Mira “Ephey” Riad revisits her experience at the WePlay AniMajor, and shares some wholesome and surprising stories from behind the scenes.
Mira “Ephey” Riad (Twitter) made her debut as a Dota 2 talent at the WePlay AniMajor earlier this month. The WePlay AniMajor was an immense success, with the #5th highest peak viewership of all time. Twitch streamer Ephey, who is also a 6K MMR player, was the topic of much conversation during the event. We caught up with Ephey after the dust had settled on the AniMajor.
Malystryx: Hello Ephey! Thank you for taking the time. When I was working Dota 2 events I found I was often quite stressed during them and hypercritical of everything I was doing, but when I got home I felt far more happy with what I did after I had time to reflect. It’s been almost two weeks since the AniMajor ended, are you having similar feelings?
Actually, I relate to that. Well, I thought I was doing horribly while I was there. When I got back, I relaxed a little bit and tried not to be hypercritical of myself. And overall, I’m just glad that I was able to do it and come out alive at the end of the day. All I know is next time I’m gonna do a better job. So that’s what I’m looking forward to. It was a really good learning experience for me, not just like in Dota professionally, but as a person.
Malystryx: There was one panel in particular I wanted to ask you about, and that was the one with SUNSFan, Slacks and SyndereN. It was glorious to watch but what was it like to be a part of?
It was absolutely hilarious. Oh my god, regardless of how it may have worked out, I really enjoyed being on panels with them. And I would do it again.. I remember we were on the shuttle back to the hotel, the day before that panel, and then Kyle just turns around and he says: ‘Ephey, do you want to do tiebreakers with Slacks and SUNSfan?’ And I said are you sure? Then Kyle said ‘it’s gonna be hilarious’. So then I agreed to it. And we didn’t even know if there would be a tie breakers. So I was just half asleep but then boom, we had the tiebreakers last minute.
Malystryx: Slacks can be intense, and he was on you. Nowhere to hide.
[Ephey laughs] Slacks was on me so many times. I think it’s just his kind of humour, that was his way of getting me to open up. I asked him to please ease up a little bit, like I feel attacked [Ephey laughs], and he did. But Slacks was really funny. I really enjoyed being on panel with people who can make me laugh because it took away a lot of the nerves that I had going into it as a first timer. So every time I was on panel with Slacks, Jenkins or Rich, I had a really good time.
Malystryx: On the topic of Jenkins, one thing I love about Jenkins is he is literally the exact same person off camera.
Ephey: That’s exactly what I was telling people when I got home! I told my family, I was like Jenkins does not have an off button. My family they also play Dota and they watched the streams. And I was telling them his personality literally is unchanging, unwavering.
I remember one time I walked past him at the restaurant where he was having breakfast. I don’t remember with who, but I just overheard him talking about the ‘insides of a squirrel’ then something something ‘Delicious’. How do you even have a conversation about that?
Jenkins doesn’t stop. It’s like an ongoing flow. I think it was good for me to be on panel with someone like Jenkins because he’s so unapologetically himself, and that was good for me because I can be quite shy.
Malystryx: You published a very heartfelt video in the middle of the event. What was the motivation for doing that, was it just a release for you or were you hoping to make people aware of the impact they were having in terms of criticism?
Ephey: For me, it was just a release, because I’m someone who writes down when I feel a lot. And something that I was trying to teach myself at the Major was to not censor myself so much. I was initially writing a blog of my day to day, but I realised I wasn’t really letting my thoughts flow naturally. If I felt something wouldn’t come across well I was just erasing it and saying something different.
So I just decided to do it after I came home really tired one day. I was upset with my performance and I decided to talk about it out loud and not censor myself. It felt really good for me to just vent and take my innermost thoughts and expel them. I always feel better after doing something like that. I don’t think the vlog was super negative, I talked about how I enjoyed it and how it was good for me. It just helped me assess my emotions.
Malystryx: There was a noticeable shift in attitude after your video and a huge outpouring of praise. I know you’ve mentioned you prefer not to be in the spotlight, it must have been a lot of attention to deal with at once.
Ephey: Yeah, I would rather people didn’t make Reddit threads about me. It’s nice to know people support you but it got to the point where there were so many of them it became so negative. While it is really nice to be acknowledged and appreciated, it has to be in moderation and objective. It can’t just be ‘we like her because she’s a girl’ or ‘she sounds pretty cute’.
I just really want to know what I can improve on, and what I’m doing wrong. It’s hard to sift through that because I felt like the comments were either incredibly positive or incredibly negative. So I tried, but it was hard to find feedback I could use to improve, but I got a lot of great feedback from my co-panellists.
Malystryx: You were on panel for the Grand Finals, when LGD had won and they were all wandering around the stage and it dawned on you the event was over, how did you feel?
Ephey: Well first I dashed to where LGD were with my notebook and I got their autographs. I’m a huge LGD fan, so I was really excited about getting their autographs! [Ephey laughs] After that It was kind of like a high. I was so proud of myself because it felt so difficult for me on a lot of the days, and just getting to the end and finishing, and having people tell me I did a good job. Just a collection of all these things coming to fruition made me feel like everything was worth it. And I was really happy.
Malystryx: I can’t remember who mentioned this to me, but I feel it does often ring true. That in Dota 2 for the majority of up and coming talent, there’s a trajectory where people love you because you’re on the rise, and fans feel good to be in the know of who is the next big caster/analyst. However, then the talent will reach the peak of their initial rise and suddenly there’s a point where people don’t want to like them, because now everyone likes them. Then the haters will come out and fans will begin to be hypercritical. Then the talent must suffer their first fall, often in the form of a hate thread on Reddit or a Twitch clip. Realistically not every talent survives the first fall, but it’s during their second coming that they will gain that stability and often receive far less unfair criticism as they’ve proven their resilience (for example Bkop, Moxxi or previously Nahaz). It’s kind of like a twisted initiation ceremony we’ve created in the Dota 2 community. I feel like you went through that entire process at the Major.
Ephey: Yeah, the thing is about Moxxi or Bkop, they both work so hard. I don’t think the community knows how exactly how much hard work, sweat and tears and effort goes into these events and talent work. They think it’s easy but it’s not. And just the layer of dealing with online criticism is something that is so stressful, and taxing to a normal person who can’t really go through with it. I thought that I couldn’t handle it and it was really difficult for me, and I’ve been a streamer this whole time. I can’t even imagine the mental energy it takes for someone like Kyle or Moxxi to deal with that throughout their entire career.
I think people are uncomfortable with Moxxi because she is a girl, I don’t want to say all her criticism stems from her being a girl, but a lot of people on the internet do like to watch women fail. That’s where a lot of vocal haters come from, and it would be nice to read valid criticism instead of overly hateful stuff. I think if the Dota community realised that, they’d see a noticeable improvement in the quality of talent work. It’s hard to want to read public feedback when so much of it is people mindlessly shitting on you.
Malystryx: Yea, wading through the hate I’d imagine must be draining. You mentioned Kyle, and I don’t think people are aware but Kyle actually played a significant role in organising the AniMajor and handled scheduling along with other managerial responsibilities from what I understand. You’ve said that he was a massive supporter in you working as a talent.
Ephey: Kyle is very involved in WePlay behind the scenes stuff and organising it. And he, out of everyone there, he was the person who slept the least. It’s funny to me that the community has this idea of Kyle, that he doesn’t even play Dota anymore and he just gets invited because he used to be a pro, and he made his brand off of being wrong. But that’s just for entertainment.
The community actually doesn’t know how much work Kyle puts into the scene and how much he wants to foster it and watch it grow. And at the AniMajor, he was concerning himself with everything, how the players are doing, how the talent are doing, is the COVID testing on schedule, like who would be working at what times and he would manage your schedule.
If someone had to take the first series of the day and the last series of the day – which nobody wanted, because they would end up being there from 10am to 1 am – Kyle would take it instead of forcing someone else to have it. So yeah, I just think it’s hilarious that people talk about Kyle as if he is lazy and doesn’t do anything, because that’s the opposite of the truth. And I realised that with my own two eyes after I saw how hard he works.
Malystryx: I totally agree, I wrote a comment in reply to a Reddit post about Kyle saying something similar. He realises that to make a good Dota show, you need to entertain, and sometimes to do that you have to play the villain. Or you need to just create chaos like SUNSFan, Slacks and Jenkins do.
Ephey There are a lot of Dota purists who just want to talk about Dota, and they want everyone to be super professional and nice all the time. But that’s not entertainment, that’s not a show. At the end of the day, these events are shown so people can put on a good show. For that to happen, you need to have people who are willing to be wrong and willing to be vocally funny or entertaining. Or people who can play the villain, you need all of that for a good show.
Anyone who works within the scene will understand how important Kyle or Jenkins are for this kind of thing. Jenkins is hilarious, and he’s just amazing to be around. He’s just so comfortable being himself, and he laughs so hard reading a Reddit comment about himself. It’s really awesome for me to see someone react like that, because that’s something I want to strive to be like.
Malystryx: Another talent I feel doesn’t get enough praise for what he brings to the table is Tsunami. As someone who has worked with him, can you tell our readers more about him since you guys seemed to really get along.
Ephey: Well, he’s very, he’s very reasonable and balanced and grounded, which may come as a surprise to some people because he is so entertaining on camera. But if you want someone with a good ear, who will give you sound advice he is the obvious person to go to.
We bonded at first over the fact we were both vegetarians and we were struggling with the food there, but I always came to him for advice and even towards the end I opened up to him about life and he just talked to me in a way that made me feel like I had known him for a very long time. He just really is the type of person you want in your life.
Malystryx: So you’ve had time to reflect, do you think you will continue as an analyst? Could you see yourself doing casting or returning to streaming? What’s the plan?
Ephey: After doing a lot of thinking, I really do think that this (talent work) is something that I can do. And I shouldn’t stop myself from doing it just because of self doubt or anxiety or insecurities. So I am going to look to do more of it in the future. For now, I will probably start streaming maybe next week.
I was thinking of practising casting every time so I’m going to try doing that. But it’s not really something that I would want to focus on. It’s just something that I would want to do for the sake of becoming more comfortable speaking about that. If anyone wants to contact me about future events or anything, I’m absolutely ready and willing to go. Right now I’m just going to go with the flow.