Esports Commentator Jaycie Gluck on Battling Impostor Syndrome in the Fight to Improve
In the following opinion piece, Wisdom Gaming Vice President of Media and veteran esports commentator Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck talks about the challenges of dealing with imposter syndrome while working in the esports industry and the lessons she has learned through her experience.
My name is Jaycie, aka Gillyweed, and I deal with impostor syndrome. But here’s the secret I’ve learned: everybody does. Here’s how I managed through it and what I’ve learned from my experiences in commentary.
I started commentating in 2015, back when Blizzard Entertainment planted the seed of Heroes of the Storm esports as anything more than grassroots with their Road to BlizzCon event series. By the time I was hired in July to cast an official, in-studio event, I’d been casting online weeklies for a few months. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I loved the game, and my goal at the time was to cast for Blizzard.
Many people who knew me as a commentator at that time will remember this first official cast of mine as the birth of the “gillyIndeed” meme. I learned about crutch words the hard way — by saying a word I normally never used about 10,000 times in a cast purely because someone else said it; and my brain, after sitting in a pool of nervous energy, subconsciously decided that “indeed” was, indeed, the greatest word to ever exist.
After taking in the feedback from our talent coach and other casters, I held back tears until I got back to my hotel room that evening. I felt like I shouldn’t be there. I wanted to go home and forget about casting.
Instead, I went on broadcast the next day and made sure the first word out of my mouth was a hearty “indeed!” After I got home, we made one of my stream emotes indeed. The content group I was a part of even made indeed mugs with a caricature of my face. Effectively, Indeedgate was over.
One month later, I returned to Burbank for another broadcast weekend. During one of my later casts on the second day, I mistook one Nazeebo heroic icon for another and was corrected on broadcast by my co-caster. On the ride back, another talent told me that he oversaw a private chat between Blizzard employees talking about how badly I did. Thankfully, our observer at the time pulled me aside to help build me back up, but I again retired to my room in a panic and looked up flights to go home.
I returned to the studio the next day hungry to prove everyone wrong. I honestly believed it would be my last day officially casting, because I didn’t feel like I belonged there with the rest, but I wanted to prove what I could do. That day ended up being one of my best days commentating up to that point.
After the show, I was taken aside by a mentor at Blizzard who told me that if I wanted to continue casting, I needed to improve. The next events in the Heroes ecosystem would be live events – the Americas Championship in Las Vegas, and BlizzCon after. Despite my tumultuous opening, I was driven to make it to both. I hired a coach, started learning techniques to memorize the vast amount of talents in the game, and completely revamped how I prepped for events. By the time I got to my first-ever live event a month later, I was reborn as Gillyweed, the caster who prepares more than anyone in the scene. Later that year I cast my first BlizzCon; early the year after I cast my first international event, and the week after I returned from Korea, I commentated Heroes of the Dorm on an ESPN channel.
Unfortunately, the higher I climbed, the less I felt I belonged or deserved my success. I didn’t trust Reddit or social media when public sentiment toward me turned positive. I often didn’t even trust my loved ones, yet relied on their reassurance to keep myself going. Some would call it the Dunning-Kruger Effect, because as my knowledge of the space grew, so did my understanding of just how much I had to learn. But I was also in the grip of imposter syndrome.
One coping mechanism was to mentally separate Gillyweed from Jaycie. On camera, Gillyweed’s shoulders were back, and chin lifted. She’s energetic, bubbly, and, above all else, knows her shit. It could have been the BlizzCon grand finals in front of a packed house with standing room only, the Heroes of the Dorm finals standing next to Tastosis, or even the Rocket League World Championship analyst desk. Yet internally, Jaycie’s concentrating so hard to remember hero talents, player statistics, draft patterns, and gameplay trends that she forgot to eat, couldn’t sleep, and wouldn’t remember the experience of the cast after it concluded. And she always wondered if she was enough.
As Heroes and my role in the scene grew, people started being inspired by me. Or even more, felt they were represented by me. Or introduced their kids to me, because I was their role model. This had a two-fold effect on me — when I felt like I had a bad cast or wanted to stop casting, those moments kept me going. But I also felt a ton of pressure to represent marginalized gamers well — and for someone who wasn’t ever sure she was enough, that was incredibly hard. I never wanted to be the token woman on broadcast, nor did I want to represent anyone. I just wanted to talk about a video game that I loved.
At my first BlizzCon, there was a commentator from another region who had captured the hearts of Reddit. He flew out to join the talent team and seemed to be really confident. During rehearsal, I expressed how anxious I was due to the tech at the desk. My co-caster turned to me and said, “Sometimes I feel like an outsider compared to the rest of you.” I was shocked; here was this caster who from my perspective belonged, yet still felt imposter syndrome, not even knowing that I felt the same. And in that moment, I didn’t feel quite so alone.
Since transitioning from commentary, I’ve been fortunate enough to have managed and coached talent from former professional players to some of the most beloved talent in a scene. And I can safely say that a lot — if not most — of us encounter imposter syndrome at some point in our careers. Feedback on commentary is rarely objective – sure, there are technical things we can work on. But most of what we receive from chat or social media is subjective. “I don’t like Gilly” comes out as “Gilly is bad” without much thought or effort. To boot, a lot of the people hiring talent in the industry don’t know enough to be able to give the right feedback, so sometimes, public perception is all we’ve got.
So – how do we improve? Be open to feedback, and look for the right sources. Ask a trusted friend to watch a broadcast and tell you how you made them feel. Watch your own VODs and note what you did and didn’t like. Perhaps you said “indeed” 20 times and want to reduce that number to a healthy 10. Build trust with a fellow talent, then talk about what you want to do to improve together.
But most of all, use that drive to fuel you to improve. Take control of it, so it won’t control you. Be honest with yourself that you feel it, but you aren’t alone in that feeling. So that one day, when you hang up your hat on commentating, you, too, can finally feel like you were enough.
Source: Read Full Article