Interview with Alex "Vansilli" Nguyen, Valorant Caster & Analyst
Yoann: Hello everyone! Today I’m with Vansilli, caster and desk analyst for Valorant! How would you introduce yourself?
Vansilli: Hey! My name is Alex, I've been broadcasting video games for about 20 years now. I've been somebody who has been really interested in gaming and esports in general, even before it was titled as esports. From quake two capture the Flag, I went over to Counter-Strike 1.6, then when CSGO came out, I did a bit of that, and then most recently in 2020, I've been doing Valorant full time.
Yoann: That’s nice! When and how did you get into casting, and why in esports, not in conventional sports?
Vansilli: Great question. I didn’t do conventional sports because I don't have any sports background, so I felt like I didn't really have the skillset for it, most of the commentators are all like ex-pros on the analyst desk or have studied the game for years to be in the broadcast booth. Also, I never had a good enough computer to compete back then, so I wanted to find a way to get involved in competitive gaming.
The short story was that I actually got to listen to some people do audio broadcasts only in late 1999, just like AM radio, and it was a group called Tribes Shoutcast Network. They then eventually expanded into multiple games to become the Team Sportscast Network, also known as TSN, which people like the Boomers like me know about.
And then they recruited me to cast. It took about like 9 months and like 20 demos until I finally got accepted just because I had potential, not because I was good enough.
I did audio only and then evolved with time to the first videos in 2006, to eventually Twitch in 2012.
I got to go to my first LAN in 2003, which was the CPL Summer 2003 event. Then I had an opportunity to fly to Korea to broadcast Counterstrike for the World Cyber Games 2003 with djWHEAT and Wacksteven. That’s when I discovered esports. Professional players were like celebrities: stopped in the streets for autographs, photo-ops, etc. That’s when I wanted this to happen in North America as well and that I wanted to be a part of this as a caster. That's been my drive ever since.
Yoann: So you are casting Valorant alongside Rivington. How did you guys meet?
Vansilli: Rivington was also casting in Counter-Strike 1.6 back then so we actually crossed paths to do some casting together and some voiceovers on how to navigate through a community-based Counter-Strike website called CSN (Counter-Strike Network).
I've been working with multiple people ever since Valorant came out. The opportunity came when Riot decided to put Rivington and I together as casting partners on Valorant.
And now we’ve had the opportunity to cast the Americas league together. We are continuously building that synergy, that chemistry and it’s been feeling better and better on how we’re feeling currently in our product. We still have some work to do individually to make us sound even better as a duo, but hopefully, the fans have been enjoying the games as much as we have had the joy and honor to commentate on them.
Yoann: That’s awesome! Do you have a common preparation routine before matches?
Vansilli: Yes. For match preparation and general game knowledge, we are doing a lot of Vod reviews. We're not just watching matches in North America. We have to watch Europe, Pacific, the Challengers scene, and the Game Changers scene to see what's going on: what's new or is anybody coming up with new tricks to stay on top of the meta.
We also meet up to build up storylines: players to look for, styles of play that week, hero building, etc.
Then I do my own VOD reviews on my casting to see what words am I saying too commonly, what words am I repeating, if I could have said this sentence in a certain way, could I have paced myself better in that clutch, on that Trade on that execution, etc. I want my casting to sound better and better every time, but not for me. I want it to be better so that I can give a better listening and viewing experience every single time we get to hit the mic for the fans and the players. I always want to give the match the credit it deserves.
Yoann: That's so cool. Do you have a favorite team to cast?
Vansilli: I always liked the underdog story, right now it seems like I don't really have a full favorite team. Everybody knows me as someone who’d be happy if everybody could have a trophy. I would give a trophy to everybody, haha.
So when I see a team do bad, I always try to cheer for them more because I feel for the players, I want to see them succeed.
Yoann: What are the main differences between casting CSGO and Valorant?
Vansilli: That's a great question. I think fundamentally there's still a lot of things that are similar. When it comes down to timing, rotations, scaling towards a map together, going for the swings and stuff. Very similar to when you’re watching Rainbow 6. At the core, it is still two teams fighting against each other to defuse a device in a tactical FPS environment. What differentiates CSGO to R6 and VALORANT is that R6 and VALORANT have classes/operators/abilities outside of the roles whilst in CSGO, you’re only limited to the roles (entry fragger, support, awper).
For me it's not really trying to say that one game is better than the other, but these games are all different in their own aspect and all amazing titles to play and watch.
Yoann: Yeah, of course. How would you describe the Lock//In finals between Loud and Fnatic, only using three words.
Vansilli: It would probably be Intense, Crazy Comeback. Especially on the last map, how everything went down on Icebox, it was insane.
Yoann: Yeah for sure! Which team do you see winning the next major event in Tokyo?
Vansilli: It seems like it might be the same finalists in terms of consistency for every single region so far. I think you're getting the most of Loud, Fnatic and DRX right now. It'll definitely be coming down to any of those three.
I love storylines, so we've gotten the storyline of Fnatic with Boaster with a trophy and LOUD with a trophy. I think now it's time for DRX to finally get a trophy. It's their time. DRX Fighting!
Yoann: I feel like people really want DRX to finally win an international event!
Vansilli: Yes, exactly. Their main crew is still together, I think it only makes sense for them to finally lift the trophy. The coaching staff has been around the tactical FPS scene for quite a while as well, notably glow and termi, it would be nice to see them get some sort of prize for all their hard work and dedication outside of pro gaming, and now into coaching.
Yoann: Yeah, agreed! Let's now move to the ten quick questions. You’ll have to answer them as fast as possible.
Phantom or Vandal?
Yoann: What's the exact name of Neon's sprint ability?
Vansilli: I was going to say fast lane, but it's not. I usually have it, you got me! It's not high speed, it's not high step. I give up!
Yoann: You were close! It’s called “High Gear”!
Vansilli: God damn it! We don’t cast enough Neon these days.
Yoann: Valorant or CSGO?
Yoann: What are the seven teams who won an international event?
Vansilli: So we have Sentinels, we have Loud, Fnatic, M3C, Optic…
Yoann: The last two teams are from EMEA.
Vansilli: Oh, so Navi and Acend, boom!
Yoann: Perfect! What's your favorite skin bundle?
Vansilli: Oh, the next one that's about to come out. But I don't know the name, but the gaming one. It's expensive as hell, but I am definitely putting my money into that one. I think it is so cool.
Yoann: I'm going to get at least the Phantom.
Vansilli: I'm getting the whole thing haha.
Yoann: What's the best match you ever casted?
Vansilli: Dude? Actually, it comes back to a Game Changer one. It was Moist Moguls against Evil Geniuses. It had everything from a great storyline how they came back from that one, to actually winning it. There was a lot of hype that we were able to bring around that game, Riv and I. It wasn't an international event, but if that was actually in a studio or in an arena, I think that that would have erupted. That would have been so insane. So yeah, that's probably my favorite game for now. mle clutch was insane!
Yoann: What's the best region right now in your opinion?
Vansilli: It sucks to say, but I think it has to be EMEA at this point. Fnatic just seems unstoppable, and the competition in that region is quite high.
Yoann: What’s your best memory with the Valorant crew?
Vansilli: It has to be LCQ 2021, even if it was only one and a half day of tournament in Lan studio because of Covid. Everything that happened on stage and out of our work environment was awesome. We were able to hang out as friends, get to know each other a little better.
Yoann: What's your favorite map right now?
Vansilli: Everybody's going to hate me for this, but it's Bind.
It's not even about the teleporter, I just feel like it's one of those very tactical maps.
Split is probably very close at the top as well as my favorite map.
Yoann: Yeah sure! Can you quote a voice line from your favorite agent?
Vansilli: My favorite agent is actually Killjoy, but I've been playing a lot of Kay/O lately. So then let's do a Kay/O one then.
No one walks away!
Yoann: Perfect haha!
Vansilli: That almost sounds like brimstone, but whatever.
Yoann: Last year I interviewed Doug, and I recently asked him to ask you a question.
So he told me, quote: “Doug would like to know why you are such a schmug.”
Vansilli: Hahaha, so the story behind that is that we always have fun, chip chirping at each other. He likes to call me a schmuck, when I like to call him a dweeb.
Doug is actually one of the good guys, he's been grinding around Valorant, or even in esports for a very long time. He is super awesome and very down to earth, and always reaches out to you and checks in on you if he cares for you. Yeah nice but also a dweeb.
Yoann: Okay haha! How often do you play valorant in your free time?
Vansilli: As much as I can, actually. I'm still trying to grind to finish my battle pass for this act. There's not too much free time these days. So that's the sucky part. But now I'm just going up and down between like Diamond 1 and 2 because of the lack of hours that I have to play.
Yoann: What are your hobbies or passions aside from gaming?
Vansilli: It doesn't show these days, but I love working out. I actually have a gym set up here. Golfing is another of my great hobbies and passions, I'm not good at golf, but I love playing!
Yoann: Good. So what are your short and long term ambitions on Valorant?
Vansilli: Short term is being able to do one of those international events this year. I think short term too is making sure that I'm able to do my part in my duo with Rivington, so that we actually sound amazing.
In the long term, I think it's always been something that has been very close to me to be able to broadcast a full arena.
You know, if I could do an arena of like 14,000, 15,000 people, it doesn't have to be a grand final. I just want to see a full crowd and be able to do it just to feel that, especially when I've been around the scene for about 20 years in casting. But I've never gotten to that point to be able to cast at a stadium level.
if it's going to take me until I'm 65, it's going to take 65!
Yoann: That would be so cool! Do you think you could become a coach one day?
Vansilli: I don't actually. I feel that as much as you want to watch VODs and study the game, and study how teams are playing, you won't really know the real decisions behind certain plays until you actually sit into the comms and figure out what's happening at that level, and really understand what's going on behind the actual play.
Before I could actually become a coach, I probably have to start at the very beginning. Trying to get the experience of coaching individually.
I don't think I have that mechanical knowledge to be able to really understand the full game of adapting on the fly.
Yoann: All right, that’s interesting. What would you say to someone aspiring to become a commentator in esports?
Vansilli: I think the most important thing for me is to be humble. It's always nice to have that confidence and to want to be the best. But It’s very important that you don't burn bridges on the way there. Have some good social relationships and be good at that. The esports scene is still very small. So make sure that you're respecting everybody in the way that you want to be respected as well.
The technical aspect of it for casting is to make sure you do some practice, record yourself casting. Relisten to your own VODs to see how we can get better every single time. And with that, start building your highlight reel so that you could actually send out those reels to network even better and then hopefully get opportunities.
Yoann: That’s for sure! Is there anything else you want to add to this interview?
Vansilli: I'm at that point where I'm still trying to figure out the best version of me, and I’m glad I'm still able to inspire others. Whenever I have free time, I try to answer every single DM that I have. Especially when it's people asking about casting. “Can you help me in a certain way? Can we do some Vod reviews? Can you give me some feedback?”.
Because it would not be worth it for me to hide my secrets/casting style. I want to make sure that I help grow the talent scene as much as I can so that whenever I’m gone, there will at least be a certain threshold that aspiring casters can start at when they have the opportunity to step up to the plate and show the community what they are made of. I want to help them so we have a better esports ecosystem from a talent perspective later down the road.
Yoann: That’s awesome, thank you so much for your time!
Vansilli: Thank you for the interview!
Vansilli’s Twitter: @Vansilli
Vansilli’s Socials: https://hype.co/@vansilli