Dryad on her career, early life, starting as a caster

Pedro Romero
category_image Valorant
Reading time  ~14  mins

From the moment VALORANT was released in early 2020, it served as a new chapter in many people’s lives. For those that were cast aside in a previous game, starting in VALORANT presented a new opportunity for them to restart their careers with a clean slate. Additionally, for those with previous experience working in Esports, such as Daniela “Dryad” Herrera, entering VALORANT could signify the springboard to even greater heights than what they foresaw.

Helped by a profound love of FPS games, Dryad started working in Esports in mid-2020 as an interviewer and then as a Spanish and English caster for numerous competitive Overwatch and Call of Duty events. Soon thereafter, she started working in VALORANT as well, with her first set of events being the NSG: Winter Championship - Open 2 and the 2021 VCT Game Changers Latin America North Series 2.

From then on, Dryad built enough of an impressive portfolio that she was eventually selected to represent the Latin American broadcast for international VCT events as a commentator and interviewer throughout the 2022 season. Add to that her diligent coverage of both English and Spanish pro-VALORANT, she became one of the brightest broadcast talents in the game, a distinction she hadn’t reached before in her past work in different titles.

All of this culminated in her selection as one of the casters for the 2023 VCT NA Challengers Split 1, her first major English language gig and biggest to date. It is no wonder she is seen as one of the best prospects in casting, not just in VALORANT but in all of Esports.

Before flying to Brazil to participate in the LOCK//In tournament, Dryad spoke to BLIX.GG to discuss her career, from when she started following Esports to her current position, her growing presence in VALORANT, what it’s like working in both English and Spanish broadcasts, and much more.

Esports Origins

Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: To start, I want to rewind the clock to when you first started paying attention to the scene. I want you to describe how you were before you started working on the scene. What were the usual games that you played? Also, what was your first encounter with Esports like?

Daniela "Dryad" Herrera: Before I got into Esports, I feel I was always into video games in general. Since I was little, my brother would play on his PS1 and PS2 and I had my Nintendo DS, but the games that he would play were Final Fantasy and Crash Bandicoot, so those were the kinds of games that I grew up with. When I got old enough, those were the games that I would buy as well because that was pretty much the only thing that I knew and I really liked the cute, animated games, to be honest.

The first game I completed was Kingdom Hearts and the one thing that got me into Esports was Overwatch because I was so amazed by the way the game looked. The characters looked so pretty and everything looked so nice, I got more into the game until I eventually got into Esports. Before I would just have my normal life of high school/college, get home, maybe hang out with my friends, play some games, and just do it again.

BLIX: You posted a lot about Overwatch in your early tweets. What about Overwatch made it have such a big place in your mind during those early years?

Dryad: I think the best thing about it is that it is the first game that I felt like I fell in love with when it comes to multiplayer games especially. I don't really know what it was. It's just that everything clicked. Even when I bought the game for the first time, I remember standing on the payload and not really knowing what was going on and then I slowly learned about the game and became obsessed with getting better.

It just felt so natural. It was months and months of me playing and wanting to do more and be more involved with the game.

BLIX: Do you have a specific moment (i.e. play or event) in which you became firmly focused on pursuing this field?

Dryad: Honestly, I first became a fan of esports. The first esport that I really got into was watching a lot of the Overwatch League. It came naturally that I wanted to know more about the game that I just ended up watching the esports scene. But one thing that really changed me and made me want to get into esports was I had a friend that was a semi-pro player for PUBG and sometimes he would tell us stories about this competition he had and what it meant if he won and he was going to move somewhere else. It was like all these crazy things that I found so interesting.

That friend had some contacts that invited me to the CS:GO Blast Pro Series Miami event a couple of years ago. I knew a decent amount of CS. I wasn't an expert but I would watch it once in a while and that was the first live event I went to and I thought it was just so cool. Even if I wasn't the biggest fan ever and I wasn't the biggest fan of one of the teams, watching all the fans and the competition and feeling the energy of the crowd was so cool, and after that, I felt I wanted to go to more of these events.

BLIX: Was there a particular person (i.e. player, caster, content creator) that stood out to you when you started following Esports?

Dryad: There are two answers that I have for that question. The first one is on the same path of wanting to get more involved in Overwatch. I saw Aspen (Becca Rukavina), one of the best players in Contenders, and I thought she was so cool. I thought she was an inspiration because she was just so good at the game and I remember trying to connect with her on Twitter. Back then, I was playing on my PS4 and I played Overwatch for the first time, and after watching her, I ended up buying a PC and I was like, "What if I can be a pro player or a semi-pro?" And it wasn't too bad, you know?

I was Master at the time, so I felt it was possible. I gave it a try and in the end, I decided maybe competing was not for me. Fast forward to when I was actually looking into casting, the first people that always came to mind were the people that I always enjoyed listening to, even when I was so unaware of what casting really was, and that was Bren (Brennon Hook) and Sideshow (Josh Wilkinson), when they were casting Overwatch.

Starting as a caster

BLIX: Was casting always on your mind when you started pursuing this scene? Or did it just happen as a matter of circumstance?

Dryad: When I thought about positions in Esports, the one thing I was sure I was never going to do was casting. Back then, I never really gave it a try but it just happened because of the circumstances of events that I was doing. The main thing that I wanted to do when I started was to try and do interviews because I always liked communicating with people. I started doing interviews and I was like, "I want to do this maybe in some kind of host role." It just happened, at a tournament that I did for Overwatch Colombia, they needed a caster.

One of my friends asked if I could cast with him and I was so nervous, I said no but then he convinced me to do it; and after I did it for both a practice and the first official cast, I just fell in love with it because I naturally get so excited about the game. I loved the crazy plays and I loved talking about it and I already had all the knowledge of the game because I played it and I watched the OWL so much that I was like, "I can just communicate all my excitement and love for the game and tell the stories of these players." But it wasn't until I really did it that I was like, "I want to keep doing this. This is so cool."

BLIX: During your college years, you were working as a caster and trying to build experience in that role. How did you improve yourself when it comes to trying to become a better version of yourself and not remain at the entry level?

Dryad: When I started casting and I found out how much he loved it, I was always pushing myself to do more, and to this day, I always do that. I feel lucky that when I was in college, which is when I started casting, my major never really required me to do a lot of work to the point that it was just time-consuming and I couldn't dedicate my free time to do something else, so I got the chance to dedicate all my free time to asking everybody in the Overwatch scene to VOD review me and take notes.

I was asking everybody, all the top casters, Tier-2 casters, my friends, and managers from teams. It was the same thing that I've always felt with Esports and Overwatch and all the games I got to do. It's just the passion that drives me to improve and make the time for it because I like it.

BLIX: I understand you went to Florida International University so what was your major?

Dryad: I got a major in international relations and a minor in political science.

BLIX: So, I guess you were more focused on Esports than actually pursuing that kind of thing?

Dryad: I don't know. I went into that major because, when I was in high school and even middle school as well, I did Model United Nations and I loved it because I love organized public speaking, learning, researching things, and being able to do that to a high level. I got into that major because I wanted to do more of that and then I realized 'Hey, I love talking, I love public speaking, but I also love video games and that's the thing I've always liked."

I realized that I could mix the two when I did interviews, any of the casting, and all that. I like to think that it was me coming to a middle ground between the serious things I liked and the professional things of public speaking with my hobby that was always there.

Working in English and Spanish casting

BLIX: Taking the conversation back to yourself, you came up with the name "Dryad" for your work. Why did you come up with Dryad? How did that come about?

Dryad: I remember it was my first year of college and I wanted to come up with a name for me to play video games but also, at that point, I already had in mind that maybe I could do something with Esports. There were a couple of things in my mind for the requirements that the name needed to meet. Number one was I wanted the name to start with a D because my name starts with D. Number two, I wanted it to be short. Number three, I wanted it to be something that people could say in English and Spanish because it made sense to me.

The last and ideal one was something related to forests and nature and that kind of thing. In college, it was in between classes and I went to the library and I researched fantastical forest creatures. I started looking up names in Wikipedia that would appear and I saw "Dryad". I looked it up and I thought it was perfect. A Dryad is kind of like a forest nymph that protects the trees. It's this cool thing that I've always been into, so I stuck with it.

BLIX: Talking specifically about your job, was it always on your mind to be a caster in both Spanish and English?

Dryad: Yeah, pretty much. I started casting in Spanish because of the opportunity that I got the chance to do it first so I did it and I liked it. And then I wanted to do more things and try to be at the level of the people that I look up to so it just made sense for me to make that transition to the international scene in English because, in Spanish, there's not really a lot of opportunities. If I wanted to work to be the best, then I just had to make it there, and because I already spoke English, it just made sense.

Dryad working as a Spanish talent in an Overwatch Colombia broadcast.

BLIX: Who would you define as the best? It can be someone from either the English or Spanish side of casting.

Dryad: It's hard because English and Spanish casting, in so many ways, is so different, right? I admire different people for different reasons. For Spanish, I love listening to my friends Nosfeh (Ian Flaker) and KEVHO (Kevin Osvaldo Hernández). When they're casting VALORANT, that is just my favorite thing. They're so hype, they're making jokes, they're making you laugh, and you can feel the passion of everything they're saying.

When it comes to English, it's a lot more analytical, but as a color caster, that is the people that I'm looking at as examples. Going back to Bren and Sideshow specifically, the reason why I always looked up to them is that I feel their synergy is not something that any caster pair has, and it was so cool because it was like friends you were listening to, who are also really knowledgeable about the game.

BLIX: It's interesting you say that because it's a big thing for a caster to have a good partner so that both of them can bounce off each other and present a very good broadcast. Who would you view as your best casting partner from the start, up until now?

Dryad: Recently, I've been working a lot with Tanner Metro, and I feel we clicked really well since the first time we met, and we've been casting together now for a good amount of months. Since last year, we have done a lot of Game Changers, and some other events here and there, and now we're doing NA Challengers, so it's cool to get to work with him often. We always want to get more opportunities and get better.

Our interview with Dryad continues in part two here.

CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.
CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.