Andrew Kim: If you could take a moment to introduce yourself, that’d be great!
Joshua “Elbion” Tuffs: My name is Joshua “Elbion” Tuffs, I go by either one, Josh or Elbion. I am a staff Overwatch writer for Gamurs.com and before that I worked for a little bit in League of Legends
AK: You used to be an analyst for League of Legends. What did you do as an analyst?
JT: How it started it out was, I started writing for Gold Per 10 back in the day before they were bought by Gamurs actually, doing some League articles. From then I started working for Team 8 during their first split, and only for their first split because they had some coaching changes and they dropped all their remote analysts going into Summer. After that I’ve been picked up by The Chiefs in Oceania, and I’ve coached them for a while but I moved out to an analyst position as they brought on, first it was (Barento “Razelplasm” Mohammed) then (Josh “Jish” Carr-Hummerston) who were more authority figures to be a coach, then I worked as analyst for them as well. Then I did move into Overwatch.
AK: When you moved into Overwatch, was it right as the game was announced or as the hubbub was growng?
JT: It definitely wasn’t during the closed beta, because I didn’t get into the closed beta, so I was less interested in the game. But once the open beta came around, I kinda got to see more of the game for myself. I realized that I would be very interested in it.
AK: How did your relationship start with Gamurs?
JT: Like I said, I’ve written for Gold Per 10 previously because I really like their model, as well as the people who operated the site. My understanding was that they were bought out by Gamers when Gamers started to expand. It just felt like a natural progression. I posted a couple of articles on Gamers and the head of content Michael Vickroy contacted me and said, hey if you want to start actually writing for us as a staff member let me know, and it kind of went from there.
AK: You do daily recaps of the OGN APEX Tournament, which is admirable. What propels you to work with that tiring schedule with such urgency?
JT: It’s a little bit unfortunate for me because it’d be better if I was on the east coast – the time would be more reasonable – but unfortunately I do live in California, So that means that before daylight savings I was waking up at three in the morning to watch APEX, now I’m waking up at two in the morning to watch APEX. And I wake up and I watch it live, and I write the recaps live. I know my recaps generally get out around eight o’clock Pacific, but they could be out 20 minutes after the match is done because I’m done writing it, but my editors aren’t up yet.
AK: It’s not unusual for content creators to stay up and watch big tournaments like worlds or the Mid Season Invitational, but APEX is the first competitive tournament being held, so why are you so motivated to wake up at those ridiculous hours?
JT: I don’t think I’m alone in this belief, I think there would be a lot of people who have this belief that Overwatch is going to be the next big thing. I think many games that come onto the scene people say that about it, but I think there’s a lot of traits in Overwatch that show that it will actually be the next big thing, even outside of just viewing numbers I just think there’s aspects to the game that make it naturally suited to be a good esport. So I’m kind of motivated because I tried in League to make it onto the scene and become a member of the scene who is recognized, and I did fail. I definitely failed at that, partially because I don’t know if I actually put in enough work, but partially also because the people who are already in that scene were already so established and hard to break into. So I kind of see this as my way to break into the scene early and kind of make an impact.
AK: One of my favorite pieces you wrote has to be the one focusing on (Gong “Miro” Jin-hyuk) and the (Gu “Evermore” Gyo-min) piece. When you don’t have a plethora of resources or past games for research, how do you make a decision of what you’re going to write about and how?
JT: For Evermore I’ve never met the guy, I’ve never seen him in person but because he was such a famous player in terms of his solo queue performance, I was able to look up his solo queue rankings and statistics which was a big help because I was then able to compare his impact in solo queue and his impact in competitive games. But then for Miro, I was actually lucky enough to Blizzard give me a press pass for Blizzcon, so I was actually able to meet Miro, which helped out a lot. Especially at the intro of that piece, where I did a little story telling piece, I figures I try it out. It was basically direct observations I was able to see of him.
AK: When you write for a brand new scene, you’re not the only one trying to dive into esports. A lot people look at it as a ticket like you said to esports. When you look at the content creation for Overwatch, what are your general opinions? Do you think it’s on a good track? Do you see some worrying trends?
JT: I worked in League and my personal fan, one of the game that I would have followed was Counter Strike and League. Both those games are very privileged to have several very fantastic writers in the scene as well as talented video makers. Right now when I look at Overwatch, I see some talented video makers, maybe not as good as the people in League and the people in CS, but I think (Matt “Flame” Rod) and Kirby are doing some really good stuff. I think Scribe is doing some really good interviews as well. But when I look at the written content for Overwatch, I’m pretty underwhelmed to be honest. I think that I’m doing pretty good stuff, I don’t want to say that I’m the best because that sounds really arrogant, but I think I’m doing good stuff and I think Sideshow is also doing some really good written stuff. Besides that, it’s difficult to pick out specific names that I regularly see, like really excellent content from. We see a lot of people who – especially for Gosu Gamers – it almost looks they have writers coming in doing one or two pieces and then I don’t see much of them anymore. I hope we get to see more written content but the other thing is, in Overwatch at least, written content isn’t performing that well in terms of views, but video content is. So I don’t blame people.
AK: Do you think this disparity between written content and video content is something that was in esports in general or do you think it’s more fans of Overwatch wanted to watch content as opposed to reading long form pieces?
JT: I don’t know becuase in League written content performs very well. We have like, tons of fantastic writers who do this as a full time job. The obvious names are like Fionn, Emily Rand, Kelsey Moser, you know, all these people and video content in terms of like analytic video content in League doesn’t so that well actually, at least from what I’ve seen. Obviously we have like the Riot produced stuff like Jatt’s Teamfight Breakdown that does really well, but we don’t see, like, casual analysts doing videos. we See written content. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I think Overwatch is attracting a lot of casual sport fans right now, because they’re kind of bleeding in from other games still. It hasn’t really homegrown it’s own scene yet. So maybe they don’t want to put in the time to reading a full piece, but I just don’t know.
AK: Because of OGN Apex’s location, are you interested in the Korean aspect of Overwatch or are you more interested in the North American aspect, but because they’re all in Korea right now to compete? Does the interest shift into that direction as well?
JT: I mean it sounds really stereotypical because it’s true in almost every esport, but I still think Korea is the best in Overwatch already. In terms of the depth of talent that Korea has, it far exceeds what North America or Europe has. I think currently the top teams in the world, it’s still pretty hard to argue that North America and Europe don’t have top teams, but when you look over at Apex League, and you look at these teams, each team has like one or two star players or like, top tier players and they have four or five players that are holding them back almost. So I kind of hope that once we get some bigger, like you know, KeSPA orgs come into Overwatch, they might consolidate some of that talent and we can see some of these really star level teams, kind of like what we saw at the world cup. Team South Korea was this insane roster and it’s a roster that if you would put it into Apex, it would probably win Apex.
AK: In your opinion, what was the most difficult part about covering a fairly new esport with a lot of potential, but without the history of League of Legends or CS:GO?
JT: I mean besides the hours, because in League and CS:GO, you can follow a more local scene, and it’s just as prolific, but right now I think the hours are awkward, but besides that I think actually the community is a little bit difficult, more difficult to approach. And the reason why is because the game is so young, and because the game isn’t figured out, everyone’s very opinionated to what’s the best. So whenever I present an opinion, I get a lot of hate for that opinion. Even if I can provide reason with that opinion, I get a lot of disgruntled fans. And I don’t blame them because they’re entitled to their own opinion as well but, I think even compared to the League community, you get a lot more negative feedback on your content.
AK: By negative feedback do you mean in forms of twitter, on comment sections, what do you mean by negative feedback?
JT: I’ve actually been surprised how positive my Youtube comments have been. I’ve been shocked on how positive it’s been. You get a lot of, it’s of course going back to Reddit Reddit is always a problem, and there’s a lot of very negative comments on Reddit, and it’s part of it you have not not let it get to you. But it is very unfortunate because right now, like you’ve said, Overwatch is such a new game and the esport is so young, that there’s not a lot of sites that kind of have, that do they call it, I think they call it ‘natural view generation’ or something like that? Where people go to the website preemptively just to check what content has been put up. So a lot of Overwatch content creators are at a point where we rely on Reddit to get views. So We’re obligated to comply to the Reddit mods who are not always fantastic, and we’re obligated to comply to kind of hope that the community agrees with us, because if they don’t, things very quickly get down voted and hidden on competitive Overwatch subreddit.
AK: Compared to your analytical times when you worked with pro teams, do you find yourself that you’re getting into the same groove of things when you also looking at Apex and kind of like, applying the skills of your trade, or is there something uniquely different when you cover Apex?
JT: I think a lot of it is very similar. You know, just taking down a ton of notes; I don’t even want to think about how many pages of google docs of notes, you know? And just kind of keeping track in your head players and their tendencies and stuff and that’s all kind of, you know you have to do the eye test right? You have to watch and see how it goes but where is gets very different from League of Legends or eve like CS is that basically we have no statistics that’s available to us. We have some, like solo queue statistics like masteroverwatch.com, but no map supports or anything for professional games. So we can’t compare, like, sleep dart accuracy, for example, for Ana players. And we can’t compare damage done and we start lacking these tools to make definitive calls on who is the best on specific heroes or who excels on their team when they have other heroes on their team and it’s basically all the eye test. Whereas in League, we could say ‘this player does more damage with this much gold,’ but in Overwatch he can’t say ‘this player does more damage as this hero,’ we just don’t know.
AK: Going forward, you obviously have so much more Overwatch to cover. Apex hasn’t even finished yet (at the time of the interview), Blizzard just announced the Overwatch league which is sure to draw the attention of a lot of people. What are some of the things that will be important for both content creators and fans to look forward to in 2017?
JT: In order to educate yourself, obviously you follow what I’m writing. But I think it’s very important to create content that explains core concepts of the game and I’ve done a lot of that in a lot of my videos, I’ve done less so writing about it recently but early in my Overwatch writing, I talked a lot about how to like, conceptualize different classes of heroes and how to conceptualize like, ultimate management and stuff, because these are core concepts that are built into the game that are never gonna go away. Like sure, the meta might change and the heroes might change, they might get buffed and nerved, but some of these core concepts aren’t just going to disappear. And I think in order for us to better understand the game, and especially the esport, it’s important for people to understand that stuff. So I think that’s gonna be important going into future, but the other thing I’d love to see more especially as we go into the Overwatch league and professionals become more established, I’d love to see more just, good interviews. Because we don’t get to see that many now.
FIND JOSH’S WORK: Gamurs