about studying the game, reflecting on old projects, being particularly bad at sleeping, and more.
A lot of people know you for your plethora of credentials in esports; however, you had a stable career prior to diving in. Please divulge into that.
In terms of a "normal" career, I worked for the IMF in the tax department prior to moving to Chicago and working at Morningstar as a data analyst in the ETF space. So a lot of numbers and economics.
How has working in esports changed from when you started to now?
There are ways in which it was different. Most time I was kind of my own, and I did stuff as I could add to it. But since I generally just wanted to do everything I could, I kept pretty busy following the game, working on small news, etc. I think, for example, it was a lot easier to differentiate yourself as a new content creator. But I still think it's possible to get noticed for doing something no one else is doing and producing a good product.
In terms of now, I still give as much effort as I can into my work, and it's kind of crazy to say that my program at 100 Thieves Academy is pretty autonomous and self run within the organization -- they trust me to do what I think is best to help the Academy players, and that's pretty cool. In that way, I think a lot of the scene hasn't changed much. You have to be able to make your own space in a lot of ways still.
You’ve tackled a lot of different tasks in esports such as data entry, article writing, coaching, casting (LPLen broadcast) and being a talk show co-host. Is there any particular area you’d consider your favorite up to now? Something you miss doing, perhaps?
Coaching is probably my favorite so far, but I definitely miss just talking about the game with a bunch of different people in the scene and building off the larger conversation. But it's really rewarding to me to work with players and see them improve over time.
Speaking of coaching, you've been in different roles that to the layman, may kind of fall under the umbrella term of "coaching". For instance, you've been an analyst, an assistant coach, and a head coach. These are roles that a lot of fans mix-up or see interchangeably. Can you help highlight some key differences in these roles offered in your experience?
Yeah for sure. I think a lot of different roles are in thinking about your "audience" or ways to present information. I think first is a content analyst or pundit. Focus is breaking down the game to people who don't really know much about the game or just pursue it casually.
So that will be different from being an analyst for a pro team. My initial analyst work was about condensing info in team scouting or about new picks, etc in a way that was easy to digest for coaches to present to players or work into a draft plan. Initially as an analyst, my interaction with players was kind of limited, but that won't always be the case since some analysts will deliver presentations to the players themselves. But I think one of the most underrated analyst skills is presentation. Powerpoint, Excel skills, graphic design can all be surprisingly useful and something you won't think about. Generally the idea of being able to condense a lot of data and info accessing from PBE or from VOD watching, etc, is pretty true to what being an analyst is about, but I would say the layman probably doesn't think about presentation skills as much.
As for Assistant Coach and Head Coach, most of that work was in 1 on 1s with some of the players. I think an Assistant Coach is often kind of just adding value to whatever the Head Coach brings, though. In my case, it was more analyst work, stepping in to notice things and add extra notes and talk to specific players when the focus of the Head Coach was in leading the whole team.
As a Head Coach, I don't really have an assistant in academy, but some other coaches have come in to work on individual goals for the players, which is pretty useful. By myself, I try to keep on top of everything, but I think Head Coach should be more concerned with the overall pulse of the team in terms of how they can play together in game, but also sort of the vibes from the players and making sure conflict is addressed. Be able to fill in any gaps, etc.
Related: 100T PapaSmithy on the Caster/Pundit Criticisms : “Coming onto the team side, I speak to a lot of people on the team side that don’t like casters because their job security or the reality of what they’re doing was [secondary] to the easy to understand criticism of pundits”
The importance of presentation, or how you broadcast data to your target audience is something I'd definitely say is overlooked. Let's talk about acquiring that information.Now, Whether you were primarily writing, analyzing, or coaching, you were always one to watch a lot of VODs. To the layman, this may seem as simple as “watching the games.” To actually efficiently study the game, however, we both know the process is a lot more “interactive”, if you will. Describe the process of studying VODs with some depth.
So it depends on what my goal is in watching the VOD. Usually I'll have some kind of purpose in what I'm watching. When I did a lot of content, it was usually in studying trends for a team so I could write about them. So taking notes on patterns or specific set plays I saw them repeat.
This is similar to watching VODs as an opponent scout or analyst, but there's more depth to it in noting ward placements, jungle paths, so you can spend hours and hours on a VOD in that sense. As a coach, I'm more looking at what other teams are doing with certain champions or how they're executing certain concepts (RH swaps, etc) so that I can help my team think about something in a different way than they would have before. Sometimes that means I'm watching VODs just in case there's something "interesting," which I do with most live games.
If there's something after the fact, I'll rewatch and take down time stamps or try to think of ways to present interesting concepts/go over them with players. If there's a really good team anywhere, I think it's usually important for staff to try to understand what that team is doing well, because a lot of it is usually in fundamentals of some kind.
A few years ago, it’d probably have been a no-brainer for people to study Korea to study the optimal way to play League of Legends. Obviously, times have changed and it’s a little more complicated than that. Do you study particular regions for particular styles of play, or maybe just the best teams in each region? Explain.
In terms of the concept I said before, I think it's important to have your own idea of why every top team in the four major regions is "good." So what, fundamentally, are they doing that's useful. Regardless of whether or not your team is already doing it or working on it. I have always tried to watch as much as possible and tried to study different things even if the teams are in last place somewhere. If there's something interesting in Pick Ban, or I notice something they're doing (right or wrong) when I watch them live, it can be useful.
Diving in a bit more personally -- you have some of the greatest work ethic I’ve encountered in the business. You mentioned to me in the past that you partially attribute this to sleeping 4 hours or less a night. Has that changed? Are you still actually alive? Are you okay?!
Lol, I am older so I sleep a bit more, but still try to be awake as much as I can. Honestly I think it's kind of more important for me to be sharp and alert as a coach, so I weigh that a bit in managing my time. But still can pull out the 2 hour nights if needed for whatever reason.
LPLen VOD, a project which Kelsey was a big part of.
This is going to be a bit of an overloaded question. I’d like to talk a little bit more about the LPLen broadcast, LPL, and the Chinese secondary leagues in general. We had quite the team for English LPL coverage back in the day, including yourself. Active still in esports aside from me and yourself are Froskurinn, Raz, Piratechnics (as a freelancer), and Emily Rand.Eventually, everyone slowly departed from covering Chinese LoL, as Riot’s official broadcast took over. Do you think the current LPL coverage is sufficient? Is there anything you’d change? Lastly, if other opportunities didn’t spark for yourself, do you think you’d still be covering it to this day?
Yeah it's honestly kind of weird that everyone left. From my perspective, I always make time for LPL, and that's always the region that made me love pro LoL the most. I can't speak a lot on current coverage since I don't watch casting as much, but I think everyone kind of goes to LPL as a caster bootcamp. That's okay, honestly, LCK will probably always have a broader English audience, and there are some really talented casters who started covering LPL in English. There are some really talented casters now who improve every week, and that's kind of exciting to follow too.
She later added, “I always kind of think that one day I will go back to LPL in some capacity. Just right now I'm really focused on my goals in NA as a region.”
That is a perfect segway into my next question then: What is your "end-goal" in this business, if any?
Not sure if I have an end goal. I just keep adjusting my goal over time. Right now, I really want to focus on developing or promoting talent in NA. There are a lot of disadvantages some of these players have, but the opportunities can always be improved.
Before we close out, I'd like to end with a sort of cliche "tips & tricks" outro. Your breadth and variety as well as seniority in the space surpasses most, so I'd like to hear your advice on those looking to get into esports. Particularly, I'd like to hear what you say for those in your position, coming from a "mainstream" profession and how/under what circumstances you were willing to finally "make the leap" to full-time esports.At the time, I had certain obligations to another person that prevented me from going full time for a while. So it was kind of just at one point there was an opportunity that would allow me to support myself and another person that I could take to make the transition.
I think now the advice is sort of more along the lines of -- if esports is something you really love, you make time for it. Find ways to reach out to people you respect for advice without being annoying. Make sure, if you're producing content, it's actually value-added and not a regurgitation of Reddit opinions. If you have a specific skill or background that can be useful, find ways to advertise it.
Now there are these weird application things that orgs have, so you kind of have to be more proactive than I was about finding something. I was writing a bunch of freelance pieces in my spare time, and someone sought me out. That won't really happen as much anymore.
Drexxin is the Editor-in-Chief at Esports Heaven. Follow him on Twitter at @ESHDrexxin.Follow Kelsey on Twitter at @karonmoser.
Photo: Lolesports Flickr