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Before she was a globally known esports presenter, Frankie Ward spent a decade in a variety of producer and content roles for organizations like Channel 4 and the BBC. When she produced BBC coverage of the 2015 League of Legends Worlds Quarterfinals at Wembley’s SSE Arena, Ward realized that she wanted to make esports her career.
“It was a real baptism because League [of Legends] is a very complicated game to watch, especially since it was my first esports event,” Ward told The Esports Observer. “I just loved the community. I’ve always played games but never thought there would be any opportunity to work in games. I thought, ‘this would be really cool to do.’”
Ward secured a producing role at Twitch which, as it turned out, became an opportunity for on-camera hosting. A limited budget and number of hosts required Ward to step in as needed. Given the opportunity to discuss her esports passion, Ward jokes that she would sometimes get more “into it” than her hosts.
After about a year of occasional hosting, Ward started working for Ginx TV in the UK, following an interview with the platform at gamescom 2017. Ward’s next big break came following the ESL UK Premiership Hearthstone Finals in January 2018.
“Tim Clark, U.S. brand manager for PC Gamer Magazine was watching,” recalled Ward, adding that Clark is a major Hearthstone fan. “That led [to] my being considered for a PC Gamer show.”
Co-hosting the PC Gamer Show changed her life, Ward said.
“I turned my phone off before the show started. I had less than 1K Instagram followers and I had 13K when the show finished an hour later.”
Two months before the show, Ward had been lade off from Twitch. After taking a month to reflect, she had made the decision to pursue hosting full time.
Ward is now sponsored by Intel UK. Her agency, Code Red Esports, founded by veteran esports host Paul “Redeye” Chaloner, assists with booking and contracts. Having an agent doesn’t mean the work will just roll in, she added, noting that it’s a collaborative effort between her and her agent, Ben Woodward—an ongoing process of relationship building and maintenance.
“The hardest thing about working in esports is not knowing when events fall,” Ward said. “How on earth do I choose when to keep my calendar free just in case I’m asked to do something? That’s kind of difficult so it’s very useful to have an agency.”
Ward focuses primarily on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) but doesn’t want to limit herself to one game, she noted. Her game specializations at this point also largely include PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS events, and she has guest interviewed for the League of Legends European Championship (LEC). Regardless of the game, Ward taps into her producing background to research and plan hosting content, which is largely unscripted.
“I follow some of these teams around the world. I spend a lot of time with them so I know what kind of storylines I want to do,” she said, adding that at other events, producers might give her the desired angle to go with but she is always trusted. “I own that relationship with those players.”
Being in the spotlight can take a mental toll on public figures, especially when social media can be a haven for negative comments. Balancing feedback and community engagement with filtering toxicity is an ongoing battle, but something Ward tackles head-on.
“It can be dangerous to look at things like Reddit and sometimes even Twitter when you are in the middle of an event,” admitted Ward, “especially on Reddit when people were not used to me during The [IEM Katowice] Major and my interview style. People called me ‘bitch’ and said I only ask ‘yes or no’ questions, which is absolutely not true.
“When I saw people assuming I knew nothing about Counter-Strike, that I didn’t like esports, that everyone wrote my questions for me, that was hard. I gave Reddit a wide berth for a while,” said Ward, adding that users would compare her to other women, post doctored images of her and other negative feedback. Luckily, she said, interactions have become much more positive since then.
Ward started a YouTube series in August during which she answers off-topic HLTV forum posts looking for advice. Considering that HLTV is where much of her “critiques” are posted, Ward found a way to combat negativity and engage her detractors. Her first video, posted on August 4, amassed over 50K views in a matter of weeks.
She also hosts an esports interview podcast called “My Life in Pixels,” manages her growing social media presence, and streams on Twitch.
Honing skills as an esports host takes time and Ward is still looking for ways to improve.
“I’m still learning what I need to be on stage,” she said. “When I was at Twitch, I’d be on a couch talking to people about their games. I felt very comfortable doing that. Transitioning suddenly to a stage with an arena audience—that’s hard.
“I’m still giving myself permission to speak. When I do stage hosting, I’ll ask if I can speak on the PA first, talk to the audience and get them feeling the hype. They are a key part of that broadcast. You have to match your floor. Even if I’m not stage hosting, I’m always happy to talk to the audience because I’m one of them at the end of the day.”
The key to launching a successful esports hosting career, Ward says, is to jump in, get experience, and build relationships.
“You just have to be doing it,” she said. “I know that sounds easier said than done but you need to be making content. Once you have evidence of you actually doing that work, then you can start reaching out to places.”
Ward advises hosting hopefuls to volunteer at local universities to cast matches and keep expectations realistic.
“You’re not necessarily going to go from zero to 100 straight away. What you are going to get is experience and footage.”
A caster’s showreel is incredibly important as well, Ward stressed.
“When I was a producer, what I wanted to see was a real 2-3 minutes that got me excited but also told me who you were. When you’re making a showreel, you need to decide what it says about you.”
This interview was conducted by Graham Ashton.
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