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In-depth interview with Redeye about reaching the milestone of 200 esports events

Redeye recently eclipsed 200 esports events
Veteran caster Redeye (Paul Chaloner) recently surpassed 200 esports events. Photo by Steffie Wunderl/ESL.

Paul “Redeye” Chaloner is one of the most experienced and well-known personalities in all of esports. The respected caster, analyst and host recently hit a milestone at ESL One Cologne last month, which was his 200th LAN event. He’s worked events in 60 different games and doesn’t see himself slowing down at any moment.

Slingshot’s Vince Nairn talked to Redeye to reflect on his career and look forward to what’s next. (Editor’s note: This interview was edited and condensed for clarity).

Vince Nairn: So 200 events. That’s a heck of a milestone. How did come to the realization you were close to that mark? Were you counting all along?

Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner: Back in the early 2000s, I noticed a few players would keep track on their profile of what events they’d been to. So I tried to do the same for Quake, especially as back then we only did a handful of events a year. So a fan came to me once with a sheet and said he’d been tracking the list for casters he was a fan of.

He showed me the list, and we removed some because they were online. We added some because I forgot about them. Then we came up with what I think is a fairly definitive list. At the time was about 172. That was 18 months ago. Middle of last year. And then so I thought “OK, this guy’s done all this work. It would be bad of me not to carry on recording these.” He sent me a spreadsheet. And in my discord channel we keep track of it well. Going to Belgrade, that will be No. 203. I did (the new) Quake a few weeks ago. That was my 60th game.

VN: And ESL One Cologne was the 200th, right?

PC: Yes. Funny story about that. (ESL) actually came to me quite late. They had someone else in mind for the job, so two weeks before, I already knew I was doing the (CS:GO) Major. And the Major would have been my 200th event. They came to me and I realized, well, I’m actually free that week. It dawned on me. “Oh, crap. Now ESL One is going to be it.” Eventually and bizarrely, I was supposed to do EPICENTER at that point, too. 200 could have been who knows? I don’t know what it had been. In the end, it fell on ESL One. I spent a lot of time working with ESL. They made a little bit of fuss about (the milestone), which was nice.

VN: How did you first get into this? Did you think it would be possible to carve out the career you’ve had?

PC: I think initially in 2002 when I started doing it, I had no real aims. I didn’t sit there and think this could get big some day or I could make a fortune off it. I had a full time job from 2002 through the middle of 2005. Three full years of casting while I had a full time job. It was done for fun. It would drive my ex-partner mad because I would spend the evenings doing it. It was purely through the enjoyment of commentating on games. It was probably 2005, 2006 when I thought maybe OK, I could make a living of this. But It was too early. It was way too early. I went back to find another job again. I think I’ve done that three times now until 2011, 2012 as well a bit of 2013. For the last four and a half years this has been it. Probably around 2005, 06 I thought maybe this could be big. I never had any thought we’d be selling out stadiums, so it’s been fun.

VN: How did you get into hosting in particular? It’s not necessarily a natural progression from casting, so how did that come about?

PC: I think it has some of its roots in the early iSeries LANs I did in the UK. They were some of the first events where I did it mainly because nobody wanted to do it. It became something I needed to do because we needed someone. If you ever go to the family party, I’m the one holding the camera because that means nobody’s taking pictures of me. It wasn’t by design but by necessity that it happened that way. Then they started adding more things (to events). They started having a stage host more often than not. I was one of the first people they came to. The same with desks. We didn’t do that many desks back in the day. IEM 2011 we did the world championship. It was me, Joe (Miller) and Lurppis. That was it. Basically the stream was me, Joe and lurppis. We rotated out and did all of the pre game, all of the post game and we casted the matches. It wasn’t that long ago we were doing very basic productions. People expect more, so I guess the desk was a similar extension to that. Being able to do multiple games.

VN: Most talent, as they’re known now, I guess, really tend to specialize in one game or two, but as you’ve said you are at 60. How did you adopt that versatility?

PC: This has its roots in something Marcas Graham (djWHEAT) told me back in 2004, 2005. I missed out on a big tournament, and he said “We can’t afford to take many casters to events.” In order to make yourself more valuable, he said, you need to be able to do more than Quake and Counter-Strike. Five or six games.

That wasn’t a big deal for me because I’m a nerd. It wasn’t a chore for me to learn more games. Street Fighter, Karate, beat em ups. I’ve got a lot of Formula 1 simulators, racing simulators. I played football at a decent level. I’m pretty sporty. Most games I thought I could commentate on if I put my mind to it. I can apply this love and affection of video games to find more games to cast. It led to me having much more gigs in 2005. That was a breakout year for me in 2005. And it was thanks to Marcus telling me I need to learn more games. That transitioned nicely into being a host. I guess I’m not that traditional. I don’t focus on one game. It’s not that I don’t love many games. I do. But I also get bored quickly. I don’t tie myself to one game. I have to have that diversity. I want to challenge myself as a host.

VN: What are some of your favorite games to cast?

PC: Watching events as a host is interesting. How are these guys better than me? In analyzing them, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of hosts talk about the game. They’re enthused by the game, mechanics of the game or some core thing within the game. I’m impressed by that, but I’m more impressed by a player doing something in the game that’s unusual and difficult to execute. I’m very focused on the players and teams and difference in the structure or brilliance of a shot than the mechanics of the game. I guess I see the game as a mechanic to being competitive. It was the competition that drove me in all of those aspects. It was just I wanted to win. I think the same has been for me and video games. I love watching other players play and deliver something that’s unexpected or brilliant.

I know I got a bit off track there, but it all comes back to the diversification of different games. It wouldn’t shock you to know one of those (favorites) is Dota. Also Counter-Strike, StarCraft, Quake. But there’s been a ton of games over the years. FIFA is just so much fun.

VN: Have you ever done multiple games at one event? What is that like?

PC: Oh yeah. I think it was 2014 at IEM Katowice. The grand final in the last day had to be shared. The stage had to be shared. It was a V shape but a backward V. Front bit, left bit, right bit. Front was StarCraft, right was League of Legends.

What would happen is, if a StarCraft match finished, I would rush over to the StarCraft stage, do an interview with a player. If League of Legends finished, I’d then interview a player from League of Legends. I think it was 2013. Literally had to go back and forth to two stages. The iSeries is a classic. We’d have multiple games going on the stage during the day: TF2, FIFA, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty.

VN: What’s one of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the event landscape through the years — size of stadiums and audience aside?

PC: The amount of production people has grown significantly, but even then we’re still not at the level TV operates. I went from having a crew of one or two to doing the CGS, which had 200 people working on it. That’s because it was done by DirecTV directly and the people from FOX Sports. That was the biggest surprise to me. We still are nowhere near that (today). Production, we’re still talking between 7-15 people. That’s still amazing to me. We’re doing 95 percent of the quality of TV and we do it with an eighth of the staffing. In 10 years, we’re doing stadiums and arenas. It’s a kit we could only dream about using.

VN: What were the specific things you needed to do to hone your craft? Specifically with hosting, there wasn’t really a roadmap. So how did you identify the things you needed to be good at and work at them?

PC: First thing is I started on radio and did radio for three years. I went back to college in 2005 and did a six month course. The (biggest stumbling block) was basically I don’t want to look into the camera. It’s bloody awkward. This whole thing feels horrible for me. I just wanted to be behind the mic, not on the camera.

To host was a good experience. It gave me a good grounding early where you could make mistakes and it wouldn’t kill you. Learning from others in esports. djWHEAT, Deman, Joe Miller. The hosting, I think in terms of stage hosting. I think I suddenly realized I had to interact with the crowd. Watching other people do stage shows. Comedians in particular are good at controlling a crowd. Learning how to project my voice properly. Proper voice throws to the crowd. So many times you’ll hear a new host or someone at an event wrap up an interview by saying “Now let’s hear it for this team!” That’s such a crappy way to get the crowd to react. Where I’ve learned throughout the years that you can get that with the proper inflection. There’s also timing pace. Building a narrative and storyline.

Desk hosting is very different. I literally learned from watching Jake Humphrey is someone I’ve watched a lot and copied some of the styles he had. Some of the earlier people. Very English hosts, I have to say. That’s because there’s a style difference between the two.

VN: So you’ve done 60 games now. What are some of the oddest ones to make the list?

PC: Some of the more unusual ones would be Carrom 3D, which would be a virtual pool simulator. Guitar Hero. People will ask me “I bet you get really into Guitar Hero.” And the answer is you don’t. There’s not really much there to call. You set it up at the start. Every now and again you interject with “He’s now hit 300 notes in a row!” And then it finishes and you say, “Marvelous bit of Guitar Hero that was.” There’s really not that much to it.

I think my favorite weird game, I have 2GD (James Harding) for this. It was a DreamHack in 2012, I want to say, and they got me to do a game called War of the Roses, which was horseback sword fighting deathmatch. But it was an awful lot of fun. I don’t think it was ever built as an esport. It was just a one time event. I think it was like a 20,000 Euro ($23,600) prize pool.

VN: How do you prepare for something like that?

PC: It’s not too difficult with new games. When it’s a brand new game like that in a fairly nondescript genre, it’s easier to learn because nobody knows them. I ask for advanced access, learn the characteristics. I went to Sweden, spent two days with the developer about the game and what they want to get across. It’s actually harder to get into a game like Dota right now from the start than to do a game that’s new and lesser known like that. It’s actually easier than you’d think.

VN: What are some of your favorite events you’ve ever done? Obviously starting in your biggest games (StarCraft, Dota, Counter-Strike) but also any others you really enjoyed?

PC: TI6 is one of my all time favorite events regardless of game. I thought the cast was the best thing I’ve ever personally been involved in. I also thought I was at the top of my game doing a good job. Came away feeling relatively satisfied, which never happens. I think it’s also because the matches were astounding. TI6 would be the standout one for Dota, though I’ve also really liked EPICENTER, Manila Major, Frankfurt Major. There’s been so many in Dota I’ve enjoyed.

CS:GO is tougher, but I would probably go with. I didn’t particularly enjoy everything with WCG 2009, but the grand final was absolutely fantastic. Polish perfect 5 versus Fnatic.

StarCraft 2, I would have to say WCS Europe 2012. It was at the Ericsson Globe in Sweden. First time I was in a stadium like that on stage and interacted with the crowd. Stephano won and decided to spray champagne at every event ever. Helena Kristiansson had some of the most magical photos I’ve ever seen. IEM Toronto is up there as well. There’s a special moment from that in my memory. That was the event where a guy walked across the set. I called him an idiot on stream. Been on YouTube forever. Same event I also did the ice bucket challenge.

VN: I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about “Brutal, savage, rekt.” How did that happen? Did you have any idea it would go viral and be immortalized?

PC: It’s a bit weird, but it’s also pretty nice as well. The origins of it were I was at the Frankfurt Major. Second or third Dota event I’ve ever done. Just watched an absolute domination of a match. It was a demolition. This was brutal. How do I intro this? What do I say? I was genuinely nervous. So that’s what came into my head. Oh he’s gonna throw it. “Well what do you say after that?” So I can say anything after that. I think it was just the timing, delivery, in threes. It was genuinely off the cuff. I didn’t even know I was gonna say it until I said that.

Earlier in the tournament, I tried to do something clever, and what I’ve learned is when you try to do things like that, most of the time they fail. What I learned that day was you can’t force things. Memes will come to you. The community will decide what they like. But that was crazy. It made it over to CS:GO, StarCraft subreddits. Hillary Clinton used it last year during the election. I see it on t-shirts. Dota 2 put it into chat spam. They spammed it a lot in the lower bracket matches. I don’t understand how it took off or why it took off, really. I’m fully on board with it now. I did shy away with it initially.

What happened was, at the very next event I attended, a similar match happened, and they said do the “Brutal. Savage. Rekt.” I said it’s done once. I’m never doing it ever again. They complained about it on Reddit. So the URL to the first clip was NippyKindLanger. So I then went on after a very brutal game. “What do you say after that? Nippy. Kind. Langer.” Only the Dota people got that because that’s the URL. Someone from gfycat was watching, and the URL for that GIF is BrutalSavageRekt. It’s incredible.

VN: Anything else you’d like to say reflecting on 200 events?

PC: Just to say thanks for allowing me some nostalgia. I want to look forward to the next 200 events. I think the next 200 will come quicker. I just go onward and forward, really. Just lucky to have a lot of fans out there that support me and give good advice. I’ve had a lot of tweets at me recently about not doing TI…I appreciate all the support. I want to continue carrying on doing this as long as I can.

Cover photo by Steffie Wunderl/ESL, eslgaming.com