From Home to the Desk: InfianEwok

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We spoke to Shikhar “InfianEwok” Gupta, one of the casters for this weekend’s APAC LAN, to discuss his career so far.

InfianEwok primarily works as a ESL caster for the South East Asian APAC sub-region, however this weekend will be casting the Paris Major APAC Qualifier LAN live from Sydney in what is a huge opportunity for him. We asked him what it was like to work as a Pro League caster as well as his thoughts on the upcoming LAN:

To start, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a Singaporean guy, and am soon to be 21 years old. I recently finished my mandatory 2 years conscription, where I was enlisted in the army. Soon, I will be starting my university where I will be studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor in management, and something known as the University Scholars Programme (USP). I have many interests, playing and watching football, cricket, am into photography, and love movies.

How did you initially get into Siege?

Back in early 2017, I was very much into Titanfall 2, however a severely declining player population meant that my friends began to migrate to other games. Eventually, they convinced me to try Siege during the free weekend while the inaugural Six Invitational was happening.

In-game, I saw a link to the Twitch stream, so I clicked upon it and was thrilled to discover that a Singaporean team (Team Envy) was competing. The casters kept talking about how incredible their achievement of taking a map off eRa was, with no Pro League or formal cups of their own, and I was enamoured by them. From then on, with tons of free time in the army, I began to download every one of the Pro League VODs as Year 2 began, and watched them as soon as I could.

You currently cast the South East Asia sub-region’s games alongside TheRussianCthulu; what is it like to cover Official Pro League streams such as this?

It’s an incredible privilege and I love every second of it. It always pains me when I have to miss Pro League casts due to scheduling issues, such as when I am flying to Sydney on Thursday evening, thus missing Day 6 of the Pro League. Even though I am in this purely as a volunteer (with no pay), having and carrying out the responsibility to make the games as entertaining as possible for the viewers -- however many there are -- is something I really enjoy. Sure, it’s the Southeast Asian Pro League, but it’s the Pro League!

I never really thought I would be getting so deeply embedded into the pro scene, and it always amazes me that I got so far. A lot of thanks has to go to some people I consider good friends, with Jebus, Monkeyfist, Cthulhu, and Devmarta just some of the great individuals from the R6 ANZ community.

A South East Asian team hasn’t reached a Global LAN since the Y1 Six Invitational; why would you say this is?

Well, it is going to sound a lot like Singaporean bias, but for the Season 6 and 7 APAC LAN Finals I am going to blame the brackets as far as not reaching a Global LAN goes. At both these LAN events, Envy (then known as Team CryptiK) was second-best -- first to eiNs, and then to Fnatic. Some might claim they weren’t, but it was pretty clear to whoever was following the APAC teams closely. They were second best at the 2018 Six Invitational Qualifiers LAN too, but that event only had one slot to the subsequent global LAN.

However, let’s talk about their performance. They dropped from number 1 in APAC to number 2 -- why? Simply a lack of local competition. Forget the competition being robust, there just was not enough competition in the first place. Japan, believe it or not, has a bustling local scene, and Australia-New Zealand (ANZ) now has the best local scene in all of APAC, and the lack of such competition in SEA meant that it was always going to be very hard for Envy to stay number 1.

Recently the Official ESL Twitter account has been treating SEA the same as the other main regions tweeting results and clips from the matches. Have you seen any change in viewers or attention to your region due to this and what else could be done to promote the SEA games and teams?

I have not seen a particularly noticeable jump in the number of viewers, but this kind of attention is exactly what the region needs. Currently, there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem; teams don’t get enough viewership, so Ubisoft, ESL, and sizeable organisations are reluctant to invest. Without investment of resources into the region, it is hard to get more viewers (for example, Fnatic picking up the Mindfreak roster gave ANZ a strong boost -- they now see 1000 viewers every play day on average). Slowly, but surely, this attention will help increase the viewership and that will create a positive knock-on effect.

However, this still doesn’t solve the issue of a lack of local SEA competition, and following that, having robust competition. There are a few tournaments here and there, but not any that would really entice existing players and/or new players. There's a lack of publicity, professionalism, manpower and budget to create amateur or semi-pro leagues such as CCS, or as we can see in ANZ, the CyberGamer Ladder, and the EGN PUG nights. It will take time for this growth to come, but I'm not entirely sure what is needed to kickstart it.

Coming up this weekend is the Paris Major APAC Qualifier LAN which you will be casting live from Sydney; have you casted with the ANZ talent before?

Yeah, I have cast with the ANZ casters before, or I should say caster. Initially I began solo-casting, with the ANZ Cup being the first tournament or league I did.

In that cup, for one of the matches, a caster had to leave before the third map began. Devmarta invited me to help cap things off, and so began my first ever duo cast. Since then, we've cast a fair few games together, and I feel we have good on-stream chemistry together.

Unfortunately I have not cast with Monkey, Flea, or Elastic, but there's lots of time for me to get a chance to duo with them.

With two of the favourites in APAC already qualified for the Paris Major and so not participating at this LAN what are your predictions for the event?

Well, Envy have to be my favourites for this event. They are going to start off against Athletico, which is probably the team everyone wanted to face, given that they have the least amount of LAN-experienced players, and the least recent LAN experience.

Following that, I think Element Mystic (EM) will take down Sengoku Gaming Extasy (SGE) with little difficulty to set up a spicy EM vs Envy Winners’ Final. Envy should prevail nevertheless, though, and go into the Grand Final with a map advantage.

In the Losers’ Bracket I expect Athletico to surprise SGE, but then fall to EM. Finally, I think EM will try re-work their strats to try and beat Envy, but with all the games on the same day it will be difficult and I don’t see them winning after already being a map down. Envy to thus qualify for Paris.

As well as a caster you also are also a founding member of SiegeGG; how exactly did this come about?

It began with me moderating the R6ProLeague subreddit with FinnsterMac. ChankaNewsNetwork quickly became a friend of ours, and we began thinking what would happen if we had betting like CS:GO, but for Siege. I was supportive of the idea, but didn’t have much to contribute.

Soon, though, the proposal shifted to having a “HLTV but for Siege”, and then SiegeGG was truly born. With my previous experience with writing and publications, I naturally became the Editor-in-Chief, and we got ourselves off the ground.

Finally, going into the future is there any extra projects we can expect?

Nothing really in particular, I do plan to keep casting the Pro League, and I hope I get more chances to be at LANs in the future! Tune in weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays at twitch.tv/R6_ANZ to catch Southeast Asian games in action!

You can watch the upcoming APAC LAN from 10AM AEST Saturday on the Oficial Rainbow6 Twitch channel, and you can read more about the event here.