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Pansy: "It doesn’t matter if you are the best caster ever.... someone out there won’t like you"

The first thing you notice when you talk to Lauren “Pansy” Scott is that her humor is razor sharp. It’s probably this sharp humor, mixed with her analytical commentary and ability to carry any conversation to sound like it’s between friends, that helped her build a reputation as one of CS:GO's most well-known casters. Pansy has been casting since around 2012 and has recently also been building a name for herself as a PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds commentator. I had an opportunity to chat with Pansy about the joke behind her name, her favorite city to visit and her dream CS:GO match up. Amanda Stevens: I don’t know how often you get this question, but where does your handle come from? Pansy: [Laughs] Okay, so the origin story is, I was playing a game called Enemy Territory, like ten years ago now, and someone decided to call me a pansy. And, I was just like a flippin kid and I found it funny. Like I’m a girl and no one knows you, who you are at that time, right? There wasn’t any voice comms, there was nothing and so they were just trying to be offensive but then I found it hilarious and I just stuck with it. One I found that it annoyed them, which I found right, and two I just found it really funny to be called Pansy and be a female in a male dominated field, I just liked playing that kinda little angle on it. It makes me laugh cuz some people are like “Oh you like flowers” and then I’m like “...sure, sure I do.” and that’s basically it. So, were you ever a competitive player? Like how did the transition from regular gamer to now being on stage doing analysis and commentary. Where, how did all that kind of happen? Okay, so, again we’re going back years, we are throwing it back I’m gonna say ten, twelve years now? Around that long ago, I started playing games online, quite casually, Enemy Territory at the time was the first PC sort of thing, 10 FPS, having a real rough time if mom answers the phone, internet is gone. I just really enjoyed it, it was quite nice to have an anonymity to it and if I’m good, people would just like respect me anyway and that’s what I really enjoyed. And then I kind of transferred that into another game which was Call of Duty 4. And I took it a little more seriously because there were competitions, there was stuff to like get involved in, like joining a team and I kind of went through that regular process of just getting better and better and better. So I went to a couple of events and you know, that was kind of wasn’t a place like this , it was really small but I loved it. That was like where it really all started, like what got me really into this. you just play your game and then you go to the bar, get a beer and come back and play another. Yeah it kind of all evolved from that but then I got to around like 18-19 and there wasn’t any money in esports like there is now and like I had to make a choice and my parents essentially said well….. I got kicked out of both of their houses and that was a bit of a predicament. So, eventually I had to just to go and get a regular job as this didn’t just pay the bills. So I kind of moved away from playing competitively for a while but then a friend of mine just asked me like if I had ever thought of commentating it maybe? Like since I was an ex pro player -- I eventually got very good and joined a very good team. And then I thought yeah I could maybe have a go at this. And it just kept going and going and going. And so eventually I had the opportunity to stop doing my boring job and go into casting full time. So it was just that transfer period between that. Ok so here’s a fun one, since we were talking about going to the bar and stuff, so when you are at a bar and someone is like ‘Hey, what do you do for a living?’. Do they just stare at you and go like ‘That’s no way you actually do that for a living?’. Like how does it go? Weirdly better these days. I’d say like four or five years ago people would go like ‘Right. So you do voices like in the video game? So you are a voice actor?’ So I’m just like “.....yeeaaahhhh not just that”. But now, people kind of understand because now there are a couple of things on TV and all the children are playing games right. I was in Copenhagen, last week and we share a studio of the main production of the champion’s league in football. These are big guys, who come in suited up and looking amazing and I’m there in like tattered jeans. One of them comes up to me and I was in make up first, this guy is 60, quite older and very well respected and he goes “What are you here for?” and I’m like “Oh, I’m doing the video game stuff, we are shooting in the same studio but ours is upstairs while you guys are downstairs”, and he goes “Ahhh, esports” and then I’m like “Oh, you know???” and then he’s like “Ah yeah, my son plays Counter Strike all the time so….”. So yeah, it’s really bridging the gap now, becoming quite regular. So these days, it’s not so bad. Speaking about that esports is definitely not what it was five years ago. Even two years ago, even for someone who works more in the back end, you know like you are not a player and you are not a fan. I mean, you are a fan but how wild was it for you to go from being, because let’s be honest, casting doesn’t always pay very well. How does it feel like going from it being a passion and something like that you enjoy to what is a very real job now? It’s mind blowing! It genuinely is. Like I took a risk about six seven years ago leaving my old job, my life at home wasn’t very ideal, my family life was pretty bad and I got kicked out from both of my parent’s houses, because I couldn’t play games there, and there was a lot of preaching and stuff but to see where it is now kind of makes sense, because now it kind of like I’m saying I’m right And that sounds kind of petty but if you believed in something like that and you see that it’s gotten to a point where like you can get a job in this area and work for a good salary and... It’s really liberating It really is! And that to me just feels really great. Because the amount of times you’ve seen people trying to get into this for five to ten years and the scene just wasn’t there and they had to go back to being normal human beings and then here I am, somehow, I’ve stuck in there long enough. So yeah, it’s really nice. As a commentator and as an analyst, how much do you think about those storylines? Do you guys sit out and go through all the eight teams, how does the prep phase kind of work? I think that’s very changeable per person. Now I’m very prep heavy. So I go through play by plays of a person and the guy I cast with, he goes more like analysis but he’s also a bit of like a hybrid. But for me, I look at the storylines - ”why do the viewers want to care about all this?” That is how I look at it. If someone just came into this and didn’t really know too much about CS, why would they stick around and watch it. So for example, when I looked at the final right now which is like Liquid you know, they’re the North America hope a bit underdog, yeah they switched things up and they came back together, all these new guys making it work out and challenging European teams like they’ve proven incredibly competent, you build up all this stuff like ) and when the camera cuts to me, “what do I say? What’s going to be my first line?” It’s something like that. And then Fate, it's somewhat similar, the European team in the All-Stars. And they've tried to be an All-Star lineup before, didn't work, they couldn't carry but now they've finally started getting results and they've literally made the most star studded line up there is. Me, I just try to get that, because it makes you care about the game, right? Like, you love the game anyway, like I do, watching the mechanical gameplay is exciting but for a casual fan, you kind of want to believe in something, you want that story. So that's what I try to tell. There is this joke about when you try to make super teams, they don't always work. And this seems to kind of happen a little bit in CSGO? At least some of these super teams here have only two tournament, three tournament lifespans. So for a team like FaZe clan, you know kind of like a super star team, what do you think it makes it click for them? It took several iterations. The only remaining member of the first super star lineup they tried to put together is rain and he's become the support player - so he's not like in the face kind of guy, and the reason that's worked is that karrigan, the Danish Guy, was a huge game changer. He left Astralis, another great team came through to FaZe and he was kind of the missing piece of that puzzle. In game he's someone who could put different pieces together and you put them into the puzzle. He’s done that. Because everyone on that team is phenomenal, individually so sooo good but it’s kind of hard to get them working together. Everyone has got their egos, everyone’s got their playstyle, you got to make all that mesh. So he’s managed to do that. And then they added olofmeister and GuardiaN and they are one of the world’s best. At one point of time in during the CS:GO lifespan, they are the best in game. They have got NiKo, just the same. Like they have this triangle of doom, its very hard to think of a world where they are not going to win events flat out but it needs karrigan. He's the one who really put it together. You get to travel a lot, is there a place for esports that you haven’t been to, that you really wish esports could kind of give it a chance? Because esports tries to stick to these major major cities but it’s not like that’s the only place where the fans are. So is there anywhere that you think that can be like a good spot that could use the esports love? You know what, so like before this event I would go to New York and it sounds like the most finest, like cheeky answer, but personally I wouldn't want to come here right like that, that's just like.... So for me it was like this was super exciting like I grew up in London so I love big cities, I love the environment, like the busyness and so New York was also on my list of places I always wanted go to. So I get to, due to my job which is crazy. Somewhere I’d like to go to…. I think now because CS:GO just pushed out to China. I want to see what could happen there. Because there’s crazy numbers there. Yeah, you've seen it...you've watched it with League of Legends right? Like you know what happens when you go to South Korea when you had Worlds out there for League. I had the opportunity to go out there for Worlds and watch that in the stadium. And it's just like...that to me is somewhere I’d love to take CS:GO. The entire Taipei audience is there, I think that could be the next real quest to bring CS:GO to. What is your favorite esports city? Oh God that’s tough! Yeah, pick between your children! Make enemies. Favorite esports city…. Oh God! Seoul changed alot of things coz its just on a scale of everything. League of legends…Not a big fan of the Riot guys, Effi (?) the love of my life. But no it's always like the big brother right. Always got like a big stadium always got big viewers. and then you’ve got CS:GO. Cologne has grown steadily, we have an ESL office over there that is the ones you go to. But for me, I wish CS:GO was bigger and that we we could go back to Seoul for that because that was just like seeing esports in that kind of a stadium, was just like changed the whole thing. So I'd love to see it there. Speaking of Sjokz, there aren’t a lot of female on air talent. Do you all talk or support each other? I think there is a mutual understanding. They are all in different games or at least like Eefje and Sjokz all are in League of Legends space but they’ve all dabbled in others. So we are all in each other’s games every now and then and yeah, Eefje first used to work for ESL. So I got to know her first when League of Legends was pretty small, well small I guess when compared to the rivals, right. I wouldn’t say we became close friends at that time but Froskurrin got to meet a couple of times at IEMs when she was there. She’s pretty good at what she does and initially I was curious about the content and paid attention… she’s good. And then she’s like a really nice person, so that’s cool. Smix is amazing, she hosts Starcraft Arena here and there… and I’ve always loved going to IEMs, you get League of Legends, you get StarCraft, you get CS:GO, yeah and then we all go to the bar after and just sit there just in jeans, tired as hell. No more dresses… Yeah, they are all like super dressed up and I’m like I walk around in this all the time. it’s nice to sit down one day and talk about stuff, it’s always nice because if you see people having a hard time while other times it’s like with Froskurinn, she used to get real grief, and she took it way to heart, and now she’s got thick skin and she’s like competent in it and that’s so good to see. Everytime someone is having a rough time, we just dm them and sit them down and go like “You wanna be productive? I’ll give you feedback”, it’s really open on occasions like this for us. Generally we just have shit days, and we have friends to complain to and they understand. I cast with a bunch of dudes but they are all like my big brothers and I like that. While there is nothing like ill-mannered about it, but every now and then it’s just nice to sit down and complain to someone who gets the same stuff. And that’s just it, it’s just a nice friendship to have. Do you watch other games to try and see what other casters are doing and going like ‘Huh, that’s an interesting way to take the narrative’... like how much do you try to osmosis out of other games? For me personally, I was always a big fan of the League of Legends approach, I was relatively close to it as well when they had their office in Cologne I used to go over there and watch the broadcasts, talk to the production guys, I used to give them feedback, they used to give me feedback, this was way back in the early days I remember Deficio going from when he first joined to how he is now. He’s the golden boy now. I remember him working so hard to tone down his accent. Riot Casters are so good they get a lot of grief, especially from us at CS:GO. So we are just that community. But they refined their craft so well. But they get it done. Their play by play is second to none, I think their announcers you know their commentating is phenomenal. For me I look at their play by play, I take pot shots as well, but I’ve seen them, not really with them as a love child, but suddenly they’re really really really up there. Jatt, phenomenal as well. Riot has some of the most refined and talented casters. I wish it was a little less riotey. I love the product, but Riot is like that family friend. And CS:GO is like that bad kid at the back of the class. Wait so if CS:GO is the bad kid at the back, what are the fighting games going to be? Oh God… Fighting games are after school. They couldn’t even bother. Nah, I’m just kidding, they are so cool as well. I’m so jealous of how cool they are. I listen to them every now and then when I get off a game, and I’m like I’m not that much of a nerd am I? The Riot guys are always this good, always the best there is, I think and I’ve listened to Day9 cast StarCraft and I think he is THE best storyteller in the world. I can listen to him tell a story and be completely engrossed in it. I think Apollo an old timer caster as well, takes all of these guys and molds them. For me, I sit there and listen to all of it. Even if I don’t take what they do, it’s nice to see how they do it. If you could cast any two teams, doesn’t have even to be the modern iterations, what will be your fantasy matchup and why? Oh wow, that’s a real question isn’t it. Hmm…. It doesn’t have to be the modern lineup too! You can do it Madden style where you get to pick your specific team. Uh yeah. I’d say, Fnatic… man this is tough. I want to say NIP when they were strongest but also kind of don’t. But I want Fnatic when they were the strongest. Oh the team that was just winning everything? Everything. Even the non CS:GO fans, there was the moment where we were like… Fnatic was crushing it. This was around the same time right? Yeah they were crushing everything right. So yeah I want Fnatic in their heyday playing I’d say SK. SK Gaming, were the strongest with their previous lineup - I think their current lineup is good but I want their previous lineup. I wanna see that happen. What map? All of them, to be honest. I could just stay there for hours and watch that. Because you know it’s just these two giants, playing beautiful mental games, with the coaches talking them through it all, it would be awesome to have that happen. Yeah I’d pick Fnatic in their heyday, that’d be a great one. And my last question is, women who are trying to get into esports, what would be the best advice you could give them as far as like how to can break in? Something that, it’s a bit hard to achieve, I’m not gonna say it’s easy to do this, but, get good that the community can’t stand you not being there, right. So make yourself completely valuable to it. Now that sounds ridiculous and unattainable but you know what Froskurrin did, she found the scene, she found a region of work, she grinded hard I mean she worked so damn hard. I’ve never seen prep like she had in years. She worked…. Effie is the same. She found a role, she grinded it out, she became THE host, like… North Americans are doing it. Like Dash Yeah, Dash is great. Like look at his hair. What do you think would happen if you had hair like Dash? I don’t think I can handle it….I met him and I was like you’re not real, that’s not humanly possible! I mean, find something you are good at and get so good that they can’t have it without you. I mean whether you become a specialist in a region or I would be so good at being a desk host, or a stage host, or a commentator, and just get that good so that if you are not there, the event is not the same. And yeah it will be shit for awhile, people will give you grief, they will give you everything under the sun and you’ll just have to find a way to get through it. It doesn’t matter if you are the best caster ever or whatever it is, there’ll be someone out there who just won’t like you. And yeah, you just have to find a way to get through it. Whether you ignore them, or whatever you do, you just have to get past it because they shouldn’t be the ones stopping you.