Esports journalist, Jarek "DeKay" Lewis, is one of the finest reporters covering Counter Strike: Global Offensive. He sat down with Esports Heaven for a quick chat detailing his career over the past few years and his opinion on various topics such as Thorin, FLASHPOINT, esports bubble, CSPPA and more.
You can find the interview in feature format here.
- Talk to us about your life growing up and prior to esports.
I grew up just like anyone else in a lower-middle class household, and for most of my young adult life I worked at a car wash. I had a job as early as 14 years old because at that point I had to pay for my own things like a phone, school clothes, or just about anything other than food. I’m happy about that looking back though, it taught me a ton.
After high school, I reluctantly went to university for Mechanical Engineering after pressure from different parts of my family, even though I paid for it out of pocket. My degree took 6 years to finish, rather than 4 because I worked full-time throughout the process.
About the same time I began in Esports, I worked as an Aerospace Engineer within the ongoing Air Force One program before leaving a couple years later for Esports and other passions of mine full time.
- What/who inspired you to get into esports journalism and pursue it full time as a career?
I guess it kind of just happened. Writing has never been my passion and probably still isn’t to this day. I would say my first taste of genuinely helping someone in Esports and a love for Counter-Strike is what inspired me to work towards where I am now.
To do that in an industry that revolves around my favorite game of all time, is really cool.
- As a journalist, what made you lean more towards investigative journalism as opposed to other areas in the field?
Exactly what I just mentioned, I get to constantly help people all day long. I help people get paid, I help them get in contact with other people, I smooth out relationships, and I hold people accountable. It is what the public never sees that I enjoy more than anything else. That for me is more fulfilling than anything else journalism has to offer.
Trust is a huge facet of being an investigative journalist. People have to know they can trust you at all times if you ever want to build a real network. You have to be willing to sit on stories or know that all your hard work might not ever result in something that goes public.
People will use you and offer nothing in return. They will ignore you endlessly until they decide they need something. Orgs will be furious with you for just doing your job. It’s all very thankless and requires genuine passion if you ever want to make it an actual career.
I don’t really get nervous, I might have been once or twice in the beginning but that was so long ago that I don’t even remember it. I trust my source network so much that I’m never worried about whether I have solid information or not. Thanks to the lengthy process I’ve developed over the years for breaking a story, I’m always confident my work is completely accurate. If I miss out on a story because I didn’t feel I had enough, it doesn’t bother me. I just constantly look forward.
- The responsibilities (core fundamentals) that come with being an investigative journalist. Kindly explain in detail.
- The reason as to the lack of investigative journalists in the space in general. Factors contributing to the same.
It really depends on what you count as an investigative journalist. Someone who breaks roster moves but ignores any and every opportunity to report wrongdoing or help people behind the scenes is not an investigative journalist. Those are just glorified fans.
No one wants to do real investigative work because it takes actual work. Hours on hours of actual work for the same or even less pay. Remember when I said passion is a necessity? This is why. You have to want to do something because it’s for the greater good of the industry.
Ask anyone who knows of me what I’m most known for, they will answer “roster moves”. They won’t reference the PEA report from the start of my career, they won’t mention the Lanxess Agreement report, and they almost certainly won’t reference my Quantum Bellator Fire report.
No one is just going to magically hand out full time positions to people who aren’t demanding it with their work ethic. No one offered me the opportunity, I created it. There was no one doing what I did in CS:GO before I did it. I made websites come to me asking to pay me, not the other way around. Me hopping around to different websites has just been the nature of business. Budgets expand and contract, meaning spots open and close all the time.
I don’t think anyone’s goal should be to make Esports a full time career, they should only embrace it if it happens. They should follow the passion and curiosity and if that’s where it takes them, then so be it. This means that most people should expect to work outside the industry in some way, shape, or form. I worked full time elsewhere until only a year ago, for example.
- Employment opportunities in the esports space is limited especially for content creators/journalists/writers as most of the community websites are not profitable, struggling to make their ends meet or have shut down. For example, you were contracted to DBLtap before moving to VPesports and Dexerto coupled with freelance jobs while not contracted. Is this a problem heading into the future with job stability in esports for journalists?
For the record, I’m contracted to DBLTAP just like I was before.
It is accurate that there is a limited amount of space in the industry for journalists. There are only so many that can make it a full time career. However, more could do it than are doing it now. Almost everyone doesn’t put out enough content consistently. No one writes as much as I do, no one puts out as many videos as Thorin, and hardly any of them stream.
- Thoughts on monetization in esports or lack thereof such as broadcasting rights, sell of merchandise, etc. What are the other ways that you can think of through which esports can be monetized since most tournament organizers and/or teams are bleeding money. Simply put, do you believe that esports is still a bubble?
I think player salary is a bubble in CS:GO, but I wouldn’t say the industry as a whole is. The tough part about Esports is that the demographic skews so young that you often have to go through two points of contact. Convincing a child to convince their parents to spend money on event tickets, merchandise, etc. That’s always going to add friction, especially when there are still older people out there who believe gaming is a waste of time.
I would like to see pay-per-view events experimented with, if the product was good enough I absolutely believe that would help profitability. Beyond that, I think tournament structure will have to evolve. FLASHPOINT has been a step in the right direction to do that but we still have a long way to go. There are still so many things that can be improved upon and gaming is only gaining popularity in comparison to traditional sports.
- Has working in esports changed your perspective in regards to anything personally and professionally?
I expected more professionalism when I first entered the industry. Things then were very amateurish behind the scenes and they still are somewhat today. I’ve come to get used to it, but I can’t say it didn’t disappoint me. The amount of mismanagement and unprofessionalism are just a characteristic of an industry that is still very young in the grand scheme of things. One day it will look much different.
- The nuances that come along with being a esports journalist and the misassumptions, if any, that you’d like to clarify that many may have in their minds?
There are a tremendous amount of misconceptions but I’ll just mention a couple of them.
The first is people who assume it takes hard work to break roster moves. I will be first to say that it doesn’t. Building a source network is the tough part, but breaking a move really isn’t. I’m not special because I do them, it’s just part of the job really.
Another assumption people make is that everyone who says something that publicly contradicts me or another journalist is automatically telling the truth. Just because they are a pro player or a higher up member of an organization doesn’t mean they aren’t lying. They have reputations and brands to protect, whereas it’s explicitly my job to report the truth. I can’t tell you the number of times I know something for a fact because I saw a written conversation only for one of the people involved to publicly call me out and say I’m wrong.
- If not for CSGO, which other game titles would you prefer or be interested in covering and why?
If CS:GO didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here. It’s not that I wouldn’t ever work around another title, it’s just that I haven’t come across one that draws me in like Counter-Strike has. I really thought Valorant might do it, but thus far I’m not really impressed with it. It still has a long way to go, so we will see what happens.
- Thoughts on the current change of scenario in esports, specifically CSGO, due to Covid where events have gone back to being online as opposed to LAN? Nostalgic that esports is going back to where it originally started?
I’ll be honest, it’s been tough to stay interested during this period. Online is so volatile and deceiving that I can’t get myself excited to watch it. I’m not sure how it works in other Esports titles, but CS:GO is dramatically different online vs. offline. That makes ranking teams almost a waste of time, but I have to remind myself that we are lucky to have something to watch at all. I am at least grateful for that.
That’s a tough one. I know some of the guys involved really have good intentions but it’s hard to get well paid pro players to care that much outside of their other obligations. That aspect has made it easy for other stakeholders who want to use the association to benefit themselves personally to come in and hurt the CSPPA’s reputation.
I’m hoping that one day soon they will right the ship but so far I’m having a tough time feeling good about what they’ve done thus far.
- Your opinion on the current CSPPA and how far you think it has deviated from what it’s purpose was initially.
- Your thoughts in general for reporters in esports especially in CS:GO which is an older scene.
I don’t think the age of the industry really matters much. There is still room for newcomers and people that want to make an impact. Plenty of opportunity remains for people who actually want to take the job seriously and put a face to a name. Opportunity remains for those who actually want to selflessly help people instead of just reporting roster moves for a quick buck. It’s all there for the taking and I don’t plan on being in this role forever.
- How have you made the transition from your real job to esports, and what kind of thoughts were going through your head in terms of sunk cost fallacy, etc.
I don’t believe in sunk cost fallacy. Anyone can always go back and get a regular job if things don’t work out here. Life is too short to look back and regret not taking a chance on an opportunity in an industry as special as this. Transitioning was straightforward because of how passionate I felt about what I do here.
- Can you go into detail about your side gig (flipping etc) and what you hope to accomplish with it? Why is esports Twitter just now seeing this side of you. Feel free to plug your sales account here.
I don’t have one specific side gig. I’ve done a ton of different things in the online business world for nearly nine years. I would say I have a passion for ecommerce and anything that involves investment or buying and selling. I even built a business during the period I just mentioned, on top of everything else I had going on.
All of that comes from my childhood, I spent a ton of time doing everything under the sun. I ran lemonade stands, sold candy at school, pulled weeds, and mowed lawns as much as I possibly could. You do whatever it takes when you want school clothes and other toys at that age.
I would just say that earlier this year I kind of just realized that my passion for helping people could easily expand to other areas outside of esports. So I started documenting some of what I’ve been doing and helping others where I can. It’s just something I will always enjoy and do for fun.
For those who are interested: https://twitter.com/jarrylew
- Do you see anyone in the csgo scene as your rival and the one who could possibly give you a run for your money?
If you want to talk about journalism in general, Thorin has everyone beat by a country mile. I wouldn’t call him a rival though, he is someone I consider a dear friend and one of the most important people in the industry.
As for what I do in particular, no one even comes close. You can even leave out all the work I do behind the scenes, no one has been able to match my work ethic and consistency over these past four years. As long as I am here, it will stay that way.
Image credits: Dekay Instagram
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