In-depth interview with Foxdrop: ‘I sometimes wonder whether I’m a worse LoL caster now than when I started out, because I focus on fixing my faults rather than what made me a good caster in the first place: being kind of cheeky, kind of dumb, and very English!’

Foxdrop

Image credit: Lolesports Flickr

In the vast world of League of Legends (LoL) streamers and personalities, few are as synonymous with the British scene as Dan ‘Foxdrop’ Wyatt. The well-known streamer, jungler and content creator has also made his name as a caster after making his ESL Prem debut in early 2017, and casting the old EU LCS, to the NLC, EU Masters and the LEC.
Known for his jolly persona, witty remarks and on-screen antics, it’s never a dull day when Foxdrop is given the casting reins. However, there is more to Dan than just ‘Foxdrop’ that viewers are familiar with on-screen. In this in-depth interview by Megalodontus, Foxdrop opens up on the difficulties of the pandemic, Brexit and his anxiety.

It’s lovely to have you back on Esports News UK! The first thing I’d like to talk about is your return to casting in the LEC. What was it like casting the LEC with Excoundrel? Have you discussed any plans to be back on again?

It’s always nice casting with Excoundrel, so that’s was great. I love him as a person and it’s really nice to be paired with him. I think he brings a lot of energy and we have a lot of fun, so that’s cool. 

I’d obviously love to go back to do some more, but that’s out of my control, that’s up to the LEC. I know they have options to have people in the studio with Guldborg and Troubleinc, and it’s more appealing for them to have in-person talent rather than remote talent due to potential technical issues. Honestly, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. We’ll just play it by ear.

I hope you get on again, regardless. One thing that’s very unique about you, as a person and as a caster, throughout the years is your brand and your humour, and it’s very uniquely British. How would you describe it yourself and where do you draw your inspiration from?

(laughs) Okay, that’s a good question. How would I describe it myself, let’s see… I started the ‘Foxdrop’ stuff in 2012, when I started my YouTube channel. I’ve been doing streaming and YouTube for a while now. I got into casting in maybe late 2017 or 2018 (it was February 2017, Foxy, and I can still remember suggesting ESL UK pick you up 😉 – editor’s note). As such, I was already comfortable with being ‘Foxdrop’. 

When I first started, I had to really push myself to sound and be entertaining because by default, I’m quite lazy, laid back, monotone and just not that exciting to listen to. So I spent ages pushing myself, faking being excited and being ‘YouTube-y’. I just faked that for years until I actually became pretty good at doing that. That’s my origin story, whether I’m a hero or a villain that’s up to you, but that’s basically how that started! 

But honestly, what I aim to do and why I enjoy doing what I do is because I just have fun and be myself. It has pros and cons but when I listen to other casters, what I really value out of them is not necessarily what they’re saying but how they’re saying it, their delivery and just overall personality.

The real entertainment is the people playing, the players, the league… we’re just there to put it in a package and hand it over to the viewers. As a consumer, that’s what I look at and that’s what I enjoy. I think that shows when I’m on the other side and I’m actually doing the casting myself like. As long as people are having fun watching, then that’s that’s end goal for me.

I’m kind of cheeky, kind of dumb, so I throw that in there! Plus I’m very English too. I chuck all those in and the end product is what you hear on broadcasts!

As time goes by, I sometimes wonder whether I’m actually a worse caster now than when I started out because I’m aware of all of the technical things that go into casting. I’m also aware of all the things that aren’t my strong points, and I wonder whether I focus too much on trying to fix those than just doing what made me a good caster in the first place.”

I think you’re definitely a hero! On casting, I’d like to ask how your transition has been into casting and how you juggle it with the content creation side. Has it been very easy for you to get burnt out over such a packed schedule? 

I went out for All-Stars, which is somewhat random, in December last year. I really enjoyed that and I did a good job. It was great. Quickshot told me he was going look at my reel and get me on LEC Spring, I got the offer there. I really set my heart on doing casting because I really, really enjoyed All-Stars and I loved being out there. I was out there for quite a while because I had to quarantine, and that did give me a little bit more time to engross myself in living away from England, since I’ve never lived away from England, rather than to show up for two days and disappear.

But when spring came around, COVID was still happening and got more complicated. Brexit also happened at this time too, so I couldn’t go out. COVID quarantine even now is ridiculous, something like a two-week quarantine to go from England to Germany, plus you need a visa and other things too. 

It’s really complicated and at the time in spring, we didn’t know what the situation was because everything was evolving and changing all the time. It wasn’t years worth of bureaucracy that you’ve got to get through, this is people and governments reacting very on the fly to what’s happening because that’s just the nature of the pandemic and as it turned out, I wasn’t able to go out to LEC. 

How this is relevant to your question is I somewhat sold myself mentally on transitioning from YouTuber/streamer to a caster. When that didn’t happen, I found it really hard to go back mentally to put some more effort into my YouTube channel and to be consistent with that and with my stream. I mean, even now, I’m not consistent with those things, because I’ve been doing it for so long and playing League for such a long time. I was ready for the next thing. 

I never really appreciated the burnout until I was able to get out of it from the content creation side of things, and then try to go back to it. I do find it really hard. I think it’s burnout due to doing the same thing for a long time.

Foxdrop during All-Stars 2020

That’s very comprehensive, and it was a question that I was going to actually ask as a follow up. With pandemic and Brexit being a big hindrance to your plans, the pandemic especially, how have you been personally dealing with it? 

Here’s a boring answer: The pandemic hasn’t really affected me in a huge way, because my day-to-day life was very much work at home, sitting in front of my computer and making content. All my friends are online anyway, so it wasn’t as if I couldn’t see them. Realistically, the only way it affected me is the fact I couldn’t do LEC, which did have an impact on me. 

But in the grander scheme of things as well, I appreciate the fact that my family, people that I know are well and safe. I’ve not been shafted too hard in my personal and professional life too since I’m not out of a job. I have been very, very fortunate with my experience with COVID. 

One thing that really sucked in that COVID was my long distance relationship. She was great but we couldn’t do it in COVID. So we split up and that sucked, because she was brilliant. There’s my sob story.

I’m sorry to hear that. On the LEC and casting, what would you say has been the biggest difference from your casting when you started to your casting now?

When I started, I was quite literally transitioning from someone who was doing YouTube and streaming. However, I did a lot of game commentary so I was very used to playing the game and commentating, specifically for educational purposes since that was what I was doing before. From that standpoint, there was a good transition into casting, but there were obviously still some things different about casting compared to what I was doing. 

It started off with me treating it like I’m watching a YouTube video and just talking over it, and trying to be educational and the like. But, it was also just me completely winging it and having fun! As time goes by, I sometimes wonder whether I’m actually a worse caster now than when I started out because I’m aware of all of the technical things that go into casting. I’m also aware of all the things that aren’t my strong points, and I wonder whether I focus too much on trying to fix those than just doing what made me a good caster in the first place. There’s your headline by the way, that I’m a worse caster now than when I started (laughs)! 

When I first started casting, I was doing random stuff for ESL and then in 2018 I got on for EU Masters six months later because that was ESL [broadcasting it] as well. Riot was involved and they saw me there, and they asked if I would like to join the EU LCS back then. And that was that: within less than a year I’d gone from YouTube to EU LCS. It was crazy. I was just chatting shit, winging it and just having fun! Obviously I was doing something right because I was on the EU LCS, and I got loads of great feedback as well from Reddit and social media.

Now, I feel like maybe I’m trying too hard to become a good caster and I’ve kind of forgotten what made me who I am in the first place. Maybe I’m trying to fit a mould I don’t necessarily fit into but I think that’s the biggest difference. However, I will say now I am better at analysis and I’ve got a better understanding from a professional standpoint, rather than just solo queue.

“Within less than a year I’d gone from YouTube to EU LCS. It was crazy. I was just chatting shit, winging it and just having fun!”

Speaking of solo queue, UK caster Caedrel recently made a Lee Sin climb challenge against Agurin in solo queue. What are your thoughts on it and would you do a challenge like that against someone? Can you beat Caedrel in a 1v1 on Lee Sin?

Oh god no. He’d wipe the floor with me. He was a mid-laner before and I’m a jungler through and through, I have no idea how you play 1v1s. I think a gold mid-laner can beat me in a 1v1!

I’m nowhere near good enough to challenge anyone in ranked! Every season, I peak in Diamond 1 and then I spend the rest of the season in mid-Diamond. Which objectively speaking is ‘good’, but the big names in streaming are all Challenger players, I’d just get thrashed!

It really would not work, but maybe it could with people around my skill level like Medic and Vedius. It’s easy to forget Caedrel was a pro player less than a year ago and he was a mid-laner too! He was the UK mid for a long time and he’s obviously very good at the game, and that shows when he is casting with his endless knowledge.

I do remember you on the EU Masters 2018 spring edition. Since you’ve been around for a while now, what are your fondest memories of casting in the LEC or otherwise? Was it you pulling out your full British garb on EU Masters and the LEC?

(laughs) I got a lot of use out of that outfit, I have to say, considering it was something I bought as a joke! I do think the first EU Masters in 2018 spring was great because it was my first time doing something like that. It was my first time leaving home and disappearing for a few weeks in a work event type of thing, hanging out with a bunch of guys -the talent- and then living and breathing casting for a few weeks. You go to bed, you wake up, and it’s all casting after that. It was really cool. I really loved the people I worked with as well. 

During EU Masters, where I went, “there’s just something that makes me want to vote for Excel…” and then I’m putting on my UK outfit, that was great! I got a good laugh out of that one and it always made me happy.

I always like it personally when I come out with ridiculous one-liners and people remembered them, and then I see them either by people quoting me on Twitter or in a Reddit post-match thread. For some reason, that just makes me smile a lot! I’ve had quite a few of them actually. I said in that same EU Masters when someone failed their teleport, “I’m glad no one’s asking him to pay respects or anything because I don’t think his F key is working”. That was a good line! 

In spring, when Blue from SK gaming died in-game/under tower, I said he “blue da ba dee da ba died!”

One of my favorite esports line ever was my “priest in a restroom” line! Holy crap and my goodness… I was casting with Quickshot in the EU LCS studio and he looked at me as I was delivering it. I’m sure there are certain ways that line could go which we definitely don’t want to say on broadcast! 

I talked to him afterwards and he said: “I was shitting myself! I brought you on here and I thought you were going to say something like that and I was thinking, ‘oh my god, no, no, no!'”.

That’s what I enjoy the most about casting, honestly! 

If you were not doing YouTube/casting, what would you be doing?

That is a very good question, no idea honestly! I didn’t go to university, dropped out of school because of mental health issues and I fell arse backwards into streaming… I’ve got some qualifications when I was younger, but nothing special.

If I could do it all again, I’d probably do a job involving animals. I quite like animals. If I was to volunteer somewhere, it would be an animal shelter or something. That would be my dream job.

I’d like to get your thoughts on a heavier topic: I know you’ve mentioned before in your Twitlonger and I think in another podcast, that you faced anxiety issues when you were doing the LEC. If you’re comfortable with it, I’d like to ask a bit about your anxiety issues now and how have you been dealing with it for the foreseeable future when it comes to LEC?

That was a big obstacle for me. I’ve been struggling with this for… a long time, since I was 16 – and I’m 28 now. It was only a few years ago that I was properly diagnosed. Basically, I was having panic attacks and those were quite severe. There was loads of baggage around all that and made it very hard for me to travel in general. That did get in the way of the LEC and there was a lot of miscommunication between myself and them. 

I communicated that it was difficult for me to travel and it might and what I got back was very much, “yeah, that’s totally fine. We really understand, we got some people that have a similar thing and it can be really hard so don’t be afraid to let us know. If you can’t make it on one week, we can get you on next week, so don’t worry about it”.

I did take up that offer once: I was at the airport about to travel to Germany and I had a panic attack so I didn’t go. Once that happened, in the following months and probably even a year, it became apparent to me that me doing that was a problem. I didn’t have the green light there.

As far as how I’m doing, honestly, it’s really hard to say. I’m fine in my everyday life. It’s when I’m tasked with travelling that it gets difficult. And of course, what can you not do during a pandemic? Travel! For me at least, you just gotta keep doing it and build yourself up, and hope that it gets better someday. If you don’t keep doing it, you lose momentum, right? It’s been difficult for me to get into the groove of things and to really overcome the obstacles when the obstacles aren’t in front of me. That’s the tricky thing for me right now.

From a professional standpoint, I definitely think that talking about my anxiety publicly has hurt me, I would put money on the fact that it has. If I could go back in time, would I do things differently? I’m not sure. But from a professional standpoint? Absolutely not. It’s just not worth it.”

I completely understand. I spoke to Orome after EU Masters on his anxiety issues as well and it was very enlightening. For yourself, what triggers your anxiety? Is it going out of your comfort zone?

Yes, more or less. If you imagine, like a theoretical and imaginary safe space, so to speak. When you go out of that safe space, you’re a little bit on edge. But as long as you can get back to your safe space, that’s okay. But the further away from the safe space you go, and the harder it is to get back, that’s when I have issues. That’s why it’s hard when it comes to travelling. If you’re on an airplane or you’re in a foreign country, you can’t just ‘go home’. 

That’s why I was very different doing the EU masters, which was in England. Because even if I’m three hours away from home, theoretically, I could just go home at any point if I wanted to. I never did though. It’s not exactly a good thing to keep relying on a safe space and that not my plan or my goal, it’s just how my brain works right now.

Thank you for being open about it. When I spoke to Orome, he mentioned it wasn’t always the best move for your anxiety to be public as it could have potential ramifications and hindrances to your career. For yourself, you spoke about how you want to transition into being a full time caster, how do you think this might impact your potential casting career?

I think there’s value in talking about it. I have a platform and followers, so when I’m open about it helps other people. I think mental health is very swept under the rug. Things are getting better, to be fair, but it’s just something people are ashamed of and it’s something if they don’t address, it can be really debilitating.

Honestly, I would argue there’s a disproportionate amount of people in gaming, or who are gamers, that have or have struggled with mental health in the past, because what are most people’s escape? Once you’ve isolated yourself and retreated into your little hole so that the scary world can’t hurt you, you play video games. 

I see value in being very open about that. If nothing else, I can tell people it’s tough, but I’m doing it too. That’s my motivation for being open about it. But to be completely honest, I agree with Orome, because I think it has negatively affected my professional life and how people view me, I suppose, and therefore my chances of being able to pursue casting as a career. I think if I hadn’t said anything and like the incident where I bottled it at the airport, if I just said, “Yeah, I’m just really sick” and just went home, I don’t think it would have been a problem. 

I even made a video on Twitter about what happened to me and having a panic attack at the airport, and I think I almost gave too much detail to an extent. From a professional standpoint, I definitely think that has hurt me, I would put money on the fact that it has. If I could go back in time, would I do things differently? I’m not sure. But from a professional standpoint? Absolutely not. It’s just not worth it. 

I’ve talked to people at the LEC for example about getting me back into the LEC. I had a conversation with some of the LEC people when I was All-Stars, because that’s when Quickshot mentioned he was going to give me a spot for spring. I was finding things out about myself from other people, like me apparently not wanting or being able to continue casting. That’s just a stain on my professional image now, people just assume I can’t hack it.

I’m aware there’s lots of misinformation out there about me, my issues and where I stand in the LEC. I’m not really hating on anyone for that, that’s one of the risks I took being open about my mental health.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over your long journey in esports? 

That’s a good question. From a mental health standpoint, the logistics of doing it, of going to LEC and being involved in esports, I’d say the biggest lesson for me is I think I could have been open about mental health, while also not giving away too much. I think there was a way for me to not let it impact my professional life as much. Or at least, I should have thought about the repercussions a bit more. 

Another is one of the big things I’ve learned: don’t let public comments, feedback etc. get to you. I’ve been doing YouTube, streaming and been in the public eye and the LoL scene for a long time. Nothing gets to me. At all. My philosophy is that if someone says something like, “you suck, you’re really a crap caster!”, either they don’t really mean it and it’s just the internet, and when people are on the internet they’re just arseholes. 

If you were just to approach a person and say, “yeah, I’m sorry to hear that”, nine times out of ten, in my experience, if you do that to someone, they’ll say sorry and their comments might have been too harsh. Suddenly, the actual human being comes out and you realise it was just the internet filter that made them sound like an arsehole. It’s either a case of that, or they are an asshole, then I don’t really care what those people have to say!

You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s fine. That’s my philosophy and because I believe in that, nothing gets to me. But I know people that do and I work with people that do, and I see how it affects them. It really gets to them and it can be really debilitating. That’s my big lesson, however you approach not caring, you have to find a way. I just think that’s really important. I see the way some esports personalities interact with negativity and I just think it’s just not worth your time and effort. But maybe that’s just me and the way I look at it. 

Another lesson I’ve learned, probably the biggest one, and this took me a while to learn is that you are you. You have your own strengths. You can always improve but whatever you do, you gotta stay true to that. For example, when I started in EU LCS, Deficio was there, bloody Papasmithy came on as a guest, Vedius, Froskurinn… These are some of the biggest brains in esports. Then I come in, I just talk rubbish and I don’t know nearly as much as these guys do. I told myself I had to step it up if I want to fit in and I tried too hard to become Deficio, Vedius, and Froskurinn. I tried way too hard. I stopped being me. 

I’m not them and I was just trying to be a crap version of them. It didn’t play to my strengths and didn’t bring out the best of me. I think that’s the most important thing, everyone has their strengths. Yes, you can improve, but don’t lose that original thing that you had. 

Lastly, always have fun. If you’re having fun, you’re sorted. If you’re having fun, it shows through and then the audience is having fun. That’s really important. If you’re not enjoying it, then it’s going to show. For me, when I review my own casts, the ones where I think I’ve done the best are the ones who I know I’ve had the most fun with. Those are my lessons.

One of my favorite esports line was my “priest in a restroom” line! Holy crap and my goodness… I was casting with Quickshot in the EU LCS studio and he looked at me as I was delivering it! I’m sure there are certain ways that line could go which we definitely don’t want to say on broadcast! “

Since you’ve been such a big and long-time personality in the UK LoL scene, I’d like to get your thoughts on the state of the UK LoL at the moment.

(pauses) In true British fashion, I’m going to say it’s ‘not bad’. That’s a very British thing to do! I think it was Bill Bailey who did a stand up on it where for example if you were to ask someone in Britain how they are, their answer is always “not too bad”, and that’s considered good! So that’s my answer to it!

I honestly think it’s great with Fnatic Rising and BT Excel, the existence of the academy teams, being based in the UK. That definitely helps with the infrastructure, it’s really cool that something from the LEC is able to help influence the lower regional leagues, and the fact that some of the big orgs have a steak in the UK’s local league is good. 

Player wise, I don’t think we have huge upcoming talents but there are a few. Considering the UK’s merger with Nordics now to form the NLC, that’s going to give some stability to the scene. It’s something the UK scene has always lacked, that professional stability. I still don’t think it’s particularly profitable to be, but hey, BT Excel made EU Masters finals so fuck it!

Before we end, I understand that Brexit and COVID are big obstacles in your life and to many people in the UK as well. What are some of your long term goals and what do you hope to achieve? And how’s your brother Phy doing?

If you put my brother Phy and I together in the same room, and compared us in terms of ambition and career goals, we couldn’t be more different. He was also a YouTuber and streamer, I got him into it. He didn’t quite like it so he stopped it and he works for Mobalytics now, so he’s got a nice cushy 9-5 there. He’s doing great, looking towards the next thing, planning ahead and all that.

Me on the other hand, I’m very lucky to do what I do, I earn enough money from what I do. I’m lucky to buy a house, I’ve got investments… As far as I’m concerned, I’m just coasting through life at this point. I feel like I have bigger issues in my life other than career and money. I’m 28 now and I swear my whole adult life has been mired by mental health issues and not living life to the fullest.

I would love to be doing YouTube or streaming for the rest of my life, which is ironic considering I’m slacking hard on that because of the whole ‘wanting to be a caster’ as well. But if the opportunity to be a [full-time] caster did come my way, would I take that? I’d have to think about it heavily. I have certain things tying me to England like my house, my dog and my family. Either way, that’s all inconsequential to me. I just want to be happy.

Doing what I do, being Foxdrop so to speak, having that as part of my life makes me happy. I really enjoy that, I enjoy the community interaction and I feel like I built a nice community. I’m quite informal, casual and laid back and I constantly have interactions like that with other people on the internet. My answer, as far as career aspirations go, is I’m not sure… but I’m also not really fussed!


You can follow Foxdrop on Twitter here, Foxdrop on Twitch, Foxdrop on YouTube and his second Foxdrop Plays YouTube channel too.

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