When you first talk to Jacob “Jake” Lyon, you are almost surprised at how calm he is. The energetic and excitable former Overwatch League player turned caster is well known for his energetic outbursts. When you tune into an Overwatch League match and see him on the broadcast, it’s shocking to hear the absurd amount of information he can fit into short periods of time. In a single team fight, he will have broken down both team’s entire strategy of that fight, what is happening on the screen at that moment, and what might happen because of that result of that fight.
You would figure someone like this has to be the kind of person that can’t go through any aspect of life without excitement, except he’s really the opposite. Lyon is very calm and gives off a relaxed energy. Maybe that personality is part of what made him one of the top DPS players in the world, good enough to spend two years in the Overwatch League playing for the Houston Outlaws and facing high-pressure situations without fear.
“As soon as you start thinking to yourself, ‘this is a pressure moment, this is so important,’ then you’re going to fail,” Lyon said. “So you have to just discard the pressure and I think over time it was like I didn’t really worry about that stuff so much, having the experience of it and knowing that the best way to succeed in those moments is to disregard the pressure. As soon as you acknowledge that it’s a high-pressure moment and you start thinking about it then that’s the moment that you’re going to like slip up and fail.”
However, when you start really getting into a conversation about Overwatch with Lyon, that same energetic person you hear on broadcasts start to come out. You can hear the enthusiasm and the love he has for this game that has completely changed his life.
“I’m super happy to see the game be this way and it is the reason I’m still continuing to play [in my free time],” Lyon said. “I don’t have to play anymore if I don’t want to but I really do like playing the game. I’ve tried other FPS games, I play other stuff now, I’m not so hardcore on only Overwatch, but I still play Overwatch far and away more than anything else because it’s my favorite game”
It’s clear that Lyon’s connection to Overwatch comes from a very real adoration for the game. It also doesn’t hurt that he was really, really good. By age 21, he had played for Team USA’s World Cup team, joined the Outlaws, and established himself as one of the top players in the world. A frequent name at the top of Overwatch‘s competitive leaderboards, it did not take long for Lyon to become known in the Overwatch community as a top player. When you’ve been close to the top for that long, and you are part of the Overwatch League’s inaugural season, you know you’ve made it. What pressure is there to feel when you have already taken the steps to reach this point?
The biggest surprise with Lyon was how quickly his time as one of the top DPS players in the Overwatch League ended — he decided to retire after only two seasons in the league.
Of course, it didn’t take long to see him back in the Overwatch League, this time in the booth. Going from player to eSports caster can be a difficult transition, as casting and doing commentary is a different world from playing. You need to be energetic, bounce off fellow commentators, and be able to articulate your thoughts in a concise manner while the game is happening. That said, some of the skills as a player certainly translate and are part of what make Lyon as good as he is, as reacting to what’s happening in the moment and being ready to adjust to changes at moment’s notice are just as integral to casting as playing.
“Casting doesn’t really feel high pressure to me actually, compared to playing,” Lyon said. “I feel like it’s a lot more creative and there’s no real pressure on me, right? The pressure is on the players’ and the only thing that I have to do is explain the intensity that the players are feeling, but for me, that’s really natural because I just put myself right back in their shoes and it feels really easy for me to express that viewpoint.”
It’s extremely interesting how simple casting is for someone like Lyon. The idea of it even being a challenge for him seems like a foreign idea. After all it’s just talking about Overwatch, which he’s passionate and exceptionally knowledgeable about. He fit into the mold of the weekend broadcast seamlessly and has already found someone he has a great rapport with fellow caster Andrew “ZP” Rush. The two bounce off each other perfectly with ZP bringing the high intensity moments and Lyon providing an eye for the details that only a former player will notice.
That’s a lot of what makes Lyon as a caster so entertaining to listen to. Being a former player, so recently removed from the game, he knows the game on an extremely technical level. When a team is setting up for a play he is able to recognize the plan of attack and then quickly provide insight into why the play went down the way it did. A large part of this is that, unlike when he was a player, he now has all of the information available to him. He knows both teams ultimate economy situation. He can see a Tracer setting up to flank so they can isolate a Zenyatta alone. He’s isolating stories so he can share them with the audience and he’s using his experience as a player to isolate those moments.
“What you do as a player is figure out how do we win? Do we have the right ultimates? Do we just (use ultimates) at the right time? That’s good, or do we need to make a big play? Do we need to go aggressive? That’s literally your job as a player is to be correct about those things,” Lyon noted. “So as a caster it’s just easy mode of like you just have all the information. There’s no fog of war as it were.
“When somebody goes above and beyond I think that that’s the most important thing to communicate to the fans. The way I look at it as is basically how different was your performance from the expected performance whether that’s positive or negative. If you’re in a really advantage position and you lose it, usually that’s like a combination of your team not playing perfectly but the other team also makes big plays and seizes the moment and doesn’t play defensively when they’re at a big disadvantage and they just go for something crazy and that small percent of the time that it pays off. It’s worth highlighting and showing that this is important.”
Given that Lyon likes to highlight the extraordinary, then its worth mentioning what is maybe his most spectacular moment as a caster so far. During a recent match, his co-commentator in ZB was facing technical difficulties, which resulted in Jake having to cast a large section of the match by himself. The results were pretty good.
The Jakerat is no more 💀
He is now Rap God @jakeow 🎤
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) May 21, 2020
“I think it was lucky that it didn’t happen until the end because that sort of cast is really not sustainable. Afterward, my throat was definitely pretty sore,” Lyon recalled. “I didn’t really think about it too much. I just sort of went off because I knew I had not too far to go. So it was fun to just go a little bit crazy, but definitely not something I want to do consistently.”
It’s a moment that can fluster even seasoned pros, but he faced it head on and came out the other side with an incredible highlight casting moment. He may choose to downplay it himself, but no matter the sport esport or traditional sport, doing commentary for both spots at the same time is incredibly difficult, particularly when it’s not something you’ve prepared for.
Lyon sees it as his responsibility to tell the story of each match from the perspective of the players and highlight the things the competitors would want seen and heard.
“Everything for me stems from that idea of putting myself in the shoes of the player and telling their story the way they would want it told,” Lyon said. “It’s like the way I would have wanted it told as a player. I can now do that and be part of sharing that narrative with the fans.”
Lyon truly loves Overwatch. He loves playing it. He loves being a part of the game’s biggest stage, and can talk about it endlessly in detail, creating this overwhelming desire to share everything he can about the game. That kind of appreciation and passion can’t be faked or manufactured, and it’s why Lyon has become a fan-favorite in the booth so soon after his playing days.