Esports desk host and analyst Loviel “Velly” Cardwell opened up about his struggles to break through, his career defining moment and his future in the VALORANT and esports space.
Who is Velly? An introduction with the man himself
If you've watched a VALORANT panel with Loviel “Velly” Cardwell, you'll be well aware of his approach: unfiltered honest analysis delivered by a natural entertainer.
What you may not know, is that Velly has been perfecting his craft for a while, after transitioning to become a broadcaster for Gears of War after a career as a player.
After Gears of War, Velly switched to Rainbow Six, finding a way onto the talent desk off the back of winning a talent hunt contest. When the congratulatory email arrived, it was at the perfect time.
"I had just started a new job and I hated it... I f**king hated it," said Velly. "I came home from work one day, lying on the bed and I had this sudden urge to check my email and there it was: 'congratulations you won the contest'. I'm not even going to lie to you Maly, I cried a little bit, I was just so happy."
Velly was raw, and his outspoken nature that made him an iconic figure in Gears of War, was a breath of fresh air in the Rainbow Six arena. By 2020, he was the desk host of the Six Invitational, the most prestigious Rainbow Six Siege event in the calendar year.
"Rainbow Six became like a full home to me," said Velly reflecting on his rise in the R6 Siege scene. "People need to know that Rainbow Six is the most complex shooter in the world. There is no debate. There is more depth in one Rainbow Six map than in all of VALORANT and CS: GO. But I expect VALORANT to be there very soon. For Rainbow Six, a newbie like me came in and created his own stylistic approach of talking about the game. People seemed to like that."
"The craziest part about it is that Rainbow Six is notoriously known for hating new people, and they hate you if you're different. Even Goldenboy had a really bad time in Rainbow Six. It's rough out there man. When I came in, I screen recorded the chat of my first ever commentary, and the chat was spamming 'we love Velly', 'yes Velly', 'keep Velly', and it gave me goosebumps... I'm getting emotional even just talking about it."
From Rainbow Six, Velly made the natural transition to VALORANT in 2020, impressing with his performance at FIRST Strike to become a broadcast regular on the VALORANT Champions Tour. He recently hosted the Red Bull Campus Clutch and launched a VALORANT version of his popular podcast series "On The Flank".
An interview with esports host and analyst Loviel “Velly” Cardwell
Malystryx: Hello Velly, in all the interviews I've seen of you, you often mention you're here to entertain. I was wondering if that's something you've always liked to do, or did you grow into it as you became an adult?
Velly: I was always the quiet kid that kept to myself. I was lively and open with close friends, but I never liked being in the spotlight. I once had a class of public speaking and I froze, I didn't even get the first sentence out. In regards to entertaining, I wanted to be in theatre when I was in high school. I wanted to be an actor. But it was a side dream, I never really pursued it.
In terms of entertaining in esports, when I was a pro player in Gears, I never watched other Esports except Smash Brothers. When I became a commentator I started to pay attention to other esports, and I said to myself, this should be more fun. Like why aren't people yelling? My first audition for Gears of War, I was hype, I was yelling, I was crazy to the point that my first line of criticism, which I'll never forget, was to tone it down.
Once I started I never knew to tone it down because it just came naturally, I couldn't help it. I'm the type of person you can tell my emotions by looking as my face. Entertaining, this is something that grew on me, and I genuinely love what I do. Whenever I get the chance to be on microphone or camera, I go all out. I hold nothing back, because you never know if it's your last time on camera. This is something I'm going to remember over everything else, I don't want to have any regrets.
" Entertaining, this is something that grew on me, and I genuinely love what I do. Whenever I get the chance to be on microphone or camera, I go all out. I hold nothing back, because you never know if it's your last time on camera. This is something I'm going to remember over everything else, I don't want to have any regrets. "
Malystryx: Yeah, that's something I've noticed is that you're a firm believer that when you get your shot.. you take it. As someone who was more shy and timid in their youth, how did you conquer the fear to be in the spotlight? Because that's something that some people never overcome.
Velly: First off Maly, coming from Gears of War, you have to have thick skin and you have to be tough. I told myself, if I'm going to do this, I can't be afraid of anything I say. So that's why when I'm on camera, I say how I truly feel with no regrets.
I understand that people are going to be against what I say sometimes, or might even root for me. But at the end of the day, people will respect me for still speaking my mind."
I try to block out people's perception of me. So that way, when I go on camera, it is literally me, the microphone and the audience. We're going to have a lot of f**king fun whether you like what I say or not. That's literally my motto.
"I try to block out people's perception of me. So that way, when I go on camera, it is literally me, the microphone and the audience. We're going to have a lot of f**king fun whether you like what I say or not. That's literally my motto. "
Malystryx: When it comes to being an entertainer, is there any celebrity or public figure that inspires or you take energy from?
Velly: Yes, Yipes from the FGC. I didn't watch a lot of his work, I don't religiously watch other esports. But whenever I tune in to Marvel vs Capcom or Dragonball Fighters, and Yipes is on the microphone, he is the definition of passion. He makes me feel like I'm his friend and I'm having a good time with him.
I wholeheartedly believe that is what esports is about. I told myself, I want to have fun like this guy. I've never had a chance to speak to him, I've never met him in person but Yipes is a big inspiration to me because he's the most fun person in esports that I've seen ever. He obviously loves what he does, there's no-one like him and there will never be anyone like him. He's a legend to me.
Malystryx: Yipes' legacy in the FGC is crazy, easily one of the FGC all time greats. What do you hope people to remember most after a Velly cast? How do you want them to feel?
Velly: I don't want them to feel anything about me, I just want them to walk away from the event and say 'Holy Sh*t' that was fun. At the Six Invitational, my first big event ever and my first time desk hosting, I literally went all out. I wanted to make a statement that everyone that leaves today isn't just going to say 'oh Velly was great', I want them to say 'wow, that desk was f**king amazing'. We were yelling, we were hype, we were cheering. This is everything we always wanted to do in esports. Not just sit down and listen, we were part of the fun.
I try to make a big point as a desk host, to not try to be an individual star because that only goes so far. If the desk is all on the same page doing it, I don't want just one of us to stand out. I want a f**king experience, period. That's what I shoot for.
Malystryx: You definitely deliver experiences. Given what you've battled through to get to where you are today, which experience do you think defines that rise?
Velly: I've never thought about my past gigs in this way, and Maly I'm not even going to front, this is actually making me emotional. I had a rough journey, a really rough journey. I was fired by Gears of War, I was told I wasn't a good desk host by them. They got rid of me. I was in and out of jobs, I was struggling. I moved overseas but got vastly underpaid for commentary in order to try to get to this point. And then I got invited to be a desk host for Six Invitational.
During rehearsals, we walked on to the main stage and man it hit me, it really hit me that all my hard work had led me to that moment. I sat there watching the orchestra practice, and all the on-air talent they were grouped up watching at the edge of the stage. As you can tell, I'm an emotional guy, I'm really passionate about what I love. I was behind them with red eyes. No one knows this except you, but my eyes were watering and I was hiding from them. It was immense.
Then the next day after rehearsals the audience was crazy man, I've never worked in an arena that big in my life. So I hit up my boy Blu and I said what's it like? and he said: 'If you can make this audience yell the first time, everything is going to feel like it paid off. Just go for it, have fun'. So I open up the stage you know 'Montreal, make some noise' and the whole audience roared. I swear to god Maly, I had a whole script for the day, the intro, the countdown and I blacked out. It was fun, it was pure fun. It was one of those stories like man, I've finally made it.
"I try to make a big point as a desk host, to not try to be an individual star because that only goes so far. If the desk is all on the same page doing it, I don't want just one of us to stand out. I want a f**king experience, period. That's what I shoot for. "
Malystryx: Velly, I'm getting chills just listening to you retell that, but I feel you. Pre-COVID I did an event in Singapore for Dota 2, and I ended up being the stage host to give away the trophy to the team on stage. First time giving away a trophy, and there was a good 5,000+ people in the arena. I couldn't see anything the lights were so bright but I did my best to open the finale. After I gave them the trophy and the camera panned away, I could see the players celebrate, hear the roar of the fans and I just had that moment where I felt like, if I don't do another event, I'd be fine with this being the last one. I've done my best, and I just felt that sense of pride in just even getting to that point. That's the vibe right?
Velly: Exactly. That was it for me, it's you know what I don't need to worry about trying to pay bills anymore. You don't have to be homeless anymore. You don't have to sleep on the couch or struggle with $15 an hour jobs anymore. This is your moment, and everything you did comes down to this. And the Six Invitational was the best moment of my life.
Malystryx: That kind of drive must be hard to compete against. I wouldn't want to be analyst or host competing for your spot. You're not only going to bring the enrgy but you're going to fly to Spain, you'll go anywhere.
Velly: Yo Maly, I'm going to tell you this. I'm a friendly motherf**ker. But if we're competing, good luck. You know as talents, as we're going through these gigs, we don't sit back and reflect on it. Actually reflecting on it right now man, I love it, thank you.
The Red Bull Campus Clutch event
Malystryx: I mentioned about you going to Spain because of the Red Bull Campus Clutch event you did recently. It was a grass roots event, aspiring players. I imagine it was a very different experience to the VCT. After the event was over, what was running through your mind? What did you take away from it?
Velly: Imagine being one of the first people in a major esports to be a part of something. The college event was a big deal for Riot Games, and it was huge deal to Red Bull. When we were taking the closing picture on the main stage, the talents looked at other like.. this is family, we feel it. That was the first thing that I remember. The second was the emotional aspect.
It was the first time most of these kids were out of their country and playing on the main stage. Seeing you know teams from Canada and South Korea, getting together being friends, or teams from Belgium and Peru coming up to chat to me. They treated me with so much love. For me it wasn't about being happy with my performance, it was just about the impact we were making. I never had a moment like that with a scene before. The pure love at the beginning of an esports scene is different, I'd never felt that.
"They treated me with so much love. For me it wasn't about being happy with my performance, it was just about the impact we were making. I never had a moment like that with a scene before. The pure love at the beginning of an esports scene is different, I'd never felt that."
Malystryx: I feel that's what inevitably happens often with players and on-camera talent, is after so many events they're kind of numb to the magic of it all. But then you go to these kind of events where it's grass roots and for them it's unforgettable. Then you'll have that moment where you remember 'oh yea this is what esports is, at its core', it's just people doing what they love, having a good time and making friends. That's why I feel these collegiate events are great.
Velly: Yes! That's exactly what it is. The best one was the Egyptian team, one of the players got up and was wiping his tears. I jumped out of my chair and I clapped as loud as I could. I couldn't stop cheering man, I wanted to jump on, I wanted to run around and hug all of them. It really reminded me of my first time at an event. Because of them, I was able to feel that feeling. We do events, we can become numb to it like you said, and those players brought it back for me.
Malystryx: Well thank you for taking the time to talk. What does the future hold for Velly? What are your personal goals this year?
Velly: Two things. The whole VALORANT thing came off as a surprise, but naturally with my competitive side and my love of the game, I want to see how far it goes. I would love to desk host for VALORANT. So that's one goal.
The second goal is that now I've got the experience doing every facet of on-air talent. I've interviewed, I've been a desk host, analyst and commentator. I know the issues within the scene and I'm actively pursuing trying to be a talent manager for tournament organisers. I want to bridge the gap.
There are people out there who would love to make this a dream, but may never get a shot because of their followers or their name. I want to be the one that builds a f**king amazing broadcast that's just fun and entertaining. I'm going to give my iteration of esports to the world.