Read the first part of our talk with Dash here.
The 2022 Mid-Season Invitational’s English broadcast has had some interesting developments. With the broadcast being held remotely, and popular names like Clayton "CaptainFlowers" Raines, Marc "Caedrel" Lamont, and Eefje "Sjokz" Depoortere — the event will no doubt be different from many in the past. In the second part of Inven Global’s interview with James “Dash” Patterson, the esports host discusses his thoughts of the adjustments, his thoughts on Sjokz’s legacy, as well as his own.
Turning to MSI — what's been your preparation process? It's been a very weird tournament in that quite a few big names have dropped out, as well as the return back to a remote environment. Has anything changed on your end?
It's a boring answer, but my preparation doesn't change at all given any of those factors. It changes the way I feel about the event — it's more of an emotional thing. I would much rather be on-site with fans. I'll always choose that over not, so it's a bit of a bummer that internationally here, we still can't have that. But one day, we will.
In terms of preparation, mine has always been to watch a ton of VODs around the teams that have qualified for MSI. Typically, I watch their playoff runs — I don't go too deep into their regular season as I don't find it incredibly relevant, especially when metas change even between playoffs and MSI. In my position as a host, I don't need to do a ton of research on every little detail of what that team is doing strategically, or what they're playing.
For me, it's more important to understand the general narratives of those teams. Were they the favorite all season long, or were they a dark horse like EG? What was their story within their region? What is their region's hope or expectation of the team's performance? And then from there, all of my work is about studying up on what is interesting to the people who will be on my analyst desk. That means having conversations with all those analysts. Also obviously attending all of our story meetings where we're building out segments and the analysts are giving their thoughts on regions. It's listening to podcasts from different regions, as well as content of casters and players from those regions talking about different strengths and weaknesses.
So it's a lot of research and study. The one major difference between this event and some of the past ones is (this is true sometimes and not true other times) that I'm not working from the beginning of the broadcast. So a lot of my prep is just watching all of the games between now and when I go live. Because those regional storylines that I'm talking about that I've still at least gone and looked at become a lot less relevant a week from now when the group stage is over. Then it's more about what's happening within this tournament. It's more about being very tightly in tune with what has already taken place at MSI.
That means watching all the broadcasts, which is pretty sweet that I get to say that that's my homework — watching the show that I'd be watching as a fan anyway. But yeah, a lot of my preparation as a host, specifically, is actually not about my own knowledge around the game. It's a lot more about: "How do I interact with the people that will be on my desk? How do I decipher what they actually care to talk about? What pisses someone like Caedrel off (I know he's not on, it was just the first name to come to me)?" Then I'm gonna go talk to him about that on the show, because I want that fire and passion on that topic. Whereas if someone like MarkZ doesn't care that much about that thing, but is really passionate about something else, I'll go to him on that.
So it's figuring out how my cast of characters on the analyst desk work individually and together. I do a lot of — and this'll sound stupid — Mind Palace work. Basically, I'll sit in my imagination and think, "If I'm gonna have Mark and Emily, how do their energies work together? And therefore, what character do I need to play? What energy do I need to be at to serve as the link between them? What if I have Vedius and Emily, or Vedius and Mark instead? What if you bring Raz into the equation? He's a way higher energy analyst than most, so where do I need to go to adjust?" I do a lot of hypothetical thinking about how I'm going to work. But I don't actually have my rosters yet for when I get there, so I still don't know yet who I'll be working with on each day. A lot of that work can't be done yet.
This is one of the first events where you aren’t working with Sjokz, as she's hosting the desk at PGL Antwerp. What's that like, how would you compare your style of hosting to hers?
For me, it doesn't really change much. When we hybridize and we swap, we have our own approaches to both things. And we come at those things independently. She and I talk a lot in terms of our careers and stuff like that. But we don't really step into each other's work during the process. So she conducts her desks on her days the way that she wants to, and I do the same on the days that I want to.
We definitely have different approaches. I would be wary of commenting on her approach because I don't want to misrepresent how she prepares... she puts in a sh*t ton of work. It's incredibly cool. I put in a lot of work in my own ways, but as I said, mine is a lot more relationship-based and a lot more about the tones that I want to hit and the personalities that I'm working with. And at this point in my career, I don't formulate as much of a game plan.
I definitely trust myself a little bit more than I did back in the day to have done my prep work, know that that's in the back of my brain, and just go. To trust my technical skills on air and my ability to sus-out what's interesting and what's not in the moment to determine whether or not we're going to go keep going down a road and talk about something, or whether or not we're going to pivot into a new topic, or if I need to ask a follow-up.
I don't know what Sjokz's exact process is, so it'd be unfair for me to really comment too much on what her style actually is. It is distinctly different — she's f*cking brilliant, and I've learned an incredible amount from her over the last almost-decade of being in this business. And I adore every moment that we get to work together.
I'm super excited for her to get to go host CS:GO, though. I know how long she's been wanting to do a major and for her to finally get that opportunity is just so cool. So super excited for her to get to do that. I can't wait to get to see her again, though, because she's definitely one of my best friends when we travel.
When I spoke with Drakos, he mentioned how important he thinks Sjokz has been in building the LEC broadcast. Considering how long you've worked with her on international broadcasts, what impact would you say she's had there?
It's multifaceted. One of the easiest things that I'm going to call out first because it's related to what we were talking about earlier, is Sjokz's social media game. This is obviously not necessarily shown on the broadcast, but it is still hugely relevant. Because having a big recognizable brand that people know what they're going to get when they tune in — I can't overstate how important that kind of stuff is. And Sjokz understands the social game better than any of us on the broadcast team.
You can see it more on the whole slate of LEC talent, because obviously, she works with them for more of the year. But even when we go internationally: watch how she pulls everybody into her social media world. She gets everybody involved, does an incredible job of not just continuing to bolster and build her own brand, but to showcase and spotlight other people on the broadcast. To get them out there, build them up, and help them build fandom to increase their credibility. And she'll do that for everyone, both in her region and elsewhere. That's one huge aspect.
Another piece of that is team morale and levity. One of the reasons why I say she's one of my best friends — I like to go out with her. We like to go get drinks, go dancing, and get dinner. She wants to be active and engaged and involved with people on the team. And that's important to building a good environment, and in making sure that everybody is centered and rallied around the same thing. She does an incredible job of that.
That's the kind of stuff that you don't necessarily see on the broadcast that I think she is unmatched in. On the broadcast itself — when it comes to things that I've learned from her — it starts all the way back actually. In the days when she, at least internationally, did more interviewing and I did more desk work. I started to realize and recognize how much more work she had done in terms of building relationships with players, and therefore understanding them better than me.
She understood their stories and how they thought. And when she would then transition back to the desk, I think she had a deepness to the way that she could speak about players that I couldn't necessarily. So that definitely encouraged me more. When I'm home in the LCS and doing interviews, or when I finally started doing some more interviews internationally, I try and catalog a lot of what I was getting out of those interviews in my brain. I try to build those relationships with those players that I could now pass them in the hall and ask them a quick question and get a sense of how they feel about the game today, or how they're doing in the tournament, and then bring that into the conversation on the desk or just let it inform the way I frame the matchup.
And then as well, I think way back in the beginning of our careers I was the really rigid host and she was the really loose host. During the game, I'd write all my bullet points out of everything that I wanted to hit in the segment. And I'd just work through them one by one along with my desk. So it was kind of really prescriptive — effective at that time in my career and probably necessary for me to just get through everything, but ultimately not the best segment.
Nowadays, while I take notes on things throughout the game, I don't write out bullet points of topics that will be discussed. I more just catalog on my iPad big moments throughout the game. Now I just have a list going into the segment of fifteen things I could talk about, but I don't have to talk about any of them. And as the conversation between the analysts starts to develop, I look to insert those things as they become relevant or interesting.
And so it was just kind of a shift, and I think a lot of that was it. I don't even know if she does things that way or not, so I'm not saying I took that directly from her. But it was more the idea that I learned from watching her. That it would be better to move away from this all-encompassing, super-accurate summary of the game that we just watched in a six-minute segment. And it's more about having an entertaining, intriguing, and informative conversation around something related to the game. But an analyst desk segment can be about one ten-second piece of the whole game. You can do all six minutes on a 10-second play if that was truly the most interesting, intriguing, and impactful thing in the game — that's what it should be about. I reframed how I thought about the desk in watching her work over the years
What do you see as your current role on the broadcast and I guess in esports as a whole? You’re obviously a very ambitious person and have been able to perform well enough to get to host MSI and Worlds for years now. Do you want to do other things soon, or is it just a matter of perfecting what you’re doing now?
I absolutely want to do other things soon. I am in the process of doing other things that I can't necessarily tell you about at the moment, but absolutely. It's been no secret that I don't plan to be an esports host for my entire life. I absolutely love it, still love it, and will do it for as long as I love it. But at the same time, in order to move into this position as a host, I had to give up (at least for a period of time) on my life's passion, which was to be an actor. So that is something that I am constantly looking at how I can bring back into my life.
Riot's given me some pretty incredible opportunities — both inside and outside the company — to flex that acting muscle over the years. They've been always supportive of the fact that I want to at some point dive back into the world of acting a bit more seriously. But yeah, it's hard to say when. I don't have a timeline, and my previous timeline was disrupted by Riot. And I kind of learned that planning your life 10 years in advance is a waste of time.
Now I'm just gonna ride the wave. I love what I do, and I love hosting VALORANT as well. That's been cool to kind of stretch my legs. Hosting is an incredible skill, and I would love to keep working on it and growing that skill. It is a goal of mine to be considered the best esports host that's ever lived (or at least in our generation). That is something I would like for people to be able to say about me, even if at some point I choose to exit — I am very ambitious. But I'd like to do that and then I'd like to go over into the acting world and win an Academy Award as well. So there's a lot of work right now being done behind the scenes around a couple of projects — both individually produced and some projects produced by other people — but I'm gonna keep doing this hosting thing for as long as I find it challenging and exciting. And at the moment, it is still both of those things.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.