In the second part of BLIX’s interview with Nick Brown, co-founder and executive director of Good Boy Creative, he discusses the struggles he and the media company underwent in their time covering Valorant and League of Legends esports, working around issues like the weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, covering Masters Tokyo, what his favorite event is and much more. If you missed part one of our interview, read it here.
Difficulties behind covering Valorant events
BLIX: Following that train of thought, has there been a difficult event for you to cover when it comes to Valorant? And if so, what about it made it so difficult?
Brown: Well, every event has its difficulties, and I think especially during COVID, the difficulties were really tied to where we were and navigating that world and keeping everyone healthy. If there was one Valorant event that I would probably want to revisit, I would say it's Masters 3 in Berlin. Coming off of our inaugural content at Masters 2 in Reykjavik, I feel like we did a really good job of crafting that initial visual language of Valorant esports and I don't think we quite built from that and picked up and made it something better or quite literally evolved, ironically enough, and I think after that, as we were heading into Champions 2021, and really since then, I've been really quite proud of how we've crafted the Valorant storytelling and all credit to the Valorant marketing team between Eric [Krause] and Joe [Elliot] and Carrie [Dunn].
They've given us some fantastic kind of year-long narratives and briefs that we can sink our teeth into and develop stories around, though I'd say Masters 3 in 2021 would be a place where I think, visually, we didn't quite pick up the ball and run with as far as I would hope, but again, I think everything from that point on I've been generally really proud of.
BLIX: During the early stages of the team's collaboration with Riot, you've been able to work around teams that weren't present for given events in both games. Obviously, some examples include Masters: Berlin and FPX not showing up in Masters: Reykjavik 2022 and MSI 2022 with RNG playing in a remote location. How difficult was it for you to have to work around those teams that weren't present but still have to make material around them?
Brown: I think RNG was probably the greatest example of that challenge. And again, for every other example, teams have always been on the ground in some capacity, but they've needed to play from isolation for COVID reasons, but RNG was a really formidable challenge, especially given the power of the LPL and the likelihood that they will make a strong run in the event. We needed to make sure that we did justice to their story and included them in a way that felt commensurate with how strong of a competitor they were. But it was also a really fun challenge, right?
When I look back at the MSI 2022 opening tease, I feel that the video was a really great embodiment of our creative voice in its full force. It was a combination of really exciting visual language with great narrative storytelling and then just peppered in a massive creative problem that needed to be solved which was how do we integrate RNG and how do we position them as this big bad without having them on site. I think the kind of like 'takeover' [theme] we did at the end of the opening tease of MSI was a video we recorded with Xiaohu over Zoom, and it was a kind of a low-quality recording already, and we can kind of make it look like he's hacking in like he's this big boss who's taking over the space and reminding everyone that RNG is still here and they still got what it takes to win.
Brown: The circumstances actually kind of played really nicely into our creative plan where we had this kind of lofi video. We did a little bit of voice distortion on his voice, and we positioned RNG as this outside contender who is to be feared. When I look back at that video and that run of content in general, I think it's like a very pure embodiment of what our value proposition is, which is unexpected visuals combined with strong storytelling and overall creative problem-solving kind of peppered into the mix as well. As you know, we started doing these events during COVID-19, so I think creative problem-solving is part of our DNA. We're all kind of ready for whatever the shows throw at us. It's not only the players that go down. Oftentimes, crew members will need to be in isolation as well if they happen to be sick, so there are always problems to be solved, but I think that's what makes it fun. That's what makes the job exciting, and I think that's why we've enjoyed it for the past two and a half years.
Covering Masters: Tokyo
BLIX: Moving over to this year, and specifically Masters: Tokyo, Stefan [Richardson] said working on that event was his personal favorite event to work on the creative side. And, of course, it had plenty of interesting opening videos and material in itself that references Japanese culture and storylines within the game throughout its history. What do you think about the team's experience in covering Masters: Tokyo? Do you feel the same way in the sense that it being your favorite event that you've covered?
Brown: I would say it falls really high in terms of events to cover and I'd say for a few reasons. The first thing I'll say is Stefan has been a major ingredient in our success. He's been one of our greatest advocates and is truly a force in terms of bringing together every department that exists under the broadcast umbrella and making sure there's cohesion, and the show is advancing and evolving in a way that has made Valorant so exciting. But to go back to Masters: Tokyo, I think the reason why it was so special is a few things.
One, there's such an affinity for esports and Valorant in Japan. The community is just absolutely electric there. The fandom is devout and it's just incredible to see how much the fans appreciated having that event in their home country. The second thing I'll say is it's the first year of franchising and we are really getting to see the storylines play out in a way that feels significant, so for us, the stakes of the storytelling were higher than ever. The fact that Fnatic, a team that we've seen come so close so many times and who won the trophy at Lock In, and then people will say what they will about that event and the format, but then they turned around and silenced all the doubters, made it a really special tournament in that respect.
And I think all the storylines were just firing. With Evil Geniuses coming out of obscurity from the Americas and making an incredible run, and Paper Rex, who have yet to lift a trophy but have been close so many times and showing a new roster with no Benkai, it felt like it was the biggest moment in the sport that we've seen so far and I would go as far as to say, even from my perspective, bigger than Champions of last year. That's because it feels like everything's really forming, and it's official, it's permanent and it's exciting. Honestly, it's just the perfect lead into Champions and it's going to be such an incredibly exciting tournament; I know it's gonna be special for Riot to have the event in LA and for us since it'll be the first show we've done in our home city.
Brown: I think the way it was set up kind of feeds back into the 'rank up' tagline as well. You're ranking up, you're trying out new strats, you're figuring stuff out before you head into Champions, and I felt like that's really what it was. It felt like this aggressive and competitive proving ground, and when the play is that high and it feels that competitive, the storytelling kind of writes itself. Also Japan, as the visual backdrop, as I'm sure everyone will agree, is just incredible. We kind of had a blessing and a curse on our shoot days with the players. We had intermittent rain on both days and it's usually something that where, when it happens and we're planning a predominantly exterior shoot, it's a little bit stressful, but in the back of our minds, we were like, 'look, it might be raining, it's going to be challenging to keep the equipment dry, keep the players dry and keep everyone happy, but this beautiful neon wet-down aesthetic, it all felt like it was culminating in a way that felt correct.' So yeah, it was really cool. I look back at that event and I look back at the content and I'm really proud of what our team was able to produce and I think it was the perfect tee up for what we're about state champions.
BLIX: Out of curiosity about the shot with NRG with the umbrellas, was that during the actual rain, or was that just artificial?
Brown: What you saw was real. There are some great BTS shots of us filming Saadhak at the Shibuya Scramble at around midnight, and it was raining pretty hard. Those shots of him looking up at the screen and Fnatic hoisting the trophy at Lock In were shot at one of the busiest intersections probably in the world, and there were maybe 50 people there. It was completely deserted because it was raining, and we needed high-angle shots. We put the camera on top of a 12-foot ladder in the pouring rain, and we were scrambling up to get the shot and Saadhak was standing under the umbrella, and, I mean, we have to play it the way we play it, right? That's because we don't have weather contingency.
We get the players in the two days we have to shoot with them, and we either get the footage or we don't, so we always have to plan if there is inclement weather, but in the case of Japan, it just worked out really beautifully. Fortunately, it wasn't cold, right? It wasn't Iceland rain where it's freezing and raining, and it's miserable. It was still kind of tropical summer rain. If you had an umbrella, you weren't uncomfortable. Obviously, for us, player comfort is extremely important. We understand that their ability to compete at the highest level and be ready to go on game day is way more important than anything we do on the content production side, but it worked out great. As I said, one of the main metrics for success for us is the feedback we get from the players on the content, and the cool thing about being at the event is we run into them as they're coming in, getting off the buses, and so on and so forth. It's cool to run into players that you were making them do something weird two or three days earlier, and they get to see the film, and they're like, 'Okay, now I get it. That was sick.' That's a really fun part of the job.
BLIX: What kind of feedback would the players give back to you, generally speaking?
Brown: The more we've worked with the players, both from the League and Valorant sides, the more trust has been built between us. Starting off, we were new, and everyone was new. Everyone's sniffing around trying to figure out if you were good at what you're doing and what everyone's prerogative was, but we've built up a ton of equity with all of the pros both on the League side and the Valorant side, that when they step on set, and they see us and they see those familiar faces, there's a degree of trust that we're not going to put them in a position where they're unsafe.
We're not going to put them in a position where they are doing anything where they look stupid, and even if they are in a moment on set where they might feel uncomfortable, or they're doing a VFX shot where they need to mime towards something that doesn't exist, there's going to be a payoff. We're going to produce something that they'll look at and be like, 'Wow, that's cinematic. That's awesome. That's cool. That's the thing I want to share.' It's like every creative relationship. The longer it goes and the stronger the trust gets, the better the relationship is and the further we can push the envelope and do more cool stuff. Especially on the Valorant side, we've built up a ton of equity with the players, and we're on a first name basis with a lot of those guys, and they kind of just see us as an extension of the global events, which is really awesome.
BLIX: Going back to Masters: Tokyo, I have to say two of the videos that I liked the most are the opening day teaser and the final four video, in which each team had a term that described their run. For the second video, I might say that's one of my favorite esports videos ever since not only does it build hype, but it also gives you a sense of anticipation for what is to come in the final set of matches. Although you said Masters: Tokyo isn't really your personal favorite event, do you feel it contained the best material that the team produced?
Brown: That tease you're describing was, I think, one of my favorite videos our company has ever produced. I'd have to give credit to Minh, the creative who really pushed for that vision, and I would encourage you to talk to him about that. It was definitely a special video and I think, when I describe what the core of Good Boy Creative is, I look at that video and I'm like, 'That's it.' It made you feel something, it was visually unexpected, and it was tapped into the sport. When I saw that video finished up, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride because I felt like our team was firing on all cylinders. I felt that output was our best work, as you put it. Similarly, I feel the same way. I think it was really, really special.
BLIX: Final question: What is your favorite event that you covered?
Brown: I think it was MSI 2022. I felt there were a lot of creative challenges. We had a large team with us on the ground, which made the production experience really special. I was really proud of the content and I think the affinity that the country of Korea has for League of Legends, and with it being my first time in Korea, and having the opportunity to work with local Korean crew while telling stories about League of Legends which means so much to them, felt really special and in a weird way, felt like this pinnacle of what we do.
As I described to you before, with the MSI opening and even the finals tease, I felt it was a pure representation of our creative spirit and our capabilities. So, for me, personally, I think it was my favorite event. I do think our output in Japan for Masters just a month ago, professionally, when I look at the overall scope of storytelling and what we produced and the cohesion of the visual storytelling with the sports narratives, that's probably, from a professional standpoint, something I'm the proudest of. Between those two, I think those are my favorites and I guess the through line is they're both in the same region. But yeah, I think MSI 2022 in South Korea and Masters: Tokyo for different reasons, but I like both of those projects a lot.