TORONTO — Standing in front of a bank of screens, Jen (LemonKiwi) Pichette’s arms are in constant motion as she documents the carnage before her.
“Toronto drives through London like a truck,” she says, her voice rising.
Downstairs at the other end of the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the London Spitfire and the Toronto Defiant are on stage hunched over their keyboards as they look to wreak havoc on each other in front of a cheering crowd in the ‘Overwatch League.
While each member of the five-person teams is hidden behind their screen on stage, the players’ faces are shown larger than life on screens adorning the front of the podium behind which they sit. And the game action is displayed on a large screen above them.
Players go through gamertags, with Heesa, While, Hotba, Chorong, and Twilight leading the Defiant against London’s Backbone, Sparkr, Hadi. Admiral and Landon.
Montreal-born Pichette and British analyst Harry (Legday) Pollitt provided the game’s soundtrack – one of three sets of casters, as esports commentators are called – working at the Toronto Defiant Summer Showdown which s ended on Sunday with a total attendance of some 4,000 people expected. over the four days.
The other woman among the tournament’s six pitchers was American Rosemary (Nekkra) Kelley.
The Dallas Fuel defeated the San Francisco Shock to win the $225,000 event. Toronto finished third.
Pichette, 29, brings a full resume, with a bachelor’s degree in biological and biomedical sciences and a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology, both from Laurentian University. Now living just outside of Las Vegas, she has a job teaching biology at the College of Southern Nevada when she’s not wearing her esports hat.
“The cast has a lot of travel and is very spontaneous,” she explained. “I don’t have a schedule in advance, so I thought teaching would be a good way to use my degree, but also to have a flexible schedule to enroll in semesters and can -to be taking a day off here and there to travel.”
The school’s move to the United States from Sudbury, Ontario was prompted in part because more esports opportunities are available south of the border. Additionally, she moved in with her boyfriend, who had introduced her to the Overwatch game.
“We were just friends back then,” she said. “Then, through us, we struck up a relationship and bonded. Turns out I really liked the game too – so I made a career out of it and a boyfriend.”
They have been dating for six years.
Pichette signed with the prestigious Overwatch League a year ago, but also works on other games like Rocket League and Teamfight Tactics, often at the college level.
“I tried to diversify a bit because the industry can be precarious,” she said.
His first big casting assignment was for “Call of Duty,” which also has a pro league. She then set her sights on the Overwatch League, “grinding” until she got the job.
“I think it took me about four years to do the Overwatch League, just hovering in the ecosystem,” she said.
Pichette grew up playing and initially dreamed of playing professionally. But the time investment was daunting and when a young Call of Duty League women’s circuit started looking for women’s casters, she switched gears a decade ago.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll try.’ Because the reason I liked the games so much is that I really liked the strategy.”
She started as an analytical founder and then after switching to Overwatch moved on to play-by-play. Although she always mixes up analysis and prompts her partner for such commentary, it gives her a chance to match the action. with his enthusiastic appeal.
“My vocal cords have been tested multiple times,” she laughed.
Due to the pandemic, the Toronto tournament was its first live event since BlizzCon 2019, the annual gaming convention hosted by Blizzard Entertainment to promote Overwatch and its other major franchises.
Pichette worked from home, surrounded by photographic equipment, lights and green screens. She made the most of it — “pajamas, business on top and (I) will have a snack if I want.”
Returning to live work, she says she had to be careful not to get “too fueled” by the crowd. But there’s more to the cast than just pointing out that someone just got wiped out.
“I do a lot of hours of research on teams. I like being able to quote them on things,” she said.
Past results, strengths, weaknesses and top heroes all feature in his commentary, with a team of stats feeding into his relevant numbers.
American Victoria (VikkiKitty) Perez was the first female caster in the Overwatch League, with Pichette the second. Pichette started calling the league game this year after appearing in Overwatch Contenders events and the 2019 Overwatch World Cup.
“I feel like the women have been more successful in reaching out to the players and tapping into the emotional side of the players, how they feel after a loss or a win. And what’s important to them…I don’t say because we (women) care more about those things. But I find that we find different things important,” Pichette said. “We have different points of view.”
She is particularly sensitive to the trials of tribulations of players trying to break into esports.
“I’ve always been this underdog myself in my career, trying to prove myself and trying to climb the ladder of (my) career and my life. Trying to prove to people that I’m worth something,” a- she declared.
Pichette thinks the Overwatch community is more open than some other games because it has a healthy roster of female heroes.
Language can be a barrier, with many South Korean players in the Overwatch League. But coaches and performers help ensure a constant flow of information.
The bilingual Pichette grew up near Barrie, Ontario, where her father served in the army.
As for choosing LemonKiwi as a gamertag, the reason is simple. She wanted StrawberryKiwi back in the day, but “turns out it’s a very popular fruit combination and it wasn’t available.”
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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 14, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press