One of the newer faces of EU LCS casting, Aaron "Medic" Chamberlain, spoke to Cybersport.com about pushing aside passion in favour of discipline and how rejections for the job made him a better professional today.
* * *
You had a tendency to go away from esports only for it to catch you right back. Tell me a little more!
It's happened a few times in my life. I started casting when I was in my second year of med school. [In the] third year, I applied for a job here at Riot and got through to the interviews, then decided I wanted to finish med school first, so I backed away from esports.
Then I cast in the middle of the fourth year, backed away so that I could do finals, worked as a doctor for a year and I was actually not enjoying [that], so I came back to esports. Esports has always been a passion of mine since I started, and I'm just really glad now that I can pursue [it] full-time.
I wouldn't have imagined having this life at 25, I was going to be a doctor.
There aren't that many people that go all the way to pursue that, though.
Nah, I think that you have to make the decision that you want to do it, and also accept that it is not going to be frequent work. When I started freelancing, it was often that I had a couple of months without a job, and you just accept that because jobs are sporadic, especially over winter. As long as you rely on the discipline of continually trying to improve yourself and you don't rely on the emotional feeling of "I feel good, I did a good job," then you're always going to be able to progress.
You've also done that as a student... not necessarily a more attenuating factor to having those breaks. Some people went full-on without having anything on the wayside or dropped everything for it.
Esports started off as a hobby for me and then, piece by piece, it developed into a more integral part of my life. Medicine almost became the hobby at the end; I worked whatever hours — I did seven to eight or whatever on an average day. Then, piece by piece, esports became the main part of my life, and now I'm struggling to find other hobbies. Now that esports is my job, I have to find hobbies outside of that.
I started lifting a little bit more, going to the gym, watching anime, playing different games. It's about finding the balance in your life; although esports is integral to me now, I know there will be times I lay off it a little bit, take a break and reset so I can come back stronger.
Can you tell me about that time when you applied to the LCS [the first time around]?
I originally planned it when I was in my third year of medical school. I got through to semi-interview stages and I backed out at that time. I wasn't known at all — I had done like one or two events in the UK. I then talked to Trevor [Quickshot] a while later, and they actually rejected me and said, "We don't think you're where you need to be right now. You don't have these parts of it". Especially my mechanics of casting were very weak. I could do the hype, but the check-ins, the golds, the item builds, and just allowing my co-caster to thrive were all pretty weak.
I love the fact that I can explore and experience a life at 27 that I would never have imagined having at 20.
When I was starting off as a doctor, the application process opened up again. I emailed Trevor and was like, "Here's my new work, I think I've improved. Tell me if you don't think I have." He said I had, and [Riot] put me on to the Challenger Series. It was a long process; it was about eight months from when I first talked to him until I was brought on, but I'm so glad it happened. I think that if I had immediately come onto the LCS, I'm not sure I would've thrived the way I have here. The delays and rejections actually made me a stronger caster.
Delays and rejections were also a form of feedback; a lot of people that dealt with that went through moments [where they asked themselves], "What do I need to improve on?" always looking for that little thing, looking for the next mark — not necessarily role models, but marks: doing this better, that better. What were those marks for you?
Originally, it was very basic stuff, so I could look up to anyone that was a high-level caster and see the stuff I needed to change. The change I'm undergoing right now is much more of an entire personal change than purely a casting change. I'm moving away from being motivation-driven.
What I mean by that is: it's very easy to be passionate about something and love doing [it], wake up in the morning and [think], "I'm motivated to do this today!" But then, emotions are incredibly fickle; one day you're sick or you lose a ranked game and you're just like, "Oh, I don't want to do my teamfight practice now, because I'm not in the best emotional state."
You change that idea of being driven by your motivation to an idea of being driven by discipline. Right now, I wake up at 7 in the morning, I'm out of the house, I'm at the gym. It doesn't matter if I feel shit, if I feel happy, if I really want to go to the gym or not; I leave the house and I get there. If I sit there for half an hour in the gym changing room and say "I can't do it today," that's okay, but that so rarely happens. As soon as you get to the point where you're actually doing the thing, your body takes over. That's what discipline is.
As soon as I start teamfight practice, I do it for half an hour, and I take notes, recite things. As soon as you start a VoD review, and you do it, and you force yourself to do it. But if you don't take the step to start it, if you allow yourself to be ruled by emotions and by "I don't think it was a good cast, and I don't want to look at it again," that's what stops you from progressing in the long term.
[Ed.: We take a break as I digest his answer... Then it dawns on me.] In terms of casting, you also changed from colour to play-by-play...
I was colour for a very short time. I was Silver, [and] I did colour for EGL for a really short time. I enjoyed it, it was good, but my analysis was never really there, and I just enjoy shouting too much. Play-by-play has always been my home. Drakos is much more color-orientated play-by-play, whereas I'm more about adding in my little bits of knowledge here and there, because I know bot lane relatively well, [and] I know Rakan really well, but apart from that I am going to stick to my role of being exciting, and I'll let the colors do their stuff.
I mean, a Silver trying to do colour...
At low leagues, it's fine! No one really knows what you're meant to talk about as an amateur caster. Amateur casting has expanded hugely since I was there, but a lot of the time it's just like, "Why do you use a colour caster where you talk about how the item build works, or about what the gold lead means, or why they have a gold lead?" There was no real depth to it, or at least there wasn't for me.
I still think I have lots to learn.
I mean, even Bronze I's could talk about that.
Another part that I want to talk about is mostly regarding some of the guys that went to LCS casting before you from the UK scene, talking primarily about James ["Stress" O'Leary] and Richard ["Pulse" Kam.] Ages ago, you were kind of trying to catch up to them. The dynamic has changed as of late, but I saw an old interview of yours in 2016 and found it interesting that you said that.
Yeah, I was always trying to catch up to them. They were the two guys that left the UK scene when I was starting to become a caster, and they've always been... role models is a little bit strong of a word. I take parts of what I think they are good at, and I apply it to myself. You're never going to want to be exactly like another person.
Even now, I look at some of the stuff Stress does with his wrestling entertainment and being the lead broadcaster for that, and I love how he hypes the crowd. I love how he develops excitement, almost like this grandeur in his casting and the way he talks. I really look at that as something I want to develop. Pulse has this incredible way... The way he coordinates with his co-caster and never really seems to be in an awkward situation really amazes me.
There's plenty for me to learn from these guys, even though some people might say [that] I've stepped up to their plate or surpassed them. I don't think I would say that. I still think I have lots to learn.
I'd like to go back on having a discipline-driven approach, rather than an emotionally-driven one.
The whole motivation versus discipline thing is something I've been looking at over the last couple of months. I wasn't that invested into it before, but now it's something that drives every part of my life. At the moment, a lot of things are a grind for me; I have to force myself to do them and you have to have that discipline. My hope is that eventually, the things that are a grind at the moment become easier, and it's only one day out of 10 that you really have to force yourself rather than six or seven out of 10 at the moment. It's helping me, and it's helping me progress, and it's a long way to go.
As long as you rely on the discipline of continually trying to improve yourself, [...] then you'll always be able to progress.
I'd like to know what triggered that change if you don't mind sharing.
Things have been a little tough for me recently. I've had some family issues; my dad hasn't been incredibly well, my brother-in-law hasn't been incredibly well. It's very easy to wake up in the morning and feel like shit. It's so easy to let a single event in your day make you feel like shit. It doesn't have to be a big thing. I used to have times when I would lose a ranked game, and be like, "I don't want to go out tonight, I don't want to go for dinner, I don't want to do anything."
I'm trying to get myself out of that sort of circular pattern of thinking. I watched a couple of things on Reddit — I think it was /r/procrastination or something? It was talking about how it's easy to be motivated for a short period of time, but how hard it is to be disciplined for long periods of time. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and an incredibly wealthy man, talked about how a lot of the big business owners would say, "You need a little bit of luck, fortune, hard work, motivation, but what they won't tell you is that you need discipline."
You have to force yourself to do the same thing because, in the end, the passion runs out. In the end, you go to a game and you're like, "I don't want to cast this, I'm tired," and you have to discipline yourself so that when you are in that moment, you will find it fun, and you will find it joyous — and as soon as you take that first step, you do! But it's taking the first step that you have to push yourself with.
I do not have anything to add in that regard, to be honest. So I will be tackling a final point, and that is an impression: having your life seem all planned out, only for something to change. I think that is something that you can relate to pretty easily.
Yeah, I agree! There have been a lot of times in my life that I've thought that things were going to go somewhere, and they haven't. I grew up in a very Christian family, a missionary family. We moved to India when I was 10, and originally I was like, "I'm going to live in England for the rest of my life," so that was the first time that happened to me. Then, my mom passed away when I was 14, then I came back to the UK to be a doctor.
Actually, my first rotation [was] the first time I wanted to apply for university, my guidance counsellor at my school made me apply too late, so I couldn't do any of the exams, and I had to take a gap year. Then, I applied again and I only got into my safety university and was like, "What's going on?"
The thing about it is: my life has taken a lot of turns, and a lot of them have been self-inflicted, and a lot of them have been because of the world. But everyone's life does that. As much as you want to say you want to have the idyllic garden fence family, semi-detached house, be married by 20, have two kids, be a doctor or whatever you want, I love the fact that I can explore and experience a life at 27 that I would never have imagined having at 20. I wouldn't have imagined having this life at 25, I was going to be a doctor.
As much as it's tough, as much as you have a month, six months, a year, two years when you feel down and feel like things aren't going your way, if you are willing to stick through it, and if you keep yourself on the path you want to go on, then you'll get where you want to be in the end. It might not be where you thought you wanted to be, but it will be where you as a person actually ought to be.
More EU LCS Summer interviews
— Kold: "[This year], I'm the best version of myself that I've been in years."
— Sheepy: "I like authenticity and building upon people's beliefs and goals."
— Totoro: "It's too hard on the bottom lane because we have no clue what they'll pick."
— Neon: "I feel worse after losing a Solo Queue game than after losing an LCS game."
— Hussain: "I’m not opposed to bot lane having more variety if it’s done in a healthy fashion."
— Hans Sama: "It'd be incredible. I'm thinking, 'Should I go for it?'"
— Mikyx: "AD Carries are only suboptimal if you're not that good at them."
— Memento, Norskeren, Profit & Blanc: ROCCAT's bootcamp adventures