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Casting remotely hit League of Legends talent Clayton “CaptainFlowers” Raines hard.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Riot Games held the League Championship Series remotely, with players and casters calling in from home. The lack of a live audience and nearby co-caster meant CaptainFlowers had to rely entirely on himself for energy and excitement, and as time went on, that got more and more difficult.

At the end of 2021, CaptainFlowers made the difficult decision to forgo casting the 2021 League of Legends World Championship remotely to recover from the difficult year and prepare for the 2022 season.

It’s a decision he still stands by today because this spring, in a LAN setting for the LCS, CaptainFlowers has felt nothing short of incredible.

Upcomer: Congratulations, CaptainFlowers, we are back in the studio. It is so exciting to see you, and I must say it is so exciting to hear you cast in 2022. I feel like you have turned over a new era of CaptainFlowers screaming about League of Legends. How are you feeling right now back in the studio in the new year?

CaptainFlowers: It’s just an adrenaline shot to be back in the studio and be surrounded by people. Obviously, we don’t have fans back in the stadium. Hopefully, that can change sooner than later. Obviously, everybody’s sick of the ‘Rona world. Everybody longs for the before times. But just being able to be back doing this kind of stuff, not doing work from home shows.

Getting back into the studio was great last year, but even more so it just feels like we’re getting back more into our normal [life]. So the fact that I’m standing here talking to you, instead of doing this over a call, is huge. Just that alone, seeing the small steps forward is a huge reinvigoration of energy.

Upcomer: I think that your energy has been incredible, even before this week, even before last week, like during Lock In and everything. And so I want to ask — obviously, COVID was very difficult for everyone. What has changed for you in terms of your daily life in terms of the environment here and things like that? And how are you actually feeling during these casts and in the preparation and that type of thing?

CaptainFlowers: I am currently more excited about the LCS than I have been in a long time. And I don’t want that to be taken as like, “Oh, I haven’t been excited about the LCS in forever.” But just the current state of things with the teams all playing differently. As people have probably noticed, I feel like we’ve done more just standalone, out-of-context, wacky skits in this first month of LCS than we did in the past year, and the feedback around those has been incredible.

CaptainFlowers and Azael
CaptainFlowers and Azael enjoying the LCS. | Provided by Riot Games

Obviously, a big part of that is the fact that, again, things are returning to normal. We have more resources, more people to work with. But just everything around here, the entire feeling of this place and this product is so much more invigorated than I felt like it’s been ever since the ‘Rona first halted everything and destroyed everybody’s momentum and their focus. So it just feels like everybody’s sort of zeroed in, everybody’s hyped up.

We know that this year is North America’s Worlds year. When you’re the host region for Worlds, everybody gets pumped up. You want to be making the best show you can the whole year long. You want that Worlds to be spectacular; you want that Worlds to be epic. For me, I’ve never done a North American Worlds. The last North American Worlds was in 2016, I joined in 2017. That’s how rare these things are.

In North America, we have an unironically unlucky timezone for the rest of the world, so we don’t get the Worlds slot very often, but it’s coming up this year. I feel like that’s got a lot of people excited. The current state of LCS with things just being wild how they are has everybody excited. It feels like a badass time to be an LCS fan, which means it’s an even more badass time to be an LCS caster.

Upcomer: Speaking of Worlds, you took some time off this year and you did an interview with Nick Geracie for Inven Global which I want to commend. I really appreciate when people are so open about their life in hopes of normalizing that,”Hey, sometimes things are tough, but you keep going.”

CaptainFlowers: Exactly. Right. It’s one of those things where I for a long time — especially when I was younger, a teenager and early 20s, I’m 31 now for context — but yeah, 10 years ago, I was very much a “Don’t talk to anybody about anything” and “suppress your emotions” [type of person]. If you feel anything negative, the proper way to deal with it is to bury it deeper down. That’s just how I approached everything.

But especially within the past couple of years with everything grinding to a halt and just everything being so shit for so long. I got to the point where I was like, I actually just feel this cataclysm of despair all the time, and I can’t go on doing the “bury it down, fake it till you make it” type of thing. So I’m just like, you know, screw it. We’re just going to be point-blank honest with people.

“Hey, CaptainFlowers, how are you doing?” “Pretty bad man, pretty bad. Not gonna lie to you.”

And it honestly helped me open up, it feels better to be able to at least be honest with people and say, “Hey, I’m not doing great.” And that’s what led me into taking the time off for worlds. That was not a decision that I made lightly. I was thinking about that day and night. Wake up thinking about it, go to bed thinking about it for months, pretty much since before summer split started.

At the end of MSI, it occurs in your mind, “Hey, Worlds is the next big thing.” And I was like, “I just feel like hell walking. This is trouble for me.” And so I made that decision.

CaptainFlowers and Jatt
Flowers made the tough decision to take a break during Worlds 2021. | Provided by Riot Games

And one of the factors that went into that decision is just how long it takes me to recover from when I mess up my [sleep] schedule like that when I’m in those trenches. And I want to be the best version of myself for 2022. Because 2022 is North America’s Worlds year. That is the most important thing on my calendar. That is the most important thing on my radar.

If I have to sacrifice this remote show Worlds to set myself up to be better and be the best in 2022, then so be it, that is what I will do. And looking back. I knew within a week of Worlds starting that I made the right call, I 100% stand by my decision. I know it was the right call.

I’m sorry to everybody out there that was disappointed that I wasn’t on the Worlds show. I promise it’s not the call that I wanted to make, but it’s the call that I needed to make to be able to properly take care of myself.

And I felt like if I would have done that Worlds, you would not be standing here saying, “Your 2022 performances have been awesome,” that you started this interview with.

Upcomer: Well I’m really glad you did. And you said you noticed it a week in, and obviously you still casted Worlds a day late. What was it like in the moment?

CaptainFlowers: So I’m going to answer this question as a content creator as opposed to an LCS caster, because for all intents and purposes, during last Worlds, that’s what I was, right? I’m a full freelancer now. I’m not on Riot’s salary. I work with Riot on the days that you see me on the LCS, but other than that, I do my own thing.

So during all of last Worlds, I was just CaptainFlowers, not an LCS caster. And during that time, I was having a good time with it, but man, as a content creator, I hate that 24-hour rule about the Worlds rebroadcast. I hate that rule so much.

CaptainFlowers in a tricast
Flowers isn’t just a caster, but a streamer and personality outside of the Riot broadcast. | Provided by Riot Games

I understand that it’s Riot’s product, and it’s their IP, and they’re free to do with it what they want. There’s probably a bunch of like commercial and corporate reasons for it. But as a person and a content creator, Lord, I hate that rule. It was something that made it a lot more difficult than I thought it would be because it pretty much meant I had to be dark on social media completely. I could not look at anything, and because I was always at least 24 hours delayed, I just couldn’t be part of the conversations around anything.

I deleted the shortcuts on both my phone and computer to both Reddit and Twitter, I just would not touch those sites at all because I would have to manually type them in and I could stop myself. It wouldn’t just be one of those AFK brain “click on the thing you normally click on” things. So I did that.

And then, of course, the big problem with it was the fact that I got really sick in the quarterfinals. Right as the quarterfinal was about to start I got sick, and I didn’t stream any of the quarterfinals. Those were the only things that I didn’t stream. But also, my sleep schedule was so bad [when I was sick] because I would just sleep for two hours and jolt awake feeling bad.

One of the times I jolted awake just happened to be when one of the quarterfinals was about to start, so I just watched it. I was like, “OK, I’m not going to be able to cover these games, I’m not doing it late. So let’s just watch them and see what happens.”

And the difference between watching the games the day of and watching them 24 hours later is hard to describe because it doesn’t sound like anything that would be important or be noticeable. But as someone who really feeds off of energy and the people around me and sort of like the spectacle of everything — even though the whole thing was remote, even though I was still in my room — the difference I felt watching a game live [was massive].

Seeing chat scrolling with a bunch of other people who also didn’t know the outcome, knowing the fact that I could go on social media and say, “I have no idea who’s gonna win this Game 5, holy cow,” just that difference was massive.

Flowers streamed almost the entirety of Worlds 2021 a day after the games. | Provided by Riot Games

Like the 24-hour rule, it makes it so difficult to do that kind of independent content creation around these international events. And despite the fact that I got a lot of really positive comments from people in the community talking about, “Hey, man, I really loved Worlds Reloaded. I was glad to be able to watch it in my own time zone,” it was so difficult to do. Unless Riot changes the 24-hour rule in the future, even if I don’t do an international event [on broadcast], I will probably not do it again [as a streamer], because the 24-hour rule just sucks the life out of it so hard.

But it was something I was glad I was able to do. It was enjoyable for a lot of different people out there. I did feel bad that I couldn’t do the quarterfinals, but we did all the rest of it.

The one thing that also trolled me at the very end was the Worlds Finals happened in the North American timezone in the early morning of the night that Arcane premiered. So I had to, I actually break my own rule. Just for the final, I live-viewed it. I wasn’t co-streaming, I had to live-view where you have the black screen in the clock on the screen or whatever.

And I live-viewed that because I was like, “Wait a second, if I go to this Arcane premiere, there is no way that I will be able to avoid the spoiler for the World final and do my normal cast of it tomorrow.”

So when I watched I watched that one live, I was glad that we got to have an exciting Worlds final. Only the second Worlds final ever to go to a full five games, by the way. There’s only one before that. It was a fun final, and I’m really hoping we get to have something of that caliber here in North America.

Upcomer: Coming back to 2022, I think all the casters, but you especially, have been more entertaining, more energetic, more exciting. I think the show has been great. I think obviously the teams are more exciting. We’ve got all these different metas and styles clashing. What are you working on? What are you focused on now that we’re more or less returning to normal?

CaptainFlowers: My goal for this year is the Worlds final. I have been explicitly loud about that on my own personal streams and talking with friends. I’ve told that to the people at Riot. I’ve said, “Hey, my eyes are on the Worlds final this year. I firmly believe that I am the best person for the job. I will give you the best show, and if at any point during the year you don’t agree with that sentiment, please tell me “what you think is astray” because I want this final.”

That is what my eyes are set on. Last year I got to complete my Infinity Gauntlet because I’ve done spring finals, I’ve done summer finals, I’ve done Worlds finals and last year I did MSI finals. That was the last one that was missing.

CaptainFlowers, Kobe and Papasmithy
CaptainFlowers casts the 2018 Worlds Finals in Seoul. | Provided by Riot

So I’ve done every biggest event in League of Legends. But I’ve never done a Worlds final here on the home turf. Here, where your voice is the one that people hear in the arena, here where you’re the person tasked with actually bringing the spectacle to life.

That is my last achievement that I want to unlock to say, “Yes, I’ve truly completed all there is here in League of Legends. I have conquered.” And that’s what I want. I really have my sights set on that North American Worlds final this year.

That’s what I want more than anything, and that’s what I aim to get.

Upcomer: Do you have any strategies? Or do you not want to give them to David “Phreak” Turley? Are there things that you’re currently looking at working on or trying to get more creative?

CaptainFlowers: Well, one thing that I’m liking that we’re doing this year is right now – as we’re speaking, it is the third game of the day, and we’ve got a tri-cast happening during regular season with Phreak, Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler and Isaac “Azael” Cummings Bentley. The thing is about tri-casts is tri-casts are tricky because as a lot of people who are longtime fans of competitive League of Legends will know, they’re usually reserved just for best-of-fives in playoffs and international competition.

So that means the biggest apex games have triple commentators, whereas most of the practice, and most of the laps that you’re getting in throughout the year, are just double. And the mechanics are very, very different for tri-cast. Lots of hand signals, you can’t do it without hand signals. I actually refuse to do remote tri-casts. I won’t do them because it’s impossible to not talk over each other without all that extra communication.

CaptainFlowers, Zirene and Jatt
Flowers stands with Zirene and Jatt in a tri-cast in the LCS Studios. | Provided by Riot Games

And so the fact that we’re getting these extra tri-casts, I’m making sure that whenever I look in the schedule and see that I have a tri-cast, I’m like, “OK, let’s make sure comms are clean, we’re going to be doing this,” or “Hey, if I do this hand signal, that just means I need in real quick. If I do this hand signal, that means it’s over to you.”

We should never have a new person talking without communicating. Like just making sure we’re all on the same page. It’s things everybody knows, but it’s things where if you’re not really focusing on it, it can sort of be easy to just start doing it like normal, but that doesn’t work.

So specifically, I’m focusing on tri-cast excellence, making sure that I’m being honest to my own self and my own brand and continuing to be what makes me me.

Especially when you look at feedback on the internet, it’s one of the things that you have to like parse through carefully. And I actually am so fortunate that I have a really easy example to make of that right now because we just got off of the game that was TSM vs. Immortals.

Immortals are winning for 30 minutes, and TSM has a crazy comeback at the end. And of course, a lot of the comments in the live discussion thread on Reddit are just shitting on the game and saying, “Ah, they weren’t able to close it,” or “Ah, that wasn’t clean,” or whatever.

But for me, I always think of the emotional over the logical when I’m casting. That’s just how I cast. I’m not saying it’s objectively correct, but for me, it’s the right way to do it. Because it’s honest to how I feel like when I’m casting, I am casting for the person who is most invested.

I am casting for the TSM fans in the trench that feel like their org is ready to just completely bottom out and just feels like shit, and they don’t know what to do. And they’re losing; the losing streak’s greater than it’s ever been at the start of a split.

And even if it wasn’t a clean game, even if you were losing for 90% of it, coming back and having that “Hell yes” moment when your six-item Jinx just gets to win the final teamfight and win the game. And it’s this seeming Hail Mary pass from your own 10-yard line to win the game. That’s incredible. That’s the emotion that I want to go for.

As a play by play, Flowers relies on the emotion and energy of a moment to guide his casts. | Provided by Riot Games

And I know there’s going to be some people who say, “Oh, well, that’s too much. He turned it up to a nine for a regular season game between the bottom-tier teams.” And you know what, that’s fine. That is the way that they perceive it. And for those people, that’s honest to them, but I will happily disagree till the end of my days.

So just having the confidence in myself, having the faith in myself that the way that I do things to continue being the best version of me, that’s what I’m sort of focusing on independently, and then specifically the tricasting like I said.

Upcomer: Any last thing you want to shout out, anything you want to say to fans before we head out?

CaptainFlowers: A huge, huge, huge thank you to each and every one of y’all that watches the LCS on a weekly basis. I’m not lying when I say that the general attitude and the feel of everything around here just feels so invigorated and passionate. And everybody feels so damn excited, man.

And I know that coming from me, like “Oh, CaptainFlowers, you’re just excited about everything.” But it just feels so exciting right now, and I can’t wait to see what else we get for the rest of the year. I’m hoping we’re gonna continue to create more and more cool experiences for you all that just like make you proud to be a fan of the LCS.

And I don’t care if some people think I’m too loud. I’m still gonna keep making it louder. Let’s go.