Jacky: “Despite it all, esports is worth it”

A commentator, bricklayer and freestyle rapper, Jack “Jacky” Peters has blessed our screens and ears with his charismatic casting for almost a decade now. Casting his first ESL UK Premiership back in Summer 2015 – which was a tournament won by United Estonia, who overcame a Team Infused line-up featuring three players who have since now retired. It certainly puts into perspective just how lengthy the grind has been for Jacky, which looks to be paying off with notable appearances at high profile events such ESL One and ESL Pro League.

After linking up with popular CS:GO streamer David “DAVEY” Stafford in March 2021, Jacky made a resurgence after online events began shifting back to LAN post-COVID. The chemistry of the pairing was highly evident, and the consistency helped them gain the necessary exposure for the two to establish themselves as a staple team.  The two would make appearances as a casting pair at the Antwerp Major RMR in 2021 which would not be Jacky‘s first appearance at a valve-sponsored event, having casted the Asia and Europe Boston Minor Championships in 2018.

Success may not have been found through his left clicking abilities (yet), as Jacky couldn’t make it out of groups with his team (men with ven) at EPIC39, but it’s safe to say he’s earned his keep through his vocal abilities instead. UKCSGO were fortunate to catch Jacky getting ready for the pub quiz at the Wolverhampton Racecourse venue on Saturday night, who spoke to Josh “Joshampton” Arnup about his humble beginnings in the scene, as well as his eagerness to reach the very top in his field.

 How is Wolverhampton compared to Kettering for you, first impressions?

I think it’s interesting. Different sort of vibes, not slapdash, but you can see things are still sort of finding their footing.

The beneficial way of looking at it is I’d much rather have this than no LAN at all, no support for the scene. So I think in that sense, it’s infinitely better that it happens than we didn’t get anything.

It must be hard to pinpoint, but any favourite EPIC.LAN’s going back?

Classic Epic moments, EPIC14 I remember weber said that I stole his prize money, there was a huge controversy, there was a Reddit thread saying that I gambled it all and I had spent it at the casino, it didn’t happen, but that was a good LAN, that was funny.

Many, many others in between. One of them, notably Gumpster will remember, I believe turned into ‘SlideGate’ and since then, we’ve moved past it. But over the years, yeah, it’s just been a lot of pleasant memories at EPIC.LAN. It’s produced a lot of good times.

Who’s “that” guy? Who’s been the loudest?

Owen [smooya] has a hell of a yell on him

The old school boys, some of the Source players, they used to be some very loud gamers.

Then I feel like we had a bit of a low point. Mike Powell, still for me, one of the best for some of the shit he would come out with at LAN. Unbelievable. Jonathan (Sheekey) was a good lad for yelling. Owen (smooya) has a hell of a yell on him, that was a game changer, different pitch, different elevation, uncharted territory for UK yelling, so that was good (laughs).

How’s the CS:GO casting journey treated you?

Really good. I mean, I was a bricklayer.

I just finished a college degree to be a bricklayer because my family told me that I had to learn a trade and that was it. You have to learn the trade, it needs to be done and then I was bunking off work to go to the FACEIT office in London. I would sleep in the office and cast Australian games into EU games into NA games, and then sleep in the office to do it again.

It was me, DDK, and Bardolph, like years ago. I remember producer Rhys now, who works on [ESL] Pro League, all the big IEM events. He used to walk me back and forth from the train station just to make sure that I’d get home okay, because I was 17/18 years old at the time and I was there traveling into London talking about CS.

What were your biggest challenges starting off and breaking into it?

I think at the time perseverance because you kind of realise that talent doesn’t matter, who you are doesn’t matter, it’s more being able to adapt and do everything and just being willing to keep going because it’s never steady progress.

Sometimes it goes up five steps. Sometimes it plummets down with two months of nothing. But being able to just realise, as long as I keep doing what I want to do and dedicating my time to the game or improving or looking back or looking forward and trying other things, it will go the way you want it to. You just can’t think about it like it’s linear because it doesn’t work in esports, it’s never like a set A to B, you just go with the flow and then it will work eventually.

Was it all worth it to be where you are now?

Despite it all, esports is worth it

Definitely. I’ve said this before, I did a university talk and in the university talk I basically had a line that was like look, “despite it all, esports is worth it”. It’s one of those where, if it’s your dream, if it’s your passion, if it’s something you really want to do and you look at all the other careers out there and you’re like “none of this really interests me, this is the thing I know I’m good at”, then pursue that. If you realise that not all of it will be incredible; you’re not always going to be getting loads of money, you’re not always going to be doing things you want to do, as long as you can look for the thing you want to do and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, it’s worth it in that sense.

Would you say that it’s tough to break through as a caster?

I don’t know. It feels like it’s very topsy turvy, there’s never any sort of set progression. You can go so far so quickly and then it all slows down and stuff like that. You’re the same as everyone else, talk to everyone, be friendly with everyone, never think “I’m a commentator” because that’s silly, you’re no different to those playing the game. It’s worth always being on the same page with everyone and just being generally friendly in that sense, because then you all rise up together, you want to work with each other.

I wanted to touch on casting the RMRs, Antwerp, Paris and two minors, how was that?

Yeah I did the Asian Minor in South Korea, this was 2018 for Boston, and then I went to Romania for the European Minor the same year for ELEAGUE.

After that it was Antwerp with PGL and then Paris recently. The thing is with Valve events is, it’s very different, the quality of games you’re given and the sheer amount of them as well. The one weird thing is it’s most comparable to being at an EPIC.LAN where you have three days of knowing you have to be ready.

There’s always something as long as you’re there to make something from it, you can get the most out of it. It’s not like a normal studio event, there’s non-stop games and you have to be ready to deliver your best at any moment. But if you thrive in that environment and you enjoy it, then what you’re given is so easy to work with, because you’re getting incredible stories of teams making the major, you get to be in those countries and feel the real breath of CS.

Would you say those RMRs were the pillars of your career?

The biggest part about commentary is the life experience

Thinking back on it, there’s definitely a few defining events that stood out in terms of progressing and 2016 was a crazy year, where everything that could have happened within that year just sort of started happening. I flew out to San Francisco, I worked with Blizzard for three months. Me and Sliggy were heading up Overwatch on the observing side, so I was doing something that was very different, but it was really fun.

You’re working with these actual game developers and seeing that side and then off the back of that, I did TV with the BBC Three; stuff with Gfinity. I had to learn that I can’t say terrorist, I can’t say counter terrorist and you can’t mention brands, so factoring in all that into a commentary was tough. The same year, we went out and did everything in Korea and Romania. It was just a lot of life experience all in one go.

The biggest part about commentary is the life experience. The older you get and the more you’ve done, the more you can attribute to the cast.

Do you feel close to getting on the main stage and being that caster who goes to those big events?

Definitely. Obviously throughout the years, everyone’s earned their keep, everyone’s put the work in and undoubtedly so. It’s always just fine margins of things that are out of your control or little differences here and there that could make a huge difference in the public perception of your career.

So yeah, very pleasantly confident, especially with CS2 after having that period of growing up throughout CS:GO, then with CS2 on the horizon, it’s easy to look at it and be like, if all that was me just gaining even experience for 10 years, I’m confident.

What are your best casting moments which you feel brought out the best in you?

There’s been a few. I think Antwerp with the RMRs there, I remember the Heroic qualification game when they beat Na’Vi. That was when me and DAVEY were really bidding to work together and really wanted to push for it. It felt like that was an event where we gave the best play-by-play that I felt was really at its rawest and had a lot behind it.

Jacky casting a Boombl4 4K

With Davey’s great understanding of CS, that kind of back and forth, that game specifically for me, that whole series had a lot of good moments to think back on.

Are there are casting clips of you that you get sent a lot?

A lot of what I do is inspired from very old school hip-hop

Random bits. The other thing is with that, the way I look at commentary is more like an art, basically. But there has been a lot, mostly in terms of the fact I’ve always liked lyrics and rhyming. A lot of what I do is inspired from very old school hip-hop and a lot of that sort of stuff. I’ll work in things that I’ve heard throughout just listening to stuff and I’m like “this really works as a bar.”; “this lines up perfectly”; “that entry lets me put a spin on it”.

Did you used to write or rap?

Yeah, I do a lot of freestyle. I think it’s just something that I enjoyed as a side thing and then I realised “actually they are just the same thing”. It’s just one of them, I’m talking about CS, one of them I’m just talking about anything and kind of just combine the two. I think over the years that line has gotten far blurrier and more just throwing out what I think sounds good.

Who are the influences?

MF DOOM was always number one, rest in peace. MF DOOM was such a big inspiration in the way that he could make anything flow, and it sounds good even if it’s completely different with every other bar.

What advice would you give to upcoming casters, especially with Twitch being the primary ‘selling point’?

Don’t look at it as “I want to be a commentator, and I want to just commentate CS and do majors.”. You are your own brand, so the way you present yourself, being friendly with other people is a huge thing as well. When you get into esports, just get to know everyone, talk to people, if you meet someone, just be friendly. Being a genuine human, 100%, rule number one, because that will help you massively. Then, focus on yourself, make content, make stuff where you can push: “this is who I am.” Because if you have that, even if you’re not getting work, you can still make content around the game that you love and it gives you another avenue so you don’t think “I’m not doing anything, I’m not progressing.”

Would you agree that it’s important to sell yourself and your personality more than anything?

Yeah, a hundred percent. It’s being able to show you, as a person, have something different to offer whether it be the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you act on camera, if you’re a little bit more jokey, if you’re a bit more serious, if you’re very analytical, you’re a bit more laid back, all of that stuff is very defining.

I think it’s just knowing “this is who I am, that’s what I’m gonna present on a broadcast, that’s what I can offer.” You can sell yourself that way and be like I’m the ‘animal fact’ guy. Just have a way of pitching yourself. Find what you are and then refine it and just work on that. Work what you enjoy inside of commentary.

Is there anything else that you’d like to say?

Yeah, in general, shout out to the UK scene, it’s been growing for so many years, but obviously with Thomas and the boys [Into The Breach] making it to the major. It’s given it that extra bit of an oomph again and it feels like the eyes are back, so I’m very, very hopeful in general with CS2 going forward. I think the UK scene could have a whole lot more to offer again, and I think that’s a big backbone that could offer new, younger talent, ways to play, ways to commentate, ways to be hosts.

It just opens up the spotlight a bit more, and I think we produce so much talent, it makes sense that maybe people will see the marketing for Counter Strike 2, and they’ll want to give it a go.