Boq wants to make Rank S better
During the second to last day of the ESEA Season 27 Global Challenge, we caught up with Mark "Boq" Wilson to discuss his casting, working at ESEA, and the sub-top NA scene.
How would you say the event has gone so far?
Things have gone exactly as we expected them to. For the most part we've seen relatively expected performances. We have seen a few teams step up big, like right now Torqued is playing Windigo, they're up one map, this is a series I don't think many people expected to see going that direction. Looking at the Pro League relegation matches, we also saw teams like Swole Patrol doing really well. There's been a couple surprises, but for the most part things have gone as expected.
Your role outside casting with ESEA involves a bit of community management with the Rank S system. In a nutshell, what does that entail?
Mostly dealing with players, talking to them - right now we're trying to fine tune our Rank S system to be as interesting as possible for our audience. It also involves making sure that people understand in the past, we've had a rough image with the community, so it's about being as transparent as possible. In the past, they feel like we've been somewhat opaque - we haven't necessarily given them the information that they wanted from us. That does bring in a certain amount of hate, obviously a lot of people are frustrated with ESEA, so it's a challenging battle, it's an uphill battle, but I welcome the challenge with open arms.
This isn't the first time you've done international casting, does the event taking place in a foreign country change your preparation?
Not really, if anything it's more exciting. As a guy who's on the lower end of the casting scale it's really fun to get to travel internationally. You get used to going to Southern California for events, there's a lot of Counter-Strike play there, but it doesn't really affect my ability to do my work, and if anything I love meeting new people. I love the idea of going to a place I haven't necessarily been, or a place I don't get to go to all that often, and just introduce myself to people and have conversations. That's one of the coolest things about esports is the people, and that group is always changing depending on the day, so I might come here one year and then come the next and it's all new faces. It doesn't really change how I have to do my job or how I prepare at all.
Being a regular feature of the Global Challenges, how have you seen the event change in terms of the teams that come and take part or the other talent that come in to work on it?
The talent list has grown. When we originally did the first one, it was just me and BLU. We were the only two casters. We might have had a host, I don't even remember it's been so long. I think we had a stage host at that event - I think it was Matt Andrews, but we didn't have an analyst desk segment, teams didn't have org representation - and the ones that did weren't necessarily being paid but their orgs.
Looking for instance at Chiefs, they were one of the early Australian orgs to represent a team, and the players were not currently on salary when we did that event, even though they did have all of those sponsors, because it was mostly just peripherals - new keyboards, new mice. That's been a thing everywhere.
We've seen org representation for all of these teams, and even the ones that aren't represented by orgs have some sort of financial support whether the players themselves have brought in sponsors themselves to create their own branded org, and now we see teams like BIG playing at this event or we have Swole Patrol - there is a massive gap still between them, but it's cool to see the rise of some of the MDL teams and in general that's because of the split where some of the teams from Pro League are now falling down into the MDL. It's kind of spreading the money around a bit, spreading the talent around a little more than we used to see.
Premier, before it was the MDL, didn't necessarily have as many players, and part of that is due to the fact that now players have a clear shot to the Pro League, a chance to actually make some money as well, offline events for LAN experience. It's been interesting to see the MDL league become what Invite used to be 10-12 seasons ago - same prize pool, same draw, similar org representation.
Outside of these events, you've done Fragadelphias, and other BYOC LANS. What is the main difference between doing something like that and something like this, where you have teams that are on stage, in practice regiments, and don't always disappear?
I think in general, it's formality. This is a much more formal event, even though we still have a lot of fun. We have tons of fun on the desk, while we're casting as well, meeting with the players afterwards, seeing them at the hotel. It's still an enjoyable experience, but there's a whole production crew supporting us, there's cameras, there's directors, there's producers. The scale of the crew is much larger than what we would have at a Fragadelphia. At an event like Fragadelphia or another open LAN, we have to do everything. So we have a very small community supporting a wide range of tasks, from being an admin, to a server tech, to IT engineer. I remember at the last Fragadelphia for instance, I'm sprinting across the event floor with computers in my hands because we have a computer issue during a match, and I'm also producing the secondary stream while I'm casting it, because we're stretched so thin, but that's the nature of community events and that's just the passion behind people that do it. Everyone wants to do as much as they possibly can to support it.
Rolling back a bit, recently certain organizations have dropped out of Counter-Strike in various divisions of the league, especially in North America. What do you see as the general effect it'll have on Counter-Strike?
I still think there is so many orgs that want to get into Counter-Strike, so I don't think it's a big deal. Some of the orgs we lost too, are orgs I honestly don't want to have because they're orgs that either mismanaged their teams, or were somewhat dishonest about the way they led their teams, so like many others I'm like "see ya, farewell, good riddance." Some of them just flat-out didn't pay their teams, which is the kind of teams we really don't want. Ultimately, I don't think it's gonna have too much an effect because in the end, we're still gonna have orgs coming in who actually want to be involved with CS, and we'll see more players now representing themselves too as these orgs start to go by the wayside.
This is our final interview from the Global Challenge in Leicester, you'll next be able to catch Dust2.us at the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals starting Friday May 18th.