HenryG: “I found myself working abroad for 300 days a year, for three years, which kind of sacrifices every sort of relationship, friendship, family time and even your own sanity”

We spoke to HenryG about his thoughts on casting, MIBR, Team Liquid and whether he misses competing.


Photo credit: (Dominik Schroeder)

Making his first appearances as a player back in Counter-Strike: Source HenryG was notably an in Game Leader for multiple UK teams across his playing career. Remaining a competitor into Global Offensive Henry would first make casting appearances during the latter stages of 2014 going into 2015. After joining up with Sadokist in the Summer of 2015 the duo soon made waves.

Throughout the following years, HenryG and Sadokist rose through the ranks and for many the pairing resides as Counter-Strike’s best. Shortly preceding the Major semifinals we spoke with Henry about his thoughts on casting, MIBR, Team Liquid and whether he misses competing. 

Within the wider community the average level of knowledge about team Counter-Strike is quite lacking. Do you think as a collective of talent you provide viewers enough information to better inform themselves or is their room for improvement?

For me that is my main focus and my job as a colour commentator is to explain the game and break it down. I try to cater for both new and hardcore audiences and it is difficult to find a fine balance between the two. I feel like I do a good job of explaining things in a way everyone can understand so that everyone gets a little bit out of it. 

I was a professional player and an in game Leader for ten years and part of my routine back in the day was actually coming up with these strategies alongside devising how we would counteract our opponent’s setups, so I think I’m one of the few people within the talent team that can look at a strategy and call it before it even happens: I can look at their spawns, look at the buy and tell people what is going to happen before it actually even takes place. I like to build things up like that and build a narrative within the round itself and that is why I prefer to be a commentator instead of someone on the analyst desk, because when you are on the analyst you have to break the entire game down in essentially a three minute segment trying to explain thirty rounds of Counter-Strike or even more with overtime. I love what I do because I get to do it on a round by round basis being really specific and articulate about what is happening in that specific moment.

Matt (Sadokist) does an amazing job at hyping everyone up and getting everyone excited but I feel like I bring the tactical side that a lot of other duos cannot. I guess Anders and Jason (Moses) can do so as well but is a very difficult thing to do especially at a Major, we have a lot of newer viewers here so I sometimes find myself being a little bit too basic and when we have like 500,000 people watching I want to make sure that everyone understands what is going on. For example, I might repeat some things that I would normally say at smaller events just to get everyone up to the same knowledge.

To answer the original question, yes I think we do but we could do a lot better and I just don’t have the resources to do it. It is not down to me, it is down to the tournament organisers to give me to give me the same resources that a traditional sports commentator would have. Let’s say you’re commentating a football game, then you would be given stats and information from a researcher providing you little tidbits. You would have a screen feeding you information and right now it is all coming from my brain, I have to say what I think and dissect the matter within the space of a few seconds after things have happened, I have to remember all the stats and history myself and don’t really get given anything and I think that is a major problem. We are a long way behind traditional sports in this sense and it doesn’t compute for me that we are so big, filling up these arenas but we are not really giving the talent the resources that they require to do their job to the best possible level. I have spoken to tournament organisers about this and although they want to they are more focused on the teams, the arenas and so on thinking that we’ll be fine, which is a bit of a shame and I think that hopefully next year we will be able to work on that.

Since you were formerly a professional player, when attending events or casting games, do you ever miss the competition?

I definitely miss competing, it is in my blood. I always want to be the best in something that I do and I found that Counter-Strike was something I am very naturally good at. Back in the day I felt like I was so naturally talented at this one thing and I just completely lost focus on everything else in my life, it was just about Counter-Strike when I was a teenager. I used to just wake up and play, the only times I would take a break was to eat and it was just all about competing, being the best and just driving myself to the next level.

I would say that I am happier now because it is a lot less stressful to talk about it [Counter-Strike] and criticise other people. Then there is the gut wrenching feeling of being knocked out early in a tournament and I can’t describe how it feels, that really hangs over your heads for maybe two weeks if you have a really rough tournament where you have been preparing for maybe six weeks straight with boot camps, preparing as a team and coming up with new strategies putting everything that you’ve got into it and then it all goes wrong coming down to a mistake of one of your teammates or something that you didn’t do right, especially being the in Game Leader you feel like there is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders if it all goes wrong and I just don’t miss that feeling. I don’t get that feeling whilst commentating, sometimes you have a bad cast but it is not as noticeable as crashing out in the group stages when you are a favourite for the tournament.

I miss competing; I miss the game but I love what I do now and it still keeps me involved in Counter-Strike. It keeps me being a personality and involved in every single facet of the game itself and I think we are quite lucky within esports and specifically Counter-Strike where we are the faces of the game. In other sports you know who the commentators are but they are not a big part of the show, they just do their job whilst remaining under the radar and we are quite fortunate that everyone sees us as stars as well.

Back in 2015 and early 2016 it appeared that talent members were attending essentially every event they could get their hands on, nowadays, talent seems to be much more selective over which events they do. What are your thoughts on this change in philosophy and personally how has your approach towards choosing events changed over the last few years?

This goes back to my competitive nature, when I first started casting in like late 2014 and properly in 2015 I realised just how much competition there was and how much work I had to do to improve, so I threw myself into the deep end and say yes to every single event. I found myself working abroad for 300 days a year, for three years, which kind of sacrifices every sort of relationship, friendship, family time and even your own sanity because you are travelling every single day of your life, going into different countries, different cultures alongside being on camera pretty much five days a week. Our job is quite unique in the sense that if you are having a bad day then you cannot let that show, you have to leave that at the front door and put your mask on being the super happy guy that everyone is expecting. I think what we do it is a bit like a travelling circus really: it is the same group of people, the same talent, the same players going from a different event to event to event and it can be a little bit soul destroying at times.

I did that grind, well I’m still kinda doing it now, I don’t know why I am saying it got much better. I realised that I was sacrificing too much of my personal life and when you are away for 300 days a year, then come back and your friends are giving up on even asking if you want to hang out anymore, you feel so far removed from your social circle. You have to workout how to find a balance, for me it was all about how I wanted to be the best commentator, I wanted to be the number one, I wanted to be casting in the finals of a Major and the only way I could really see me achieving that was grinding every single day. 

Matt and I were both single which helped when travelling around the world and trying to do every possible event but it is really difficult, you have to choose if you want to be the best at something or do you want to have your personal time being at home. For us it was more important to take this opportunity that we had been given with CS:GO and really see where it would take us. We felt like we would be foolish to let it slip by as you don’t get that many opportunities to work with something that you have loved your entire life which is Counter-Strike for me. Being really heavily involved and well paid it really is a dream job but at the same time there are a lot of sacrifices.

This year I said I would calm it down but on Monday I am going to America for two months so it never really ends. You know what, I’m happy that I am here moaning about it and stuff like that, it takes a special type of narcissist to be on camera every single day and travel around the world, I think you have to really love what you do and be in love with yourself a bit, I like the attention and being on camera so for me it it’s fine.

Touching on Team Liquid, you have casted them at plenty of events over the year and in London they have looked particularly strong. What are your thoughts on Liquid and why do you think they have shown great form here at the Major?

I feel like they seem a lot more composed, usually in the last couple of years when we talk about team Liquid we tell everyone about them having very good squads with powerful players and great strategies but they would always seem to fall over at the last hurdle. They seemed to have those “crumble moments” where they looked like they were going to close out the game and have the glory that we’ve all be waiting for, but it always seemed to fall apart. Since they brought TACO in they seem a lot more composed; they seem like they are able to convert huge margins they have now and actually close out games, if you look at the one this event where they were up 13-2 against Astralis and then it suddenly goes to overtime, had that gone to overtime a year ago they would have lost that, it would have been over, you wouldn’t see them again, they would probably have changed roster but they managed to overcome it. Zews is a massive asset for them, he is like the father figure of the team with two Majors under his belt already and I think he has really helped them out.

I definitely think they are in the conversation to win this tournament, today [in their semifinal versus Astralis] this is going to be their biggest test. I feel like this could be the Major final and I wouldn’t have been surprised if this was, but it is the semifinals and it is a bit of a shame that it is happening now but that is the way it goes sometimes and it is going to be amazing whatever happens. I know it is going to be a great game, whether they win it or not they can hold their heads high here, I feel like they are a fantastic organisation, a fantastic team and they really represent what esports should be.

Since the player break MIBR has attended Stockholm and now the Major with Janko and Tarik now onboard, what are your thoughts on MIBR in their current state and how do you think these moves have affected the team?

For me, Janko coming in is the main storyline; Tarik’s addition brings a lot of firepower and he is seemingly making the whole English transition from Portuguese a lot easier, they seem a lot happier now and Stewie has got another member with him that he knows really well. With Janko they seem like much more of a family, which might seem weird when removing another Brazilian players and bringing in a North American but overall, they seem a lot happier. I hang out with those guys quite a lot after the events and they all just seem super together; they are never separate. Before joining MIBR sometimes you would see a couple of players at the bar and the other guys would be nowhere to be seen but now, these guys are always together. I think Janko has relieved some of the pressure on FalleN in general, before they had a coach in the form of dead, he has always been a lovely guy who manages the guys, makes sure they have everything they need but I don’t think he was the analytical mind they required to actually assist FalleN and take them to the final phase, which I think they are at now.

Janko brings a lot of discipline, I have known Janko for four years; he is a really nice dude but he has also got an iron first. If he wants something done, he wants it done his way and I am sure part of the negotiation in his contract was: it’s done my way, it’s my vision and you are going to listen to what I say. Before FalleN was doing the in game leading, making the   AWP work and trying to come up with the tactics all by himself, but now Janko can focus on all of that and FalleN all of a sudden is back to his godlike form that we saw in 2016 and he is actually looking like a world class player again. I think that was the main problem for them, the fact that he had too much on his plate: he had to keep the team together, worry about transfers we weaker players, the strategy, the AWPing, the In Game Leading and now that it’s all been a little relieved it seems like he is back in the game.

They have made it to the semifinals of the Major, they could also go on and win it, everyone in the semifinals has a great roster and on their day they can definitely win this tournament but they are still a little streaky to me. Their map pool doesn’t look strong enough there is still a lot of work to do as Janko has only been there just over a month; I feel like 2019 will really be the return of MIBR.

Whilst Janko was an analyst he was widely respected for his knowledge by both the community and professional players. Moving into the coaching role with MIBR, do you think that it was important that Janko came into the team being highly respected by his players?

I think so; it is strange because if you look back at his Counter-Strike history and his playing career it’s nothing to write home about, it’s really quite average, I’ve even got more winnings than him in Counter-Strike. He doesn’t have much of a decorated career but the team he played with (iNation): they found NiKo in that team, that was where kassad came from so those guys really understand Counter-Strike and I don’t think they ever found their big break originally. Janko has got a great analytical mind: he has a master’s degree in economics and has the ability to analyse things, he knows how to break them down; he is very articulate as well and I think he has a vision of how he wants Counter-Strike to be played.

I have played a lot of CS with him in the past and I know he has a very similar approach to myself: it is very vanilla, very classical Counter-Strike, it is all about discipline by not making mistakes, not over extending and making sure you play the percentages to win rounds instead of making calculated risks that could potentially cost you a kill. It’s all about having the awareness of when to push or when not to and when certain things happen having the tactics in you repertoire to adjust to things that team might present to you. Janko for me can do very well there, he has definitely got the respect of his players and I know it was not just MIBR that was interested in him when he was considering the coaching role, there were a lot of big teams contacting him and there was a bit of a bidding war to get him on board.

It is quite strange to have that transition from talent to coach, normally you see a player that moves into being talent, but now he is back in the scene and I think it is great. I don’t think it will happen to anyone else; I don’t think it will become a trend where analysts go into coaching roles and it’s not something I would ever consider I don’t think. It is too much work and not enough of the glory, if I am going to be part of a team I want to be playing, for me it would be too much theory and homework to really enjoy. He seems to be loving it and he is thriving; the team is resurging and it is great to see.

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