Just one week before Intel Extreme Masters Oakland is set to bring us two days of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends action live from the Oracle Arena, we spoke with one of the best known Counter-Strike commentators in the world, our very own Joe Miller. Besides taking a look ahead at IEM Oakland, he spoke about his career as well as the most memorable moments of it.
ESL: Hi Joe, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Counter-Strike is once again back on the pinnacle of esports. How do you feel seeing CS:GO this huge now, being an active commentator during its early days?
Joe Miller: It's obviously a huge deal for me to see CS where it is right now. I spent years working stupidly hard to help grow the CS scene and to see it finally reaching its potential is nothing but amazing for me.
ESL: You took part in events in all major Counter-Strike titles. What is setting 1.6, Source and Global Offensive apart the most from your point of view?
Joe: Valves involvement. With CS:GO Valve have been more responsive than ever in terms of patching, renewing maps and adding new things to the game. The skin side of the game obviously has had a massive impact on how the scene has grown as a whole. In terms of gameplay, I think CS:GO is in a good place (not perfect) and Valve’s continued interest in adding to and modifying the game means it should only go in the right direction.
ESL: Intel Extreme Masters have always created big stories involving Counter-Strike. Which events storyline did you like the most, if you had to choose?
Joe: I think Season 6 was an amazing and sad year. It was the last Season to feature 1.6 which meant that we were all a little down in the dumps and wondering what was next for CS as a whole. The “Golden 5” (now the majority of VP) were looking to win a 2nd IEM World Championship and Na’Vi were looking to win their 3rd in a row. The final map of CS 1.6 we ever saw at IEM was a 16-14 win for ESC (the team the G5 were representing at the time) which tied them with Na’Vi for most World Championships in IEM CS history.
ESL: With Team Liquid, North America found their contender who can cause upsets both on home turf like in New York and internationally at ESL One Cologne. With the recent Golden State Warriors announcement, the Oracle Arena is essentially Team Liquid’s Home Stadium. Do you think the North American scene can once more close the gap to the European scene and fight for titles on eye level?
Joe: I think the NA scene has shown that it's capable with Cloud9’s Pro League win and Liquid hitting the last ESL One Cologne Major final. For me it is a question of consistency. Once we see consistent victories from NA teams in top tournaments then we can talk about the gap closing for good but for now it is still there. I DO however think though that the NA audience will certainly be a big boost for the likes of Team Liquid who can certainly consider themselves on home soil!
ESL: In Oakland we will see some of the biggest teams of this year clash in late November. What teams or players are you excited to see take the stage in Oracle Arena?
Joe: I think that SK will be the team to watch. They are an incredible team and I think being beaten out by Cloud9 at the ESL Pro League finals is going to mean that they are hungry for blood. I think that the Oracle Arena is going to be a great place to watch SK turn up looking for revenge and wipe the floor with everyone!
ESL: SK Gaming and Immortals have put Brazil on the map once again in stunning fashion. When looking back in Counter-Strike history, which region would you love to see grow stronger in the future?
Joe: Asia. We have seen glimmers of hope coming out of China and Korea but I think there is so much more to be had from the scene. If you look back the likes of Tyloo and eStro/WMF in 1.6 were a force that could mess with the best. I think it's a case of money being invested into the scene and the game becoming popular and building a strong player base that will develop competition. I hope to see in the next year that the region as a whole gets stronger and stronger.
ESL: With Ninjas in Pyjamas or Natus Vincere, we have some prestigious teams coming to Oakland who field players you’ve known for quite a while already. How do you feel seeing f0rest, TaZ or Edward not only being around, but still winning big titles in 2016?
Joe: Seeing the older guys still being able to pick up titles shows me that the rumours of “over 25, you are too old” in esports are just not true. The experience and still absolutely amazing aim and brain that these guys have is amazing. I’ve wondered for a while how long the guys feel that they can play before skills do really start to noticeably decline. I guess we will find that out in years to come!
ESL: On the other hand, there are players such as NiKo, coldzera or EliGE from the new generation who are making a name for themselves within CS:GO. Do you see them creating a legacy like the old star players that make people remember the “good old times” of Counter-Strike?
Joe: There are a lot of players that are on the fringe. If SK put a third major win in place, do they becomes legends of the scene? Some people would argue that back to back wins was enough to put them there. There are a lot of players in the past that have been top tier, won titles and are no doubt deserving of a special mention, but for me the “Legend” title in a scene is offered up far too often. For me a legend is someone that smashes record after record, wins multiple major titles and always bounces back from a time of difficulty. Whether NiKo, coldzera or anyone else can become legends, is all on their shoulders.
ESL: What have been your favorite things about being an esports commentator? Which do you miss the most?
Joe: The social interaction. Travelling to events always meant meeting up with people that you haven’t seen in a while and enjoying the time working together. Being on stage in front of a massive audience is absolutely a thrilling experience, but it's nothing if you can’t do that with people you respect and get on with!
ESL: What are you plans for the near future career wise?
Joe: Right now my focus is to keep growing the commentators that we have in house here at ESL along with my other duties such as booking commentators, hosts etc. for events. I will also do a little bit of commentary before the year is out!
ESL: Thank you very much, the final words belong to you!
Joe: Enjoy IEM Oakland. Watching esports in a stadium is something special!
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