When one is asked which organization is the trendsetter for producing content for Dota 2, it would be no surprise if they answered by saying OG. In recent years, the two-time The International and five-time Dota Major champions have produced numerous pieces of material that have reached millions of views throughout multiple platforms.
Whether it is through engineering an engaging social media presence, a 90-minute documentary that chronicles their past successes, or a podcast that generally covers the scene, OG has gone above and beyond what’s usually expected for an esports org to do.
Such is the OG way of becoming a content trendsetter that CEO JMR Luna had long envisioned devising since joining the org in 2019. With plenty of experience in film making, content production, and consultancy, Luna has applied the skills he acquired from past positions to good use under OG. Soon enough, the org would become a giant inside of the game but outside of it also.
BLIX.GG spoke to OG CEO JMR Luna for a discussion on the team’s performance in the Major, what the team’s confidence level is like heading into TI11, the creation behind the Monkey Business podcast, and whether esports is adopting the form of a “new media,” and more.
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: Thanks for allowing me to speak to you, JMR. At the time of this recording, OG is eliminated from the Arlington Major. What did you think of the team's performance in this event?
JMR Luna: I think we should be very proud. For the whole tournament, we lost to LGD, Outsiders, and Aster. We had a lot of 1-1 results during the group stage, but I think we played really, really well. Everybody saw how we were getting better and better and better as the tournament was going forward. Maybe we were not good enough to beat Aster this time, but I think the boys should be very proud.
BLIX: Coming into this tournament, OG was the defending Major champions, so there were plenty of expectations for the team to do well and repeat. From your perspective, what prohibited them from achieving the same feat this time around?
JMR Luna: I don't necessarily think something went wrong. It's just that to win a tournament, a lot of things had to go right. In the Stockholm Major, the Chinese teams were not there, whereas here, this is a big tournament with big organizations, big players, and all the big captains are here. You have all the powerhouses and juggernauts, so it was a much harder tournament, and sometimes, you're just worse than them, you know? But I don't think anything went wrong.
Maybe sometimes we got drafted, whereas in other moments, we out-draft teams, so I think the boys should be very proud. As for expectations, it's not that I really expected them to win, but we came here to win. Anywhere we go, the idea is to win, and if you do enough good things, you get to bring home the trophy, and if somebody else does more than you, well, you'll get them next time.
BLIX: Which then leads towards TI11. What is the team's confidence like in anticipation of the event?
JMR Luna: We feel we're around 80 percent there, and we have a month and a half now to get ready for TI and reach that final 20 percent. There are a few things that the guys have to learn until then. Ceb and Johan will be there with them along the way.
The idea is going to be about how confident we are with our ideas, how we want to play the game and our plan for TI. If you build those things together, you go to TI and play the group stage where the whole meta would begin to develop. And after that, the matter becomes how fast you can adjust. And then, in the end, with the way that TI works, things will start moving so fast.
All these ideas are suddenly going to collapse against each other, and the teams that are more creative and understand what other teams do will have a higher chance of performing in the last part of the tournament.
BLIX: And hopefully, Misha and Chuvash will be able to join the team this time around.
JMR Luna: I really hope so. *laughs*
BLIX: Regarding yourself, it's fair to say that you've diverged from what is normally expected from a CEO, given that you're involved in the content sphere of the team. In a way, it's similar to a new brand of media that has been emerging in recent years: "new media."
It's a term coined by notable NBA player Draymond Green which depicts media created by current and former players that delivers an alternate way for fans to follow their respective sports. Do you think esports has been gravitating towards adopting this new type of media?
JMR Luna: For me, I never really had the ambition to become famous or anything, but I spent so much time with Johan and Ceb that I felt my job was to evangelize for their vision of the world and the values that we share and lead in this organization. What I started doing is I became, in a way, a speaker for them and their voice of them. That way, the fans outside could be more in contact with what we were doing. For example, I need them to have weekly updates of what we're doing regarding the podcast, you know? I needed them to understand what's happening with Topias in Malaysia, so I went there myself. It was more like a means towards the final thing.
JMR Luna: But it is undeniable that we live in a world where fans and organizations have to engage in a different way because we are in the business of attention, and if you are not paying attention to me and I don't create a value for you to continue paying attention to me, you're gonna pay attention to something else. That could be Stranger Things on Netflix, that could be the NFL, and that could be something else, so my job as CEO is to create a proposition that allows you to continue to stay engaged with OG. I actually think that there are more and more CEOs that understand this. We have to continue creating things for people to talk about. OG and Ceb, and Johan have complicated lives and jobs.
For example, Ceb is playing right now, so he can't really give attention to the media and fans, which is where I step in. As we continue our story and it gets a little bit more sophisticated alongside our business model, then we will find all the ways, so I don't have to be doing it. But for now, it's like I'm the guinea pig, you know? 'Here you go. You do it, buddy.' It's good because I will say, for example, in this interview, the best person that can talk about OG is Johan and Ceb, but the person after that is me. With the players, if you talk to Taiga, you can talk about Dota and heroes, but you can't really talk about OG.
BLIX: Going by this subject, how does Dota 2 content differ from other games amidst this race for attention that you mentioned before?
JMR Luna: I think that Dota is a very tribal game and if you are a part of Dota, you become part of this cool tribe and it's all very insider. You have to understand their memes, what they're about, their games, and understand their demographics, as in who you are trying to target in your content.
Obviously, it's never good to generalize. In Call of Duty, the fans are a little bit more bro-ish. In Dota, we're a little bit more nerdy, like anime and stuff like this. When we create Dota content specifically for us in OG, it's about the cute, positive mindset and the power of friendship. We live by those values so we have to reinforce them and show them in the content that we make.
For example, when I went to visit Topias in Malaysia. I know the video is cringy. I did it myself after all, but the idea is that we're friends that are recreating this cringy content together, and by the time the fans see it, they'll think of it as a cool thing. They'll say, 'Look, they're friends,' which is true because we are friends and we live together. We live together every day, and we play ping pong, and we play tennis, and we play volleyball. Friendship is what allows the content to be genuine and authentic.
BLIX: With you being very familiar with Johan, Ceb, and Topias, was the creation of Monkey Business, the podcast that you started earlier this year, always on your mind?
JMR Luna: Before I was a part of OG in December 2019, Johan came for a few days to hang out, and I did the first episode with BTS that had LD (David Gorman) and Socks (Titouan Merloz) as guests, and I had so much fun doing it. We had all the cameras and the mixer on the side. It was awesome, and we always said, 'Well, we would love to do it and make it happen.'
When I then moved to Lisbon and brought all the equipment with me, we never got time to do it, so when Johan stopped competing, I said, 'Dude, we should do it right now, and he went completely board.
JMR Luna: We have an online version, but we wanted to do it on-site, but the former at least will do it because it's important for us not to miss a week. Then again, we missed one week because we had a live show, so I published it the week after.
Even so, we have 35 consecutive episodes that have uninterrupted content. I've been in this event for a few days, and there are so many people coming by and saying, 'Hey, love the podcast! I never miss an episode, and that's what we were trying to do. That's because I am a fan of a few other podcasts, and I consume them every week. I watch three or four podcasts every week. If they feel about our podcast how I feel about those that I listen to, then we're doing something right.
BLIX: And I have to ask, what kind of podcasts do you usually listen to?
JMR Luna: I listened a lot to Pat McAfee, the football kicker. He's a super funny guy. He's hilarious. I also listened to a bunch of comedians who have their own podcasts. And I listen to a lot of Joe Rogan. I've done so for many years when he was on YouTube, where it was obviously a little easier for me to access it.
BLIX: Then do you try to find a mixture among all these different types of shows you listen to and create your own brand of content through that?
JMR Luna: I'm not really dividing my brand from OG. I think that all I'm doing is expanding the OG brand. Honestly, my social media account has not really increased. I don't have more fans; I don't have more followers. I have followers of reporters.
For example, I have 9,000 followers on Twitter, but by the time one month has passed since I created the podcast account, it had already passed 15,000. That's the one that I want. It's not about me; it's about following the account and following the product.
BLIX: As someone who has been creating content for your entire career, which includes working for multiple organizations that range from this one to Netflix, what has been the biggest difference for you when it comes to devising ideas, producing material, and turning said ideas into reality?
JMR Luna: I think that, for me, then it all comes down to the fact that I'm a Dota fan. I live, breathe, and play this game. It was more about what I wanted to watch as a Dota fan, and from that premise, the question now comes 'what can I give you?' For example, when I want to watch the boys, should I put a camera in the living room and then have them stream all day, 24/7?
Well, it's pretty basic and not a great format. I have to now, in a way, recreate these feelings so you guys can consume them in 15-minute or one-hour episodes. First is what I want to watch, and second is how I can actually do it, so I then find people that are going to be doing it with me.
JMR Luna: With 'Road to TI,' this is Tom and mine's baby. Tom is a director that I've been working with and I've known for many years, and he has an exquisite sensitivity and sensibility in how he explains stories. It was so hard for me to let it go because I had directed for all my life, but with him, I said, 'Look, Tom, it's going to be the both of us. You direct, and I produce, and we write together. We write all the episodes together, and then we work on the editing together.
He's the one whose job is to make it happen, whereas my job is to write them because I know the boys more than he knows them. I know the relationship between Ceb and his sister, I know the relationship between Johan and SumaiL, I know the relationship between Topias and myself, and I know the relationship between Ammar and Ceb, so I can craft these narratives that he doesn't.
BLIX: That about wraps up all my questions for the interview. Any final words?
JMR Luna: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Dota is a game that we all love and everybody else here. I like that there are people like yourself that are investing your time and have the passion for coming here and making this happen.