Trevor "Quickshot" Henry's name is almost synonymous with League of Legends esports. The South African has been involved in the scene for almost a decade. The last seven years he has worked directly for Riot Games, where he still works as both a caster and talent manager for the LEC.
We spoke to Quickshot during the Group Stage of the League of Legends World Championship. He spoke to us about the growth League of Legends is still experiencing today, and were he thinks it'll stop, if it ever does. He also discussed what it's like from a caster and talent manager perspective to bring together broadcast talent from all over the world for the largest esports event of the year.
First, I want to talk to you about this Worlds in particular. Many people said that this is the most stacked one, perhaps of all time: do you agree?
Yes, and the reason is that there are multiple teams that could win. Something unique is that we just didn't 'know' the winner when the tournament started.
Why is it that now we have the most stacked Worlds of all time?
The game has changed, the game has evolved to a point where a denial/defensive style of gameplay, which is what the LCK has perfected, is no longer the most dominant style. Individual performances, like season two or season three, where you could 1v9 and win entire tournaments is kind of coming back. There is so much versatility to the game, which adds a level of dynamic decision-making. It means there are multiple ways to play, there are multiple right decisions, and that means that there are multiple teams and players that are capable of winning games and potentially win Worlds.
"My children won't watch traditional sports. I'm gonna raise them on esports."
What about the ever-growing size of regions that are competing? How do you think that plays a role?
I'm going to give you an example that's very specific. When the VCS and the GIGABYTE Marines played on the international stage at Worlds, and they did a funnel-esque comp on Nocturne, bringing him to level six in about four and a half minutes, it fundamentally changed the way people viewed the game. As the game is changing, becoming more dynamic with more champions that are viable, different regions, different cultures, different competitive environments, different perspectives then mean there's multiple ways to play.
Obviously there's high variance and there's high risk in certain styles, but because there are so many leagues and so many players, it means that this hodgepodge forces people to think differently about the game. It challenges them to think and react differently. And the more dynamic, the more varied, the more exciting it is as a viewer and the more competitive it can become.
Competitive League, and League of Legends itself, has continued to grow every year. Where do you think this is going?
I have no idea. I would like to see it continue to grow, and I would like to see the industry and the players that are growing up with us keep League of Legends going. To put in a personal perspective: I have been playing this game for ten years. I am married, I'm gonna have children, and my children won't watch traditional sports. I'm gonna raise them on esports. In ten, fifteen, twenty years, when the LEC is the undisputed best league in the worlds, I'm gonna be taking my children to watch the games at the studio.
It's really exciting, because it's never been done before. The internet, the ability to play games literally everywhere at any time, streaming 4G, 5G, all of these things make our industry and what we're doing with League of Legends is the cutting edge, the frontier of the next generation of entertainment and sports. I can only see it growing, and hopefully we'll grow with it.
Do you think eventually there'll be a League of Legends league in every country?
I actually don't think that's possible at all. The reason why, is: we're still a sport. Do you play rugby, cricket or football?
Well I played rugby and cricket when I was in South Africa, but otherwise...
Right! South African sports don't necessarily transfer elsewhere. How about darts? How about ice hockey? How about volleyball or curling? Not every country plays every sport, and that's fine. Different cultures, different approaches, different mentalities and beliefs around video games is really what's going to dictate if every country will have a league. But then the next question is: will every country be good at it? Same thing. You look at the football nations as an example, and there's always regions that are better.
I am confident [League of Legends] is going to grow, I am confident more countries will play. There's no doubt about that. But I don't believe in my heart that everyone everywhere will.
The next topic I want to touch on is the talent roster at Worlds. Since you're a talent manager, Worlds is obviously a big celebration of all the casting talent in the world. What's it like to bring so many people from all over the world together?
It's absolutely amazing. It's always really fun because we've got different styles and different approaches. You learn a lot and you have to adjust how you've worked for an entire year to get the best out of the product, and to give the best experience for fans and viewers. I really enjoy it. On a personal level I'm really proud of my ability to adapt my style to the game, the situation, or my co-casters.
As a manager I'm extremely proud of the European team. I got Sjokz to host the Group Stage analyst desk for the first time ever. Ender, in his first year as a fulltime professional shoutcaster, cast Play-Ins and now the Group Stage. Every single member of my team is on the show, and they're kicking ass. It makes me smile when I see everybody out there doing their thing.
Every single member of my team is on the show, and they're kicking ass. It makes me smile when I see everybody out there doing their thing.
We talked to EGym during the Play-Ins, and he highlighted how the OPL has its own, unique style. How do you bring all those multiple styles together for a uniform broadcast?
That's primarily on our production team and our managerial team. They have several meetings leading up to the World Championship, and then we bring in wider groups as we get closer to the event. With the entire broadcast team, including the shoutcasters, we take stats and graphics and debate and argue to find alignment on the direction we want to go.
There are some very obvious things. This is the pinnacle of League of Legends in the year, so it has to have a celebrate-y, formal, respectful tone. But we do debate and discuss: where do we draw the line on those comedy segments and those personality segments? Well, as long as the occasion calls for it, and is justifiable and makes sense on the international stage. What we always do, is putting our viewers first. We do think about what people will be talking about. With storytelling, we do tend to lean a little bit more to games, teams and players that our viewers are more aware of and more comfortable with, as any broadcast will do. And then we get to debate and argue how much of the crazy characters you can put in, that most of the fans will still enjoy.
Bringing so many casters from different regions together, brings a risk with it right? Maybe it doesn't work.
No, there's no risk whatsoever. Every single person we work with, from every department, is a professional. When you get together you're producing a product and you're presenting content to fans and viewers. The only risk is: will fans love everything we do? That's why we have all those discussions, all this planning: to make sure that for the most part everyone is looking in the right direction, for the most part we're all in the same bus journey together. Even if everybody on the bus is looking outside a different window, we're travelling in the same direction. We're going to tell the story that we see, but it's together in one way.
There has to be a certain amount of risk with regards to caster chemistry though, right? They may get along greatly, but perhaps on broadcast it falls flat. How do you account for that?
We practice a lot for that. When you go into preparation we have story meetings where the individuals will share their perspective and what they believe is going to happen. We then debate and discuss, and make sure that before we're on-air everybody has shared their opinion. We have graphics prepared before that. In the event that we feel that the synergy may not work, we schedule practice casts to iron out all the kinks. We have hand signals and unspoken gestures that help guide the content. So, if I'm working with somebody who I think sounds a little bit sad, perhaps because their region is losing, I'll have a note on a piece of paper that says 'happy +'.
A lot of those risks, a lot of the things you're alluding to are mitigated beforehand. Obviously if fans say something, if social media brings something to our attention, we discuss, debate and internalize to look what has to be changed.
You have all the tools ready to think on your feet as well.
Correct. We do a live broadcast every day, right? It's not pre-planned or pre-recorded. You have to pivot. You have to be ready. What happens from one day to the next can be completely different. And again: everybody does so many shows, so many broadcasts with so many different people that you always have to be adaptive.
To round up the interview I want to ask you for a personal casting 'dream': which caster that you haven't casted with yet would you like to be on the desk with?
There are very, very few people I have not yet casted with. Actually I would've loved to cast with EGym in Play-Ins. I was hosting the analyst desk then. I think he's got an energy that is infectious, and I find him very enjoyable and entertaining. I'm also just a huge fan of the Australian accent. So one day, I will cast with EGym.
Images via Riot Games