Gustavo "Upmind" Franco Domingues is a Brazilian-American play by play commentator and host. Apart from Valorant, Upmind has commentated events in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros, and various other esports.
Upmind is currently attending the Dan Patrick's School Of SportsCasting at Full Sail University, and before becoming a full-time esports and sports commentator, he was the CEO of esports organization "Sinai Village". (P.S Upmind is also known for his trademark afro)
Upmind sat down with EsportsHeaven to discuss his background in casting, how he landed his first gigs and the journey that followed. Later in the interview Upmind talked about his transition to Valorant, being able to cast an official event and the current Valorant scene.
Thank you for giving us the time for this interview, Upmind. To start, could you tell us a little bit about your background?
First and foremost, My name is Gustavo "Upmind" Domingues, I'm a 20-year-old Brazilian-American esports and sports commentator, recently graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelor in Sportscasting.
I started my career when I was 16 years old, going to local Smash and CSGO events in and around Boston and the New England area. Other than those two games, I was active in the amateur Rocket League scene and FIFA Pro Clubs.
I was around the grassroots tier until 2020, where I ended up joining the ESEA broadcast team and commenced my career in Valorant where I predominantly work today.
When was the first time you thought I should make casting my career?
When I was 17, I was still trying to navigate esports as an industry. At the time I was a co-owner of a (now defunct) esports organization named Sinai Village, and I was still just doing free FIFA and Rocket League gigs online.
Around that time I was introduced to ESEA and the tier 2 scene worked by the CSGO players on our roster (including COL Ohai and V1 Thief, big flex I know). Through this, I discovered the local Boston CSGO scene and the events held at the Balance Patch LAN center and I was swept away by how family-like the entire scene was, but also how fierce the competition was, despite being a fairly amateur event.
At that event I was given my very first paycheck, 85 bucks, I think, for 18 hours of work. From then on, the community started to support me and adopted me as their voice (alongside OGHaptix). It was then that I started really committing to the commentary!
Do you think the Sentinels can continue their dominance this time around as well, or will a different team be crowned the Master’s Champions?
Sentinels are the best team on planet earth right now and I don't see that changing by the next Masters, maybe by Champions with Europe getting real good.
On that note, which team are you supporting in the Third Stage of VCT, especially after factoring in all the recent roster changes?
DarkZero and XSET. XSET lost two incredibly important players in Wedid and Thwifo. Seeing Sykko steer this team back with Zekken and Deph, and the whole lineup continuing to develop a unique dynamic is just personally so cool.
I could say the same about DZ except I know the players a bit more because I am the official non-official CEO of the DarkZero Fan Club. I could say a lot about their lineup, but for this interview, I'll just call them sexy, tall, and extremely talented.
You had a good run in casting Valorant. What motivated you into casting Valorant?
In all reality, I thought my career in VAL was going to be similar to any game outside of CSGO. I felt like, going into it, that it was another game that I can put under my belt in case freelance opportunities pop up.
But playing this game in beta changed my mind completely. During the beta, I was already tired of CS and I legitimately wanted something new. I had genuine fun playing the game, and all of my friends were casting/trying Valorant, so I made a personal commitment to grind this game through the summer. Safe to say I still like the game :)
You’ve had a lot of casting partners over the years but recently you’ve been paired with Sully. What does having him as a member of your commentary duo bring to the table?
When I first met Sully, he brought qualities to the table that anyone would want in a duo partner: work ethic, like-mindedness, and a legitimate desire to learn.
Nowadays Sully brings consistency and reliability. He is as studious as any tier 1 commentator, and truly he sets the tempo for this group. If Sully is working hard, I'm right there with him. This guy is my rock, for sure. (Sully owes me 5 bucks for this)
What were your initial reactions after being selected as a caster for a tournament hosted by Riot?
F*CKING WHAT NOOOOO WAY HUH HOW
-INSERT ROOMMATES NAME HERE- x3
ME?! NO *cries* RIOT?!
If there was a transcript of that moment, that’s probably it. In all seriousness though, even though it’s not Masters or Champions, it was on the long-term bucket list for me to work with a AAA game developer directly as a caster, and I, still 6 months later, can't believe that I've made it this early.
I guess it just meant that my bucket list had to be longer and I should set bigger goals.
I read that you are currently attending a university for shout casting. Do you believe that the course has helped you improve your casting ability or has given you more opportunities?
I believe that it improved my mechanics as a commentator and gave me legitimate reps to keep my skills fresh and refined. The main thing that surprised me was that I was given very intricate feedback by my professors for the length of my course. Video responses, lengthy text responses, etc.
My assignments had an incentive for me to try my best on camera because the feedback was so helpful. If I were active in sports, I would be considered for way more opportunities because of my diploma. The thing with my experience at school is that if I were to pursue commentary without going to school but dedicating the same amount of time, I think I would get an even, if not better result for my career because of how much real-world experience matters as a caster.
A diploma helps me as a long-term cushion, but as a young on-camera talent, you don't have time to waste that youth. Remember, at 26-ish, you're considered a boomer in esports.
Do you think you will get a chance to host the Masters this VCT? How do you think returning to LANs will be for you as a caster?
I have a lot of respect for every member of the current Masters lineup. I'm improving, but I don't think that I am on the same level as the veterans on the lineup. That doesn't mean that I'm not fighting for a spot, I bring my A-Game every Challengers cast to hopefully make it there one day.
Ironically, returning to LAN is going to be a very new thing to me. I was essentially brought up on LAN, I've been going to PAX East every single year since 2013. However, I have never worked as a LAN caster at anything above smash locals and Fragadelphia.
If I join the tier 1 circuit as a commentator, it's going to be pretty daunting for sure, but it’s the trade-off I’m willing to take in exchange for finally going back to LAN.
What has been your favorite moment or highlight in the VCT NA so far?
Kooky Koalas making closed qualifiers in Stage 2 was such a feel-good moment. Twitter was pumped to see the tier 2 scene shine and I think it was a cool moment for our region in general.
For those who perhaps have not kept a close eye on the NA Valorant scene, what can we expect from NA teams?
Expect to see a lot of new faces this season, whether that be the new pickups of guys like Zekken and Truo, or tier 2 teams like Renegades, Rise, and Soniqs. It’s mostly going to be a battle of 2nd and 3rd below Sentinels.
Do you have any tips you would like to share with the upcoming generation of casters?
I still consider myself the NEW generation, I don't want to think about the upcoming generation LOL. Jokes aside, for the zoomers, don't be afraid of constructive criticism.
Of course, through time you'll know how to be selective, but the best way to gauge your performance is by asking other casters, not reading twitch chat. One of the biggest tools for improvement in the commentary is feedback/criticism.
That’s it for the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add or any other shoutouts you’d like to give?
Follow me on Twitter :D
Featured image courtesy of Upmind!
Disclaimer: The interview was conducted prior to the VCT Stage 3 Qualifiers
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