Grady Rains, NRG’s Executive Producer and creator of the Castle (NRG’s content house) remembered the first time he sat down with the new speedrunning crew and watched them create content for the first time. Rains said it was “like they had been best friends for years. It felt like magic.”
The magic Rains describes is no fluke because NRG believes the future of esports is in speedrunning not only as a business venture, but also as a real opportunity for gamers to build their brand and develop content that appeals to the masses and inspires future prospects to join the ride.
Rains got his start as a Fortnite player and used that experience to become the creator he is today.
“I was in the Fortnite community. And so I made a lot of Fortnite videos specifically on Instagram, [and] I always joke around that the most prestigious title I've ever held in the gaming industry was Fortnite Instagram influencer,” Rains said.
But it was that experience that took him to the NFL to run their social media efforts, and then a short while later, running NRG’s Castle and content creation process when Andy Miller, co-owner of the Sacramento Kings and chairman and co-owner of NRG Esports brought Rains on to the team.
Read more: NRG among winningest Rocket League orgs
With Rains and a group of other talent creators in place, the stage was set to take over esports with speedrunning. One of their newer recruits, Eric “PointCrow” Morino joined EazySpeezy, Kosmic and LilKirbs to build content as a team and change the landscape of what speedrunning is and what it can be in the future.
PointCrow, who calls himself “aggressively mediocre” on Twitch, made his transition to full-time gaming as a variety streamer, though he is known for his Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild content. His early days of gaming started with the introduction to Pokemon Colosseum and Halo. Years later, he graduated with his engineering degree and made a decision that would change his life as we know it. He said “if content creation makes as much or slightly less than what I would be doing as an engineer, then I'll just do content creation.”
There’s a lot of routing and practice that goes into making his speedruns work. But what is also important to PointCrow is creating content no one else is thinking about, and that’s what sets him apart from a lot of speedrunners. He considers his content “speedrunning 2.0” because while he is running a game, he’s also creating challenges that seem impossible like playing Breath of the Wild blindfolded.
PointCrow attributes this change to people moving past the fascination with displaying glitches, and they’re now looking for something new.
“In the past with speedrunning, it would just be like ‘all right, here's all these glitches that we found … and let's put in a speedrun,’” PointCrow said.
But as typical glitches became mundane, the once “unusable” glitches got some shine because PointCrow saw an opportunity to showcase them to his viewers.
“You can use [glitches] for things to make a playthrough of a game that wasn't previously possible. So you can actually beat Breath of the Wild with one shield. Apparently, you don't even need to pick up any weapons for the tutorial. There's a whole bunch of things that go into it,” PointCrow said.
PointCrow seeks to create content that no one else is thinking about. Photo credit: NRG
Building a space for authenticity
While there’s gaming content that’s being made on the NRG team, there’s also the physical creation of a space for gamers via the NRG Castle. The NRG Castle was literally built by Rains and a team of set designers.
“I ran a construction team and saw it [built] from the ground up. I hired our designers and set directors to help me bring it to life. And we really turned this crazy space in L.A. into a gaming castle.”
The Castle serves as a place to chill and create collaboratively. And this is precisely what Rains believes is important especially when managing and developing content. Of course, this philosophy isn’t just in theory, but also in practice. Rains makes it a mission to work with other content creators to develop dynamic material, and it always has to have an element of authenticity.
“For all of the videos we prepare as much as we can on our end, so all the gamers have to do is show up and be themselves. We're not interested in creating the type of content that is super scripted or force our gamers to become actors,” Rains said. “We have some great people on our team who are all gamers that bounce ideas off each other and the Castle, and all the content we create is designed to [allow] our players just to be themselves and have fun and capture that kind of authentically in our content.”
This view is how PointCrow is able to be himself when he’s developing content. But what viewers aren’t aware of is how technical the content creation process is in the background. And this happens before a speedrunner can run a challenge live.
“A lot of the time you're constantly going back and forth and trying to problem solve because you get a general framework before you do these challenges, [and] theoretically, it should be possible. But in practice, you have to solve problems that you didn't expect to overcome,” PointCrow said.
To even get to that point though, you’re constantly practicing to be the best at the task at hand. A part of that practice is researching glitches and making them work. Then when it’s showtime, PointCrow has to make sure it looks good while he builds relationships with his viewers live by explaining everything in an approachable way. So challenges like these can take “anywhere from six hours to something like 70,” according to PointCrow.
Word of advice on content creation
While Rains and PointCrow might have never thought they would be where they are now, they’ve certainly put in the hours to build their brands and that of NRG.
“It's been super rewarding. And I think back in the day when I was making Instagram videos, it was a lot like instant gratification … but working as a part of a bigger team it's a lot more like delayed gratification and a lot more effort on the back end.” Rains said. “You know maybe the viewer doesn't see [the back end], but when you finally get to see [the end product], it becomes much more rewarding because so many more people's hands have been laid on it.”
“I never had the intention of making this my job. And I don't think whenever you do content creation, you should start with that mindset because it becomes very toxic, very quickly,” PointCrow said. “For me, it was just doing new things that I haven't seen before, just you know, attempting to make a small number go big, essentially. That was part of the game for me. And eventually I started making some side money from subscriptions.”
In order to join the esports space “sometimes you just have to be willing to start at a lower [position],” Rains said.
And the beautiful thing is that you can climb the ladder pretty quickly because it's a new industry. Beyond working hard and showing value, Rains suggests identifying “what community you want to be a content creator for and learn everything there is to know about that community and then find ways that you can add value.”
What’s next for speedrunning at NRG
Although PointCrow doesn’t want to divulge what’s coming up with NRG’s speedrunning team, there’s a lot to be excited about.
“What people want from the NRG speedrunning crew, is going to happen. Just trust me, we see the comments and we're taking notes,” PointCrow said.
And as a larger content plan Rains would love to produce a large speedrunning event.
“We'd love to work with any members of the speedrunning community … I think that's one of the main goals. Let's give speedrunners the respect they deserve and show how good an investment energy speedrunning is.”
Lead image credit: NRG