We caught up with David "Prius" Kuntz, ahead of the BLAST Premier Fall Series 2020 for a quick chat. We discuss about his life growing up, his entry into esports especially in Counter Strike with CS: Source, his job as an Observer, improvements that can be made in order to enhance the viewer experience in-game, his thoughts on BLAST Premier Fall Series, and more.
First things first, tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is David Kuntz, I am 26 and I live in Vacaville, California. I was in Boy Scouts from age 10 to 18 so I did a lot of camping/outdoors for my childhood and teenage years. High school was pretty basic, I was a pretty average student but did worse towards the end because that's when I found gaming. I’ve only worked 1 job prior to esports and that was a seasonal employee at a Halloween store. I also worked at ESEA doing Live In-Game Administration which then led me into League Administration for ESEA (CSS) which started my life in esports.
For many, video games are a sanctuary -- a place of solace -- or a way of escapism and thus they get attracted to them. Did you start playing video games for the same reason?
I’m not really sure how I got into video games. I saw my brother playing “The Ship” on steam and it looked so fun. I didn’t get my own actual PC until High School (was able to upgrade my PC from my Admin job at ESEA). I remember going over to a friends house to play Command & Conquer: Zero Hour and Generals because their family had a faster PC and it didn’t lag when they played, like it did at my house. Counter-Strike: Source was my first CS and I currently have over 5000 hours play time in it, mostly community servers and a few ESEA pugs here and there.
On a serious note, when did you decide to get into the esports side of things career wise? How did you end up as an observer? Was it by choice or did it just kind of happen?
My first broadcasting LoL event was for Leaguepedia for the 1st Best Riven NA event and because I didn’t really have an income, I used 4G Data from my phone because at the time, I didn’t have good enough internet at home to stream. This event got 50k+ live viewers and the adrenaline of seeing that many viewers watching my production was insane.
I had some broadcasting experience with LoL doing small amateur events (NACL/GGLA) after and ESEA needed a broadcaster for ESL ESEA Pro League and they asked me to do it. I would mostly keep it on auto-director because I had 0 experience observing but as I got more comfortable producing, I would control the camera for them because I noticed auto director was terrible (and still is!)
I was asked to be the Head Administrator at EPL ESEA Season 2 finals in Burbank and I accepted. Heather (sapphiRe) was solo observing that event. She happened to be sitting next to me behind the stage and I asked if I could observe a match and she said “Of course!” I then was asked to observe some MDL finals and then I got asked to do ELEAGUE Season 1.
Why go with Counter Strike when there’s plenty of other options out there? Any particular affinity towards this game that drew you to it?
CSS was the game I was playing at the time (2008-2012) and I fell in love because of the community servers. I didn’t even see esports until ESEA LANs until ~2010 and I was hooked because of the atmosphere at those events. I wouldn’t say I picked CS but I’m definitely glad I played it a ton versus some other games early on in my gaming life.
Who is an observer?
An observer is the person that controls the CS:GO in-game camera. The observer's point-of-view is what is shown to viewers on stream. Without a skilled observer, fans could miss a lot of the action. Observers must be very familiar with the intricacies of the game, especially the maps, angles, and contact points. The observer must quickly navigate to the action, memorize and rapidly recall where each player is on the map and take cues from the casters and the producer.
You gained fame from the community while observing ESL ESEA Pro League in which during pre-game you would switch players to the beat of the song playing. Tell us more on what made you or gave you the idea to do such stuff? Also, is that how the moniker “DJ” came into being?
I really like music, just all kinds of music but mostly EDM. I was told to play Monstercat while broadcasting Pro League and I played them so much that I started to remember them. One day, players were slow to join the server and I got bored so while some Monstercat music was playing, I changed the scene on OBS to in-game and started clicking my mouse to the beat of the song.
One of the co-owners of ESEA was watching (lpkane) and he told me to keep doing it. I saw twitch chat reacting with PogChamp so I started doing it more and more. Fast forward a couple months and I was getting a front page reddit post on r/globaloffensive every week or something.
I started to do it less because if I kept doing it a ton, it would lose its coolness value. Most people thought it was a robot doing the switching but 100% of it was all manual by me. Also, DJ is my actual name, David for D and J for James (middle name). I just went by DJ at a young age because I liked it more than David.
It’s no secret that the majority of people working in the esports industry, especially behind the scenes, such as referees, writers, etc aren’t paid well or are heavily overworked and underpaid. Is this the same case with observers? Is the pay justified towards the amount of efforts put into the job in terms of sustainability?
I think I am very lucky to be in a position to call watching video games “Work” and get paid for it. However, I understand observing is a job not everyone can do so the rate I charge reflects that.
Luckily for me, there isn’t much competition in NA to be an observer so I didn’t really need to fight my way through a ton of observers to get to the top. I think the pay is sustainable so I do not need to look for another source of income.
However, I think diversifying in other games is smart because putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t the smartest. I’ve been starting to observe VALORANT more and more and because of that, I’ve still been allowed to work from home doing VALORANT events on the weekends. My last CS event was the BTS event in July and in-between it's been all VALORANT.
Is there a lack of observers in the current scenario? Does that play to your advantage at having constant gigs worldwide?
I think there aren't enough observers in the scene. I get messaged almost daily in my Twitter DM’s with people asking me how to go about starting as an observer, which I didn’t think would ever be a thing.
Because there aren’t a lot of observers worldwide, it does help with getting gigs worldwide and that is a positive for me but sometimes there are other events going on that don’t have a good observer because me or other Tier 1 observers are busy. It also was a real blow to the observing scene when Sliggy left for VALORANT as he was one of the best in the business.
Speaking of events, you’ve almost worked on every major and minor platform that exists in CS:GO like ESL, Flashpoint, Blast, DreamHack, PGL, BTS -- to name a few. Which event do you enjoy observing the most? Also which TO's treat talents better than the rest?
I don’t think I have a favorite TO, they’re all fantastic to work with every time I travel for their events. Obviously all TO’s have things they excel in and also things that need improvement. I get treated very well at all of the events I attend. For example, when I did the BTS RMR in July, they set us up with a nice airbnb close to a supermarket and food as well as our own PC + 240hz monitors in our airbnb. Small things like this really help with the happiness of the talent.
From an Observer point of view, which things can be further improved in the game that could be beneficial for everyone including spectators?
I think the ability to go back to a round instantly (DVR) and replay it in-game would be beneficial to all and that would really elevate productions to the next level. Something that would be really cool also would be the ability to see which walls are penetrable and what percent of damage they do if spammed with X gun.
Also the ability to see guns dropped on the ground so a caster can go “Oh, they had an AWP this round but nobody has it, let’s see where they dropped it”. I think CS is almost perfect when it comes to spectator tools and UI, but small improvements like this could really help with production. (Credits to @Heliumumbrella and @pinqucs helping me brainstorm some of these suggestions while doing rehearsals at BLAST!)
You’ll be traveling to Europe for the BLAST event. How does it feel to finally travel out of the country to attend an event? Missed it much?
Traveling again feels fantastic but also still very weird at the moment due to all the restrictions with masks and empty planes to and from Europe. My flight over to Europe from the US was very empty, every person basically had their own row to lay down and fall asleep with, something I wish every transatlantic flight had. I really like traveling and exploring new countries and cultures around the world -- it is nice to get out of the US bubble every once in a while!
Also, what are your thoughts on the BLAST Premier Fall Series? According to you, which teams are going to fare well the most and why?
I’m really excited to see jks play with compLexity during the Fall Series as well as NA teams playing EU teams for the first time in what feels like forever. Also excited to see how the new MIBR roster plays against top teams too! I think the obvious favorite is Navi but I really love an underdog story.
Alright, that’s a wrap. Anything you’d like to say?
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and other observers in the scene, even though we aren’t on screen, it really helps showing your support for the few observers in the scene. Thank you KarY for the interview as well! Feel free to follow me on socials to keep up to date with what games I’m observing/doing next @priusOBS on Twitter/Instagram.
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