[This interview was first published on March 12, 2019 but has been re-released due to its continued relevance]
There has been at least some level of discussion and debate over the semi-pro Overwatch scene over the last couple of years. One of the more involved members of this conversation is Dallas Fuel’s Assistant Coach, Justin “Jayne” Conroy. Out of a passion for the game he loves, Jayne has been working diligently to improve the quality of competitive Overwatch outside of the Overwatch League.
One of the main platforms Jayne has used to accomplish this is an organization he founded called Elo Hell. This was birthed out of an idea centered around coaching lower-skilled OW players and organize pickup games. This has since blossomed into something much more in the form of Elo Hell Esports, which has become a broadcast and media outlet for Contenders, Trials, and even Open Division.
The Game Haus sat down with Jayne to get a better sense of the direction of Elo Hell Esports and learn more about the deep roots of Elo Hell.
You started Elo Hell back in 2017, what led you to create this in the first place, what did you have in mind for Elo Hell from the beginning?
Elo Hell, in various forms, has existed since way back to mid-2017, where it originally started as just a group of friends mostly located around Alberta, Canada. There used to be a different Overwatch streamer who was the main streamer on the Discord server, and a lot of us were playing Overwatch casually at a pretty high level. Back then, the majority of the Tespa team for the University of Calgary was also on that server, Tespa being the collegiate level of Overwatch competition.
The people who were involved with that Tespa team were quite involved in Twitch and quite passionate about Overwatch, and that led to a lot of us getting involved with other things within the community. Most notably, there was an event called the Scrub Cup, which was specifically a tournament for Bronze and Silver players. It was meant to be an educational tournament series for Bronze and Silver players where the coaches were Diamond or higher, or something like that.
So, myself and a few other people from this small group of friends decided to try it out and give it a shot. We met some new friends there, had a good time, and the Bronze team that I had coached from the Scrub Cup really enjoyed themselves. They didn’t do very well. You know, they didn’t go out first, they didn’t win the whole thing, there was no swan song there anything of the sort. But those were the individuals who convinced me that I should stream myself while doing this whole coaching thing because I was pretty good at it and they liked it. That’s where things moved to focus more around myself as an individual and much more towards Overwatch education and coaching overall.
I had no idea that this was kind of the inspiration for your stream, that’s really cool.
Yes. I never thought that we’d be where we are now back when Elo Hell first got started, and I don’t think we officially took on the name “Elo Hell” until early 2018. I think the original term for it was Deo’s Minivan. Deo was the streamer who originally created the server, and so it was just Deo and her close friends just rocking around in a minivan. We would go to LANs that were in Calgary and some that were in Edmonton. They’re about a three hours drive apart from one another, so no matter where the LAN was, one part of the group would road trip to it. We’d usually win the LAN, because we were by far the best overall players in the province, get enough money for some beers, then meet up for the next LAN. That was the running joke for a while, until it started growing from just a small local community to what it is now with something like fifty thousand members on our server: it’s been quite a journey.
What has been the main goal for Elo Hell Esports and why is it so important for you?
At the end of the day, there’s several minor reasons here and there. But the largest reason above any other is that I just absolutely love Overwatch and am extremely passionate about the game. Then, in terms of why Elo Hell Esports exists, the long story short of that one is simply that one person can only do so much, especially while coaching for the Dallas Fuel now. That takes up a very large portion of my time.
I don’t think it’s any secret that my YouTube channel and my Twitch channel have been extremely successful, both in viewership and in a financial sense, and I’m a pretty frugal individual. I’m not like the some of the guys you see, like Gesture for example, who are sporting fashion designer labels and things like that. So I don’t really have a need for as much money as I have from my streaming success, as you might call it. So I decided to reinvest as much as is financially reasonable into supporting the community that helped me become a figure within the community. It has been an amazing journey so far. It also allows me to do all the things that I wish, in some cases, that Blizzard could do, or in some cases, that Blizzard can’t do.
It doesn’t really make sense, for example, for Blizzard to put so much effort into hosting Gold and Platinum tournaments. These are the kind of things that, if Blizzard was to do, would require a very large number of salaried employees that would make it untenable.
But the combination of people who are properly skilled and paying them for their services, as well as being able to call upon a group of passionate volunteers in order to make all these really cool things happen is a great thing to do and it makes my experience in Overwatch more fulfilling and enjoyable. I would hope that it makes everyone else’s experience within the Overwatch community just a little bit better as well.
You have sought out people like LemonKiwi, Moirai, Jaws and LEGDAY to help with Elo Hell Esports. What’s it been like working with all of these skilled individuals who look to be up-and-coming experts in their craft?
I’m a lifelong learner. It’s kind of a cheesy way to say it, but I never grow tired of learning new things or experiencing new things. It has been a new chapter in my life to learn about all of the very unique and niche skill sets required in order to do things like professional esports observing and production, and then really learning how both the play by play and the color casters operate.
When I first started out, I considered myself somebody who was probably above average at speaking, in general. But I’ve recently moved away from trying to do my own scuffed casting for tournaments, especially now that we’ve started creating higher quality productions. Now, we’re doing things like Contenders productions for Blizzard. Moving up the next level of quality has taught me all of the little hidden things that are required in order to make a product as large as – you know, you could even go so far as to say the Overwatch League – successful, and it does make what Blizzard is doing even more impressive. The world of casting, for example, is so intricate and there’s a definite art to it. People aren’t naturally good, they don’t speak like casters normally. It’s something that needs to be practiced and prepared for.
I consider myself a passionate individual. You think you know the Overwatch community, but then there are even more passionate sub-communities that are living right below the surface. They’re just more or less invisible to the average player. But those sub-communities are thriving and they have extremely passionate, extremely talented people interacting and engaging with them. Being able to just skim the surface of all these different groups that make up the greater Overwatch community has really opened my eyes to how broad the community is and how everyone interprets and experiences Overwatch differently.
What, for you, is the end goal or the finish line for Elo Hell Esports?
I’m probably pretty well known by this point in time for going on tangents, so forgive me as I go on another one. I used to be a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and at that point in time in my life I had the whole five-year plan and, things of that variety, and I had my entire life planned out to a T. Things like, which bases I wanted to serve at, when I was expecting general promotions and all that fun stuff. And then I was injured and had to leave the military. After that, my perspective on life shifted away from these five-year plans, long term goals or anything like that, to just living for the moment and being prepared to adapt to basically whatever opportunities come your way.
What I’m trying to say here is that I’m doing the things that I enjoy about Elo Hell Esports and I want to make sure that it’s a successful organization and I want to make sure that, if an opportunity presents itself tomorrow, whatever that opportunity may be, Elo Hell Esports might take off in a completely different direction. It’s a living, breathing organization. It’s kind of like a love song to the Overwatch community.
We’ve got pickup games in our server that has almost 18,000 people. It’s become the most successful and largest pickup game server within the entire community. We’ve got a very large tournament server that runs tournaments for every single rank, all the way up to the Tournament of Future Champions, which is running semi-professional stuff.
One of my goals for 2019 is that I want to run a LAN. I want to have people from across North America, and even more, which I don’t think it’s going to be able to happen soon, but sometime in the future, I’d love to be able to learn about and host an international LAN where we get some European or Korean teams coming over, kind of how Apex used to be. But for now, we’ve got the pickup games, we’ve got the tournaments, of course, we do Twitch stuff and YouTube stuff.
And then, there are some conflicts that, for example, I can’t do anything like starting our own Overwatch team, because it conflicts with Team Envy as well as Dallas Fuel. But, that could very much change if either I left Elo Hell Esports as its de facto head or I left Dallas Fuel. Who knows what could happen there. So, there’s a lot of different ways that Elo Hell Esports could end up, but if you were really truly asking me for a prediction of where I’m going to be in a year and where Elo Hell Esports is gonna be in a year, I couldn’t give you an answer.
The Game Haus would like to extend it’s gratitude to Jayne for his time amidst a busy OWL season. For more on Jayne, you can keep up with him on Twitter. To stay up-to-date with the semi-pro Overwatch scene, follow Elo Hell Esports on Twitter and check out the Discord channel
Follow me on Twitter: @GoopyKnoopy I would love to dialogue with you about anything I’ve written!
You can also shoot me a line on Discord! (GoopyKnoopy#2205)
Featured Image Courtesy of Jayne
Follow The Game Haus for more sports and esports coverage.
“From Our Haus to Yours”