WARNING: LOTS OF TEXT! I'm fast approaching a landmark in my esports career. I've had a few this year, but this one is special. Next week, I'll head off to Bucharest and the PGL Studios to host the Final Qualifier for the Krakow Major. As well as being a really exciting end to the qualifier season and find the 8 teams that join the legends in Krakow, it'll be my 199th esports event since I began casting in 2002.
I know, privately, what my 200th event will be as I'm signed up for it and I'm sure in the coming days that will be made public.
I wanted to take the time to reflect on nearly 200 events and thank a few people along the way.
Had you told me in 2002 I would, one day, be hosting esports tournaments in large arenas and sports stadiums, I'd have told you, you were crazy. I also would never have imagined being handed the privilige of hosting an esports tournament with more than $20million in prize money up for grabs. I'd also never have dreamed I would have been lucky enough to work on mainstream TV and visit more than 40 different countries doing something I love. Yet all of that has been possible. Some through hard work, some through luck and some through sheer power of will. I've not always been the easiest to work with (perfectionist's never are) and I've not always been liked or loved by everyone, that just comes with the job. But I've always given my best, tried to appreciate what I have and been thankful for those who make me look good on camera.
I've worked with pretty much every major publisher, every major esports event organiser and most of the top talent in the industry. I'd like to thank all of those people for the opportunities, experience I've gained and laughs and love along the way.
In particular though, there are a few people, who without their trust, guidance and tutelage, I would absolutely not be in esports doing what I do today.
Firstly, to Yashman. A hard working, unassuming dutchman who worked harder than anyone in ClanBase in the early days, all without reward or monetary incentive. Without Yash, I'd never have even started to commentate on esports. It was he, who persuaded me to give it a go before I even knew what it was.
I also have to thank a former clan member from Levitation, Ginga_Ninja, a man who spent thankless hours with me tuning my equipment and software setup, which ultimately allowed me to do radio streams in the beginning. Again, without him, I'd never have got started.
To Marcus "djWHEAT" Graham, I have much to thank. Not least inviting me to join Radio iTG back in 2004, again without Marcus I'd never have begun attending international events. And, alongside him I learned so much in the early days that without that education, I doubt I'd ever have improved or understand this industry as well as I do today. I pleases me immensely that Marcus continues to have a massive impact on esports through his work at Twitch and that he and his family continue to have success.
To Stuart "TosspoT" Saw, my first commentary buddy in esports. We would share plenty of long flights, hotel rooms and laughs in our early careers. I look back and like to think we helped each other a lot in those early days and I'll never forget the kindness and support Stuart always showed me.
To Craig Fletcher. We didn't always get along, indeed some of fallouts have been pretty epic in the long distant past, but without Craig asking me to become the first ever shoutcaster at an i-series (Insomnia Lans these days), I'd probably never have ended up doing stage work, which ultimately lead to my hosting career in more recent years. Those early days weren't particularly professional, but they were a lot of fun and I got to learn in a great environment. Thanks Craig.
And then we have one of the biggest influences on what I'd call my mid-career. Oliver Aldridge. A friend I'd spent time with at lans, an utter genius when it comes to technical setup of broadcast and network and the man who persuaded me to carry on and build a new company when all seemed lost back in late 2006. It's not an exaggeration to say without Ollie, I'd have been finished with esports more than a decade ago.
Alongside Ollie there were a number of people who all helped in the early days of QuadV's life including my former partner Sara. While we no longer speak, I will be forever indebted to her for her undying support of my career. There were also incredible people who helped set that company up, friends too and people who today flourish in various roles in important parts of esports and I'd like to thank all of those who helped give me immense joy while working on the QuadV project including Joe Miller, Leigh "Deman" Smith, Matthijs "A_spec" Hoving, Jay Atkins, Iain Cole, Gregg Bond and anyone else my addled brain has decided to fail to remember!
I also want to thank Mike Burkes, a man who truly helped me become the host and caster I am today. I worked with Mike as my producer and director on the CGS shows in 2007 and 2008 and it's safe to say that period, while not being the most glorious in esports history, certainly gave me immense amounts of experience working on TV. Alongside I also had amazing support, in particular from Melody Shaffir and Neil Porter, two amazing producers.
I also want to say a special thank you to Michal Blicharz who has always had faith in my abilities, even when I didn't have them myself. Michal was the main inspiration for joining ESL along with some arm twisting from Ralf Reichert! Alongside these two men and James Lampkin, I helped produce some of my best work, both on screen and behind the scenes and will be forever thankful to all three for the experience and education.
There is also a special thanks to Neville Upton from Gfinity, who basically saved my life in late 2015. Without his wise words and council, I might well have gone in to meltdown and turned my back on esports through sheer exhaustion.
My Dad and my step mum have always been rocks, never more so in helping me and supporting me in my career choice. Without their love and support, it's safe to say I'd have gone completely mad! I thank them often and ease my guilt at not being able to see them much, by buying them lunch every few months. If only I could do more.
I realise now, this post is rather long, sorry!
But, there are a set of people who I haven't yet thanked and while everyone I mentioned is and has been an important part of my career and my life, without fans and widespread support for what I do from you, the esports fans, I would not have a career.
So a HUGE thank you to you, no matter whether you have liked, loathed or loved what I've done in the last 15 years in esports, without you, none of us get to live the dream and hopefully I'll never forget that. Unless, you know, old age really does set in badly!
From the bottom of my heart, thank you and here is to the next 200 esports events... you don't get rid of me that easily!