Profile of Shaun “Apollo” Clark | EIZO Gaming Monitors

With the release of StarCraft II in July 2010, the eSports world was set for the rise of a new discipline in professional gaming. Since that year, there have been few commentators who have managed to create a place for themselves in the community. One such personality is Shaun Clark aka Apollo. A commentator or shoutcaster or caster as they are popularly known, has broadly two objectives. One is to keep the audience engaged and the second is to introduce the game to first-time viewers.

Clark is a small town boy from Wales who now finds himself jet setting the globe. He currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden where he works at the GD Studios. He just recently travelled to Seoul in South Korea where he was casting Blizzard’s World Championship Series – Season 1. Soon after that he headed back to Sweden for DreamHack Summer 2013 where he joined a stellar list of commentators.

“I was an outgoing and introverted child while growing up. During school I was to a certain extent, a cheeky individual! Though when I arrived home from school, I went straight on my computer every day until I went to sleep – I was quite bright in school therefore I never had to spend time studying. I lived in a very rural area in Wales, there wasn’t anything to do outside after school anyway,” says Clark about his childhood days.

He continues, “I had been gaming from a very early age, probably about when I was 3-4 years old. The first game I remember playing was Sonic/NBA Jam on the Mega-drive and continued playing games through until I became a professional player and now commentator.

Clark began his professional gaming career with Command & Conquer, a popular eSports title at the World Cyber Games (WCG). In 2007 at the age of 17, he achieved his ambition in the game and became a WCG Gold Medallist. With the death of competitive Command & Conquer a few years later, Apollo decided to try his hand at Brood Wars. Clark, like most gamers from a non-BroodWar background practiced and played that game until the launch of StarCraft II was near. In StarCraft II he began his journey by embarking to Seoul, South Korea.

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Apollo (L) commentating at DreamHack Open Summer 2013 with Nathan “Nathanias” Fabrikant

Clark is a small town boy from Wales who now finds himself jet setting the globe. He currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden where he works at the GD Studios. He just recently travelled to Seoul in South Korea where he was casting Blizzard’s World Championship Series – Season 1. Soon after that he headed back to Sweden for DreamHack Summer 2013 where he joined a stellar list of commentators.

“I was an outgoing and introverted child while growing up. During school I was to a certain extent, a cheeky individual! Though when I arrived home from school, I went straight on my computer every day until I went to sleep – I was quite bright in school therefore I never had to spend time studying. I lived in a very rural area in Wales, there wasn’t anything to do outside after school anyway,” says Clark about his childhood days.

He continues, “I had been gaming from a very early age, probably about when I was 3-4 years old. The first game I remember playing was Sonic/NBA Jam on the Mega-drive and continued playing games through until I became a professional player and now commentator.

Clark began his professional gaming career with Command & Conquer, a popular eSports title at the World Cyber Games (WCG). In 2007 at the age of 17, he achieved his ambition in the game and became a WCG Gold Medallist. With the death of competitive Command & Conquer a few years later, Apollo decided to try his hand at Brood Wars. Clark, like most gamers from a non-BroodWar background practiced and played that game until the launch of StarCraft II was near. In StarCraft II he began his journey by embarking to Seoul, South Korea.

“I had been a professional player since the age of 16 and this didn’t change on the release of StarCraft II. I moved to Korea for a few months thanks to support from Team Dignitas and I was able to play with the best and attempt to learn as much as I could not just about the game but about Korean culture. I wasn’t the best player by any means. I was in all honesty an average player at that point but I found what I truly fell in love with, commentating. I lived with the best StarCraft commentator, Tasteless, who showed me a different life in eSports that I started to chase,” explains Clark.

Clark who is currently 23, has set his aim at becoming the best in the world of eSports commentating, saying, “I want to bring the level of commentary worldwide to a higher level and excel in doing so. I also strive in helping the organizations that I work with produce a better product.”

Clark spends long hours honing his skills and sharpening his insight into StarCraft II every day. A thorough understanding is needed of the game as different regions sport a different meta. Certain strategies might be used commonly across the board but each top player has their own style. For this a lot of research is required as Clark talks about his day. “Right now the average day when I am not away at a tournament is waking up around 9 am, having breakfast and watching some live Korean StarCraft games. I watch for about 3-4 hours before lunch and then play in the afternoon or research for an upcoming tournament, looking over players or certain strategies. I then go to the gym and then have dinner and get ready to either play more StarCraft or watch some American StarCraft games that are happening later on in the evening. Basically, StarCraft all day, every day.”Clark has become an integral part of the scene. He has worked hard at honing his skills, even playing on a relatively high level on the ladder (reportedly on the GrandMaster level). He explains, “I am a commentator, the expert who explains what is happening in front of you, what it means, what each player is trying to achieve and what they need to do to win. I am also able to do play by play but the strategy side of the commentary is where I am.”

Going over VODs in detail and taking notes so he can get inside the players’ heads are part of a typical day for Apollo

To achieve the insight needed to commentate at that high level, Clark spends a fair amount of time playing the game, “If you don’t play the game, how can you talk about it? Even though I do not play on the same level as the professionals, I play at a level where I can understand what they are doing and what it means. If I didn’t play, I wouldn’t be able to understand what they are trying to achieve in their games in the tournaments. It helps me think on their level and most importantly, be able to commentate on the game through their eyes. Remember, they don’t see what the other player is doing and bringing that element into your commentary brings excitement and a true sense of what it is like for them playing,” says Clark.

In early 2012, Clark joined a studio set up by top commentator and former professional gamer – James “2GD” Harding. The aim was to create unique content in an independent studio. “I joined the GD Studio to raise my level of commentary and be able to work around others who enjoyed the same thing as I do, broadcasting. The GD studio helped me to be able to create YouTube videos and even stream my games live because back in my family’s house, the internet was terrible and I wasn’t able to do the above.”

Despite a bleak outlook towards StarCraft 2 from the community towards the game, StarCraft II has picked up in popularity again in streaming numbers and of tournaments. Blizzard introduced the World Championship Series and with the release of Heart of the Swarm the game once again looks to regain some of its lost glory. “The WCS and HotS has given StarCraft what it needed, a competitive league. Before this, there were just hundreds of tournaments all year long which lead to no big finale. Now we have a league where you can watch StarCraft almost daily and follow your favourite player as they make their way through their specific region in hope to play in a Season Finals, “says Clark as he feels consistency in tournaments is the key to maintaining a good environment for fans, players and commentators.

Apollo-and-iNcontroL

Apollo (R) and Evil Geniuses’ Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson casting at DreamHack EIZO Open Winter 2012. Photo by Rikard Söderberg.

Clark, having commentated at a number of tournaments, has seen multiple IPLs, MLGs, and DreamHacks. “It is difficult to pick a memorable event, because they all mean a lot for me in different ways. I think IPL3 was the most memorable tournament for me because it was the first time I got properly recognized as a good commentator by the community. This was special for me,” says Clark.

One of the premier tournaments on the eSport calendar is DreamHack. Clark has fond words for DreamHack. “Every Dreamhack is just as special as the next, and I have commentated at every event they have done. The most special moment for me and the freshest memory was when Naniwa was able to beat Jaedong in the semi-finals of the last Dreamhack Stockholm tournament. The atmosphere was something I have only experienced once or twice over the years.”

Clark feels that EIZO has had a very positive impact on eSports and DreamHack, “I think it’s great that EIZO supports eSports and especially DreamHack, when I commentate on StarCraft II. Whenever I have used the EIZO monitor I have had no problems, everything was clear.” Clark signs off by saying, “The most challenging aspect of making a career in eSports is getting people to like you. Win the crowd, win your freedom”.

 
Apollo’s 5 Tips to Being a Champion
  1. Dedication – you must know what you want and be able to push yourself to do so.
  2. Reasonable goals – knowing what you need to practice on instead of just playing with no aim.
  3. Ability to not get upset at the game; there is only one person to blame.
  4. Keep an open mindset, watch how others play and make sure you understand WHY they do something.
  5. Practice, practice and more practice.