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Photos of Henry Greer aka Henry G at the ELEAGUE Boston Major

Everything Has Changed

Mar 202018

There are few people in the world who have had a front row seat to the development of Counter-Strike esports like a very unique young Brit by the name of Henry Greer. HenryG, as he’s referred to by his fan base, has built a career over the past decade as a player and caster of professional Counter-Strike.

Henry won his first notable tournament back in 2005, nearly twelve years ago, competing in the infamous Counter-Strike: Source and becoming the winner of the very first major CS:S tournament in the world. Many other notable achievements would come during his tenure on London Mint where he was a frequent contender in Multiplay Insomnia, and a top 8 finisher at the CGS World Championships in 2007. After earning another ten or so more respectable achievements in CS:S, Greer managed a few successful years during the dawn of Global Offensive. Yet his past as a player isn’t what has earned him the respect of hundreds of thousands of CS fans worldwide; instead, it is as the intelligent and humorous British voice behind the screen of nearly every premier CS tournament in the world. 

Whether it be in ECS, ELEAGUE, ESL, or any of the countless tournaments he has been a part of, Henry is known for his intricate yet remarkably easy-to-understand live casting of CS games. His ability to make sense of the unpredictable has served him well throughout his career, but Counter-Strike continues to fascinate him every time he comes in for work. Throughout his experiences as a player and caster of one of the most important first person shooters in history, HenryG has earned his reputation as a voice for this generation.

According to Henry himself, the essence of Counter-Strike’s core gameplay has remained the same over the past decade — because after all, Counter-Strike will always be Counter-Strike at its foundation — but through its evolution with multiple iterations of the franchise, Counter-Strike as an esport has grown more than he could have ever imagined. On paper, the biggest change is obvious.

The prize earnings


“Back then it didn’t matter about the money, it was the prestige of becoming the best team in the world, competing, and the journey of a group of players,” Henry confesses. The scale of the esport has grown so much since he began his professional career as player, and he admits that even he is intimidated by today’s intense environment. For Greer, who came from the roots of Source, competing for no more than a couple thousand dollars at time, the pressures of modern CS tournaments present a very different challenge. “Being eighteen years old, playing in these big stadiums for $500,000 at a time, it’s unbelievable. I can’t even fathom what it must be like for the young men and women coming into it — it’s so much pressure. When I was that age, I was competing for £500.”


More than that, however, is the acceptance that the game has earned. “It's really fascinating to see the whole world get on board and embrace the whole idea of people playing computer games,” He affirms, “It is actually a really cool thing.”


Things could have easily gone differently, however, and Henry recognizes that Counter-Strike esports is still going through a lot of growing pains. To Valve’s credit, CS has undergone a lot of infrastructural changes over the past few years. Not everything has worked, but CS looks like a robust and polished esport heading into the midpoint of 2018. Still, there is much left to improve, and Greer acknowledges how critical it is to review the current player signing rules. “The landscape is somewhat flawed right now,” he explains, “We don’t have an offseason to transfer players. It’s a bit of a problem right now.”


The lack of time between tournaments has contributed to a sometimes maddening pace of roster changes, Legend status be damned. On both sides of the screen, a packed schedule came close to burning out audiences and teams alike in 2016, according to Henry. “We were getting FaZe versus SK like twice a month, and for me it was really disheartening in a way,” he reveals, “Those classic matchups are great twice a year. It was like watching Real Madrid and Barcelona facing each other every week.” As a caster moving from event to event, everything began to blur for Henry as little separated one stop from the next. 


Fortunately, Valve and tournament organizers have worked together to ensure a more evenly spaced schedule, and with a superior product. Henry adds that Counter-Strike could learn a little from other leagues around the world, “Something that we can learn from the Overwatch League heading into next year is how they handle their content, and how everything is very measured. You know what you’re going to get every week and that structures make it easier to create longer storylines.”


Despite his suggestions, Henry doesn’t want CS:GO to lose its unique character as an esport. “I love CS:GO because it’s all grassroots, and we built it from nothing,” he gleams, “We’re still building it.”


Nowadays, it’s possible to see and hear Henry at the world’s biggest Counter-Strike tournaments. More than just a voice on stream, Henry wants to be a positive voice for the Counter-Strike community.

A New Career, A Similar Goal


For Henry, his transition from player to caster has presented him with many different challenges, but the end goal remains the same: to become the best in his craft. Despite retiring from competitive play almost 8 years ago, Henry still attends almost every single event and watches as much CS that he possibly can. It all contributes to his skill as a caster. His role as an in-game leader during his playing days has also been beneficial.


“I used to watch a lot of demos back then, and I liked to understand how people see the game when I watch them,” Henry explains. “I can actually analyze how a team is going to operate at the beginning of a round, and see whether they are doing a set piece or a default even before the round begins.” Years of watching demos has equipped Henry with the foresight to read nuances that few others notice, from the grenades a team is holding to the way they face in their spawns.  


By being able to predict rounds before they happen, Henry is able to usher audiences into rounds and prepare them for the action to come. Each round, in a way, is like a short story, with an exposition, a conflict, a climax, and a conclusion. Pulling audiences into each chapter is essential for all would-be casters.


“Part of the job is entertaining people in the quieter moments. It’s helpful to have a good personality, and I like to have fun with it as well,” Henry elaborates, “I take the game really seriously and I have a lot of passion for it, but for the full eco rounds and situations like that, we’re allowed to have some fun and have some banter during the game.”


Certainly, having a dry British sense of humor adds a different dynamic to the equation. So far, audiences have taken notice, though Henry confesses that his hype game still needs some work. “I’m learning from Matt every day how to become a better commentator. Sometimes you’re in the moment and you just have to go with it and thankfully most people seem to think that I nail it. It’s definitely not one of my strengths, it’s definitely something I’m working on.”


Henry is the first to admit that he isn’t perfect, and that mistakes do happen. As a caster, his opinion is amplified with hundreds of thousands of people listening to his every word. “Everything I say is purely opinion — what I think is about to happen, and what I think is a good or bad play,” Henry clarifies, “I have zero seconds to think about what I’m about to say, and everything happens immediately. Most of the time, I’m on the money.” 


In the rare instances where he does get things wrong, he already knows that his Twitter feed will be full of fingers pointed. Criticism accepted, but Henry isn’t fazed by these occasional blunders. He understands that his position attracts scrutiny, and his responsibility as the voice of his game does not escape him.


Words of Advice


As a senior figure in the world of Counter-Strike, HenryG has a simple message for those aspiring to follow in his footsteps: tread lightly.


“It’s a really competitive landscape right now, and it’s difficult for even the most established casters to get gigs,” he concedes without a pause, “So don’t quit school.”


Starting as a hobby is something Henry recommends for the aspiring caster while they build their reputation. Start doing it for fun online. Whenever there’s a GOTV release and there’s a chance to run a stream, practice even if it’s only in front of friends. And most of all, listen. Listen to the best. Listen to Sadokist, Anders, and find out what makes them so good. 


A lot goes into becoming a successful Counter-Strike caster, and Henry is frank about the prospects of breaking into the business. “For someone with no casting experience,” he offers bluntly,” I wouldn’t recommend trying to get into CS:GO, at least.” With a talent pool that’s among the most abundant in esports, opportunities are few and far between.


“There are so many great casters already out there, and there’s a limited number of gigs available. We’re so far into the life cycle of Counter-Strike that everyone is already so established. It would be easier to wait for a new game and try to make your name there,”


Harsh words, perhaps, but Henry wants everyone to know that passion alone isn’t enough. There’s a lot of hard work — and whole lot of luck — involved. He minces few words and stresses, “My main advice would be to stay in school and have a job you can fall back on. If you can do this in your spare time, give it a go and see if you can make a stable income from it. Only then can you consider going full time.”


It’s a familiar story for Henry, because that’s exactly how he started. When Henry began his casting career, he was living with his partner at the time, and he promised her that someday, it would become something. Back then, he and Richard Lewis were casting a week’s worth of matches for a measly 50 pounds, up to 10 maps a day. Henry knows what kept him going through those difficult times, “You needed a lot of f***ing passion to make it through the day.”


Needless to say, Henry Greer made it.