In the second part of BLIX’s interview with Valorant caster Clinton “Paperthin” Bader during Champions 2023, he talks about what he viewed as his struggles in his field, what he did to improve in his time covering the game, how he casts the many teams— all with different playstyles, plus his Chicago Cubs fandom and more. You can find the first part of the interview with Paperthin here.
Paperthin’s struggles and improvements as a caster
BLIX: Comparing yourself from past years, which year do you feel like you were at your best?
Clinton “Paperthin” Bader: For Valorant? [BLIX: Anything.] I think my peak casting was probably for PUBG in 2022 Just because I was in such a good groove with the game. I understood it so well, and I understood the teams so well. I was really on top of things, but right now, I'd say I'm getting close to that with Valorant. I feel I'm really starting to get comfortable. I'm really starting to understand the team's personalities and styles and it's all starting to--when you start absorbing it, it becomes intuitive, and that's what I could do with PUBG because I did it for so long, and now I'm getting to that point with Valorant at the global level. I could do it with Korea, I could do it with Pacific, and now I'm really starting to get comfortable at the global level, too.
BLIX: And I also want to ask about the struggles when it comes to trying to research Valorant because, of course, you were in the process of getting to know the game two years ago. How much of a struggle was it for you to know to research Valorant compared to how it was in PUBG?
Paperthin: It was harder because the game was changing so fast in the beginning, and there were new agents and new maps and stuff like that. PUBG was pretty static so it made it kind of easy. The only thing that changed in PUBG was just the way teams played, but in Valorant, there's three or four different things that are changing. It's not just their style. It's the util, the agents, the players and the map pools they want to run. I would say the hardest part of getting used to it was the rate of change was rather large so it's just a matter of just being proactive with it now and understanding what I need to be looking for, who I need to be looking at, how to properly invest my time and researching the players and teams and stuff.
BLIX: Do you still feel those initial struggles nowadays, given that you now have a few VCT events and also Champions 2023 under your belt?
Paperthin: Yeah, sometimes. Actually, the teams that give me the most struggles are teams that play standard meta comps because then you really have to drill down into specifically how and when they're using their util and what their setups mean for what they're trying to attack or what they're trying to accomplish. Those teams actually are those that still sometimes I'd say I don't 100% always figure out, but on the other side of the coin, I think I do really well, and this is probably because I'm in Pacific, with teams that play off-meta comps like Paper Rex and PRX-EG today, for me, is a dream because both these teams play different stuff. They play a little bit off-meta and I find that super interesting, first of all, and also, I understand it a lot more intuitively for whatever reason. Every day I get better and that's all you can do is just get better, but I feel the most comfortable I've ever felt right now.
Paperthin: I think FUT was difficult for me to read because they played very standard. For example, I'll use Ascent because it's so intricate in terms of the timings of when you're going to rotate and when you're going to try to take space like in mid or short A or something like that. I found FUT and their play to be very standard. They're very cautious. They're very careful for the most part. They kind of do a lot of the normal things that you would do on that map. As far as this event goes, I would say that one was a bit tough for me. Even [with] Haven, sometimes, if they're just playing mirror comps, then you really got to drill down into what minor things they're doing differently, so you really have to focus.
BLIX: You mentioned having an identity and how that compares with other casters in other regions. How would you describe your identity nowadays?
Paperthin: These days, with Achilios and I, we're very hype. We really like to get into the action. We really like to get involved and invested in the game and the players and what's going on, so we really like to let our emotions bleed through no matter who the team is. Even with EG versus PRX today, I was getting hyped for EG because they were doing some great stuff and I think we're really, like, good at that. I think we're getting better, especially myself, about being able to break down the teams and what they're doing. I was talking about the agent comps and the utility usage and stuff like that. I think it's getting a lot better. We're a good balance of fun and silly at times if we want to be, so we're just trying to be the best we can be.
BLIX: It's certainly a never-ending process. It's a theme that you've highlighted many times throughout your career. What do you think is going to be the biggest thing that you're going to focus on to make sure you reach that level that you aspire to be in and do so in a way that leaves you sufficiently happy?
Paperthin: I really want to keep improving on understanding util placement and what that means for how teams are trying to rotate and adjust and things like that. So it's more of digging deeper into utility usage and what that means for the teams. I think I have a decent idea of it but I think there's always, like I said, room for improvement. I think I want to be a little bit funnier. [laughs] Sometimes I don't think I'm very funny and people might disagree but I would like to have that kind of ace in the hole, so to speak.
In general, I'm just going to keep working with coaches and players to really start to get into their mindset. What I think is really important for me as a caster is to get into the mind of the players and the coaches and try to relate as best I can what they're probably thinking to the audience and help the audience understand what's going through their mind. Really, for me, the biggest thing is definitely working with coaches and players as best as I can. Fortunately, I have some people who are out there--I'm not going to name them--who are willing to help me out with that.
BLIX: What's an example of you being able to exactly read a player's movements? What's an example of that aspect playing itself out in a way that leaves you satisfied?
Paperthin: Today, I can think of one with Paper Rex versus EG and it's the way EG was playing Yoru on the defender side. I was able to read exactly how Ethan wanted to set up and I was able to read that Paper Rex also knew it and they were able to play off of that and adjust for it. That kind of thing is cool because the VOD review [I did] paid off, and then you can tell that Paper Rex also did their VOD review.
There was also one with ZETA this year where I said during a timeout they needed to pressure window on mid in Haven and then they did and I felt really good about that. I was like, "All right. I read the coach's brain here," but so far, I think predictive analysis is really important. Guys like sgares and Ballatw are really good at that and that's something that I can definitely work on, too.
Observing other casters, Paperthin himself and his Chicago Cubs fandom
BLIX: When it comes to looking at other casters be it inside Valorant or outside of it, what's a person that stands out to you the most and why?
Paperthin: I definitely look up to all the other casters that are here at Champions and I'm not just saying that. I actually do. There's something I've learned from everybody. Outside of Valorant, I think guys like Uber [Mitch Leslie] does a great job with the Overwatch League previously and things like that. Obviously, the CSGO casters are freaking GOATed. They're just amazing. SPUNJ [Chad Burchill] is a God. Those guys are so good and I'm jealous. I watch a lot of sports too so I try to mimic a lot of what sports casters do because sports has been around for 100 years now, since the invention of the radio basically, so they kind of figured it out and I think there's a lot to take away and learn from them. Growing up, I loved Pat Hughes. He was the radio broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs and I do emulate a lot of him in my style so it's things like that.
BLIX: Did you grow up in Chicago?
Paperthin: Near Chicago yeah. About two hours away in Wisconsin but just on the border of the state at the very southern part.
BLIX: So you're a Cubs fan?
Paperthin: Big Cubs fan.
BLIX: What's your biggest memory of the team?
Paperthin: Winning the 2016 World Series! I just moved to South Korea and they were in the World Series so I had to find a bar in Seoul that was open and actually had the games, so at 9am I would wake up, get on the train and go to this bar halfway across the city just to watch the games every day. That was the best memory I have of the Cubs. It was a lot of cool things kind of intertwining there.
BLIX: Then I gotta ask: what was the first thing you did when they won the title?
Paperthin: I don't remember. [laughs] We just celebrated. We were just a bunch of Cubs fans basically in a bar and we all started jumping up and down, hugging each other and buying each other drinks. It got very hazy very fast, let me put it that way. [laughs]
BLIX: Hopefully, the Cubs get back to that point in the future. One more question before we close this out. Sticking with the subject of your identity in your casting, how do you want to view your identity for the future? If you have this certain identity that you are known by, how would you change it for the future? Or are you satisfied with the current identity that you have?
Paperthin: I think the feedback I get is a pretty good balance of what I want which is hype and being a guy who can really carry a moment and keep the energy high and have a good voice for that while also being able to do a good job of analyzing the teams and make it digestible for the fans. Again, what's going on with the players? Why are they doing what they're doing? What are the coaches and players thinking? So it's really just building on that. I want to have a good balance. I want to be somebody who can be both energetic, fun and hype but also knowledgeable and good at explaining the details of the games.