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Evie “HamTornado” Feng Takes Us on Her Journey to Casting Contenders (Part 3)

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. If you missed it, read part one here and part two here.

What was the impact of casting Nexus Cup?

So I was juggling scrim nights, trying to set up the infrastructure, and at that time [Broadcast.gg] goes “well you can be scrim nights manager”. So I took on that role at the same time as doing the Nexus Cup with Leg, and we kinda found an audience. I was not expecting this, I was expecting, like, ten viewers maybe, but we peaked at 1.7k at a certain point because Lunatic Hai was playing [laughter].

Suddenly, I realized that I could reach an audience by doing this. So we did Nexus Cup, scrim nights were going along really well, and I was picking up a little bit of traction. And I actually got an offer to cast Overwatch from Blizzard.

Image courtesy of Blizzard

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. My assumption was that it was location and money issues, visa things, which is fine because I’ve grown since then. But then when I stumbled into Open Division again, Season One Playoffs got a lot of great responses. Then Season Two Open Division started with a little bit better preparation and infrastructure, and I was project manager for that as well. Broadcast.gg then got the opportunity to do trials and Blizzard noticed us – they had this clean feed project that they wanted to test for EU. They’re like, “why don’t we just use these guinea pigs?” And we’re like, “oh, please experiment on us!” [laughter]. So we cast Trials and now we’re doing Contenders. That’s been the journey so far.

There are people that say that success, which I don’t believe I have really achieved yet, is when opportunity meets preparation. I definitely prepared heavily on my own end, but I did also get very lucky. And a large part of it was because of these supportive figures in the industry who recognize that they’ve got to create the next generation of casters and talent, and were also willing to give time, resources, and advice to people like me, which I’m super grateful for.

So building off of that, has it been competitive with your fellow casters? Could you speak to the relationships you’ve built with those you are trying to get into positions alongside or even potentially opposed to?

You bring up a really good point, it is an interesting community and work environment. That is something [that’s] always on your mind, but at BGG, we’re 100% a community that recognizes that our biggest strength is in supporting each other. Lone-wolfing it – it happens. For example, Uber – we interviewed him for the Broadcast.gg Office Hours Podcast. He’s just a super strong individual who believes very strongly in himself and his abilities and “one-trick cast his way into Overwatch League”, in his own words. He cast like 450 games in one year for CS:GO. Well, that’s a tons of hours.

That’s really great obviously, and I’m not trying to dump on Uber, of course not. But that’s not the possible route for many people. So Broadcast.gg tries to create a system and infrastructure where if you have questions, you can trust people to give you honest feedback. That’s not for us, but for you. So, yeah, we definitely try and support each other.

Boop and HamTornado before a cast, Image courtesy of @ham__tornado

We have a feedback channel where we review young casters’ vods, Chris “Boop” Lessard has actually started up a vod review series every Thursday. So that’s being taken care of in a more systematic way. But there is, of course, that competition element, right? I’m definitely somebody who believes that a hierarchy is not necessarily detrimental, because you can’t deny that there will be skill differences. Between your casters, between your pairs, and even if there aren’t skill differences, there are stylistic differences between duos.

Say, like Zander “Blank” Munro got to cast an EU Contenders Trials. So you think, why? Why did they get this opportunity? On one hand, you’re able to reward the hard work and ability of who you would consider to be your top pairs. And at the same time, it also creates a benchmark for younger casters to strive towards. If you try and keep the playing field too even, then it becomes very amorphous and very difficult to get honest feedback. So that’s kind of how Broadcast.gg has been managing that dichotomy, I’d say.

What are your goals for the next part of your career?

I ask myself that every time I look in the mirror. “Who are you HamTornado? Where are you going?” [Laughter] I would really hope to start being able to pick up some LAN experience. I’ve been casting, analyzing, hosting, but it’s largely been online with Broadcast.gg and some other organizations. I think in order for you to grow as a caster or just to broadcast in general, you have to be able to perform in person.

And so I think for me personally, I’d definitely like to be able to cast DreamHack, potentially. Maybe next E3, we’ll see what happens. Also, of course, you’re always able to get in contact with Blizzard, too. You’re just keeping them updated on the kind of the work that you’ve been putting in – updating your highlight reels, your vods, your resume, that kind of thing. I’m hopeful that within the next year that I’ll be able to pick up some some steady work because you know, in the end, we all have to eat.

So that’s the goal. Can’t really say too much beyond that. But definitely looking to get some of that LAN experience as well as potentially some gigs with the the big boys. We’ll see what happens.

What advice would you give to someone interested in trying out casting for the first time?

One-tricking [games] is definitely great. There’s reason that you’re passionate about a game. You should be grateful for it and and work and use that to your advantage. But something else that I think that has become apparent to me and Boop, my partner, is that differentiating and branching out into other titles is always a good tool to have in your arsenal. It’s almost never a detriment unless you completely take your eyes off the ball and forget your main game.

It makes you more competitive, right? It’s like, say you’re going to cast Rainbow Six, and Hearthstone wants you to cast too, you can be like, “hey, the Rainbow Six guys are paying me around here. I’d love to cast Hearthstone for you, but I’ve got to take compensation into account”. That’s always something you can have in your back pocket.

Casting other games also lets you be able to apply knowledge from one game to another, and maybe that opens up some nuanced points about the Overwatch environment that you never thought about. It makes you more well-rounded and it’s also a good place to be able to get more experience. Especially with new titles – Fortnite definitely comes to mind. Realm Royale, I think, is actually going to be the potentially longer lasting esport. Being able to get in early with other titles can give you opportunities to get that on-camera experience that you wouldn’t find with more developed titles.

Image courtesy of @ham__tornado

Also, join Broadcast.gg! [laughter]. I mean, find peers. I think that that’s like the most important thing – that you have a community that’s going to be able to support you through the difficulties of trying to make it in a very competitive entertainment industry. We can talk about the actual mechanics of learning how to cast, but I think that’s the most important part that’s stayed with me throughout the various phases that I have experienced so far. I think the community is probably what’s going to sustain you.

You can have drive and grind, but there’ll be days where you just feel so shitty, like you had a last cast, and it was bad. You think, “something I said was just so dumb”. And you want to give up and think it’s hopeless – “I’m never going to make it. I’m never going to get that next opportunity, it doesn’t even matter anymore. The field is too competitive”. But what will pull you through those points is having the support of your peers and the community. Even if you can just go and vent a little bit or see what other people are doing and become inspired. See if that will respark the desire and the aspiration to cast.

Oh, and then the last part is being able to get realistic and honest feedback from your peers. You might think “I was so shitty, I was so bad, I missed a Poko bomb”, and somebody can take a look at that and say, “maybe you missed that. But here the other points where you did really well.”

Remember, it’s not about peaking. Every time you cast, you will grow, and any progress is good progress. Maybe today you took one step back, but tomorrow you’re gonna take four steps forward.

 

That concludes our interview with Evie “HamTornado” Feng. You can stay up to date with her casting via Twitter. We’d like to thank HamTornado for her time.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Katrina!

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