“I think Peru could be a esports destination or hub of the region.” – Interview with Caster Chilling on becoming a Caster, South American Dota & more
We sat down with South American caster and analyst Chilling for a chat about his home region, how he transitioned from being a product manager to a talent, and the current state of the region since its humble beginnings.
This article was written by our community writer Pedro Romero.
The Rise of South America
We are all familiar with the world of Western Dota in the North American as well as the East and West European scenes. But there is another region whose credibility and respectability continue to grow with each passing year. That is South America. It is a region whose community, though small in stature compared to its larger neighbors, are equally vivacious and impactful through their play. This is the place that gave birth to legendary teams such as Infamous Gaming, whose team reached Top 8 at The International 9, the farthest anyone from SA has gone. Not only that, this is the same region that sent three representatives to TI10, the most it has ever mustered for a single year in the history of the event.
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Though the region were unable to curate results at TI10 in light of its momentous achievement (all three finished either at or below Top 16), it did foster hope over their future potential. In due time, South America will become a force to be reckoned with.
In the first of this two-part interview, esports.com caught up with Leunam “Chilling” Chavez, host, analyst, and caster for the Spanish broadcast of the NA, WEU, and CIS DPC leagues, to discuss his upbringing within South American Dota, how he transitioned from being a product manager to a talent, and the current state of the regionsince its humble beginnings.
Dota 2 Beginnings
esports.com: Thank you Chilling for doing this interview with me. I just want to start off by asking who you are within this professional Dota 2 community and what you do.
Chilling: Thanks Pedro for the interview. Well, my name is Leunam Chavez, also known as ‘Chilling’ for my Dota nickname, and I am a first-year host and analyst for the European and North American DPC Spanish broadcast. But besides that, I’m a Dota enthusiast who has been following the game since the Dota 1 days since the LAN cafe days in Lima and who is also an Immortal support player. Other than that, I followed a career as a project manager in tech startups, and consulting for digital agencies and software companies. Additionally, I have won two competitions/awards: Startup Peru 2nd Gen and Wayra’s Telefonica Startup Award, which has helped me expand my network and bring more value to the companies in which I help.
With this pandemic situation, an opportunity arose where I got to explore more into this passion and the right partners showed up, you know?
I’m very good at networking due to my past experiences and portfolio. After getting an interest from ESL, Electronic Sports Broadcasting (ESB) was the perfect team/partner for it and we went for it. I was responsible for partners, relationships, and getting the broadcasting rights for those regions for ESB and it’s been beyond an amazing adventure. It matched perfectly with my passion for Dota and streaming. I can’t thank them enough for all the support they have given me.
Every person has their own origin story regarding how they first came into contact with Dota 2. How did you specifically come into contact with the game? What was that like?
That’s a really great question. It was when my older cousin actually introduced me to Dota. I am a single child, but I consider him as a brother. We would go to the LAN cafe and we would play Counter-Strike there with other people all day and it was completely fun.
There was always one pro guy in the cafe who was really ahead of the meta and destroyed everyone. He brought Dota to the cafe and everyone started playing it and that was kind of my first approach. I was like, ‘Wow, this is Dota,’ and then it was like ‘Wow, this looks like 3D graphics. They are amazing.’ And then, since I didn’t know this so much because I played a lot of CS back in the day, local Dota tournaments started showing up in the forums.
Back in the day, a website called Bloodstone was the hub of gaming here in Peru. The tournaments were going on and Dota showed up also and they started following. Because I was kind of a tryhard in CS, I also got interested in Dota so I started watching it. I downloaded the tournament replays from the Dota 1 days. I watched teams like OK.Int.Nirvana, old Na’Vi, the MYM (Meet Your Makers) Dota type of replays. Then I got hooked after watching Kuroky carrying a game with Tinker, and enjoyed the west versus east narrative. That’s my origin story.
Chilling also streams his own gameplay regularily.
Once you started playing more Dota as time passes, did you ever visualize yourself being a professional player as a young person?
Of course. I would idealize that but I never took it seriously. I really started playing (or trying to rank alone) through streaming first. My approach to ranking up with Dota was through streaming. I wouldn’t play alone in solo-queue. I made some friends in the community when I started streaming on Twitch. Although I keep it really low ground and haven’t been working on my personal growth, which is my fault, I also had this other life in my professional type of world. I didn’t fully commit there as I told you until this kind of pandemic situation came around. I was putting the effort into making that transition little by little in order to try to incorporate more Dota into my life in a responsible way.
What about visualizing yourself as a caster or analyst? When did you start becoming more serious in that department?
I never visualized that. Never. As I told you, it was an opportunity for me that appeared through exploration and hunting for opportunities. I felt really confident in myself skill and knowledge wise regarding Dota, also I had been doing some educational content and had some time streaming and making friends in the Dota 2 community. It was something that happened, that was not planned due to how the opportunity presented itself. But I really enjoyed it a lot. I got the rush. I got into the zone in one of the matches and I just kind of fell in love with it. I was really bad when I started, I could recognize that. I’m still learning and improving on my casting and hosting. I think I have improved a lot but there’s a lot of room to improve. For example, as an anecdote, In my first match, I had to co-cast with Mr. Avo+. Imagine that, going through your first gig with a big name and also in the tech operations was DonCookie which is a super CS:GO caster. Luckily, I got supported and got cheered upon although I was not confident there. They guided me, they gave me tips which helped me calm down my anxiety further on.
You mentioned the time where you worked as a manager and consultant for projects outside of the esports industry before transitioning to Dota/esports. How did you apply the skills that you learned from your previous work to your new venture in hosting, being an analyst, stuff like that?
It’s half and half. I also did some production planning, budgeting, coordination, partner management, commercial alliances, all that kind of stuff that came with that previous job has been very useful for me in this new venture. Panelists have to really interact with people that doesn’t get intimidated by the CEO of this big company or someone you don’t want to make a bad impression on. It’s kind of doing that ‘I don’t care’ attitude maybe in front of the camera. Yeah, kind of that.
I guess you’ve been doing things as a caster, host, and analyst that you wouldn’t have thought of doing in your previous work before entering the industry.
Yes, of course, I wouldn’t be able to do all of that in the previous job. Absolutely not. I actually enjoy these casting roles that I have been doing. And it’s currently open, you know? We have another weekend to do the SA regional finals this Friday and I’m really excited for that.
Father Figure for new Talent
What were some of the things that you’ve learned under this new profession from your colleagues thus far?
I think the most important thing that taught me is to listen to what your colleague is saying. It’s kind of like in music where players talk about listening to certain songs and trying to have a conversation. It’s to try to be in the moment and listen to the guy although I think I’m still not there. Probably on the level that can bring you lessons on how to adapt to your casting partner. Sometimes it takes more time to adapt to the other person. For example, in this new season, with me working with new casters, the roles have switched a bit. I’m a more experienced person now and I’ve been trying to develop another support system like Avo+ or Tio Inka did for me.
So now you’re the father figure of the new talent?
Yeah, but the older guys have 5 to 10 years , whereas I have just one. I don’t see myself as that sort of figure, but yeah. I guess to an extent, I kind of had to mentor a few talent.
Moving forward. You mentioned how uou played a part in bringing Spanish broadcast into covering EU, NA, CIS DPC events as a member of Electronic Sports Broadcasting (ESB). What was that like? How did you join ESB from being a consultant and stuff like that?
We went to work around four or five years ago through a friend that worked there to introduce us, and eventually, we liked each other. And as such, there could be some breaks one day where we could work together. We spent some years trying to find that project, I used to consult or work with them. I would work there as a creative writer for a couple of months. Then a consultant-analyst for a client they had in the politics industry, I could say or something like that. We worked on some little projects. I would do analyst CEO optimization for one of their clients or analyst-consulting for small companies in a freelance type of contract.
From the start, Gonzalo Velasco, who’s the CEO , and other people within this scene were all gamers in their DNA. They would take breaks in their office and play Counter-Strike together in LAN cafes. They had it and they felt like family from the start. And I guess it was just a matter of time before we could participate in a real gaming project. They have been in esports for a few years now albeit only in FPS titles (CS, Valorant, PUBG). They have been really great in addition to its many types of content. Gaming, technology, entertainment has been blowing up lately. They had a really amazing show. I don’t know if you have seen it but ESB Setups has millions of views on YouTube.
Yeah. I don’t know if you saw this on TV, but there was a program called “Enchulame la maquina,” or “Pimp My Ride” from back in the day. They would do that sort of thing. They would do that for gamers. It’s amazing. They wanted to go into Dota. For good or for bad, Dota is the number one esport here and it has always been this way. I think CS 1.6 was ahead for a bit, but as I was saying, since the days where everyone got the internet Dota has been number one. By being an esport company, you are obliged to go into that. That’s where I came in. I could help them with that, so it was like a perfect match.
Since joining ESB and helping them develop its DPC broadcasts to the Spanish audience of various other regions (NA, EU, CIS), how much of an impact has ESB played into growing the popularity of the game and the viewership within the Spanish-speaking world?
We consider that the South American DPC right now, talking industry wise, is one of the most profitable in relation to other regions. The other regions right now are in a state where audience growth must be constructed. That said, this is a kind of learning opportunity we have for it to grow as a product of which we find interesting. Personally for me, I found it really passionate to see NA and EU being high-level competitive Dota regions . But there has been a lot of effort to make those regions grow like in terms of storytelling, social media, getting player interviews which are getting community rebounds. This is the first season where we are not Twitch exclusive, so we are hyped to reach new platforms. It’s like we are starting again and that we’re in a whole new year.
Considering the broadcast side of creating content, doing interviews, all of that stuff, how does this current state (with ESB being present in covering DPC events) compare to what it was like before when South America was just classified by Valve as an official region?
It’s day and night. It has been a complete game changer. It was something that was being asked for and it was being done for gains. I don’t know if I can talk about League of Legends. It’s a banned word in the Dota community, but it was something like that. A system that would support players for our audience to enjoy. The money it brings to the region can be life changing for a lot of people due to the socio-economic situation that most of the population are in. Dota can be a lottery ticket or a chance of escape from a bad situation.
Regarding the kind of structure or backing regarding Tier-2 support, I think it went into the right direction and it was a big leap. Talking about the past, where events were not economically sustainable, the prize pool of those big LAN tournaments and the money that the top teams sought after was not secure at all. First, you had to qualify by always having to go through North America because it served as a qualification phase for just one team from the Americas. You had to beat Evil Geniuses. *laughs* So there were gatekeepers for the South American players. But when the change was made and the Americas became separated it was well deserved. South America deserved their own type of qualification phase and representatives in contrast to the North American region.
There’s been plenty of progression from then until now within SA, but from your perspective, having seen plenty of things behind the scenes within the DPC, are there still inherent problems that restrict SA Dota from continuing to expand its popularity and progressing competitively?
That is a good question. There are probably some points I could talk about. Making space in the DPC for third party tournaments could be one. Second, local politics, the taxing, the costs, the permits–all that kind of stuff that you need as a producer of events, the overhead costs are too much, and that makes it super challenging to do a profitable local or international LAN event. Those costs would translate into the consumer and would bring the ticket prize up and that’s not necessarily accessible to the Dota crowd. It would be great to have a Lima Dota Major someday. I think Peru could be a esports destination or hub of the region in that sense. Besides that, Dota has been growing at a stable pace. I heard that many brands are interested in doing things with Dota or esports now because the pandemic has helped with the news headliners that we are now the fastest and biggest entertainment industry. I’m talking about institutions, colleges, apparel brands, the gaming technology brands, fast food delivery brands, etc. They all have their sights on us now. We’re pretty passionate to create a product that can blend professional casting and entertainment.
I want to bring up one aspect that you mentioned–them being those three forsaken words (LoL). It’s undeniable that LoL is one of the biggest esports titles in the world, springing constant high viewership, having many players, and all of that jazz on a yearly basis with no trend of stopping. You say that Dota’s growing within the region, but it’d be fair to say that LoL is within that same trend. Have you ever felt that there are things that the DPC should have within SA while looking at the other side of the wall and seeing LoL thrive?
Yes, of course. We have to separate the game direction, the game mechanics, and patches from the esports type of work that Valve does. We could learn a lot from not only from traditional sports (NBA, soccer leagues), but from LoL too. Esports have been doing great work in the sense that they invest a lot in marketing such as promotion, influencers, and social media. They were really aggressive in their marketing. That’s the kind of word I will say: aggressive. They were really aggressive and they keep continuing to be aggressive in their marketing.
Looking at Riot Games and League, their relationship is completely synonymous with each other since they started at the same time so they had all in that. All of their stakes were in that and they had to be really aggressive with marketing. We could learn from that. I think the Dota community is just asking for a couple of community managers and one esports marketing team that can be kind of aggressive. They made this Dota 2 Netflix series, but for every action in marketing that Valve does for Dota, LoL has ten times more marketing in comparison. It has an impact of attracting new players, you know?
Your answer is pretty reminiscent of another certain interview I did some time ago but I understand your point completely with the main thing being to pursue more marketing and foster engagement with the fans. Talking about the DPC, there are plenty of opinions regarding (either grievances or praises) about its format. From South America’s perspective, how do you view the state of the DPC (i.e. the regional leagues, the prize pool distribution, the allocation of slots for the majors)?
I feel it’s great. It can be better though, you know? I heard rumors that the second season is having a change in format. Most of the critique from the audience and players has been over the six-week seasonal length being too long. The audience gets diluted among all the regions that play every day. I think it can be way tighter. It can also give space for certain party organizers to do Dota because they would have time should the schedule be changed.
What would also be better is if each league has a shorter time duration. For example, SA and China would play for a couple of weeks followed by two other regions, that way each region could have down time a third-party organizers can create tournaments. If we tighten the schedule, we could make matches even more interesting. A change of format could help the audience and the broadcast production companies.
And regarding the prize, I honestly haven’t heard much complaints about it. If so, it was probably done by NA. I feel the TI prize pool should be capped at something and the rest distributed into the regional DPC format and the Majors. This is a completely brainstorming line of thought but that money can be distributed and make other tournaments way more interesting, way more competitive, and have more at stake. They say TI is the only thing that matters because it does right now. It has exponentially way more of a prize pool than in any other tournament.
In part two we will talk more about the current strengths of South America as well as the regional finals.
This interview was conducted and transcribed by Pedro Romero, Community Writer for esports.com.
Freelance writer with approximately three years of experience. Worked for numerous outlets including esports.com while covering League of Legends, Valorant, and Dota 2. Currently at Bronze I in NA LoL solo-queue.
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