Sideshow:''I actually didn’t even like Overwatch when I first started''
Before the world went asunder and the Overwatch League Homestands were cancelled, at the first D.C home game I was able to sit down with Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson, former desk analyst and current colour caster for the Overwatch League. After day of casting, including being the voices covering the infamous seven-map Toilet Bowl/El Classico match between the Boston Uprising and Houston Outlaws. After such an exciting day I got the chance to sit down and talk to Sideshow about the start of his career in esports, what the transition to casting has been like, and things he wants to do help improve Overwatch’s esport scene.
Where did you get your start in esports?
TF2, that was the first thing I got into. I started playing when I was 15. In 2014 I started casting my first TF2 tournaments, did that until 2016, and it coincided with getting kicked out med school. Since then it’s been stick as many fingers in as many pies as possible and eventually one of those pies will work out.
When Overwatch started a lot of the TF2 people were switching over there. For me, the best way to find your way into esports as a career is to find a game that you think is going to pop off and try to make original content around that game, try to attach yourself to that game as it rises.
I actually didn’t even like Overwatch when I first started, but that's the thing with esports as well. Every esport, every sport has something interesting that can grab you.
If that’s the case, what about the game is keeping you there and keeps you passionate about Overwatch? So, many people retire, so many people express their unhappiness with playing, what keeps you here?
The thing that keeps me in OW is that it pays my bills.
Okay but besides that.
Well the career aspect is so huge! Once you cement your name in a title, it’s hard to leave. But even in the pro player aspect, like you said. Saebyeolbe was thinking about retiring last season because he was benched for a few months. Blows my fucking mind, that it’s even the case at all. Like yeah, it might suck to be on the bench for a while, but you’re a big name, you’re still a pretty good player, but you have to think about it as a genuine career.
Thankfully with the Overwatch League, the scene has been making a lot of changes in the last years. I was able to do two years of desk work, and now I have the opportunity with casting, which I am loving by the way. It’s a totally new skillset. You have to entertain with your voice and carry the narrative, not miss things. It’s just fun, not just to diversify my career, I find a great joy in being able to test myself.
The process of learning and getting different stuff and earning peer respect is a huge driver for me. Which is weird because I was a lazy fuck when I was in university, so I dunno where this came from… There's something great about crafting a narrative and being proud with the work you've produced.
Does having Bren as a casting partner make it easier to cast?
It’s good to cast with somebody who you’ve worked with since 2015. Bren's first-ever cast was with me I’m sure. It’s very easy when you know exactly how someone thinks. I know exactly what he’s thinking about at most times. But also, we can critique each other without being afraid to offend each other. I think that’s a huge trait for Overwatch teams. One of the big things about getting along, is giving feedback to each other. You have to be critical but very tactful. Me and Bren go over our matches, and really try to improve.
Bren is one of those people who doesn’t act like he’s made it. He’ll always ask for feedback and try to improve. He just loves the craft of casting.
I’m hearing some familiar phrases in your casts, specifically Tobiwan’s “It’s a disastah!” In today’s Boston v. Houston match. Are those intentional callbacks?
Yes! Bren’s a big fan of those Dota casters. He’ll inserts snippets from even our own casters as well, like I don’t know if you've noticed but we’ve used some of Mitch's lines. Specifically, that one clip from Ryujehong on Moira from Season 1, it goes something like “Ryujehong, he’s hosing them down!” It’s fun for us to reference them, because it’s like you’re preserving them as a piece of Overwatch history.
Looking at Plat Chat, how did the decision to bring Custa on board come about?
Whenever you’re in the talent role, the most valuable nuggets of info are coming from the players or coaches, so you naturally gravitate to them. We recommended Jake and Custa for those roles, and even someone like Avast works well in those situations. It was also just because Bren and Matt (Mr. X) were out the of the country so we kind of just threw Custa in for fun.
You’ve done a lot of interviews, talked to a lot of players and coaches, who’s been your favourite to talk to and learn from?
Crusty. Just for a moment, when we first went out drinking with him, he immediately has this... you can tell he knows his shit. A lot of coaches just talk about general terms, but Crusty is so specific. Also Junkbuck and NineK, you learn that the best coaches in OWL don’t really focus on the ults or compositions, its more about whose supporting who, what plays you want to go for, how to maximize value out of certain pieces, and they just have a great read on their players and strengths.
Outside of the Shock? No one is as good. The Shock was so much better than even New York and the Titans last year, but I would say the Paris Eternal is looking great. Those are the people who've impressed me the most. Oh, also packing10, he's different than other coaches. He sets up good team dynamics, and I think he’s set up something great with the Valiant.
To wrap it up, what do you see in other esports that you want to bring to Overwatch?
The International has always done loser interviews, I love that, and we trialled that a little bit last year. We had that famous Ryujehong crying moment. Rich Campbell does fantastic lose interviews… I love the snappiness of the CDL, I’m trying to learn the rivalries because it’s so good. The official LoL podcast that League does, I’d love for OWL to get into that, or just buy Plat Chat, we will sell it to you Overwatch League.
The LCS does really cool post-production content, which is really hard to do on the road, but hopefully we can do something for the Midseason Invitational. I like what we've done with the improved double-elimination bracket of last year’s playoffs or the first to three formats of this season.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment