When it comes to UK esports teams, MNM Gaming (aka Molotovs and Marshmallows) are among the most well-known. Launched by brothers Kalvin ‘KalKal’ Chung and Daniel ‘Javelin’ Chung in 2014, MNM has since participated in many tournaments in various disciplines – and made a name for themselves on the content side too.
Kalvin and Daniel also founded DLC Studios with Sammy Lam and Rhys Rasmussen a few years back, a UK-based creative agency focused on providing quality – and honest – content.
Megalodontus speaks to Kalvin, Daniel and Sammy in this in-depth interview, asking what they think of the current content creation climate, what makes them tick and what constitutes great content.
Please tell us about DLC Studios and why you set it up.
Kalvin: DLC Studios is a creative agency that focuses on creating content for the esports and gaming industry. This ranges from graphics, photography, adverts, documentaries, illustration and consultation. The esports industry is still a relatively new space and with that comes a lot of learning.
In some cases, even top-end esports teams and tournaments either lack the knowledge, direction or allocated resources to produce the right content for growth. This is a large reason for starting DLC: we wanted to make cool content to tell stories and entertain in the esports space. We want to show the industry what we can do and set a good example of content production for others to follow, who otherwise might lack the know-how.
As co-founders of both MNM Gaming and DLC Studios, how difficult is it to juggle both jobs effectively? What does each involve?
Daniel: You can imagine that doing two full-time jobs is difficult, especially if you’re trying to be effective with both! I often keep in mind any advice that Kal gives, the most prominent being: “If you’re not doing something new, you’re not growing, and when you’re not growing you’re losing.”
My roles are relatively broad due to the responsibilities and commitments held as a director. Within both DLC and MNM, I am responsible for a lot of the administrative work and general day-to-day operations.
Outside of the operations work, for DLC I do creative work, planning logistics or content production. Even though I’m involved in creating a lot of the work, within DLC everything is done collaboratively. For example, I’ve picked up photography, videography and editing from the mentorship of Rhys Rasmussen, Timothy Ross and Sammy Lam. Likewise I bring in my perspectives to help the work they’ve done as well.
My responsibilities at MnM involve player management, social media, strategy and business development. During events, my role moves towards the production side. I will often travel alongside a small team that provides videography, photography and social media coverage.
Kalvin: Creative, team scouting, management, business development, marketing, social media and graphics design are just some of things I do at MNM.
At DLC I am mostly in charge of account management and creative direction, alongside the responsibilities of being a director. It’s is tiring working both jobs because we don’t have a lot of staff at MNM like other UK esports teams, meaning effective time management is crucial.
A positive is learning and focusing on achieving the same task within half the time. I continue to set myself tighter deadlines so I can do more with less. This is a non-stop process that we do, and I would say it’s a big reason why we are still able to keep doing more with the same amount of upper management at MNM.
I’d like to talk about MNM’s UKLC Spring 2020 announcement video. I was told it was heavily influenced by the movie Hot Fuzz, tell us about the thought process that went into making it and was everything filmed in the Wanyoo Esports Studio?
Daniel: We like to be creative and didn’t want to do a generic clichéd roster announcement with some “highlight” plays, which risks losing brand consistency. Instead. we wanted to focus everything into a narrative dedicated to the players and staff themselves.
An initial idea spawned from [MNM League of Legends team manager] OfficerNaughty, which was following him as he gathers the players with a sense of urgency. But as with anything in esports, nothing ever really works your way, so we re-approached the idea from another angle and this is the video you now see.
More importantly, we focused on how to make something really mundane interesting in the style of Edgar Wright where the music, sound design and quick cuts play a huge role in telling a story.
Kalvin: I’m not ashamed to admit that in the summer of 2018 I watched Hot Fuzz at least thrice a week. Edgar Wright is one of my favourite movie directors as he transforms mundane tasks into something exciting, melodic and funny.
Regarding our roster video, we didn’t hit the mark on what we wanted to do, but that’s fine. We tried to make the concept of building rosters look quick and show simple tasks as entertaining. We learnt a lot and we had a lot of fun doing it with the players. This first segment of the video was filmed at the Wanyoo Gaming Cafe in Charing Cross, while the players sipped on some glorious Bubble Tea and got to know each other.
The idea behind the second part was to use our players to visually direct the viewer through the story of announcing our roster. I actually made a similar TikTok in that style and I definitely I drew inspiration from similar videos.
I’d like to add Efias was denied entry into the UK, even though all the correct papers were in order, so it was pretty funny slapping him on at the end floating on a cloud. We spent many hours finding the photographer who took Efias’ photo to request permission for use, which was a fun way to spend time.
What about MNM’s NLC and UKLC Summer 2020 announcement video? Tell us a bit about the process and thought that went behind it
Kalvin: COVID-19 cancelled media days so we wanted to use that opportunity to try something that I’ve always wanted to do: an animated comic book.
The video itself can be enjoyed by anyone even if they’ve no care for the both rosters. We opted for a comic book because that is what I and many other people of this generation enjoy. We planned to have a lot more detail and animation added but unfortunately we ran out of time.
We included the Chinese translations of the corresponding positions, as it’s really important for me to have the Chinese language and culture represented. It’s cool that more and more people are looking at our brand as a representation of 华裔 (hua yi, overseas Chinese) as we find balance in bringing together European and Chinese cultures. Small details like these really help strengthen our message.
Who has DLC produced content for? Do you have any particular favourite pieces of content you’ve made for them?
Daniel: We have worked with numerous brands such as Red Bull, ESL, Ubisoft, The NUEL, MNM and many more.
One of my favourite pieces is the documentary we produced for Ubisoft, “MNM : An Underdog Story” because it tells the story of MNM’s successes in Rainbow Six Siege following the team around and capturing it from a perspective nobody else could ever see.
Another piece is Red Bull Guardians where we produced a comprehensive content package for the tournament. From the graphics to broadcast assets, photos and video content, we were responsible for creating it and being able to keep everything consistent to a singular vision made the project highly satisfying to work on.
Kalvin: We’ve done a lot of work since we’ve started but I would say it has to be the MNM jersey we announced recently. We had many months of trial and error and even fear. We feared that people wouldn’t like the jersey, considering it’s the first real set of merchandise we worked on internally, and feared that people wouldn’t accept the Chinese influence we brought to the table.
I’ve openly spoken about the lack of representation I felt growing up in the UK, all while experiencing a lot of racism even to this day. This jersey is about turning those negative experiences into something positive. I know I am not alone in wishing I wasn’t Chinese growing up, and I hope this jersey is the first step in making people feel proud to be a cultural mixture of East and West. That is part of what I want MNM to stand for.
I’d also like to note we based the new MNM Trackmania car, a car that launched with the new Trackmania game and any club member game owners can use, to further extend our beliefs into the games and communities we are part of.
The NUEL Summer 2018 champions was two weeks of living in London and Tenerife, and was one of our biggest and first projects with them. It really opened up my eyes to collegiate esports and we had an absolute blast, we learnt a lot from the mistakes we made from that project. We ended up producing a two-part mini documentary series covering their ROG Bootcamp and their journey at the University Esports Masters.
Sammy: Our clients range from esports teams to peripheral companies and tournament organisers. It’s difficult to choose between the many enjoyable moments, so I will break them down into these categories.
- Photography: Other than being one of the managing directors of DLC Studios, I am also the main photographer. When the time calls for it, I’m the one who takes on those projects. A favourite of mine is working with OG Esports at ESL One Birmingham, photographing this prestigious team behind the scenes was definitely a highlight.
- Videogragraphy: For videos, it would be the first documentary for Team Rival, “Clown Fiesta”. It was one of the first DLC projects where I had the opportunity to travel to America. It’s my favourite because we were able to work on a game that we haven’t before, and also able to produce it with a different style that reflected the team’s playfulness and light-hearted personalities.
- Design: With a graphic design background, I love working on things that are visually focused. One of the recent works we did for MNM Gaming has quickly become one of my favourites. As a brand, they are very unique and we’re able to experiment with different illustration styles, bringing different cultures into the mix.
As a creative lead, where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Are there any brands or figures in this industry that you look up to?
Daniel: Something that we encourage everyone to do in DLC is to always stay in touch with their passions, as a lot of inspiration can be drawn from sources that are seemingly unrelated such as art, history, literature or even cooking.
For example, I remember Kal showing me the trailer for Total War: Three Kingdoms – Eight Princes DLC. The soundtrack was perfect and it was based on a very famous poem from that era. It’s clear that Creative Assembly looked deep not only into Chinese history but into its art and literature too, which I believe contributed to its success as a game.
I have quite a few people that I look up to in the industry and I’d try to list them out, but since I have worked across different disciplines I have figures I look up to for each and there’d be too many to name.
Kalvin: It’s important to draw inspiration from many different areas. Films, documentaries, books, comics, short films, spoofs, museums, fine art, travelling, cultures and languages are just some of the things that I draw inspiration from.
I don’t limit myself to one of two genres of art. For example, food presentation itself is an art and that can teach you a lot about minimalistic design. If I had to pick, then it’ll be the people I work with at DLC and people I recently worked alongside with: Daniel Yordanov and Andreja and Mateja Mahovic.
What do you think of the current state of esports content creation?
Daniel: I feel in esports, it can be broadly put into three categories: those who pave the way, those who imitate and those who take.
Examples of clear leaders that are paving the way are 100 Thieves, G2 Esports and the LEC. Each brand has its own approach that is developed to achieve their goals and solve their problems.
In contrast, those who imitate the content of others do so based on the successes they’re seeing from these leaders. The main issue is they don’t understand the underlying reasons why content has been created a certain way, good content should have a clear objective for your target audience. It becomes clear when content is made for the sake of it when the apparent objective and the actual content doesn’t match.
Finally, those that take content are looking for the easy and often unethical way of creating content. Being in the process of operations, I have a thorough understanding of the resourcing it takes to properly develop content and it’s not exactly cheap. It’s clear when shortcuts are being taken and it’s disheartening to think that there are those who would disrespect creatives to serve their own purposes.
A lot of the time we ourselves don’t have mass amounts of time to create the work that we do. Instead, we believe in doing the best we can with the limitations we face, and accept it can’t ever be completely perfect. The most recent example of this are the roster announcements for MNM.
Kalvin: 100 Thieves, FaZe Clan, Team Liquid, New York Excelsior (Level99) are just some of the teams that create quality content ranging from 3D renders, to casual videos to illustrations. Events such as The International, Worlds and ESL One where storytelling is key and the content from these tournaments are mostly on point, with K/DA and True Sight being my favourites.
I can’t say I feel the same about other teams, especially in the UK. I think we just have a completely wrong mentality when it comes to content creation. We’re all in the same boat when it comes to lacking resources, but more resources doesn’t make you more creative. No one wants to really take criticism and would rather shout about how great of a job they’ve done instead of improving. I understand that some people need to sell their brand but no one really changes anything up, which is evident by the stagnant content over the years by some teams (MNM included at times).
The majority don’t realise how little MNM have to spend on content, in most cases it’s less than other UKLC teams. Yet we find ways to innovate within our limits (regardless of result). Like many others, I had to learn how to channel creativity via reading or learning along the way, but I only progressed because I had the right mentality. I surrounded myself with creative people who are willing to self-criticise, improve and accept that next time can and should be better. Something I learnt during my time at Level99 was the importance of being creative with what you have in terms of resources and sticking to that limit.
Let’s see what the UK teams can really create, because seeing other people create cool and creative pieces really motivates me. Right now none of them particularly motivate or inspire me in any capacity, I look forward to the day where they actually try something new. However, I would like to congratulate Jack Kent and Daniel Lopez on shaking up the content at Barrage Esports with their NLC Roster video – well done to them both!
It’s important to note that very few brands and teams actually stand for or represent something. It would be nice to see more teams in the UK, big or small, have an actual brand rather than just a logo and some colours. I don’t think city-named teams particularly stand for anything, especially if it’s in a non-franchised city based league. Regardless of its success, MNM still aims to stand up against racism and specifically give overseas Chinese representation. We want to introduce to the world elements of Chinese culture, and create a world with more mutual understanding and appreciation between the East and West.
Do you personally have a preference for what kind of content you like to do? For example do you like doing documentaries more or do you like producing hype/highlight videos more? What makes you decide to make a certain piece of content?
Kalvin: I like story-driven documentaries or funny meme highlight videos. When it comes to client work, we don’t always have a decision in what content we want to make but I generally prefer those two and I think they have the most impact. A heartfelt documentary can make all the difference and open your eyes to new things; while a quick meme highlight can bring enjoyment and happiness within a minute.
Sammy: I prefer content that is story-driven and those tend to revolve around people. Everyone has their unique stories to tell – it’s inspiring and really exciting when you get to learn more about their journey. So for me, I enjoy working on documentaries the most. They have different aspects that piece it together, where you have the opportunity to interact with the whole ecosystem as the project goes on. Though it’s definitely fun to mix things up and work on different types of videos every now and again.
You guys have done many videos ranging from Excel Esports’ “The Nexus” to Ubisoft’s R6’s “MNM: An Underdog Story”. Which one would you say has been your biggest challenge and your proudest achievement?
Kalvin: Live content production is never easy and the hours are always inherently long. We care a lot about creating content that matters to viewers, and in many cases this results in us delivering more than we are supposed to.
EU Masters Spring 2019 was one of those cases where due to lack of planning foresight on DLC’s end, we worked endless hours to edit, cut and deliver the right content for broadcast and socials. It was definitely a challenge, especially given that we wanted to produce even more than was initially planned. I wonder… which idiot decided to do that (definitely not me)?
In terms of achievement, it has to be the Ubisoft MNM Documentary. It is an unbelievable story and was amazing to capture where the team came from, especially now given they went on to win the Pro League finals. It’s pretty self-explanatory as to why I hold this close to my heart.
Sammy: There’s one particular project that comes to mind which had many limitations, where the client wasn’t able to give us much resources. We had to work around those constraints and problem solve each step of the way. It really does come down to how your team handles situations and being able to think on your feet.
I felt a huge sense of achievement after completing Red Bull Guardians. We had just finished the Great Birmingham half-marathon for charity, in memory of Rhys’ dad. We worked tirelessly throughout the event from the Gaming Sphere being set up to the wrap-up, producing stream graphics, numerous videos and photos. It was the combination of the two.
At the end of the day, what are yours and DLC Studios’ goals in the long term? Do you aim to focus on the esports industry, or are you looking at expanding into other sectors?
Kalvin: Anyone who follows my personal twitter knows that I love cooking so DLC will be a food studio soon. Just kidding… unless?
As it stands, DLC is primarily focused on content creation and strategy, but for now we’re working hard on focusing our efforts in expanding our services for clients as well as working on creating our own projects for the esports industry.
Sammy: Our goal has always been to create meaningful content that we feel is interesting. Although it’s important that we work as a team, I feel it’s equally important to create our own brand as individuals and to expand our knowledge and skillsets. This way, we’d be able to learn from each other and better ourselves in the process.
We are currently focused primarily in the esports industry, as this is where it all started for us. We have worked with clients from other industries, so there are plans to expand but esports is what we’re all extremely passionate about.
Any final words you would like to add?
Kalvin: We’re fairly busy right now creating assets for ourselves and also working on new projects that we’ll be excited to share when the time comes. We’re always on the lookout for people who share the same passion working in esports or any form of content creation.
Any creatives who might have questions about their work or are in need of advice, we’re here to help. If you or your business have any questions about esports or content – even if you’re starting out – reach out and let’s start a conversation.
You can catch MNM playing in the UKLC and NLC from every Sunday to Wednesday on either BBC iPlayer or at https://www.twitch.tv/nlclol
Megalodontus is a miraculous survivor from the mass extinction and somehow learnt how to use his stubby fins to operate complicated mechanical equipment and drink tea. Worryingly for cryptozoologists, he’s been writing League of Legends articles too.
A self-taught writer who’s had the privilege to work with good editors who aren’t terrified of his pearly whites, Megalodontus is often seen writing either independently or for various websites such as this one. When not writing, he usually runs it down mid in real life and is fascinated with watching paint dry.