It’s all about the story for Sue “Smix” Lee.
“We’ve got a lot of great storylines going on,” Lee told The Daily Walkthrough. “Personally, for me, that’s what I care about the most. I’m always looking for good storylines.”
Her job is to uncover them through post- and pre-match player and team interviews. That’s not easy when she’s working with minutes and seconds.
Lee, 27, is the stage host for ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament, and works alongside talent like Richard Lewis and Jason “Moses” O’Toole to bring the event to life.
Lee said fans and viewers have critiqued her work before and complained that she doesn’t have the knowledge of CS:GO that professional players do.
“People tend to think I don’t put a lot of thought into the questions I’m asking. It’s actually the exact reverse. Every question has a very specific reason for why I’m asking it and a very specific story for what I’m trying to expose about the player or group,” Lee told TheDW. “I don’t think people understand how conscience every question I ask is. They’re not, by any stretch of the word, generic questions.”
But Lee isn’t trying to think and act like a pro player. She’s trying to unravel narratives and highlight stories that would otherwise go unnoticed. That work includes research into team and player matchups, map strengths, winning streaks, player swaps, statistics and more.
“It could be easy to think I ask really generic, fake questions, or that I know nothing about the game,” Lee said of the comments she has seen. “They’re right, of course. I don’t know the game to the detail the pros are playing … I will never be able to understand the game at that level in accordance with the pros.
“That being said, my questions, if they’re actually listening, they’ll realize it takes a lot of work to figure out that storyline.”
Her favorite story from the Major so far revolves around SK Gaming, Ricardo “boltz” Prass and João “felps” Vasconcellos.
“The biggest relevant information is they’re [SK Gaming] not playing with boltz, who they actually practiced with. They did not practice with felps even when they knew they’d be playing with him [at the Major]. That was a big storyline for them coming in,” Lee explained. “It’s little things like that I look for. Is there something the viewership should be aware of?”
As for who she hopes will advance to the finals starting Jan. 26? Lee would like to see Cloud9 in Boston.
“This is going to sound so cliche, but I have to say it,” Lee laughed. “I’m really, really rooting for Cloud9. It goes without being said that having an NA [North American] team in Boston would be ridiculous. The crowd is going to go nuts. Cloud9 has such a huge fanbase in America and I just can’t wait to see what it would be like. On a personal note, I’ve become friends with the guys and I’d love to see them succeed.”
Lee starts her days by “getting in the right mindset” when she works multi-week events like this Major. She takes her time getting ready; stress is something she avoids at all costs. She also doesn’t write questions down ahead of time. Interviews are decided beforehand, although she does occasionally have conversations with ELEAGUE if she believes a player angle is being missed or an opportunity for a story passed up.
The two types of interviews, pre- and post-match, require different approaches.
“When it comes to a post-match interview, there’s something that just happened you need to talk about,” Lee told TheDW. “For the pre-match interviews it’s not the same context. It’s a general overarching storyline for what’s going on.”
Every player and team is different, too. Some are open and willing to chat and others are more reserved. Lee said her two favorite players to interview are Finn “karrigan” Andersen and Nathan “NBK” Schmitt.
“I find them both so easy to talk to and forthcoming with their answers … They’re always very candid about what they honestly think happened with a particular game that might have gone wrong.”
She wouldn’t name any specific players she finds hard to interview, but she did explain the style of team she struggles with.
“Some teams are overall more introverted and not as concerned with interviews, which is fine, I get it. It also means the interviews are a lot quicker.”
Lee didn’t intend to become a stage host. Her career started as a translator for a Korean StarCraft II player and evolved naturally from there.
“It just kind of happened … I was so honored to be able to help out in any sort of way,” Lee told TheDW of how she felt when she first started out. “It naturally progressed from me doing the translation to the tournament organizer saying, ‘Why don’t you also ask the questions?’ For me, I never really realized what was happening. It was more like, I was happy to help out in any way and it naturally evolved.”