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Roots Pt. I

Mar 022018

She’s known for being one of the best stage hosts in the business, but where did she get her start? This is the first part of Smix’s rise from translator for hire to permanent fixture within the esports scene.

When I first really got into gaming, it was in Starcraft not Counter-Strike, and it wasn’t the greatest time for me. I’ll only lightly touch on this but back then, it was a very bad period in my life. I was very depressed and Starcraft was my escape. It became the thing that made me really happy. I knew I could always look forward to it because Proleague matches were always on a consistent schedule. I could always look forward to watching with friends that I had made online (which was also very new to me). It became this escape from reality. To have this thing that was one of the few positive things in my life turn into something that I could actually be a part of and realistically help out with, was mind blowing. That’s why, to this day, Starcraft holds a very special place in my heart!

 

What got me into video games in the first place was actually really coincidental. Like a lot of other girls who get into gaming, I grew up watching my brother play a lot of games, and one of the games he played was Starcraft. Fast forward to 2008, I was in Korea and I discovered there was a professional scene for Starcraft, which was Brood War at the time. They had this whole professional League, and I thought that was insane. This idea of professional gaming was completely novel to me, I had never heard about it before. I started to watch it and became fascinated by how organized all of it was — it just blew my mind! I tried to look for a place to watch it once I came back to America, and that’s how I found Teamliquid.net. It was the hub for all foreign Starcraft fans. Once I became a part of the website and community I was like, “This is so cool!” 

 

There was this huge community of people that were just rabid fans of Brood War and I had no idea they existed! Obviously by 2008 Team Liquid and TL.net had been doing it for some time, and there were people who had been there since, like, 2001. Victor “Nazgul” Goossens was obviously one of those people. It’s funny now because now when I see Victor he’s the head of this huge organization, but back then he was just one of the founders of this site and we were all just people who were passionate about Brood War. All of this just naturally transitioned into me keeping up with everything that was going on and led to the me of today.

 

The way I finally got involved in the community, more than just watching, was when I started translating. Back then I noticed there was a huge desire from the foreign fans to know what was going on in the Korean scene — if there was an interview from their favorite player, the fans wanted to know what they said. There were a lot of funny things going on during the big tournaments. There was the MSL and the OSL, and they would always do this group selection which was really funny because that was the one time that these Korean players, who were normally very politically correct and not saying anything wrong, might partake in some banter and talk a little bit of shit. I was like, “Oh my God the foreign fans are missing out by not understanding what they’re saying!” because it was actually hilarious. That lead to the first translation I did. It was a group selection for MSL and it took me SO freaking long. I was so passionate and excited at the idea that the fans would enjoy this, and they did of course! I heard a lot of, “Oh I didn’t know that this player had this kind of personality, and X player was like this.”

 

After that I saw there clearly was a need and want for this. It turned into me watching every Proleague match and staying up until 7 or 9 AM when the matches would finish and then waiting another hour for the interview to come up and then translating it before going to bed at like 10 AM. I was a student at the time and I REALLY messed up my sleep schedule, and as you can probably imagine I wasn’t going to many classes [laughing]. I was not a good student.

 

 Translating was fun but most people today probably know me as a host. That passion was sparked after my first live gig which was at IPL 3 in Atlantic City back in October 2011, I think. Now I’m gonna be really forthcoming about this — I did not make good money back then. I would work some events for an entire weekend for like $200 or some shit. It was nothing. Back then I was just like, “Oh my God they’re gonna fly me out this is so cool!”. I was just so excited at that prospect and that they were gonna pay for my hotel and I was also gonna get paid something. Obviously $200 is nothing, but I still remember it was a big deal to me when I negotiated it up to $450 [laughing]. Obviously since I got paid so little I didn’t think it could ever be an actual career.

 

At that first event, I remember that my feet were dying every day because not only was I translating, I had to wrangle players — at that point I was doing whatever I could to help out. The player room was really far away from where they had to go and they would get lost and it was a shit show. I got really positive feedback from Mr. Chae who was a GSL commentator at the time. I only really read the feedback that I got from Team Liquid and I remember back then I was so high off the newfound attention. So that was my first event and then that kind of led to many more. I remember that event was the first time that I thought, “Maybe this can turn into something,” but my first hosting gig was at Dreamhack Valencia in July of 2013 and I continued to get work up until I graduated college.

 

After graduation, the plan was to continue my education and pursue my Master’s degree. But to be honest I wasn’t too interested in doing that, so I began to stall with streaming and continued to get gigs, much to the dismay of my parents. I delayed getting my Masters more and more until finally in 2014 when I thought, “Okay let’s give esports all I’ve got for one full year.” My parents were on board with my plan and things sort of took off from there! That was when I had started hosting regularly and obviously hosting pays much more than translating, so it seemed like more of a viable option. Things just got better and better for me throughout that year and brought me to where I am today. Since then, this passion has grown into so much more than just an ‘escape’, and words can’t describe how much it all means to me.

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