Lemonkiwi recounts her OWL journey, combines Overwatch with DND, and more
2018 is when Jennifer "LemonKiwi" Pichette began her Overwatch commentary journey. 2022 would be when she would add her voice and infectious enthusiasm to the official Overwatch League broadcast. From calling the matches of the brightest North America has to offer to now sitting ringside for some of the best Overwatch 2 has to offer, her journey is equal parts inspiring and heartwarming. LemonKiwi reminisced with GGRecon about some of her earliest casting memories, her thoughts on the Countdown Cup, as well as injecting a bit of Dungeons & Dragons into the mix.
Author's Note: This interview was conducted during week one of the Countdown Cup.
It's nearly been three years since a fire alarm interrupted a particularly critical Overwatch World Cup match both for you and the participants. From Team Sweden versus Team Italy to gracing the Overwatch League stage for the 2022 season, what has the journey been like for you the last few years? Have the expectations lived up to the hype?
"It's been an insane year or two of just lots of great things happening. I've always been more of a journey-type person rather than a destination-person so I've just been enjoying every step and all the new things that happen."
"And when Overwatch League happened I was like 'Oh, I've been enjoying the cruise but now we're at the port.' Now I'm finally at the destination I've been working towards all along."
"Looking back I've been working for like four or five years in Overwatch and they're right when they say that time really does go by when you're not hyper-focused on meeting an expectation for yourself although I've set small [goals] over time of just improving."
"I don't know how to word this but I wasn't expecting to make the Overwatch League."
"I was happy where I was, it's been so many years, if it happened then that's cool, but if it doesn't that's cool too."
"So I've been surprised. It's been such a surreal experience."
"I've always described this as—it doesn't feel like real life."
"There has been a lot of positive reception which was even more surprising to me because I was definitely expecting to be met with a lot of hate because when I did the World Cup I was crossing through that 'Overwatch Contenders bubble'. That was my first time in front of the Overwatch League audience and they were not as receptive at the time. The World Cup was a lot more volatile, a lot more serious."
"So that was my first taste of a 'tier one product' or at a major production in front of a lot of people."
"That was an experience that made me wonder if I was ready for the Overwatch League."
"When I got the offer it was a stressful experience because I had to make sure that [Harry "LEGDAY" Pollitt] also got an offer because we've been working together for years and we were going to go together. I was worried if I was even going to be able to go with LEGDAY or if he was going to go without me. So that was definitely a stressful part of the Overwatch League and making it there but once all the cards were laid out on the table and I could just focus on the work then I was concerned about the reception."
"It has been really, really positive, I get some hate—but a normal amount. I've always gotten a normal amount of hate. The Overwatch community has been so nice and I've gotten positive reception from Blizzard too and from my colleagues."
"I did not think I was going to fit this job like a glove if that makes sense."
"I thought there was going to be this major adjustment of attention and the hate and the extra pressure with a different run of show and more teams and players to learn about—and I actually just feel like I've always belonged in this environment. Overwatch Contenders has prepared me for this."
"And I'm kind of glad I came in at this time. To go up with LEGDAY and all the preparation—it makes sense I've come into the Overwatch League now."
"It's been amazing. It's really a dream job. The sun is always shining."
Years ago, I asked you for a French proverb that described your casting and your career and you said “Little by little, the bird makes its nest”. Do you feel contentment with the nest you've made with your career or is there still hunger to chase bigger and greater things?
"I definitely feel like I have a well-established nest right now, I feel really comfortable and secure where I am in Overwatch, but I do feel like I'm the one that has to learn the most. Out of all the play-by-plays I'm the rookie here this year."
"So I think there is some growing to be done. Some people are still getting used to my style, also being a woman play-by-play and a rather loud one, it's something I always want to improve on. My technique, where and when I get hype, I've taken in feedback from my colleagues like [Jack "Jaws" Wright] and [Mitch "Uber" Leslie] who has done VOD reviews with LEGDAY and me."
"And most importantly, just trying to find a groove."
"We went from trading roles, so being more of a hybrid, to being more rigid in our roles."
"The only insecure thing is that; nothing lasts forever. So I have all my eggs in this Overwatch basket and it's not about how I create some insurance. I want to distribute those eggs a little bit everywhere."
"That's the only thing I'm juggling right now; how do I make my career safe for the long term?"
"That said I'm really comfortable in this nest and if I could live in this Overwatch nest forever, I would, but now I just have to be smart about it. Now that I'm established in this tier one product, now I have more opportunities so balancing that has been really hard because it's like 'Oh, I want to cast Team Fight Tactics.'"
"So there is almost too much excitement and that's never something I'm going to complain about because I like being busy in a good way but my nest is so happy and structured in Overwatch. Now it's just a question of how do I balance all these nice other things and expand my skill set."
"I definitely want to improve my technique, my camera presence and try to find a niche as 'the funny one but it's hard being consistently funny. It's really hard to be consistently funny without being cringe or getting in trouble, so that's something I want to get better at too."
"How do I become on-the-spot funny like the other casters are?"
Accepting full bias here, I'll ask you plainly; how excited are you for Overwatch 2 and how do you think this will impact the greater Overwatch esports ecosystem?
"It's really good."
"Both creators and talent got a look into the future of what the game is going to look like and Blizzard has been trying to assure us and let us in on what's to come because obviously, this is a new game."
"The unknown scares some people and it can excite others, but to have a look into that long-term plan? It really excited us. A lot of content. A lot of great things and all the things that Overwatch 1 lacked Overwatch 2 addresses."
"The beta was a lot of fun, I'm a big fan of 5v5. I think a lot of people have warmed up to it especially after a lot of the off-tank players obviously had their role taken away, but surprisingly enough there are enough spots to go around with the meta the way it is."
"Overwatch 2 is super fun, I think Push is a great replacement for Assualt. I always said Push feels like Assault but both teams attack at once, so all they did was take a mode they already had a spun it."
"I'd love to see more modes too, but I don't know if we'll get that."
"Overwatch 2 is headed in the right direction with content and monetization, and hopefully, that helps the league too. I'm excited!"
Speaking of, with most of the season done and dusted, what would you say your favourite storyline was from the season? Something to make a "Rise-esq" video to? Are you more partial to the Gladiators' back-to-back stage titles or something a little more "shocking"?
"Every team has such an interesting story."
"It's hard not to say the Gladiators or the [Colin "Coluge" Arai] and [Corey "Reiner" Scoda] rivalry from the Midseason Madness. You kind of already have that anime poster of them facing off against one another."
"Then you've got the Dallas Fuel who, isn't really a dark horse, but they are kind of this third-man that you don't always think about. During the Kickoff Clash they were dominant but then went quiet, so you never really know how good they're going to be and [Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han] is one of my favourite players in the league so I always looked forward to seeing what he does with the Fuel."
"I have a [fondness] for some other teams like Boston Uprising. After talking with their coaches a bunch, you really can tell there is a vision for how they want to run the team. With the millions of tanks they've had, what's going on with [Alex "Seeker" Taylor], then they're sometimes a mixed roster and sometimes they go full South Korean, the one constant has been [Leyton "Punk" Gilchrist]."
"He's been such a young and hard-working talent that I feel like if I could pick a player storyline it'd be Punk. It's funny, as a minor side tangent, back in Contenders Punk's Mom was the first 'mom' to reach out to me because I was doing Contenders interviews at the time and she was really supportive and super kind. If I could make a short 'Rise' it would be cool to make it around Punk's comeback."
"If I could touch on an upcoming rookie too, I'd take [Nicholas "Speedily" Zou] in a heartbeat. To me, he's the next [Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun]. I'll overhype him, I don't mind. He just solo dominated Contenders. To me that's the western Proper, so I could see this Speedily vs. Proper poster—that'd be pretty epic."
As we're coming out from an incredibly rigid metagame and into a fresh and fluid one, I've got to ask; what are you looking forward to the most about Countdown Cup's meta? Any particular role you've got your eye on?
"I'm excited to get away from the Junker Queen meta just because it was a lot of really long fights and I believe it was one of the most difficult metagames to cast. With all the cooldowns you had to track to monitoring the HP levels to see if a Genji could get a dash reset and the fights being so drawn out but also being so decisive once something did happen? All types of these different things to keep tally of within seconds of each other and you try to find time to talk about them while a fight breaks out with ten ultimates happening at once."
"I found it really hard to find the right pacing or the amount of energy I should put in. I'm a very analytical play-by-play caster so I want to talk about the intentions of the players and I just felt like I didn't really have a lot of time to do that."
"This new meta with Countdown Cup is going to be really hard for casters and players to adjust to because of the high amounts of burst damage. We just came from a meta where no one is dying ever and you have three sources of healing and damage mitigation to a meta where you have Discord Orb and the Sombra Hack that adds a lot of bursts as well."
"From what I'm hearing is that the meta is all over the place. Some teams running Wrecking Ball and D.Va and some Orisa, so I think tank players are going to be in the spotlight this meta. Who is able to adjust from the Junker Queen and some of the main tanks to now being able to play some different looks? It's just got to be such an adjustment to go from such a slow-burning fight to if you make one wrong move then you just lose, one mistake and you're dead."
Lastly, I want to combine two things I'm guessing you're passionate about; Dungeons & Dragons and Overwatch. Here are three North American Overwatch League teams, give me their stat breakdowns and your decision-making process for doing so.
"It's hard to rate any team really that high in strength because let's be honest, we're all gamers here and they didn't do any push-ups when [Hadi "Hadi" Bleinagel] challenged them."
"I wouldn't say they're a super fast team when it comes to dexterity. I think they definitely adapt to metas well, so wisdom should be a kind of high, they're in-game intelligence is super higher as well. I think they've been trying to utilise [Lim "Finale" Jung-woo] and [Jung "ALTHOUGH" Hyun-wook] all season. Toronto definitely has been improving quite a lot so that helps as well."
"As for constitution, I get the feeling that certain players on the Defiant put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform. I don't know for sure, so don't quote me on this, but I feel like there are some players that feel like they need to carry the team."
San Francisco Shock
Strength: 8.5 (.5 for Coluge)
"It's hard not to rate them slightly higher in strength solely on Colgue's presence."
"After being able to bring in so many rookies and even having Coluge's D.Va strategy during the Kickoff Clash, you've got to give them high marks in intelligence and wisdom."
"And while they are a smart team, I think that the textbook definition of dexterity really applies here. When you've got so many talented players all on one team, it's hard not to pick that as the Shock's best stat."
"Then they aren't the most charismatic but then you've got Coluge and [Samuel "s9mm" Santos] with his suits so they're got some flair to them. So that's kind of the thought process with San Francisco."
"Strength? You already know, we're gamers here. I'd give a half-point to [Kim "Edison" Tae-hoon] but that really doesn't count."
"As of right now, their in-game mechanics are really strong, so you've got to give them high marks in dexterity. SP9RK1E is easily the best Genji in the west."
"For charisma, the Dallas Fuel has to be the top three most charismatic teams in the league—also SP9RK1E."
"In-game smarts are really strong for Dallas, the way they rotate and engage specifically with Edison's Reaper but wisdom could be a little suspect. With all the odd roster moves and creative hero picks they can be known for, maybe Dallas isn't the most 'wise'. They can kind of feel hot and cold in some metas."
"As for constitution, they seem fairly even, but their other stats are just higher."