On screen, Josh “JHow” Howard is a large person with a larger personality. Originally a Midwestern boy from Kentucky, Three times a week, he now shows up to the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) studio in California with his co-host Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck. They put on a show, provide their analysis and go home.
Sounds easy, right? In fact, there is a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting together a show.
“It’s hard to put a number on (the hours worked in a week) but I know that every person here is extremely dedicated to making sure they are prepared. It's is not a three-day-a-week job that it looks like. It is definitely, for most of us, a seven day-a-week job that we all find a way to contribute every single day.”
Before getting on a Skype call to speak with me, JHow was going to enjoy his first day to really relax since moving to the Irvine area on his “off-day” after spending, what he estimates, was four or five hours the night before updating his spreadsheet and reviewing matches. This is no ordinary spreadsheet, however, as JHow has listed within: the pick rate, win rate, ban percentage and numerous other bits of information for each hero on each battleground for each region in HGC.
“Everybody's kind of got different ways to approach preparation. From an individual’s perspective, you want to come to the show prepared. You want to have as many stats as you can, even if don’t use them all, that’s the thing"
JHow and Gillyweed on any given weekend day, can spend as much as seven hours behind the desk, commentating on HGC NA action, providing original insight and conducting interviews with players post-game.
Atop of the California lifestyle adjustment, Jhow has also had to adjust to the amount of work that goes into each broadcast. Little things, like how you style your commentary for a global audience, are part of his everyday concerns.
"You don't want to put include too many jokes that may disrupt the pacing, I did that one day. It takes some getting used to and it's ok to let a little personality shine, but at the same time, you need balance"
However, the hard work is made easier thanks to how well they are treated in-studio, with a catered lunch and talented crew members around him to put together the show as a whole.
“We are incredibly well taken care of between production crew and Blizzard, I can’t imagine people are taken care of better than we are."
After arriving at the studio and before going into makeup, JHow typically meets with Gillyweed to compare notes and rehearse storylines. Give-and-take commentary is discussed and both casters can practice lines they want mentioned before, during and after matches.
The work done before the cameras go live, will never be appreciated enough by the audience and JHow understands that, which drives his willingness to improve on and off-camera.
“People don’t care about the time you put in or the amount of preparation, they care about what they see on the screen"
Once the lights turn on and the cameras start rolling, the preparation is immediately put into play. However, an important part of the casting process is rarely shown to viewers at home:
“What people don’t see off-screen is hand gestures. It makes it really easy to cast with people that will use hand gestures. There are moments in a cast where you hear people, but if there's a moment when not a lot of crazy is going on on screen, you can turn, look at your co-caster, and hand gestures make it easier to have more of a conversation. To bring a deeper dynamics for users into our world.”
JHow and Gillyweed have casted around 50 matches thus far this HGC season and are always working to improve.
“Gilly is the hardest working person in esports, hands down and that’s a big motivation for me to continue working hard."
JHow can recall his first interaction with Gillyweed. It was back in 2016 during the Heroes Rising event:
“I was casting an All Star match with ‘Zoia’ (Jared Eggleston), and I did that because Gilly was coming in later that evening and she was there for the weekend gig. Zoia was hungry, I think, as I was too and she brought him a taco or something from Del Taco and then she introduced herself to me. i believe she offered me a taco.
I’m pretty sure that was the first interaction we had. She was very nice, but in those first minutes she offered me a taco.”
What started as an exchange of Del Taco has evolved into a casting relationship of different but coexisting styles and personalities. JHow describes himself as a free-flowing and from-the-hip individual when it comes to his commentary style while Gillyweed is a much more structured individual in preparation and when in studio.
“Before we ever started the show, we had some text messages and I told her I wanted to be more structured with my approach to the show and I wanted to get on the same page so that was very beneficial to me"
Months ago, prior to being notified he would be the newest full-time HGC caster at the desk, JHow was doing everything he could to prevent himself from going back to a 9-5 job before one phone call changed it all.
Working 12-16 hours a day on content JHow, who was practicing casting skill shots and matches on his live stream, saw a Skype message from an individual with a simple request.
“Do you have time to talk?”
He didn’t think much of it considering he recently received notice he had been selected to cast the Open Division coming up.
“I’m streaming at this time and it’s during the time when I was getting a higher than normal viewers at like 4 p.m and I’m like ‘Can I call you back in a few hours?”
JHow called them back a few hours later when he had some time mid-stream and the news was broken to him that he had been selected to be the only full-time caster for the full HGC season.
“Is this real? I don’t know how this is happening?”
He messaged his brothers and friend with the good news then recalled, he still had a stream to get back to. Awkwardly JHow returned to his stream, played a few games, said nothing to his viewers then slinked away to prepare for one of the biggest moves of his life.
Highs and lows
From humble beginnings in the midwest where “driving more than 10 minutes, either way, meant you were going the wrong way” to LA traffic, it’s the simple things that keep JHow grounded including his happiest moment since entering the spotlight of HGC.
“Best moment I had thus far was not at the desk, it was the drive in on the very first day. It was the realization that I had moved, I had worked incredibly hard, insanely hard for years and the gratification of all that hard work culminating in all that on the first day...was an emotional feeling,”
As far as his most awkward casting moment, there’s also a fun story behind that too that only professionals and amateurs alike can relate to.
“It’s really dangerous to eat, especially fast, right before a cast because there’s something known as ‘caster burps. You talk a lot, you suck in a lot of air, you expel a lot of air and I was making a play by play call. I still remember it. Bottom lane, going into the keep with a dragon knight on Dragon Shire and I’m making a call during a fight and as I’m projecting my voice, this rumble comes out and I’m like ‘Oh my God.’ I remember trying to play it off and someone in the chat was like ‘Did he just burp?’ and I played it off like nothing happened.”
Speaking with great admiration of his role within the community and pride in which he goes to work each day, one thing that gets under his skin is a meme that has developed in recent years and he sees each day.
“I really wanna shred the ‘NA LUL’ tag, that’s a big thing for me. I truly believe that we have three teams that can compete with Europe going into the first clash"
The origin of the meme is unknown other than that viewer within Twitch chat spam “NA LUL” whenever a misplay occurs or sub-optimal play happens by NA teams as they are seen as inferior to those of other regions. JHow would not go on record to state the teams he thinks will be a threat in the first clash of the season, but he does think the region deserves a little more respect than it currently gets.
“For me , this game revolves around the teams and these players, it’s about getting the viewers to understand they are watching the best players in the world at what they do. Everyone makes mistakes but the amount of time and effort these people are putting in, they deserve a lot more credit than they get.
I want people to appreciate it and take pride in whoever they are cheering for and representing.”
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