On Casting + BTS
There's been some confusion over BTS and my role in the company, so in true DOTA fashion I decided to write a blog to clear the air a bit with the community.
I am not a full-time DOTA caster, and I have not been for quite some time now.
To some, this may seem obvious. To others, it may come as a surprise. In any case, perhaps a little explanation is in order.
I started casting DOTA ~6 years ago, in January 2012. That year was a whirlwind ride. Scarcely eight months after I started, both Godz and I had worked the second International and made a bit of a name for ourselves as casters in the fledgling DOTA scene. Emboldened by our success but with no clue what the future held, we decided to roll the dice, drop all our commitments, and move out to Los Angeles with support from the community to found BTS as an esports company focused on DOTA 2 casting and coverage.
From the founding of BTS through the first DOTA Summits, DOTA was my life. If I wasn’t casting, I was watching, playing, or studying the game. Perhaps the pinnacle of my personal obsession came in 2014, when I cast an Asian event for 12 hours (most of it solo), took a 2 hour nap, and woke up to cast another 12 hours of Starladder. By the second day of this grind, I was literally so tired that I slept through 5 alarms and only eventually awoke to the sound of my (rather angry) roommate banging on the door.
Frankly, it wasn’t very healthy. I sacrificed having a social life, eating properly, exercising, sleep, and generally taking care of myself. But I poured myself into DOTA and into casting, both because I loved it and because it was what our startup needed at the time.
Over the last few years, things changed. The industry evolved, our company evolved, and my role within the company has evolved alongside it. Today, we’re not just the DOTA 2 casting studio we were 6 years ago; we’re a full-fledged esports production company.
Don’t get me wrong. Although BTS has grown a lot, we are still one of the smallest companies in the space compared to the likes of ELeague, ESL, and Dreamhack. I know a fair number of DOTA fans have this image of BTS as some large corporate monolith, but the truth is we have a small team of dedicated and awesome full-time staff, all of whom I love dearly and count myself very lucky indeed to have as good friends.
In 2015, as BTS expanded beyond just being a DOTA 2 casting studio, I struck a balance between casting and running the business. (Truthfully, it’s always been a juggling act, but I suppose you could say the juggling intensified!) That worked for awhile, but somewhere along the way, I found myself stretched very thin. I simply didn’t have time to cast and follow DOTA full-time the way I used to.
I gradually started to feel that I was doing a disservice to the community, and so I began to focus more on running BTS and less on casting. Gradually, I stepped back. I never really commented on it publicly, because this wasn’t a eureka moment that happened overnight. It was a dawning realization that crept up on me slowly over a period of years, as the needs of our company continued to grow and the time I had available to cast continued to shrink.
Today, my focus is on building and growing BTS as a sustainable business. That means making sure the company is financially successful, so that everyone who works here can be paid properly and have decent healthcare. It means making sure everyone works reasonable hours and gets time off to spend with their loved ones. We want to make the esports career path a viable option for good and talented people without requiring them to sacrifice their health or personal well-being as we did to get here.
Sometimes, this means working on projects that are not DOTA. We do love this game, and we will continue to run events and create new content for it. However, to be blunt, it would be extremely irresponsible of us to those who work here and depend on us for their livelihoods to focus solely on a single game. There’s not a single major company in esports who has been around as long as ours who does that. That’s not because they lack passion, because they don’t care, or because they are greedy. It is simply because diversifying your portfolio is a smart and responsible strategy to ensure you will be around for the long haul.
But while DOTA is no longer all that we do, this community still has our hearts. Ever since David and I began this journey back in 2012, the DOTA community has shown us incredible support and passion. I know I speak for both of us when I say how unbelievably grateful we are for that. We know we wouldn’t be where we are without you.
I gave the better part of 6 years of my life to casting this crazy, infuriating, but ultimately beautiful game of ours, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. If I could do it all over again, knowing I would relive all the sleepless nights, hate threads, heartache, and moments where I failed or fell short (yes, even the infamous WAOW), I would. In a heartbeat.
I’ve been fortunate enough to cast some of the most memorable moments in DOTA 2 history, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed sharing them with me as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing them to you. I still love this community, and I earnestly hope to sneak in an appearance casting whenever I can.
I realize that writing this post may kill my chances of getting invited to another International. But I have never cast simply for the sake of getting invited to TI, and I never will. I consider most of the DOTA talent to be my close friends, and the last thing I ever want is to feel like I am stealing a spot from a friend who truly deserves it, especially when I know I am no longer able to devote myself to the game the same way they do.
You are all in very capable hands. We are blessed in DOTA with a deep well of talent, and I know folks like ODPixel, Lyrical, Blitz, Fogged, Trent, Winter, Jack, Cap, Toby, SirActionSlacks, Purge, GrandGrant, Xyclopz, Godz (and Synderen) will continue to bring you the perfect blend of hype, analysis, and dank memes that top-notch DOTA deserves.
Finally, I’d like to just state for the record that we know there is lots of room for BTS to grow and improve, especially with regards to our 3rd party qualifier coverage and developing new DOTA products. While I can’t promise everything will change exactly the way you might hope for overnight, I can promise that everyone here at BTS is listening and will keep on working hard to do better for you. We have some exciting new projects in DOTA under development that I think you guys will really enjoy, and I look forward to sharing those with you soon.