ODPixel: "I don't take the TI invite lightly, I know that I've still got a lot of critics out there"
He hails from the United Kingdom and is the third British personality that has been invited to cast at The International Dota 2 Championships 2015 besides Paul 'ReDeYe' Chaloner and Ted 'PyrionFlax' Forsyth. He has amassed a huge following in a short period and is arguably one of the crowd favourites when it comes to Dota 2 due to his impeccable and fun-loving casting. He hit it big and went on to be one of the lead casters at DreamLeague season 3. Yes, you've assumed correctly. It is none other than Owen 'ODPixel' Davis.
Natus Vincere had the opportunity to sit down with ODPixel and cover a wide variety of topics ranging from his initial days as a caster, his decision to cast DreamLeague season 3, and his reply to Henrik 'AdmiralBulldog' Ahnberg in regards to hugging Jorien 'Sheever' van der Heijden. He also reveals his intentions on his famous "rubbing mangoes over his naked body" chat leading all the way up to The International 2015.
Hi Owen. How are you doing today?
Not bad at all thanks!
Thank you for agreeing to the interview. Let's get straight to the point. I did some research on you and tried to find you via Google, Wiki, and Liquipedia but it came up empty. So this is a very important question .. who is ODPixel, what does he do, what is his origin?
Who is ODPixel ey? Well, I’m a guy who loves Dota, loves talking, and loves entertaining! I’ve managed to find myself fortunate enough to be in a position in which I can use these in my career as caster for the game. I’ve graduated from University, with a degree in Music Technology, and went on to temporarily work as a pharmacist’s assistant down the local chemist, which of course I have now left in order to live the dream and commentate competitive Dota 2 full time.
Since we're in the clear with that, let's talk about your experience as a caster. You're relatively new to the scene and used to co-cast with Lysander at BTS, HeflaTV and basically cover tier 2 games. How would you describe your experience as an amateur?
There are a lot of positives and negatives about casting Amateur level competitive Dota in my opinion. It’s an amazing way to get a lot of practice done, thanks to the awesome amount of amateur tournaments out there that are always looking for people to cast and stream their games. At the same time though, it can feel disheartening that you are likely to have very low viewer figure numbers, because the reality is that not that many people will care about the amateur games at hand. For myself, this wasn’t really too much of a negative, as when I started out casting, I never really had the belief that it would ever become more than a hobby, because that’s exactly what it started out as. I loved being able to get excited about Dota with people watching, even if it was just 10 or so viewers, because it made the viewing experience feel more communal. I could have a chat with people about the game going on, I could learn new things about Dota whilst watching, and could also witness some wacky unexpected plays if I was lucky! Amateur Dota really is fantastic for aspiring players and casters, and I’m glad that Valve has a great in game system that allows these smaller tournaments to be encouraged and supported.
Then you moved on to cast some very interesting games including a 3 hour long game with SFZ vs Cloud9. Now for a caster with relatively less experience, it is very difficult to keep up with a game that runs so long as you're bound to run out of things to say. But you didn't and were always on point with your casting. That's where you gained another fan in me. Anything you'd like to add here in terms of the experience and knowledge you gathered?
That game was pretty damn long wasn’t it? Still to this day I think back and go, “JEEZ, WHAT THE HELL WAS I TALKING ABOUT FOR 3 HOURS?”. I even remember during the game, worrying that this could be a potential disaster, being one of the first big games that I had casted, and the fact that people may judge me towards the latter parts of the game, where it was likely that I would not be at my best! Fortunately of course, people seemed to love the humour and energy I injected towards the end in order to keep the game entertaining, and it’s awesome that the viewers did seemingly feel that way overall! I believe the reason why it went as well as it did, was I was running on a little bit of hypetrain when the game began. It was my first top tier game that I was set to cast, and the first time I talked to, and casted with Purge. And Purge is beautiful. I think more credit needs to be given to Kevin for that game, as he did just as much work as me in terms of keeping the commentary going!
Moving on, you made a sudden announcement on moving to Sweden and becoming a full time caster for DreamLeague. How did the move happen? Who approached you for the casting gig at DreamLeague? Was it Pyrionflax? Please explain.
DreamLeague was, excuse the pun, THE dream. How did it happen? Well, one day a certain Mr Harding hit me up on Skype with the brief, “Hey want to come to Sweden and cast DreamLeague”. Now at the time, I’d received a few offers to travel to various parts of the world in order to commentate, but this one was just on another level. I can’t convey how thankful I am that James and DreamLeague took me on for the season, as it was literally the best way to develop myself, and help me find my place in the scene, and arguably it was a slight risk for them, as I had literally just been doing top tier games for BTS from my bedroom at that time. The whole experience was awesome, from living with Shane and Sheever, to working in a professional TV studio environment. One of the best months of my life so far, and I hope that if it goes ahead, they’ll invite me back for a further season!
I must say, you did a commendable job at DreamLeague and kept it very entertaining and informative at the same time. Although I need to know what you have to say to Admiral Bulldog for this picture?
Thank you, that’s great to hear you enjoyed it! And in regards to Bulldog getting angry about that picture? Well he better raise his own donger, because Sheever won’t be. Kappa. But in all honesty, Sheever and Bulldog are both awesome, and so would a picture of us all hugging.
Your success on turning around DreamLeague after season 2 debacle along with other colleagues like Shaneomad, Sheever, Draksyl, Pyrionflax, etc has led to even greater gigs; The International 2015. Congratulations man, you really deserve it! Can you describe what was going through your mind at the time? Also, who gave you the invite from Valve?
Being invited to The International is an absolute dream and honour, and I can’t wait! It really doesn’t get any better than being invited by Valve to come to Seattle. When I was confirmed going (by a beautiful mysterious man online), it was just the feeling that I could really focus on casting as a serious fulltime option. It was the ultimate confirmation that what I was doing was the right thing for me to do at the moment. I really can’t express in words how amazing it feels, but at the moment I’m focused on preparing myself as much as I can. I don’t take the invitation lightly, and I know that I’ve still got a lot of critics out there. I want to do my best to make sure that when people watch the games that I am casting, they have an awesome experience. I’m starting to write up my own personal notes of all the players, teams, current meta etc, so that as well as bringing my trademark hype, I can be respected as someone who knows everything and more about Dota 2 as an esport.
So I assume, this story is going to come true? You've a lot of explaining to do here .. are you really going to rub mangoes over your naked body?
It’s been awfully hot recently, perfect weather for rubbing mangoes on naked bodies. To be fair, I said that I would do such a thing, not that I’d publicise it. But, I am a man of my word, and I’ll maybe have a little bit of fun with this if people care, and will of course share the result…
Who are you most excited to co-cast with at TI5? Why?
THIS IS SUCH A TOUGH QUESTION! Well, for a start who knows what Valve’s plans are. Maybe I will get paired up with one co-caster for the entirety of the event, but with the amount of games, I would imagine we will get mixed about. There are so many people that are a dream to cast with, so it’s incredibly hard to solo people out. I am of course looking very much forward to cast more with Draskyl, as we without a doubt have had the most practice in terms of pairing, and he is such a great guy to commentate with! He gives me all the space in the world to go crazy when the action is going down, and he always has something insightful to say in between them. And he’s also just a really lovely guy.
Do you think your relationship with DreamLeague will limit your freedom and ability to cast in other tournaments? Will you cast games outside the DreamLeague banner like joinDOTA and BTS have been doing?
A lot of people seem to think that I am associated with DreamLeague/GD studio full-time, and that really is not the case! I mean, of course I hope to do more work with them in the future, but at this point in time, I don’t have any contracts of such, and I’m just looking forward to TI5, and then will hope that businesses and tournaments will want to talk with me afterwards about the future!
I thought otherwise, my apologies. You've some great things going on at the moment, however, where do you want to see yourself next year .. besides casting the next TI?
Next year I hope to continue improving, and establish myself in the scene. I feel like I’m getting past that stage of “Hey, who is this literal who”, but I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of not being referred to by some people as very new. Which in a sense is correct when you compare me to the likes of LD and Tobi, who have been around since the dawn of Dota, but I hope to stick around and mature as a Dota 2 caster for as long as the scene exists, to one day get to that level! Of course, I have been casting for about a year and half now, but the fact that only the past few months have been anything other than Amateur Dota, means that a lot of people don’t quite realise the amount of time I have really been around!
What are your thoughts on newer streaming companies entering the scene and giving Twitch a competition? Let's take YouTube for example, how do you think they'll fare in an eSports world literally monopolized by Twitch?
I think going against Twitch is a very bold move, but obviously names like YouTube aren’t to be underestimated. If anything, competition is of course great for the viewer, as it means services will only become better and better in order to win your attention. With the amount of experience Twitch has within the streaming and esports industry though, I think we are a long way away from seeing any serious competitor come even close to being on the same level.
I wish you all the best in your casting journey. It was a pleasure to talk to you. Any final shout-outs you have for everyone?
Thanks! Was a pleasure, I hope people enjoy reading it! There are so many people to shout out to, and the know who they are, but key ones in chronological order would be, WakeyPixel my long-time buddy and co-caster who was with me from right at the start of my career, all of the amateur league organisers for giving us a shot at casting, LysanderXonora for being the first professional caster to take me under their wing and allow me to cast on BTS, Godz and LD for then trusting me to be able to hold games on my own for BTS, and of course Shane, James, Sheever, Draskyl, all the people at the GD Studio and DreamLeague for giving me the platform to shine! As I said, there are many more people out there including my fans of course that I owe a lot to, but hopefully they all realise anyway how much they mean to me!