Alex “Vansilli” Nguyen is a Valorant caster and analyst previously focusing on CS:GO and Rainbow Six: Siege. He has had the opportunity to cast some of the biggest events in Valorant’s competitive scene, including the first-ever LAN in Reykjavík, Iceland.
How did you get into esports casting?
I discovered online competitive gaming in 2000 with Quake 2 Capture the Flag and joined a pretty serious clan in 2002 for a Quake 3 mod called Urban Terror. While hanging out on mIRC one day, my co-leader made me listen to a live audio-only broadcast of the Doctors vs Abuse match in a game called Return to Castle Wolfenstein from a company called the “Team Sportscast Network”.
I thought this was so cool and then and there, I decided that I wanted to join TSN to cover the Urban Terror shoutcasting division. After about eight months of practicing and sending continuous shoutcasting demos for feedback, I finally was accepted in the group to start shoutcasting that same year. I still think today that they finally accepted me because I was nagging them every week, not because I had any talent!
My passion for casting grew further when I attended my first LAN, out of my pocket, at the 2003 CPL Summer Championship in Texas to cast CS 1.6 for the first time and I’ve aspired to make casting a full-time thing since then.
You have previously cast Rainbow Six: Siege, CS 1.6 and Global Offensive. What motivated you into casting Valorant? How have your skills in casting these games translated into your recent switch to the new game?
To be honest, the timing was perfect. After not being able to become a part of the “pro circuit” of CS:GO casting, I decided to work as a sales rep for Philip Morris in Canada in 2011 and then for JUUL in 2019. I was let go from there in 2020 due to a global company resizing. Valorant’s beta was coming out that same month and it looked very appealing. I used all of my severance packages to invest in a new computer, a microphone and lighting setup, and decided to give it a go.
When I got a hold of a beta key and tried out the game, I fell in love with it. The game very much resembles Counter-Strike in terms of objectives and movement, but the abilities added a new flavor that was different to CS and that attracted me to the game. Finally, seeing a bunch of the old-school 1.6 and Global Offensive players make the switch and succeed piqued my interest even more.
I could apply my understanding of scaling, trading, map control, rotations, executes and retakes from the CS franchise , but casting Valorant is still different in itself. The abilities and team chemistry are really important and it has just been really fun to grow with the game and learn the ever-evolving metagames. Also, there’s always so much that you can talk about when casting Valorant that you kind of have to pick and choose the most important thing at all times. It’s something that I’m still trying to work on.
It’s been almost a year since Valorant launched. What are your general thoughts on the game and the development of its esports scene so far?
I love the game and where it’s going. The most important thing, as many people would agree with, is how close to the ground the Riot employees are with the regular playerbase and the professional scene.
As a community for the esports scene, I feel that we’re still trying to figure things out. What would be the best tournament format? Should the game franchise sooner or later? Should the pro teams be able to play in Tier 2 events? Is “win-by-two” OT the way to go? Is the new economy in patch 3.0 balancing the game? There are so many questions and topics, but I feel that Riot is paying attention to all the comments and opinions and trying their best to find a happy medium.
As a spectator, I do like that the game is always evolving. It may suck for the teams who always have to practice and pretty much develop new strategies every time there’s a change or a new agent out, but as a spectator, it’s always exciting to see who would dominate at that moment. Can the top teams stay on top, or do we have opportunities for underdogs and dark horses to appear on our radars?
What was your reaction like when you were granted the opportunity to cast Masters Reykjavík?
Unfortunately for casters and analysts, we had to work from home due to covid restrictions and regulations. This doesn’t take away from how ecstatic I was to be picked to do the First Strike in December 2020, Masters 1, and then Masters Reykjavík this year. I hope to be able to do a big stage event one day because it has been a long time coming for me and it would be a dream come true to be able to entertain the fans of Valorant in an arena.
Even when we worked from home, it was always still pretty fun. Riot is extremely accommodating and the people working the broadcast are so professional and nice. As talent, we hung out in a virtual green room on Discord before the day started and after the day ended so it felt like the evening “debrief and decompress” in the hotel lobbies during the LAN days. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to see everyone in person again!
In the post-game interviews of the VCT Game Changers tournament, C9 White announced that they and CLG Red will be partaking in the Challengers 2 qualifiers. What are your thoughts on having more women join the competitive scene?
It’s a great thing. C9W said so themselves and encouraged the other female teams to participate in these circuits because it will only do more good for the team because you get more practice in and evolve with the metas.
I don’t think it should be perceived as uncommon. I know the CLG.Red ladies in CS:GO also compete in ESEA Advanced this season. The more the merrier!
As an analyst at the open qualifiers for VCT Stage 3 Challengers 1, did you notice any improvements factoring in the recent roster changes?
I think teams have had both improvements and disappointments with all the recent roster changes. I’ve been watching a bit of NA and EU and you had some very cool upsets and close competitive games so far.
I already had a feeling that all of the teams that didn’t participate during Masters Reykjavík and were watching the matches from home developed the drive and will be on the next stage in Berlin. The competition during these stages will then be the highest we’ve seen so far since the release of the game.
Which team in your opinion has the most potential to win the Challengers?
If we’re talking about the Regional Challengers and not the stages, I’d say Sentinels for NA, Team Liquid of EU and Vision Strikers for Korea. I don’t follow the other scenes because that’s too much Valorant to watch!
You have been part of many gaming communities so far. Which, in your opinion, is the best in terms of dev-consumer relationship and least toxicity?
Valorant for the first. To be honest, I haven’t received that much toxicity in the scenes that I’ve been a part of. Of course, there are some bad eggs here and there, but overall, I’ve always had good experiences when playing ranked games in Valorant and CS.
What’s been your biggest achievement and challenge to date in your casting career?
My biggest achievement, which is also my career-defining moment, is getting into Valorant and doing the bigger events so far. My challenge is not knowing what the future holds. I see this as a good thing because it keeps me on my toes and continues to push me to work hard and just to enjoy the journey.
Did tournaments switching to an online setting affect your broadcasting opportunities?
Not at all. If anything, it gave me a lot more opportunities than anything else because you can just cram events in without having to think about travel dates. That said, I still can’t wait to be able to do my first LAN again!
What is it that makes a caster stand out? What advice would you give to aspiring casters?
You have to have the talent for it. Not everyone can do this job and networking is also very important. I always tell aspiring casters that it is nice to have veterans you look up to and enjoy their style, but don’t necessarily mimic them. Develop your own style (while keeping the fundamentals of casting, of course) and own personality. If I was talent management, I wouldn’t want to hire someone who casts like DDK because we already have a DDK. I would like to hire the next “you” to add diversity to the talent list.
It’s perfectly okay to have an ego and to be confident, but you have to stay humble. It’s also okay to compare yourself to others, but don’t bring others down to elevate yourself because it will amount to zero progress and eventually can burn bridges. Keep working on your craft.
Would you consider the Valorant casting industry oversaturated with talent?
I don’t think that the industry in Valorant is currently oversaturated. Yes, there are a lot of aspiring casters trying to make it to the top, but as I said, if you’ve only started casting in the past year or two, chances are you still have a lot of work to do.
Don’t give up too easily. Nothing comes quickly. I tell aspiring casters that there are some exceptions to the rule and some can fast-track into success because they are naturally gifted. But look at me: I had to grind for nineteen years until I finally got my shot in casting “big stage events” in Valorant.