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Zirene talks about developing his caster persona and holding in his salt (Important PSAs at the end)

By Mark Register
Mar 14, 2017

Q: How have you improved your on-air delivery?

It's been one of my biggest struggles. Being concise has always been my bane. Every time I'll do a review of myself and like "Keep it short." So I've been trying to improve my delivery by keeping it shorter, keeping it more succinct. It doesn't always work out for me because I like to look at a lot of things and take it all in and fully explain concepts. So in terms of how I've improved it, being more concise, being more confident as well I think has come within the last year and a half for me as well.

Well it's difficult because you have a lot of time to fill. You need to expand but then you also need to be efficient.

Exactly. I have no beef or no trouble expanding on points. They're like "Go deeper" and I'm like "All right, let's explore this." And sometimes like "Let's do this on the analyst desk" And it's like well we only really get to talk about this kind of aspect of the game, and it's like but "I really want to do like this one fight" This one like two minute thing. An examples is like when I did the Dignitas Chaser route where he did raptors, into red, into Krugs, kills the Krugs but not fully, and then ganks top at 2 minutes and 42 seconds. Like that's a bonkers gank to be level three for. And so that was one that I like really enjoyed going over because that's something that people could learn from and really appreciate once they realize "Oh yeah 2:42 is really early!"

Q: Have certain caster personalities changed the whole of the broadcast?

I think there are caster personalities that, you know, you inject them in and they will change the whole broadcast. I don't necessarily think I'm one of them and that's probably a bad thing. Because I can work with a lot of people, you know, and I won't necessarily change the palette or like how people are used to the LCS. But having that extra flavor and having that extra personality I think is a necessity sometimes. I think about MonteCristo at Season 3 Worlds. It's a very different broadcast without him. It's a very different broadcast and product when you take away that one person. And there are some times where it's like, you know, if I'm missing or something it's like I don't realize too much. Or like people won't realize too much. But if like some people are missing, it's like "OK why aren't they here?" And I do think that that's true that there are personalities that that is true with. Every time like Riv isn't here. I'm like "Man the room feels less light." It feels like there's less joy just coming out of some place in the room, and you're like "Oh yeah, Riv is not here." So that guy lights up the room when he walks in.

Is that something you want to become? Or rather that you enjoy being the kind of person that can fill in no matter the situation?

So I've always kind of prided myself on being a jack of all trades or knowing a little bit about everything, right. But I've learned over time that being more T-shaped and having a specialty or having a strength you can play to is better for personas, on air casting, and having people have something tangible about your casting style that they can go "This guy is really good at this. Or really good at that." Because over time I've learned the opposite of love isn't hate--it's indifference. So if people don't care about you, then you're not doing your job. 50 percent hate you, 50 percent love you. Then that's actually quite good because you're driving controversy, you're driving entertainment, and that's a big part of it, right. People don't like you because you've like predicted against their team or something. They're more compelled to watch to see if you're wrong.

So there's things like that that I think are good. I don't know if I necessarily want to become that type of person, because I've always liked having that line. But I feel like there are times that I do want to become that but not unnaturally, I don't want to force it. There are times where I'll argue with Dash about like "Oh Dignitas actually threw the game. Or sorry, TSM threw the game, Dignitas won but it wasn't really them winning, right." I'll butt heads. Or there're times at Worlds where butt heads with Spawn. And I think that that's fine. I just need to up that a little more and be kind of unapologetically or relentlessly myself. So when I have those opinions, those will happen. But I don't want it to be the all the time. I don't want to be somebody who ruffles the feathers or like you know rub someone the wrong way intentionally. 

Just like a little brother or sister poking your butt.

Yeah I'm not an instigator, right. I'm not going to start those things off.

Q: In those Zirene talks, when you say you’re “not salty,” how much of what you want to say do you actually hold back?

Yes, so when the Real Talks is like "I'm not salty" or "It's not salt. It's being real." There are times where I want to have the salt affect me and be like, you know, "Listen, like really listen here, like this is not something you should be messing around with or this is a serious issue." Right. I mean I'm incredibly passionate about these things. I am like sometimes in those Real Talks, I'm disappointed in my delivery because they seem stiff or fake. But I really just want the message to come across. I want people to understand that this is something I care about. And it's funny because like "It's not salt, it's just being real" is like a really corny line, and for some reason I was known as like the "Salt Lord" after the TSM-DIG post game with Dash. Like there's actually a salt shaker at my desk. There's a picture of salt hanging behind my desk, and I don't know how these things got here. They kind of just showed up one day. Actually two different days, they started showing up over time. So for some reason I'm the Salt Lord but I don't really consider myself a very salty person. So but there are times where I really want to have those passionate conversations. I want to have those conversations that are really loaded and like you know like "Let's talk about this. Let's discuss this." Maybe, we don't have enough time on the analyst desk. But it's like I really want to talk this through. It's not often that that happens to me but there are times that that happens.

You said that you wanted to have more of the strong personality that people feel like they know if you're not there. Why not go full salt and people would know if the salt is there or not?

I told you earlier that I don't really want to be an instigator. But I also don't want to force it. I want it to be something that happens naturally. I'll care about these things, but I always see so many aspects. I'm a big empath. I'll always understand from a team's point of view. That if I go in hard on a player or anything like that, I don't want to go to the point where it's too hard. There are some people who will cross that line, but I'm like the community is already going to tear this player apart. Let's just frame this correctly. That's what I care about: accuracy and framing. But I think that that sometimes hurts me because it's not as entertaining.

Q: What's the best rejected Real Talk?

Best rejected one? There haven't been a lot that have been rejected, but I think one of them was... I was going to talk about G2, and how they went to MSI, and how their performances isn't actually reflect their level. Because the circumstances that people learned about afterwards, where they were going to replace the team or some of the members of the team--the bottom lane. So our deadline for Riot, for roster lock, was like four or five days after MSI. So I was like if you want to give those players who are on G2--and you know you're going to kick them--an opportunity to approach other teams, you need to tell them ahead of time at the tournament, and not everybody can be Puszu for Fnatic and know that they're gonna get kicked off a team and still perform their best. Some people like the members of G2 learned, and we're like "OK we're gonna shop around a little bit." We're going to look at other teams. Maybe not try as hard. So we started seeing them like give up games etc. So it wasn't the G2 that they actually were. So that was going to be my Real Talk. But then it was like "Well, we still don't know for sure. Need to do some investigating." And then you know when things like that happen, which is one of my beefs with Real Talk, and why I don't do so many right now, is there're so pre-produced--like I have to like run things by people, we have to get the camera crew, the lights, etc. Whereas you look at somebody like Thorin. You can just turn on the webcam and just start talking, and I'm just like that's just really great, and I might do something like that in the future.

Q: What projects would you like to do if you had more time?

Oh if I had more time. I loved doing my YouTube guides back in the day. I would love to do a podcast and like talk about the games and all of that. I'd love to do an Around the Horn style game show with some of the other casters. There is a lot of things that like we're working on that, you know, may come to fruition, but it's always like guides and teaching people the game because that's where my expertise lies and also my passion. Like I love teaching people. I love them succeeding with the tools that I've given them.

I think also another one would be I would want to start like a caster mentor website, where there's videos on like "This is what play-by-play is, this is what color is, this is how you should practice." Like a lot of people don't know how to practice commentating. And then I was like OK we can go one step further like what if there's a forum where like you can post your work and have other people critique it. What if there's a "Looking for play-by-play caster" or "Looking for color caster" forum where you can pair up with people. Find people for like jobs on the side. Because coming from the amateur scene, it was a lot of you know "Who want to cast?" and was like "I'll do both. I don't care. What are you? Play-by-play color? Because I'll do either." So that's how amateur casting was. Just give me a job, I'll do whatever. But you don't always know how to do the job well.

Q: What do you think of performance coaches right now, and where they should be?

For teams? Performance coaches for teams. It's something that I'm actually quite passionate about because I come from a psychology background. I think that there are some that do a good job, and I feel like some teams will buy into what their coach is giving them. For their performance coach. But I think they're in a spot right now that's unappreciated, and that's the whole thing is if you're not buying into what the performance coach is giving, then it's never going to work. If you don't actually buy into the system and think that "Oh if we train this way or that way then it'll be good for us." If you mock the system or if you don't appreciate it, it's not going to work. So I think our performance coaches overall there's still a lot of growth for them to do and to understand the sport and understand the seasons and how they wax and wane, how to take care of the players, how to make sure that players are mentally resilient to the situations.

And I think that overall I would say they are definitely behind the times, because these are kids--a lot of them are kids--and they have to live with each other, they have to have... Like naturally they'll have interpersonal conflicts with one another. And I think having resolution skills with that and teaching resolution skills, and having those one on ones or two on ones where you pull two people who are having a conflict into a room. Say "Let's talk about it, let's work this out." And also have authority and be a little bit of a--not a father figure for the team--but somebody who brings solutions constantly.

So I listen to how Dignitas are now talking about Cop, where it's "Man, he's so great. He changes the atmosphere." And Cop is the coach of the team, right. He's the one who's on stage. He's not necessarily the performance coach, but I think what he's done with the environment is now they kind of see him as a performance coach. They look at his mentorship and say "He's very wise. He understands what he's talking about. And everything is better because he's here." And I think that that's kind of where you should be looking at performance coaches to be that type of person that everybody goes "Man I'm so glad they're here because they've helped me here, and they've helped me with this relationship." Whereas too many players will not get along with each other. Too many teams will say "I don't want to play with this one player on my team" Or too many teams will say "Oh I don't want to finish this game, I want to give up." Right?

Q: Is there anything else you want add?

Well it's two things, so I'll start with the first one. The first one is a lot of people don't know this but I have ulcerative colitis. I was diagnosed at the age of 14. I had to go to a home school. I was in a ton of pain, fatigue. I have major depressive disorder, and I've attempted suicide twice in my life. And a lot of people don't like to talk about these things. But the reason that I want to put that out there is because when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, the reason I lost hope is that I didn't have any role models, right. My mom's like pulling Google and being like "Oh what is this disease. What does this mean? Who has this that's like successful." Oh, it's like Ralph Bernischke from the Chargers. It's like very obscure, and I had no idea who that was. Even when I was a Chargers fan. It's like... It's so hard to be what you can't see and realize that there's success out there for people who have depression, people who have an illness. And so I want people to know that I struggled with this, but I realize that there's more out there. And they should realize too that you can get through depression, that these diseases don't completely hold you back or define who you are. I like to define myself as Aidan Zirene, and I don't like to define myself as somebody who's sick or somebody who has an illness. And I think that that's something that people need to hear.

And the second thing that I want to mention is when I see reddit threads that are about casters or commentators and--appreciation threads. I really wish that the community wouldn't tear down casters to bring other casters up. I hate the compliments that are "I love this guy, because this other guy sucks or this other guy can't do this. Or this guy does that really well, but he does it way better than this guy." Right. Or "I can't stand that caster." And they devolve into that. I'm like why can't we just have an appreciation thread. You don't have to compare it because if you give me a compliment, and you say like "I really like Zirene because he does this, he does it way better than this guy." It's like why can't you just talk about why I'm good. Because now I can't take your compliment, because it's insulting my coworker, it's insulting my colleague. So I wish people would you know focus on the appreciation when there are those threads. And focus on the caster and what they're doing well. And sometimes even give feedback for them, but I don't think that they should be tearing others down to do so. 

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Mark Register profile
Mark Register
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief @ Blitz Esports. He was the creator of Esports in a Nutshell, led production @ the Young Turks for 5 years, and in his other lifetimes won an Oscar, recorded albums (on Spotify), and most importantly spent a summer as a SeaWorld performer.
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