In esports, the interviewers, commentators and analysts are always the ones putting people in the spotlight. What if we flipped the meta? We wanted to give them their own time in the spotlight so we interviewed Loviel "Velly" Cardwell, one of Valorant’s most hype and exciting on-air talents. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Nerd Street: How did you start out as a broadcasting talent?
Velly: I don’t throw it out there because sometimes I don’t want to brag, but I used to be a pro player for a few years. It could have been multiple titles, but I retired and went to college. I felt empty man, you know, I wanted to be involved in gaming and esports. It’s like a drug when you compete.
I started the “On The Flank” podcast for Gears of War, and for a game that wasn’t getting a lot of hits streaming-wise, my podcast was extremely popular. It involved both pros and commentators, so when Gears of War said that they needed a desk host, my homie Jack Felling who is now [one of the directors] at Call of Duty, said “let’s get Velly.”
She DMed me and said “what are you doing the next two weeks?” and I was like, “Uhhh, working like a regular human?”
“Ask your boss for time off,” she said. “I’m gonna bring you out to host a documentary series here at the Microsoft Studios.”
Once that was done, she said, “all right, how would you like to be a desk host at our Dallas Major?”
I was like *slaps table* “LET’S GO MAN!” so that was it. That was back in 2017, and I have been fortunate enough to not just be a desk host but also a commentator, an analyst and an interviewer, so I’ve done it all man. I love this s---. I love what I do.
Nerd Street: Why did you move to Valorant?
Velly: When VALORANT was coming out, I liked it visually because it reminded me of Overwatch, Shadowrun and Counter-Strike. I was never a fan of Counter-Strike, but I love Overwatch and Shadowrun. I watched some of the clips but didn’t buy into the hype. I wanted to see for myself. When I watched the gameplay, there was something about it that was big to me. It was the fact that the rounds were more fluid, they were faster than other tactical FPSes but also the imagination that you can bring to the table makes the biggest difference in the world.
This is a brand new game where they give you these abilities to just say, “hey, play the game the way you envision it, and have fun.” I love that, and it’s entertaining. Not only that, but the simple fact that in VALORANT, every single round has a highlight play drives me f---ing crazy! There’s always a clutch potential, there’s also something crazy happening, and the game just breathes excitement. I was naturally drawn to all of that.
Nerd Street: How does VALORANT compare to the other games you’ve cast? Is it harder or easier to explain what’s going on?
Velly: How about this … I’m going to say it’s the perfect culmination of all the games I’ve been involved in. That’s why I love it the most.
I come from Gears of War, Call of Duty and Halo on the console. Then I went to PC and started on R6. So we’re looking at really fast and fancy-looking gameplay and gun skill in COD and Gears of War. Those are all “in your face” action. The tactical aspect comes from Rainbow Six with the utility, game planning, that step-by-step process. That’s what draws me in the most.
I think it puts me in a situation where I can take all of my experience and throw it out there. When you see me doing VALORANT, it’s like Velly from Gears of War, Rainbow Six and Call of Duty did a f---ing fusion dance and became one.
Photo credit: SiegeGG
Nerd Street: When you prepare to become a caster for a new game, what’s the preparation process for you?
Velly: Since the beginning, I never watched VODs from other commentators. For me, the most important thing is that I don’t rely on things I’ve learned from other people. I don’t sit there and watch a lot of what other people say or think about the game. If I look at how a team plays like TSM or whatever or Gen.G and Luminosity, that’s my favorite. I want to formulate my own opinion of them. I want to talk about players in my own way. To do that, I sit down, lock myself in my room and play VODs. People use Excel sheets, but I actually use sticky notes to write down my thoughts in my own words when I watch someone play.
By having an opportunity on shows like VALORANTING and First Strike, I’m able to put that out there on the road and see what people think about it. I get positive feedback, so it lets me know that what I’m saying is right. At the end of the day, I wanna make it important to throw out there that I’m not ignorant to how people look at the game. Once I get my own understanding, I then look at what other people say to see how they match up. That’s really important to me from an analytical standpoint.
Nerd Street: I’ve noticed your casting style is very hype and excited, which I love btw. How did the way you cast evolve over time?
Velly: I was always crazy. The funny thing is that when I first submitted a caster reel, one of the first criticisms I got was that I was too hype. Not every moment had to be crazy. I had to grow and make it sound better whenever I was hype.
But I’ve always been energetic, you know? When I’m passionate about something, it shows. I can’t fake it. I’m the type of person that if I’m upset, you’re gonna see it, and if I’m happy, you’re really gonna see it. Whenever I see [Tyson] "TenZ" [Ngo] pop off with a big play, it would be a f---ingdisservice to the audience and I would be a f---ing detriment to the entire scene if I don’t tell you guys how excited I am for seeing TenZbe a f------ god for no reason.
Why is [Andrej] "babybay" [Francisty] cracked out? I don’t know, you don’t know, but it’s f---ing exciting! And guess what? We’re gonna f---ing yell about it because it’s so fun to see. That is the way I envision esports.
I feel like esports is something that should be celebrated, and when people celebrate, they’re loud and they’re happy. Every day is a celebration when I get to have the opportunity in video games.
Nerd Street: Anything you want people to know that I haven’t asked you about?
Velly: At the end of the day, I’m just very f---ing happy that I’m here dude. I’m gonna be real. I’ve only done four events in total for VALORANT so I really haven’t had a lot of face time in VALORANT except for VALORANTING. I just want the people out there to know that I f---ing looooove this scene, dude.
The thing about VALORANT that I’m really excited about is the theory crafting. That’s why I appreciate people like Sean ["sgares"] Gares and the Korean players. Coming from Rainbow Six and having a utility-heavy mindset, I look at the way we play in North America, and it annoys me. I’m like, “yo, this isn’t that good.” This game has so much more growth!
I sit there and think about all of these crazy compositions and lineups with different agents -- Brimstone belongs in the meta in my opinion. I remember a while ago I kept talking to other people about Skye being a very dominant, utility-gathering agent in the game. They looked at me like I was crazy.
But when the Koreans start using her in that way, it’s not looked at as crazy anymore because this game allows people to look at this game the way they want to look at it, and there’s just no meta yet. I’m rambling right now, but in the end, I’m very excited about where VALORANT is going as an FPS and, like Shadowrun, it’s reaching a spot where other FPSes will not reach in terms of how unique it is.
Nerd Street: Just as I was thinking of a way to end this interview, Velly gave me the ultimate ending to a fantastic interview.
Just to close out the interview, I also wanna show a lot of love to the entire VALORANT community. Not gonna lie, we work from home so the chat is right there. We’re human and we care about what people think about us. Yo, I f---ing love the audience. Looking at First Strike and Masters and seeing people say, “ey yo, why does he sound like Chris Tucker but look like Walmart Drake?” Then at the same time, they’re like, “that m-----f---er is wavy and he dresses well. I f--- with it,” and they would roast me, but in a friendly way.
I put up a thank you thread on Reddit and it had more upvotes than the TenZ thread of him being loaned out by Sentinels, so I loved that reaction from the community. I appreciate the fact that Riot and the audience allow me to go on camera and just be me. They basically said, “hey Velly, at the end of the day, the way that you want esports to be from your position, just do it and we’ll support you!” It means to me a lot as a person, especially now that I’m growing in esports, so I just want to thank you all. I can’t wait to do more crazy s--- for the audience because I have all of these ideas of things I wanna do and I can’t wait. Thank you to everyone out there for being really f---ing nice to me.
Lead photo credit: Velly