DiA is making his ALGS LAN debut in London. esports.gg sat down with the debutant to discuss his experiences and his career to date.
Rafael "DiA" Ruiz is Apex Legends through and through. From the grassroots of Apex Legends events all the way to the ALGS Split 2 Playoffs. This ALGS Split 2 Playoffs is Dia's ALGS LAN debut.
esports.gg spoke to DiA during the tournament to look back at how he got here, what getting the call up was like and more.
DiA enjoying having a live audience
Almost all Apex Legends events are online. Casters will be sat in their own room, looking into a camera or webcam. There is no live reaction, even twitch chat is usually 10 minutes behind. A LAN broadcast brings all sorts of new challenges and experiences.
"It's pretty ludicrous. I didn't expect it to be as simple as it is. I figured it'd be a lot harder to cast in front of a live audience. But I actually found it easier. I don't know if you caught it, but onstage, I'm only casting with one ear-muff. Because it's really nice to hear the noise of the crowd and be actually present in the space.
"And it's had a real grounding effect. So [casting LAN] is easier than I expected it to be but also weirder than I expected it to be. But super nice to be able to connect with like, talent and players."
DiA planned a career in theatre
DiA is still the freshest face on the ALGS broadcast team. He only made his Pro League debut in the most recent split, and he is the only LAN debutant at the event. So, who is DiA? What is his background before casting?
"So I, did my degree in university in Theater, I was going to become an actor, and do all of that. I did it in Vancouver, which has a nice film and theatre scene. I graduated in 2019, which you'll recognize was a great time for Apex Legends and pretty poor time for the rest of the world. And acting became a thing for me. But in university, in my freshman year, I had started getting really into Esports.
First esport was League of Legends
"I watched a lot of League of Legends, watched all the regions and everything. I was one of those people that just like consumed all of the Esports content of a game. And so once the pandemic kicked off, there was no reason not to try something that I thought would be really fun, but that I just might not be good at.
"And through the early years of casting it's quite common that you don't really get paid a lot. There's just not that much money in grassroots Esports, and the fact that it was during the pandemic. Since really nobody was making money, it allowed me to continue doing that and building a skill set, and mostly the League of Legends ecosystem.
And through the early years of casting it's quite common that you don't really get paid a lot. There's just not that much money in grassroots Esports
"And then once I felt confident in my casting ability, Apex Legends was gaining a lot more traction. And there were third party tournaments starting to crop up like Esports Arena which were running things regularly. There were opportunities outside of the ALGS to start getting experience.
Self belief key
DiA, like most grassroots casters, had to spend a lot of time volunteering and working for free. He admits that he benefitted from the pandemic which allowed him the space to do that more freely.
But, did DiA always envision that he'd make it onto the global stage of a top level esport?
"I guess in the same way that when I started acting in university, I imagined that I would be on the red carpet at the Oscars. You imagine it, but you don't like really think that that's going to happen feasibly, like I'd love to do it but I should be ready for for something else."
DiA and Zephyr got invited to Pro League mid broadcast
DiA became a hallmark of non-ALGS events. He casted a wide variety of third party events, including the ALGS Challenger Circuit. DiA recalls where he was when he got the email from ALGS inviting him onto Pro League.
"I was actually at the time on an Esports Arena broadcast. So it was like after game two, we had two or three minute break, and I had to run to the bathroom. Like any human being, I take out my phone and I open my email. And I don't remember what the title of the email, but I was with Zephyr at the time, who was also featured on split two. So I read the email, that was very nicely worded and it said...
"Hey, we're interested in working with you, can we organize a call to see if you're interested in working with us?" And it was really, really lovely email. Then I got back on the mic with Zephyr and went, "Hey, Zephyr, how are you? Like, are things ok? Did you have a good restroom break?"
"then we just sort of like freaked out for a little while."
"And then we just sort of like freaked out for a little while. We obviously couldn't say anything, or we didn't want to say anything. Our producer at Esports Arena was just very confused as to what was happening. We didn't take an extra minute even though he was like, "Are you sure you look like you could use a minute?"
"We declined, but I don't remember what happened in game four. I typically remember a lot of things that happen in games that I cast, but I have no idea what happened for the rest of that series.
Invite to LAN was validation
The ALGS Pro League was an audition of sorts for DiA, to have the chance to cast at LAN.
"Each time that this has happened, or the or the ALGS has offered a step forward with them, it's a big artistic validation. Because I don't go about my everyday going "I bet I'm not good enough. I hope somebody notices." I go about my day going, "I think I'm good, and I'm trying to improve on these things. I'm always trying to expand my artistic repertoire."
"So getting an email, whether it be would you like to participate in the split two online? Or would you like to participate in Split two playoffs is a vote of confidence from EA and from Respawn and ALGS. And it makes me feel validated as an artist, no less prepared to actually do the thing. I think to myself, "Okay, they think this is good" and that's wonderful. Because ALGS is pure passion. It's what I want to do."
What advice would DiA give to aspiring casters?
DiA, and his close friend Zephyr are two of the most home grown talent that ALGS has ever seen. Alongside SpiderTiff, they are part of a new wave of casting talent that are Apex through and through. What advice would DiA give to other casters looking to emulate their pathway?
There are a lot of things that have to line up. So it's a very lucky thing for us. The first thing that I could think of was in another three years off of working, because you know it's very helpful to get that under your feet. I think that accepting what you don't know is the biggest step that I've taken.
"If you come away from a cast, you should be happy with yourself but seek to improve."
"Also, the faster that you can accept that you're gonna be commentating with a lot of people, so you may not like everybody's style, but that doesn't mean that it's bad. It means that you always have something to learn is going to help you grow faster. Be curious about absolutely everything. If you come away from a cast, you should be happy with yourself but seek to improve.
If it was good, think "What could I do better?" We're still doing that backstage. When Gaskin and Onset walked off, we come backstage and and I asked them "What did you like about that broadcast? What do you want to bring into the next one? And where where do you think you could have made up a little bit of time because Apex is a very complicated thing." So constantly seeking to improve and taking the learning from other people.
Keep eyes on Gambare Otousan
DiA, came armed with a detailed notebook with information and statistics on every team. He spent some time consulting his notes when pressed on who he felt could win the tournament.
"I think based on what we've seen today, and what we've seen specifically today. I love a heartache. Hmm.. I can't just name a TSM or an NRG despite loving those teams.
"Keep your eyes on Gambare Otousan. I think that they're a very exciting team. They could walk with first because anybody could. I'm not sure that they will, but that's an up and coming team for sure. I really enjoyed the way that they played today. I think they're very smart players."