LemonKiwi on World Cup: “I was so happy, and lucky that Jake was ready to put in hard work to make this a great show too.”

Volamel 2019-12-10 07:50:54
  Jennifer "LemonKiwi" Pichette is a staple personality in the Overwatch community. Whether it’s lending her voice to multiple different regions in Overwatch Contenders or working big blockbuster events like this years Overwatch World Cup, LemonKiwi does it all. Fresh from her vacation in South Korea, she sat down and spoke to Esports Heaven about what happened moments after the fire alarm was pulled at BlizzCon, she explains the dynamic between her and former professional player Jacob "JAKE" Lyon, and gives insight into what her favorite region of Contenders was to commentate. 
I’ve got to come out of the gate with some heat. To set the stage for the readers: it’s Team Italy vs Team Sweden during the preliminaries, you’re loading into Dorado--and the fire alarm in the area goes off. Walk us through what was going through your mind as chaos ensues and people are scrambling about? It was already a crazy day for us, the first big day of World Cup. Since all the casters were in the same room, it was already loud. This was a big leap out of my comfort zone, coming from casting in my bedroom for the past year or two. What doesn’t usually happen in my house, is a fire alarm going off. When the fire alarm went off, we were in the middle of a Dorado map. It was pretty close, and if I remember correctly, was to determine who would take a lead in the series. So the fire alarm starts blaring loudly in the middle of my sentence.  I’m looking at Jake, he’s confused, I look over at ZP and Avast next to us, and they didn’t stop looking at their monitor. I couldn’t see any staff, since we were at the back of the room. Jake gestured me that we should go, so I jokingly said that the action was so fire or something silly, and muted our audio. Jake and I were a bit more concerned than others that this was more serious than an accidental pull or drill.  But everyone was laughing about it, we went right outside the convention center, and got cleared to return a few minutes later. When we came back to the game had been played out, and we were sad to have missed that. But definitely one of the craziest things to happen to me during a cast. When we hear commentators speak publicly about their craft and what goes into their end of the broadcast, it’s always a two-way street with their co-commentator. We hear about how important it is to have synergy and how much work they put into just understanding verbal cues and speech patterns of their partner. Could you speak the preparation you and your partner Jacob "JAKE" Lyon did before the event to prepare for the Overwatch World Cup? It’s extremely important to have a good relationship with your co-caster. Casting is a lot like a conversation, and personality comes out easier when you’re comfortable with the other person. So Jake and I would hang out, watch Overwatch League games, and just talk about what we thought about the fights. This helped break the ice, and get us on the same page about what to focus on in a team fight.  We spoke a lot about our casting styles, and our preferences, so that the other could enable them in the best way possible. After the Overwatch League playoffs were done, we got into some practice casts using some of the Overwatch League VODs and we clicked right away! There weren’t any significant adjustments we felt we needed to do. So it was important to focus on how we were handing off and interacting. For player knowledge, I prepared a large document of information about the teams to share with Jake. Once we got our schedule of matches, we would discuss topics that we would like to bring up, so the other person could be ready with a reply. I’m someone who over-prepares for stuff like this, and I was so happy, and lucky that Jake was ready to put in hard work to make this a great show too.    Branching from that, what was the dynamic like during the cast? What was different in your opinion from casting Overwatch Contenders?  Jake is so knowledgeable about the game. The prime focus of his color casts was about highlighting what the player/team is thinking/trying to do after the fight is done. He doesn’t like to be critical or negative, but rather prefers to describe the intent of the play or highlight the winning team’s decisions. I was ready to be flexible and adapt to the style Jake would present. I like to be more goofy or loose with my casting sometimes, so I toned it back, to focus on a better selling point for our duo: the Overwatch League player analysis. I wanted to enable Jake as much as possible and enjoyed asking him about his experience at the World Cup and the Overwatch League to fill time between maps. It was also great that Jake transitioned our energy so well from PBP to Color so well, and we adapted so well to each other, despite only practice casting a few weeks before the World Cup.  Gameplay between Contenders and World Cup was pretty similar: very entertaining, well thought out, and some obvious misplays/meme plays here and there. Production between Contenders and World Cup is different. During a remote cast, we don’t always have the program feed, we talk more to the producer, and there isn’t that physical interaction with a co-caster and an audience. The World Cup had different production setups on each day, and it was nice to have the program feed, and the creative freedom to choose when we wanted to be on camera. We casted a lot of teams with Contenders and tier three players at the World Cup, so I felt right at home talking about players I know. Jake and I standing on large boxes on Saturday’s cast was also a funny experience. Looking back, what was something that you felt that you two, as a pair, brought to the table that was different from your peers?  Besides Avast, Jake’s experience as an Overwatch League player was important for us to highlight during our cast. He brings a lot of expertise that I felt was unique and delivered in an understandable way to a general audience. As a play-by-play, I dump a lot of energy into my casts and like to make fights exciting. In between maps, I like to put emphasis on a player’s story/origin, what is their goal/what are they trying to prove, and information about them outside the game. Being the only female caster there was also a unique trait of our duo. Every duo at the World Cup brought something different, I was so glad to be part of the team. I know you’re fluent in French so I’m going to challenge you with this one; could you share your favorite French proverb that relates to your casting? Then, could you translate it and explain the meaning and context? One that speaks to me is “Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid,” which directly translates to: “Little by little, the bird makes its nest”. This speaks about the patience and perseverance needed to accomplish what you want to do. For me, it’s important to take my time and learn everything I can, and to enjoy the journey. Being too focused on the destination creates a lot of burn out.  Now you’ve lent your voice to a number of Overwatch Contenders regions, but I’m going to ask you a very difficult question; regardless of the reason, what was your favorite region to cover and why? Contenders South America was the most welcoming, friendly, and passionate region I’ve casted. It was my first Contenders region I got to cover, and it was their first English Broadcast team. The community was very passionate about their region, their teams, and their dreams. When the casters wouldn’t know how to pronounce player names, the teams and community members were very polite and helpful to guide us. Some players and casters gave us their time and expertise to create content about their Contenders region. Their community was so thankful for the content and our coverage, they understood we were developing casters and gave us good feedback too. The South American team organizing the production was amazing to work with, had a great work ethic, and was always trying to improve and make the casters happy. We had story meetings to build narratives and study teams we had never seen before, and the community and South American broadcast team were so generous in giving us their insight. I got to cast the grand finals for Contenders South America in Season 3 2018, and it was one of the most exciting matches of my career.  I know you got your roots in Call of Duty and with the Call of Duty League on the horizon is there a part of you that is interested in making a return?  I’ve thought about it. I haven’t played the new game though. I enjoy Overwatch so much, and it’s a big-time investment to know the semi-pro and pro-community inside out. I would only consider seriously casting a second game if I’ve perfected my Overwatch casting. I’d rather be a master of one, than a jack of all trades. Last but not least, you’ve just come back from your vacation in South Korea. With that experience fresh in your mind, could you now reflect back on this past year and describe what it’s been like and what it’s meant to you, not as “LemonKiwi, the professional” but as “Jen, the person.” I’ve changed a lot and learned so much this year. I’ve matured, gained more confidence, become more patient, and changed my perspectives on life a lot. I’ve tried to not compare myself to others, shifted my energy towards solutions instead of worrying about problems, and let go of a lot of negative things and excuses that held me back. It was an overwhelming year filled with incredible opportunities, the biggest year of my career in terms of professional and personal development. I hope to finish out 2019 strong, and look forward to what 2020 will bring.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel. Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment and OGN.

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