From mentee to pro with *SCAPE's ELEVATE programme

Jayz (left) and Abstract (right). (Photos: *SCAPE)
Jayz (left) and Abstract (right). (Photos: *SCAPE)

Over a year ago, Chris "Jayz" Yeo participated in *SCAPE's Events and Commentary Mentorship with the hopes of breaking into the esports scene in Singapore.

Together with his mentor, Eugene "Abstract" Eu, the past year has been quite the journey for the newly-minted shoutcaster. Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia checks in with Jayz and Abstract to catch up ahead of the next round of *SCAPE's ELEVATE programme, which will start in March.

Hey Jayz, what games are you casting these days?

Jayz: I'm currently casting Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. I [also] have an upcoming gig for Wild Rift and I am absolutely excited for it as I have been working towards casting that game.

I am definitely looking to expand the games that I cast, such as League of Legends. As of now, I'm focusing mainly on MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) as that's my core interest. I think once I am more experienced, I can look into casting for FPS. I do have my eyes on Valorant too but that's further down the pipe line.

On the ELEVATE programme

What was your most important takeaway from the ELEVATE programme last year?

Jayz: The most important takeaway from the ELEVATE programme is the experience shared by guests from the industry.

While learning how to cast is important, I feel like there are a lot more things that cannot be taught. Experience is something that I lack and the way to compensate for that is to listen to the stories of others and gather learning points from them.

Abstract, what did you learn as a mentor on the ELEVATE programme?

Abstract: Despite being a mentor, there was a lot I learnt from the individual mentees. Every single person had their own quirks, weaknesses, and strengths; upon seeing these, I could also learn how to adopt, change, or remove certain behaviours in my own shoutcasting.

Besides that, teaching is a foreign concept to me - I'm always the one being taught and it was never the other way round. Through ELEVATE, I'm very confident I can once again guide aspiring shoutcasters closer to their goal than ever before.

On their relationship...

What kind of potential did you see in Jayz before the ELEVATE programme started?

Abstract: To be extremely honest, although Chris has great linguistic skills, he did not particularly stand out before and during the programme.

There is a myriad of potential residing within Chris, and I could not see them all until he started to receive slightly more intensive training together with four other commentators under me. His determination and hardworking nature is one of the most important aspects in order to thrive in this industry; I have great hopes for him.

How has the relationship between you and Jayz been last year?

Abstract: I would say we're pretty goofy with one another as I prefer to be casual alongside my mentees, or, as I would prefer to call them, my minions.

I cast aside the professionalism to create a conducive environment for my minions to learn directly from me, without feeling a sliver of intimidation. I suppose this casual relationship has helped me a lot to give Chris a piece of my mind efficiently when I was told he was rusty for a certain event.

How about you, Jayz, how would you describe your relationship with Abstract?

Jayz: He's extremely supportive. He is able to fork out time and effort for me if I had any issues.

There was this one time I was asking how he does his setup for a software. With very short notice, he went online on Discord and helped me with it.

We also bounce jokes off each other quite well. There was this one time when we were having a mukbang session with pizza while casting. I was literally stuffing my mouth full of pizza and he played along like "never mind. I'll continue talking".

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Challenges during the last year...

What has this year in esports been like for you, JayZ, especially with the coronavirus situation?

JayZ: It is my first year in esports and the coronavirus happened. The timing of it is impeccable.

In my opinion, the esports industry kind of thrived during the coronavirus pandemic since most of us were stuck at home. Esports acts as a form of entertainment to those [under lockdown].

I have quite a number of shows under my belt and more than a few of them were done right in my living room.

What were some challenges you faced in the last year, and how did you overcome them?

JayZ: I am more of a casual gamer, I just play games for fun. In fact, most of the games I usually play are like Minecraft, Kerbal Space Programme, Rimworld... These are very chill management games.

But because I wanted to perform well for my shows, I had to pay more attention to strategies. I remembered watching a League of Legends video on laning, which I then adopted in Mobile Legends. That was when I realised that there is a pattern between MOBAs, be it Mobile Legends, League of Legends, Wild Rift etc.

Casting along side other casters like Abstract and Eris [Justin Koh] helped me a lot. While casting with Abstract, I bounced a lot of jokes and learned to relax and enjoy the game. While casting with Eris, he's really good with colour so that's where I learnt most of my analysis from.

Another challenge that I faced was the hardware setup. During my very first cast, I didn't even have a proper webcam except for my laptop webcam. I was also using the headset given as a gift from the previous event. So over the past year, I slowly added a Logitech C922 and AT2020 USB mic into the mix. I feel that these are very worthy investments for my show. Next on my shopping list are some lighting and maybe even a portable green screen.

I think I also have to address the toxicity on the comments during the shows. Sometimes I can get very affected by it... I mean it's the internet and you can't possibly please every single one of them. So I decided to take them as constructive criticism instead.

Looking forward..

If you had not been involved in the ELEVATE programme, where do you think you would be now, JayZ?

JayZ: I would be a boring office worker. At least being a caster is something that I can brag about to my grandchildren.

In fact I almost missed the previous ELEVATE programme. I was extremely worried about the rising coronavirus situation the night before that I even considered skipping that event all together. Luckily my girlfriend, Glenda, convinced me [to go]. Looking back, I'm very very very glad that I went. I would had missed a whole lifetime opportunity otherwise.

And for you Abstract, are you looking forward to the most in the next round of the ELEVATE programme?

Abstract: Without a doubt, the aspiring commentators. There is always this glimmer in their eyes when these individuals attempt their very first commentary and when they receive feedback on how to improve.

The very growth of these individuals is one of the most satisfying feelings as a mentor, and I would do absolutely anything to watch them succeed.

Advise for aspiring casters...

Finally, what's your advice for those aspiring to break into the esports scene?

JayZ: Just do it. Yes it's scary but it's like riding a bicycle. It's scary as first but after a while you'll get used to it.

Research is very important. Not just about the game itself, but watch other casters. I found a few professional casters that I like and practically follow them. The one that I really like is Jared "PiG" Krensel, a Starcraft 2 Caster. He has a YouTube series where he casts for the weirdest gameplay of Florencio (a Starcraft 2 player). That became my basis of how I wanted to cast for *SCAPE's Community Rallies for Mobile Legends Bang Bang.

Go to events, get to know people, build up your portfolio, have a few small little scrims to practice over and record those scrims.

Abstract: Don't chase your dreams blindly, employ the help of others to guide you well. Although the esports industry is still in its infancy stage; the growth of the industry is rapid and there is a large arsenal of learning resources available as long as you know where to look.

Everyone in the esports scene is in it because we simply love esports, and we would gladly talk to you day and night to share our experience and advice.

Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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