Today we have the pleasure of sitting down with none other than JP “itmeJP” McDaniel, previously well known in the World of Warcraft community via his commentary and articles (including those here on this site) and now known as a prominent personality in the burgeoning StarCraft 2 community.
Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where do you live? Where did/do you go to school?
I am a 24-year-old college graduate (communication arts degree from University of the Incarnate Word) who currently resides in San Antonio, Texas. I’m a gamer through and through.
For those who are not familiar with your history in gaming, please tell us a bit how you got involved and discuss some of your more prominent efforts in eSports.
I started out as a grunt at GotFrag.com and through a lot of hard work I rose up through the clutter and became a writer. I left the organization around the time of the buyout from MLG to work for GamesMediaProperties to work on two projects: The World Series of Video Games and GameRiot.com. After the WSVG closed its doors, I was lucky enough to have friends in the industry who set me up with some freelance writing gigs for sites like TheCGS.com and right here at ComplexityGaming.com. Around the time MLG picked up WoW I started working as a contractor for them. Right now I am heavily involved in the thick of it with SC2 over at MLG among several other projects.
ArenaCast, your WoW podcast, was very popular in the community. Talk about how that came to be, how it developed and its current status.
ArenaCast was my first stab at podcasting in the eSports world. It was the first of its kind (followed shortly by djWHEATs CGS show which became LiveOn3) and really helped me understand the medium. Bigger names came on over time and we got into a groove much where SotG is now, but ultimately I lost interest much like the other hosts did. Currently ArenaCast is inactive, but I’ve thought about revisiting it in the future.
Talk a bit about your time at Gotfrag and GameRiot. What were the best parts of working at those organizations and where to do you feel they fell short?
Working at GotFrag was really an awesome experience. I was able to work along such people as Scott Smith, Trevor Schmidt, Marc Turner, Mark Cheben, Lee Chen, and Jason Bass — all of which have moved onto bigger and better roles in eSports. The best part about working at GotFrag was simply the experience.
GameRiot was also an awesome experience but for different reasons. I was able to live through an opening of a site and saw it evolve from blueprints to a living, breathing website. Its was an eye-opening experience for sure.
I think GotFrag fell short by being consumed into MLG and eSports losing a journalism centric website and GameRiot fell short by never delivering upon its promises at launch.
Most recently you’ve launched StarCraft 2 projects like “State of the Game” and “SC Center.” Talk about these programs. What do you feel they contribute to the community and what are your goals for the shows in the long term? Are you planning any other productions?
State of the Game is something I really don’t understand. It started out in the beta as something so small and simple and now its exploded into whatever it is today. It is an incredible project to work on week-to-week and its opened numerous doors for me.
SC Center is a newer project that I have started. I’m trying to bring people daily SC2 news since there is such a surplus of information coming out of the community. The production value is probably the best I’ve done with any project of mine, but it hasn’t been as well received as I would of liked.
I think both of these projects fill a void in a community where there are countless amounts of content and my goal in the long term with both is to keep producing them and ultimately try to make them the best they can be.
I do have some other shows in the planning stages right now, but I’m not comfortable with talking about them just yet. I will say that I want to incorporate more video into shows, though.
Let’s discuss StarCraft 2. Everyone knew the game would be big but did you imagine it would be this big, especially in the Western world? How do you think SC2 will affect the future of professional gaming?
I had no doubt in my mind that SC2 would be as big as it is now. I still think its very small honestly compared to what it will be a year from now.
On the topic of SC2 in the future: without SC2, I don’t think eSports will grow at the pace it has been. It needs a game with a global community like SC2 to prosper.
Many observers agree that eSports in general has been struggling over the past couple years, either due to the economic troubles or a lack of new competitive games. In your opinion, is eSports growing and where do you see the space in 5 years? 10 years?
eSports has been growing pretty slowly ever since the WSVG and CGS ventures closed shop, but with SC2 being released, its had its biggest boom since the Counter-Strike days. Five years from now I would expect SC2 to be still thriving because the IP still has two more confirmed expansions down the pipeline. Ten years is a little hard to gauge. It is going to depend on how huge SC2 gets and what other eSports platforms exist at the time.
The prospects for World of Warcraft as an eSport seem pretty bleak lately. ESL dropped the game and MLG hasn’t announced any plans for 2011 beyond finishing 2010’s finals. What are your thoughts on this? Is WoW dead as an eSport or do you think there will be a revival of the game with Cataclysm?
WoW suffered from it being a very hard game to support in the world of eSports. It 100% revolves around Blizzard on all fronts: spectating, patches/balance, and licenses. It never had the best spectator client (always was an issue when broadcasting) and it suffers from only tournaments being able to stream games, not just John Doe from down the street as with SC2. I don’t think WoW is dead as an eSport but it is going to take a huge initiative from Blizzard to push out a spectator client for Rated Battlegrounds for it to exist.
Let’s talk about your casting experience. How do you like casting (live LANs or online) vs. doing shows like SotG? What are your casting plans for 2011? Will we see you back at MLG with Day and DJWheat?
Casting is always a fun experience whether it is a LAN or an online event. Comparing it to a show like State of the Game is really black and white. Casting is more of a ‘personality / charismatic / and game knowledge’ check in a sense while State of the Game is more ‘hosting ability / organization skills’ check for me personally. Its really a miracle that the four of us are able to meet up every Tuesday night for two hours and record the show.
My casting plans for 2011 are simply to get back in the groove of things and try to improve as much as possible. I’m always trying to improve my game knowledge and my casting flow. On the topic of MLG, I would love to continue to cast the events but I cannot comment on if I will be or not.
Along those lines, the word on the street is that you’ve teamed up with MLG. Beyond any casting what other ways will you be working with America’s biggest gaming organization and what can you tell us about MLG’s plans for 2011?
It is not a secret that I have close ties with MLG. I’ll be very open and say that they helped host State of the Game for the past month and this is what started a bunch of rumors of MLG buying us out. While I do have plans on creating original content with them in the future, State of the Game will remain independent.
I can’t talk about any of the future projects but I think the community will enjoy them once I am able to.
Thanks very much for sitting down with us. Any final thoughts, comments or shoutouts?
Thank you for the interview! You can follow me on Twitter at Twitter.com/itmeJP, on YouTube at YouTube.com/itmeJPtv and on blip.tv at itmejp.blip.tv. Also, check out Complexity’s weekly show “The V” casted by Josh Sutherland. It always has great players and great games! 🙂