By Lothari, September 4, 2019
Team Aretuza aren’t just bringing three great players to Challenger #5, but will also be providing the official analysis for all games throughout the tournament. Making his Gwent Masters broadcasting debut as one of those analysts is Team Aretuza’s other co-chairman, Green Cricket, who the Spotlight turns on today.
Aretuza Spotlight: Green Cricket
Green Cricket originally trained as a programmer, but, after some time in the industry, decided he wanted a bit more of a creative challenge. After a brief stint on stage, working with an Austrian state theatre, he went into game design and then founded his own company to make virtual reality narrative adventures. However, with VR struggling to make an impact on the gaming industry, and with some money put to one side from his work, he decided to take a crack at content creation instead.
Growing up with Pen & Paper RPGs such as Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye) and Savage World, it makes some sense that Green Cricket’s competitive gaming career started on the world of Azeroth, as a competitive raider in World of Warcraft, which brought him out of his shy, pre-teen shell. This later brought him to Hearthstone, which he played to Legend rank. Looking for something with less of a money sink, Green Cricket recognised Gwent as a standalone from The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and quickly found himself with a near-to-full collection. Knowing it was a game he enjoyed mechanically and moving into content creation as he was, focusing on Gwent seemed the logical step. As he also enjoys playing games in the company of his wife, he’s gone to great lengths to set up Gwent on a tablet so that she can watch him play on their sofa together.
Around the time of the Midwinter Update, Green Cricket joined a then fledgling Team Aretuza as one of the team’s YouTubers. When Henno later stepped down from his management position, Green Cricket was quick to step up to the plate, knowing he could use the experience of running his own company to help shape Aretuza into a force to be reckoned with. This brings us to the present, when Green Cricket serves alongside Damorquis as co-chairperson of Aretuza Esports and continues to provide video deck guides for Gwent, as well as running his own Dungeon & Dragons campaign on YouTube, set in the universe of The Witcher.
Lothari: One thing we’ve not seen a lot of inside perspective on before is how the Project Homecoming announcement affected Gwent content creation, and you were just getting into it as the community really started to feel the brunt of that decision. Can you say a little bit about how you tackled that drought that we experienced?
Green Cricket: It was tough. From a design perspective, I understand why they did it. Gameplay-wise, the game they had built up to that point was really limited in terms of further possibilities, in terms of design space. I really like, especially since the latest patch, how the gameplay has expanded. From a competitive point of view though, from the content standpoint, the decision to postpone everything for Project Homecoming was devastating.
In the beginning, during open beta, there was such a positive vibe. Everyone thought the game was going to kill Hearthstone, every patch, every new card was exciting. When the content draught hit and nothing changed anymore, a lot of people got bored, I guess. There was nothing to talk about, there were no major events to look forward to. Where the scene before had an upwards curve, we were suddenly looking at it dropping off completely. It killed the momentum, and the launch of Homecoming hasn’t got that momentum back yet as far as I see it.
The first version of Homecoming we got to play didn’t feel like the best version of the game we’ve seen, and as a content creator you felt the impact. People stopped looking on YouTube for new and, more importantly, different ways to play. There weren’t enough decks like the old Ciri: Dash decks of beta that were fun and different. Even now, discovery of new things in Gwent is much slower than it was, and that makes content creation much harder, because after covering the decks that are good in content like the Meta Snapshot, you need to work really hard to come up with something creative? I miss the time where new decks are being discovered more frequently, like in 2017, and I think we might be able to do that with more reworks like the ones we saw recently for Northern Realms or small changes like Yennefer's Invocation in the last patch.
You’ve told me that you want to stick with the more creative aspect of life. If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing? Would you go back to programming? Would you go back to the stage?
[Laughs] No. I like making YouTube videos, sure, but I’m not enough of an extrovert to do that. I like it, sometimes, but if it would be my life I think it would burn out quickly. I rather enable other people to go on stage than do it myself. It was game design that was the job that didn’t feel like a job to me. I could pursue a passion there again at some point. If I had to pick a job right now, it would probably be that one. However, if everything works out with Aretuza, I can also see myself doing that full-time. Being an esports team lead, enabling people in that way, on that path, that’s awesome to me.
What, for you, is the best part about being a content creator?
I think the best part is interacting with people, seeing that they get value out of what you do. If someone writes a comment saying they lost matches all the time then watched my guide and climbed three ranks, and then says thank you, that’s probably the coolest thing. Enabling people is something that feels really good.
It’s not very often you get to ask someone about taking a group of people with a shared interest and turning them into an actual functioning organisation, so as with Damorquis, I’d like to take the opportunity to ask you a bit about the position you find yourself in now as a co-chairman for Aretuza. How have you found the transition from “just” being a content creator to being a part of that driving force?
It’s not like we’re a standard company where we’re at the top and it’s about having command over someone. It’s a flatter, more fluid structure where being in a management position is about having different responsibilities. That’s been very smooth, because there have been a lot of cool projects with Team Aretuza – it started with the Academy, I think. In the beginning, there was no one really pushing to take control of those projects, so I started there; trying to get people to collaborate on bigger content creation tasks.
That, in and of itself, became so much work right away, so I was very relieved to find SwanDive, someone who is good at that kind of management. I was able to delegate a lot of that side of things to her and things started flowing much more fluidly one step at a time from there. Now, SwanDive does ten times more work in that position than I ever could, but it allows me to focus more on working in the background; finding sponsorship and administrative work that the ‘standard’ team member and outside world doesn’t have to worry about.
Are you enjoying the position, and the responsibilities that come with it?
I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not sure I enjoy the position itself too much. As a content creator, it’s very easy; you do stuff for the team, but, to a certain extent, you do stuff for yourself too. It’s give and take. Taxes, for example, is something I hate so much that I can’t even explain. It gives me nightmares. This is stuff that I need to do because it serves a cause I really like. This position is all about doing that stuff you don’t like for something you really do like, if that makes sense. I also rather do it myself, because I already have experience doing this stuff, as a CEO of my own company, than give it to someone who has never done it before, because I’ve already fallen into the pitfalls that this person would have fallen into and not known what to do.
The one thing I enjoy a lot is building something; growing this team. If you put in that work and you see something that is like your baby grow, that’s really cool. That’s what I really want to push. Seeing the awesome stuff we have in the pipeline come to life, that we can be proud of, that’s why you do the work you don’t enjoy, for that payoff.
One area I know I struggle in is finding a work-life balance when it comes to content creation. It takes a lot of work, and I can only imagine that becoming harder with these other responsibilities too. How do you find that?
It is hard. You need to make sacrifices. You have to look at where the work spikes are, as has been the case recently. Damorquis and I have been pushing the growth of the team and I’m about to become a father, so there’s only one other area where I can make the necessary sacrifice and that’s content creation. If you follow my channel, lately, you’ll see there’s just nothing there. It’s the Dungeons and Dragons stuff and that’s it. And that’s why. The work I’ve done for Team Aretuza, preparing for my child, has swallowed my content creation almost completely.
Honestly, it’s a sacrifice I’ve been okay with. The Gwent scene has not been growing that much for YouTube, so the payoff hasn’t been there. I enjoy being a YouTuber, but, and this is a very selfish thing to say, I enjoy it more if I get views and stuff. Coming back to what we spoke about before, I don’t mind that sacrifice because working on the Team Aretuza stuff right now is where I see the biggest potential to have an impact.
You do have a history in playing games competitively too. Is that something that you still look at and say, ‘I want to do it!’ or is it all about the content creation and the team management now?
I think I put competitive gaming down a year ago now. In Gwent I can reach Pro Rank every season, then I get kicked out of Pro Rank because I didn’t play enough, so I always end up somewhere between Rank 5 and Pro Rank. I can’t put in the time to grind, so I just play for fun. There’s no Gwent Masters to aim for currently anyway. When you work on the concept of effort versus reward, you have to look at stuff like that.
I play enough to keep up with the meta and what’s going on. I get a lot of my theoretical knowledge from talking to people like Jamedi and Santtu2x, checking out what our pro players are theory-crafting on our Discord. All of that combined means I can stay at a level where, if I want, I could compete in Pro Rank, but I simply don’t have time for it. I can still make valuable guides, the knowledge is still there, but my rank doesn’t necessarily always reflect that. What’s good is that a lot of my audience appreciate that. Not many people ask stuff like, “Why aren’t you in Pro Rank?”
In the position you find yourself in then, with unlimited time and unlimited resources, is there one dream content creation project you would want to work on?
It might cause a bit of pain for our Gwent fans, but having just expanded into Dota Underlords, with such a rapidly growing community, I really want to put together some kind of bootcamp e-learning course for that game. Right now it feels like there are far more Gwent players who already know what they’re doing, so that wouldn’t really work in the same way, but everyone is still learning Underlords, so getting in on the ground floor of something like that would be really awesome.
Going into a tournament like Challenger #5, we hear a lot about how players prepare for the tournament. Of course you’re going to be an analyst for Challenger. Is there something specific that you’re doing to prepare?
I’m actually preparing very similarly to the players, but with one addition. I’m not a native English speaker, and I tend to speak very quickly and sometimes muddle my words, so I’m trying to work on my presentation. Of course I don’t play as much as our players, because they play day and night before a tournament, but I’m playing as much as I can and preparing with the players, reading through what they say, asking questions, looking at their decklists and proposing my own. Taking part in their preparation gives me the most knowledge to be able to do my job at Challenger #5.
Right now, who do you think is looking strong for the tournament?
You want me to make a prediction? I think right now the only thing you can do to make this kind of prediction is look at the players’ track records. We haven’t seen deck lists, or anything else, yet. It’s just about how they’ve performed in recent tournaments and on ladder.
It’s probably not a great surprise, but I feel like Damorquis, to be honest, has the best chance. I know how he’s worked, not only on his Gwent skills but also on himself. He’s done so much mental training, so much physical training, improving himself generally. Then you look at his tournament track record and you see that he’s in the habit of becoming stronger and stronger in each tournament. And he’s so prepared. We’ve seen already how he and AndyWand read the meta perfectly in Challenger #4, came to the tournament with the best line-up. I think his ability to self-improve and the level of preparation that he puts in will give him the victory.
Is there anything else about this particular Challenger that you’re really looking forward to?
First and foremost, the latest Gwent patch improved the meta and the gameplay enormously. Where before Syndicate was strong, then we had the reign of King Foltest and Sigismund Dijkstra, now a lot of different decks have a chance to shine. This patch really re-ignited my passion for Gwent: It’s made great combos and new, more interesting decks possible. I’m very excited for Challenger, to see how the players will use this “freedom” in a creative way.
Secondly: The broadcast line up. Having ImpetuousPanda do what he does best, and the synergy between McBeard and Flake, Jaggerous with her puns, knowing how to keep the casting light not too serious. Of course, AshExplores has come back as a host. I get to work with the great sensei, Shinmiri, on analysis. It’s an amazing set up. It’s really great to see how CDPR are trying to involve the community in the production of Gwent Masters by utilising these stand-out figures.
My thoughts on Green Cricket
The first real contact I had with Green Cricket was in my interview to join Team Aretuza. Project Homecoming had hit me hard and with everything going on in Gwent and in my own life, I was probably on the verge of giving up all together, but it was largely down to what Green Cricket said in that interview, and more importantly how he said it, that convinced me not to give up. Ambition is all well and good, but ambition unmatched by knowledge and experience is wasted. Green Cricket proved to me very quickly that he has both in ample supply.
What I didn’t realise until much later was how creative Green Cricket is. It’s one thing to sit in front of a camera and talk about a deck for a while, and he has had some pretty inventive ideas when it comes to what we as a team can produce for content in Gwent, but it wasn’t until the first fifteen minutes of our aforementioned D&D campaign that I realised the full extent what Green Cricket can do. At the very least, I wasn’t at all surprised when, as part of the research for this Spotlight, he told me he’d spent some time on stage. I’m glad, because it’s been an absolutely thrilling adventure so far, and I’m very glad to be a part of it. I’m happier still for MissLadyJay and RyanGodric, who’d never played D&D before, and have had an almost perfect introduction as to how the game works.
What all of this comes down to is this. I like to think that everyone at Team Aretuza has landed in the role that most suits them, but this is no more true than for Green Cricket. He’s an excellent content creator and an excellent manager. Of course, Challenger #5 brings on a whole new challenge for him; putting to test his skills as an analyst in front of the entire Gwent community for the first time. As with all things in life, you can never be sure, but I am reasonably confident in writing that with his skill set and experience, Green Cricket will not disappoint.
Lothari is a long-time fan of CCGs, building up a wealth of experience in Hearthstone, MTG, TESL, Artifact and of course Gwent, which she has been playing since the end of Closed Beta. She always aspires to improve and learn more about what has come to be one of her favourite pass-times. She has also found a passion in creating content for Gwent, and will continue to do so with a passionate and analytical outlook for Team Aretuza. Lothari has a BA in Computing and German and spent four years working as a game developer.