Editor’s note: This is the first part in a new recurring feature where Slingshot profiles esports content creators whose work we like. This week’s interview is with Julia Lee, part-time writer for the Rift Herald)
Andrew Kim: Could you introduce yourself first?
Julia Lee: I’m Julia Lee. I work part time at the Rift Herald, which is SB Nation’s and Polygon’s little joint venture where we cover League stuff. I mainly do culture and skins, and I also do a lot of their social media, so a lot of their memes and stuff that happens are all my doing.
AK: How did you start your career in esports?
JL: It all kind of started out as a whim. I’m in my last year of school now, and two years ago I just had a class project, that was a journalism class, that was a profile and I wanted to something in the League scene, and I was hip to competitive League, but not too much. I had teams that I liked, but I didn’t know the players individually. One of my friends said, “If you’re doing a profile, what you can do is reach out to DoubleLift, who has the most interesting backstory of all the North American players.” So I posted something on Reddit, and it actually reached him and I got to interview him. It was really good, and I actually posted it on my college newspaper website. I did it as a profile story, but I also published the raw transcription and people really liked that. And then from there, I just thought like, “Well this is really cool,” and I had a lot of fun. So from there I was writing for my school newspaper and they wanted me to focus on competitive League because it blew up, so they wanted it on their website, and then I eventually applied for SB Nation’s summer internship, but only because one of my friends who was interning there was like, “oh yeah, I think SB Nation has started to do something that has to do with esports. You should apply for their internship and they’ll probably accept you because they’re gonna need help.” And then one thing turned to another and at the end of my internship they extended my contract so I’m still working for them.
AK: You mentioned earlier, you said you gravitated more toward cultural pieces, social media presence and stuff like that. That being said, you were taking journalism classes and were writing for your school newspaper. What about the feature or culture pieces intrigue you as opposed to analytical pieces?
JL: For a while I was really scared to write analysis because people are really harsh to analysis. I was always afraid that if I wrote “Oh, this is why these are the best players,” or “This is why it’s meta,” someone would be quick to tell me that I was wrong. I eventually did write a couple of pieces like that, and it turned out OK. Most people were like, Yeah that champ’s busted. You’re right.” It was pretty obvious. I also have this deep love for the game that is based on like, the story of the game and the characters, and the designs, and all that stuff, so when it comes to when a skin comes out, I get so excited. Not necessarily because I want to buy that skin, but the whole design aspect behind it is very cool, and I used to do art when I was younger so I have this appreciation for people who can pull off all these really cool character designs, and Riot does that really well in my opinion. Less well in the beginning. Better now. I don’t know what gravitates me toward it, I think it’s juts like my passion for the community as well because a lot of people who play this game don’t really care about competitive unfortunately. They just want to know when the new champs are coming out, or how to play the new game modes.
JL: I’m living n DC, so I was really surprised that they were willing to fly me out with Pete, one of the senior editors at the Rift Herald, to cover it just because I’m still in school. It was really surreal to me, you know? But they wanted someone to be on site to do a Snapchat, take pictures. I took a lot of photos. I carried around the DSLR that I bought, and Pete is more of an analysis type of person. So with both of us, the Rift Herald can have both sides of the coin, like have an experience from someone who has been following the game for not a super long time. I’ve started playing early Season 4, but Pete’s only been playing from Season 5, so I have another year on him, I guess worth of knowledge, which isn’t very much. When I think about it still feels so wild to me that I was sent there, but it was mainly to run their social media, to get that firsthand experience.
AK: What does doing social media for a group like the Rift Herald entail? Is there a daily routine?
JL: It’s mostly posting articles on Facebook when they go up, or if there’s like a really good play, like a while ago there was a guy who did a weird teleport strat where he teleports away but it looks like he’s teleporting to a minion over, but it’s actually his teammate coming in, so it tricks people into following him. It’s things like that we post on our Facebook. It’s just like find whatever is cool and then if something comes out, like a new champion was just announced today. The first thing I’m thinking is “How can I Photoshop this champion in a funny way that will make people laugh?” I don’t say it like this, but memes are half of social media. Just making things like I did a thing for Ivern when he came out of like, “Gee, Billy, why does your mom let you have two hotdogs?’ Except I make it “Gee, Ivern, why does your mom let you gave two blue buffs?” Most of it is thinking of creative things, and it’s not just me who thinks up all these dumb ideas, it’s like the whole team and then I’m just the one who photoshops the faces on it. So it’s pretty easy. We do Facebook Live stuff too and Twitch stuff more as of recently, but I’m not super involved with our Facebook Live things. Those are more analysis discussions for, like, tournaments. We had one on IEM last night. We do have a lot of stuff in the works that I think are going to be a lot of fun, that I’m going to be involved with because it’s more culture oriented. So I’m pretty excited about that.
AK: Regarding your interview with the Spiral Cats, how did that come to be? Did you need a translator?
JL: I am a big fan of the Spiral Cats. I used to do all these things. That’s why I care about all that culture, and I found out that they were going because I saw Riot’s posts on Instagram, and I was telling Pete that it would be so awesome if I could get an interview with them, and talk to them about cosplay. Someone reached out to Pete initially, and then he just forwarded it to me. The interview ended up being really really short because we couldn’t find each other at the venue so it was just complications on where to go. I was just texting a guy who told me where they were, and I came to talk to them. I needed a translator, unfortunately. I’m Korean but I don’t speak Korean, so I think the guy who was with them was from Riot that was helping them get around the city and stuff. He translated the interview for me. It was really cool, I was actually pretty starstruck.
AK: My last question for you is now that you have your foot in the door for esports journalism, do you see yourself doing this further down the line? Do you want to turn it into a different one?
JL: I’m in a journalism school, and when I tell people that I want to do esports writing or video game writing, my professors would tell me to find a different niche, to do politics or I don’t know, other sports because they thought it was too niche that I couldn’t get a job in it. But the way it turned out has been pretty good in my favor. I would definitely continue doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life if given the option. I think that eventually one day in the far away future that League will probably die out, so I will have to adapt to whatever comes my way. I’m more than willing to do that. I like playing games. I do stuff for League because I like playing League, you know? So I would be completely down continuing this path.
FIND JULIA’S WORK: Rift Herald