This past week at ESI London we had the chance to sit down and have a chat with Mike Ellis, team manager for Team Vitality and international esports commentator, about his start in esports and his experience in the industry so far.
Declan Murphy: Hello Mike, thanks for sitting down with us. Could you tell us about how you got your start in esports?
Mike Ellis: Weirdly my start came from Minecraft. I used to go to Insomnia with Noxcrew. That’s sort of what got me through the door - kept going to events, kept meeting people. Then Insomnia 56 two of my friends were comedically commentating Rocket League. They didn’t know anything about Rocket League at the time - They liked the game but did it mainly because they were funny guys. They invited me to cast the final with them as they knew me as “the Rocket League guy”.
From that people were like “you should get into commentary, you’re good at this”. I emailed JamesBot back before anyone (in Rocket League) was a professional commentator and it mainly voluntary. He introduced me to a lot of the American community, CloudFuel as well. I spent hours and hours and hours casting community tournaments - basically trying to make myself the voice of Europe. From there I kept meeting people at events and kept taking more opportunities.
Eventually people come to you with things and you can make into your job. The first job outside of small events was Clash Royale CCGS. I got invited out to LA to interview for that having never played the game before. The interview came through a Rocket League caster I know called Shogun. That was the first real time I had something that wasn’t just Rocket League. From that I also got Gfinity Elite Series.
I started doing other roles - a little bit of coaching here and there - my stream started growing. Was mainly just little things all over the place. Those connections you make will all start providing more opportunities by themselves. Like I met Team Vitality while doing Clash Royale and said to them basically if you need Rocket League to contact me. They ended up contacting me to scout a team for Rocket League in Gfinity and then from scouting a team they also took me on as their manager.
DM: What is the best bit of advice you could give to this next generation coming into esports?
G: This bit of advice is pretty universal but I’d say more so in esports - voluntary work. People always joke about being paid in exposure but just speaking to Joe Brady, one of the best photographers in esports, he started out just messaging people asking to record and photograph their events for free. From that he built up a portfolio. Same thing happened for me through commentary; same with management. Then you can say “these are my jobs, these are the things I had to do” and go forward with that into your next job.
What’s crucial is when a job wants you to have experience, they don’t mean it has to be paid experience, they just want you to know how it works and know the jobs you’ll be expected to do. If at first you’re willing to do it for free then they know you have the dedication to the job well.
That thought process for me came from (my degree) medicine and the ethos with medicine to differentiate yourself from everybody else through voluntary work to show your dedicated to the cause of helping people. So I used that in esports and had the mentality that I’ll use my time as my payment into my next job.
Thanks to Team Vitality for the header photo