We sat down with Evie “HamTornado” Feng, whom you might recognize from her broadcasts of the Overwatch Open Division and most recently, South American Contenders. In this series, HamTornado shares her story of how drive, skill, and heart have helped her achieve her casting goals.
How did your journey with casting begin?
So that’s an interesting question because one of the reasons that we started Broadcast.gg was to offer resources for people who wanted to get into casting because it is kind of like, how do you become like a sea lion trainer? It seems so niche and random, how would you ever meet somebody who is a senior sea lion trainer who could then train you to be a sea lion trainer? I would consider casting, analyzing, [and] hosting to be more akin to something you would find in the entertainment industry like actors or voice actors. And so there’s a lot of onus put on the individual to try and create those opportunities for yourself.
I’ve had a non-traditional college experience, I guess you could say. I went to Berkeley, but after my first year, my dad got cancer. I had to quit school, go back home, and take care of my sister. And then from that point on, it was very on and off, like I do like a year here, then then stop and then do another year? It was very disjointed and so I actually haven’t graduated yet. Secret! Just kidding! [laughter]
But yeah, I was feeling a little bit lost and I came home again for a period of time. I had been struggling with schoolwork, obviously, because as many Chinese and Asian Americans will know, many of us grew up being largely defined by our academic success. And if you don’t have that, it can be very, like, what are you? Right? So I came back home for a little bit, feeling really lost just in general, and really unsure about the family’s circumstances as well.
I had always loved Overwatch, and actually was a little bit late to the game as a lot of people started casting in Open Beta when it was first released, but I actually jumped on the the wagon around 2016 with the first World Cup. I had never really been into esports before – I had played games, but again, coming from the Asian background, where you didn’t get a PlayStation when you’re eight because your parents are like, ‘we’re saving for your college fund’, right? So there wasn’t really much background there. I had very little understanding of the culture or the industry, but I knew I really liked the game. And in particular, I really liked Monte and Doa’s casting.
I had followed Apex, my favorite team was team EnVyUs. They had high-IQ coordinated team plays and I liked the analytical part of casting, with Monte, in particular, being able to break down the chaos of what was happening on screen into these distinct, digestible parts.
It really appealed to me. I was like, dude, I can do that, right? I can do that! But I never really considered casting until I came home. After my latest stint at school I was like, I should actually give this a shot. Maybe if I can just start doing something by myself, people will like what I have to say. And that that might be something I can get going.
What was the process of taking your dream and turning it into a reality?
It is very hard to get started by yourself. I would say that it is almost impossible because, just like, what do you do? Okay – you see what the professionals are doing, then you try to emulate that yourself.
But right off the bat, you really need a partner because you’re either casting play-by-play or color, which I didn’t know was a thing back then. And then you also need somebody to be able to play off of to have a conversation with over this game, essentially. I didn’t have that. I tried to do it with my sister, but… [laughter] you know… not dumping on you, Chops! We just had different interests and different strengths, right?
So I just cast over these vods by myself and at a certain point, I wasn’t improving. I didn’t know what I was doing. If you dropped me in like a lake, I was just treading water, didn’t know like what direction to go or how to get where I wanted to go. So I started looking online for resources and actually the big, major thing that propelled me forward into actually taking these steps was meeting Alex “Left Guy” Gill.
I love this guy. I’m going to love this guy forever. My sister and I would watch him in Contenders in Carbon, a few miles north of where we lived, and I remember Chops and I were like, “we should go up there and bring them cookies!” Just to say, “you guys are doing a great job, we love what you do”. That didn’t happen, but I met him when I went to my first con, DreamHack Denver 2017.
I was so nervous, I was probably really gross and sweaty. And I was like, I don’t know how to meet anybody. I’d never like met anybody even moderately famous before. We were watching a collegiate Overwatch tournament, and I’d only gone because my sister’s the team captain of the CU Boulder team.
It was amazing, it was insane. I had never been to any kind of esporting event before – I’m such a noob – but I went there and I was like, we have to figure out a way to meet Left Guy! He just walked out and I ran over there. He was talking to Christian “Heurix” Thomasser, who I also didn’t know at the time, and I said, “Oh my God! Left Guy! Oh, it’s such an honor to meet you!” And he was like, “Hi”. He shook my hand and gave me a hug, “Do I know you?”
“Uh, no you don’t, I’m a big fan, like a creepy weirdo and stuff”. I talked to him and I was saying how I’d really love to chat with him about about casting, I’ve always wanted to go into casting. I was kind of bullshitting a little bit, because at that point I had never given it really any serious thought. But you meet Left Guy and he’s friendly, and you can tell he’s like trying even though he has no idea who you are. He actually invited me and Chops to go to dinner with him. All right.
Part Two of our interview with HamTornado will be released tomorrow. Look forward to hearing more about her mentors, experience with Broadcast.gg, and advice for hopeful casters.