Jia Dee on Casting HS Grandmasters during COVID-19: “It’s such a privilege that I’m able to work from home”
Esports Inquirer recently spoke to Hearthstone pro player and caster Jacinta Patricia “Jia” Dee on how she deals with life under quarantine and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected her preparations as a caster for the Hearthstone Grandmasters 2020 Season 1.
Known as the game’s premier level of tournament play, the Grandmasters will have 48 of the world’s top players battle it out across two eight-week seasons for the prestigious title of Hearthstone World Champion.
Esports Inquirer: We’re a month into Enhanced Community Quarantine now, how are you holding up so far? Have you tried playing games other than Hearthstone recently?
I was always a homebody to begin with, so I think I’m immune to cabin fever. Moreover, I realize it’s such a privilege that I’m able to work from home in the first place, as many fellow Filipinos are struggling to make ends meet during these times. As for games aside from Hearthstone, I’ve been playing tons of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’m a longtime fan of the AC franchise, ever since their first title on the GameCube, but the latest title combined with the quarantine timing has skyrocketed the series to a new level of popularity (and meme productivity).
How will Hearthstone Grandmasters 2020 be run differently compared to previous seasons given the current situation?
In 2019, the first two seasons of Hearthstone Grandmasters were actually played from each competitor’s home setup, and only the production staff and talent (that’s me!) were on site at studios. So not much will change for the players. However now, all the 20+ production staff and 6 talent will be working from our individual homes—which are located all over the world.
What are your thoughts on casting the games from home? Do you foresee any difficulties that may result from this set-up?
I don’t have to foresee any difficulties because they’re already happening, haha. First and foremost is dealing with the timezone differences—I’m the only caster among the 6 in Asia at the moment, so meetings tend to be scheduled during late-night hours for me and I tend to see messages when I wake up in the morning rather than as they’re sent. It’s unfortunate but I can’t complain, as meetings need to be set at the best time to accommodate the majority.
Excited to announce I’m part of the official casting roster for Hearthstone Grandmasters Season 3! This is Blizzard’s…ADVERTISEMENT
Another problem was with the shipping of equipment from Blizzard to our homes: cameras, lights, green screen, etc. All the other casters have received at least some of their setup, but all of mine was delayed. Still working on getting ahold of that, but for this week at least, I’ll be using a borrowed ring light, a borrowed webcam, and — I kid you not — a borrowed green blanket taped to my wall as a green screen. Third, since we’re here in the Philippines, there’s always the risk of internet problems. But PLEASE, I hope not.
Other than that, I have no qualms with casting from home in general. Again, I think it’s really lucky I get to do this at all. Since we’ll only be seen from the torso up, you can expect I’ll be pairing my business casual tops with shorts and tsinelas. I hope we get to have a full-on pambahay day!
Riot Games has recently announced that LCS Spring 2020 will be broadcasted on ESPN’s traditional television programming. What do you think is the next step for Hearthstone and esports as a whole in an era of lockdowns and social distancing?
Well, I think that’s a better question to ask of traditional sports broadcasts because esports, as you can see, are already adjusting to purely online platforms. It’s fitting as that’s where some of them began, anyway. It’s a shame that big LANs have been cancelled indefinitely, as big crowds always add to the hype of the event. But I’m confident that the core audience for esports will remain, and perhaps even grow due to the quarantine.
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Still, there are always things to be improved on. In Hearthstone’s case, I think the next step is to improve accessibility to new audiences. Blizzard recently signed a deal for all their esports products to be exclusively broadcast on YouTube Gaming. This was initially quite a blow to viewership as many esports fans stand by Twitch as their main platform, but there are also new audiences to be tapped into on a more universal platform like YouTube. I think Hearthstone esports ought to increase their social media presence, more frequently advertise the game and the Grandmasters League, and continue to push community events and support their streamers and content creators. So far, they have been doing a lot of the latter.
What are your thoughts on the Philippine Hearthstone scene’s growth in the past year? Where do you see it going in the near future?
Not to toot my own horn, but the Philippine Hearthstone scene I think has actually seen a small resurgence since the SEA Games, as Hearthstone was a featured esports title. In the Fireside Gathering I attended before the ECQ began, I was happy to see a healthy turnout and plenty of new faces. The new Battlegrounds game mode has also attracted a new player base. On top of that, we now have AKG Games directly handling Hearthstone here in the Philippines, and they’ve pushed several great initiatives so far. So I do expect the rest of the year to be great for the HSPH scene, or at least as great as it can be under these extraordinary circumstances.
🇵🇭SIBOL Hearthstone TeamJacinta "Jia" Dee Dustin "WaningMoon" Mangulabnan
Matches in the Hearthstone Grandmasters 2020 Season 1 will be held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until June 7, 2020 and will be streamed live on Youtube Gaming.
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