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He is first Singapore caster to land Blizzcon gig, thanks to fans

Jayf 'Babael' Soh began castingfor smaller tournaments, such as the Dreamhack Winter South- east Asian stream. He received such a positive response that fans created a thread on online forum Reddit to support him.
Jayf 'Babael' Soh began castingfor smaller tournaments, such as the Dreamhack Winter South-east Asian stream. He received such a positive response that fans created a thread on online forum Reddit to support him.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Known for snappy one-liners, he will comment at top gaming meet

Gamers tuning in to watch Blizzcon next week may hear a familiar voice streaming through their speakers, hyping up the in-game action and providing insightful commentary.

Those buttery smooth tones belong to Jayf "Babael" Soh, 25, the first Singaporean video-game commentator to be invited to Blizzcon.

The annual video-game convention and competition is organised by game developer and publisher Blizzard Entertainment, and is one of the highlights of the gaming calendar.

Recent editions have seen about 26,000 attendees, and rock bands such as Blink-182, Metallica and Foo Fighters have performed at the closing ceremony. This year's event will take place on Nov 6 and 7 in Anaheim, California, and will feature Linkin Park as its closing act.

Blizzard games that will be in the spotlight include Starcraft II, Hearthstone and Diablo III. The game that Babael will be casting is Heroes Of The Storm, a five-versus-five team brawler.

Game commentators, or casters, at Blizzcon often become celebrities in their own right, with fans asking them for pictures and autographs.

For Babael, whose day job is as an e-sports and community manager at online game operator Asiasoft, getting the Blizzard gig still feels like a dream.

"This is all a very surreal and completely out-of-this-world experience for me," he said. "Blizzcon is a dream for many people, but for me it's like three months ago, I was just a nobody casting South-east Asian games, and now I'm on one of the biggest stages in the world."

But the road to Blizzcon has not been easy. Babael's invitation to the event is the result of a lot of community support. He began castingfor smaller tournaments, such as the Dreamhack Winter South-east Asian stream.

He received such a positive response from the community that fans created a thread on online forum Reddit to support him.

When Blizzard saw that thread, the company flew him out to the August edition of the North American Open this year. His casting impressed Blizzard so much that it invited him back for Blizzcon.

Despite his quick rise to the top, Babael fell into casting almost by accident.

In 2012, he went to a Heroes Of Newerth tournament, to support his girlfriend, Geraldine "SnowBell" Au, who plays on the all-female gaming team PMS Asterisk.

That was the first time he had seen a casting set-up. Before that, he never watched any streams or followed personalities like Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg, who was just named the top-earning YouTube star of this year. But once he saw it, Babael was hooked.

"Casting, to me, is the merger of two of my favourite things. First of all, I love speaking. I've been a debater, a public speaker, emcee and host... Gaming is the other thing that I'm very much in tune with."

He describes his casting style as "the guy who's having a sugar rush when there's a big fight, the kind that will explode in your face when the action happens".

While other casters may focus on analysing the plays and making calculations, Babael is known for following the action and for his snappy one-liners.

For example, in a game he was casting, one of the teams suffered a loss of all its in-game gems.

"Then, I said, 'It looks like the gem market has just crashed, and they've gone from suit and tie to slippers and shorts'," he recalled.

But being in the midst of the action can also take a physical toll. He once cast for 16 hours at a stretch, took a four-hour break, and soldiered on for another 12 hours.

"I have honey lemon on hand, and I take four to five lozenges. But the following day, I'd feel like a train wreck," he said.

But for Babael, all that hard work is worth it. "For me, going to Blizzcon means that I can do things that I never thought I could do," he said.

"I also hope to show people in South-east Asia that it's not about the accent or where you live, but about what you bring to the table."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'He is first S'pore caster to land Blizzcon gig, thanks to fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe