Pala “Pala” Gilroy Sen is undoubtedly one of the most familiar names within the CS:GO scene. Mastering the arts of YouTube content, event Hosting, interviews, and more. UKCSGO’s Freddie “GrimyRannarr” Pritchard was able to catch a word with him during the Pinnacle Cup Championship in Lund to chat about this career, how he dealt with burn-out and esports after the pandemic.
Firstly, looking at famed lineups, do you think in a period like now where we have so much competition, it is possible to have a lineup that is untouchable?
I am tempted to say now, there is always a potential for it to happen. Especially looking at Astralis, who are still standing as the longest top dogs in CS:GO. No one predicted that to happen at the time, and then it happened and they held onto it for a long period, they were seen as unbeatable, they did lose things here and there but by large unbeatable. Luminosity Gaming/SK Gaming had that aura around them, Liquid had a very short one. What Astralis did, I do not think can be fully repeated. I cannot give analytical reasons why, but the general themes that I have given, give me that feeling. No one was predicting that Astralis would do what they did before, and when they managed to do it they were the best team in the world for so long, winning so many trophies and majors. It has not really happened since, and nothing has come close since. We have people fighting for the Intel Grand Slam each year, and that is an achievement itself. But that idea of domination I do not think will happen again, but it is so hard to predict these things.
Looking at you specifically, you have been bouncing between YouTube and Content Creation, do you want to give us a rundown of who you are to listeners at home who may not know of you?
I started my YouTube channel in 2012 and then that became a full time job in 2015, and just quite quickly after it had become a full time job I just happened to be asked to host a stage by Dreamhack and then after that both things became my full time job. I took an extended break from YouTube in 2017, because I was burnt out from making videos. Presenting in CS:GO mainly became my main thing since there. I have made some content here and there, making some in the middle of 2019 just experimenting, then I wanted to get into it properly but the pandemic happened, and it made everything stressful. I wanted to do YouTube alongside my main work, but then because of the pandemic, everything was way less. I have done it in spurts, and my long term goal is to get consistent with making content, I just have to figure out a sustainable way in doing it. I am not doing Content Creation as a full time thing now, and I have done for a while, I have planned to get into it properly at some point though.
Do you think one of the problems of getting into content full time is that CS:GO is quite limited, but then looking at VALORANT, because it seems to be so successful in the way of content, would this be a venture you would experiment in?
I am not consuming either content for a while to be honest. Once you do start making the content yourself, you start to watch less content of others, but what I can say is that when myself and the other contemporaries at the time were doing the YouTube Counter-strike stuff. Those of us that were known as the Counter-strike guys on YouTube, even though I did a range of content, I was just affiliated to the wave from 2015-2017. I do not feel like the space is the same with having an identity on YouTube for innovative creators. There is a bit of a vacuum in content currently, if it is there then honestly I am not aware of it.
In regards to VALORANT , it is supper popping, really talented creators within the game doing stuff on Youtube and Twitch, but also because the game is newer it does feel like it’s got more traction currently, but Counter-strike definitely has a place on YouTube. There probably is space for people to come back into it such as me, and do something different, similar to what we did a few years ago
Looking at VALORANT there, would you ever consider working in VALORANT within the esports side?
I have done some VALORANT content on my YouTube channel, but I have not had the chance to do any Valorant events. If the opportunity arose, and Riot reached out for one of my roles, be it stage hosting, desk hosting, interviewing or helping out with some content I would definitely be down. When VALORANT came out I played it a fair bit and I do think it is a great game. Obviously CS:GO is my main game, but I have always been involved with other projects. I have done loads of random event work for other games or mobile games or just random event stuff. Especially considering that I think Valorant is good and a great game I would be down if they asked and it was the right fit.
You mentioned your burnout from 2017, was this a point where you thought this was the time to stop?
Not with the event stuff at all. With YouTube, I used to upload five to seven videos per week, all by myself, I would come up with the ideas, record it, and edit it all by myself, sometimes I had my camera guy Dom. However, This is a lot of time that you have to invest, and it is awesome but the reality of it, is that doing that non-stop and thinking about YouTube is not healthy. If there was 60 minutes in the hour, I would spend 40 of that thinking about YouTube, regardless of what I was doing in life.
I was travelling for events for one/two weeks of each month. A gaming event makes it just objectively not sustainable for one person, you are going to get burnt out sooner rather than later. And so, I still loved taking videos, but it had become exhausting. Content creation becomes or is your full time job, you still love it and are passionate, but you get so tied up in the numbers of it all. That main reason for that is because that brings in your cheque if you are not doing anything sponsored. You are trying to get as many clicks and subs as possible, and ask any creator, it becomes very toxic and difficult.
I was never burnt out from events stuff even though it is hard work and exhausting, even if it is a dream come true, it was the videos stuff I realised that was unhealthy. Close friends and family even advised me to take a break from YouTube during this period because I was not feeling it the same way I used to. At the end of 2017, I was going to an event in Cancun hosted by FACEIT, and it was, in my perspective, at the time a once in a lifetime experience. I was staying in this five star hotel, everything is paid for, awesome teams, working on the event and enjoying the place. But the main concern in the week prior was, “Is there enough uplands to go out whilst you are away”. When that clicked in my head, I realised how dumb and unhealthy it is, I need to prioritise and enjoy this potential once in a life time experience, enjoy the work I still love, and then just realised I am fully burnt out from content because I should be enjoying Cancun but all I am thinking is content.
Even then it took a good year after this, some stage in 2018 when I had a day where I realised I hadn’t even thought about YouTube today.
It took a year doing presenting and living my life outside of Content creation to realise I had one day where I hadn’t thought about videos and YouTube. This just goes to show how toxic content creation or streaming can be.
Looking at events, what would be your favourite event that you have been to?
This is a hard question indeed, really makes you realise that you have been to so many places, I cannot even keep count of how many events I have been too. Some of the stuff I have done for myself, going to E3 especially growing up in the 90s, E3 seems like this magical thing, and the fact I got to go there twice, make videos and be a guest is just unreal. I made some of my favourite videos at those events. You are brought along as a influencer for a company, and we were working with Activision, put you in a hotel, pay for all your food and in exchange make some videos around their games, there is no payment but they want you to cover what they are doing at the event, and some of those videos are really good. Some of the things I did for myself, I went to the Venice boardwalk and did interviews with random people, I got a massage and that is my highest performing video of all time, was some of the funniest videos I have done. Going around the interaction with funny interactions, will always be one that I look back on and think It is so cool that I could do that.
I was very lucky to do my first major very early on in my career which was the Dreamhack FACEIT Cluj-Napoca in 2015. That was a crazy thing to do so early in my presenting, doing content and interviews with Wiktro “TaZ” Wojtas and Olof “olofmiester” Kajbjer going around town, something I will always remember. You always remember the Majors you do, so I did all the content for PGL in 2017 which was cool. There are also events like the Cancun ECS, and the ESG Mykonos, and again you are in Greece staying in Villas, the smaller Dreamhack opens where sick, there was some tier one and then some tier two. Going to so many industry events beyond E3 for my own things.
There was one FACEIT Valencia I will always remember because it was the first time that me and Dom, our cameraman, got our flights and hotels paid for. I emailed the guys over at FACEIT and asked if they would pay for our flights and hotels and we will make content around the event. And when we got to do that we felt like we made it honestly.
A similar thing happened at the end of 2013, when Epsilon asked us to come to MLG Columbus for the Call of Duty and shoot some interviews for that. Back then my main thing was COD as Counter-strike wasn’t as big, CS:GO when it first came out wasn’t in the state that it is now or what it became in 2014 for instance. That was a very funny one looking back at that, having someone pay for us was wild.
At the time of doing some of those things, you do not fully appreciate some of those things, and one of the good things for the Pandemic for I think all of us was that yes, it was so busy, but we are all so happy to be working again, and being in events. So things like Pinnacle Cup Championships and all these other events make an appreciation for these events being back. There are obviously so many other events I could think of but bringing it into the present tense, everyone has this new and relit appreciation for events after the pandemic.
With the pandemic being lifted, how important are events coming back for esports?
It is super important without a doubt. It was great that all the tournament organisers put a shift in over the pandemic and produced online leagues over the pandemic, and continued the competitive scene whilst we couldn’t be in the same place in person. Of course it is a completely different thing to be playing on LAN, it means that it is a real test for all these teams to play in front of an audience for instance. Primarily the main thing for LAN is to make it as competitive as possible, which I do not think you can do online as there are many factors that affect that. And so having all the teams competing together on LAN is important, but also for the ecosystem, just the little interactions that everyone has with each other, the networking are very micro events that do really help the whole scene grow and prosper together. This was something we could not have during the pandemic, and so everyone being able to be around with each other and being able to compete in the most competitive environment possible sometimes with an audience is the most important thing that makes esports more real and more valuable.
One thing that was cool as well about the pandemic, it showed that we still can exist, even without events, of course not as good, but it went to show that we can continue the ecosystem.
You mentioned that LAN is a test, do you think some people thrive under pressure and some maybe underperform because of the experience?
Some players 100% will thrive better on LAN. At this level though, all the best teams that are playing on this level of LAN, there is not a huge difference between some players, but when they first get to LAN do not perform as well as they do online, but generally speaking, everyone at this LAN is experienced on LAN, and if they are not, they will get used to it very quickly. I cannot think of a car study of a player not performing on LAN as they did online, but I am not an analyst but generally speaking, it does take some adaptation to play on LAN, some pick it up quickly, some just take more time.
Take Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov for instance, he is straight up on LAN a beast, he is so young and you wouldn’t think he would settle in so quickly. Of course there are times when it does take a player a bit longer for them to get into the swing of things, to see someone shouting at you in the crowd and having thousands in front of you.
You were talking about your experience in your industry, and looking at the pandemic, there are a lot of people like me who have come from that period. Do you find yourself in a position where you are helping these less experienced players and talents?
I hope I can be, and if anything has a question or is around I always feel like I can be if they are less experienced. It is interesting because once you have been doing this for a while, there becomes a level of normality, and when meeting people who are not as used to the environment meeting people who are not as experienced, I always want to extend myself out and see if they do need that help. Help guide them through the process, me and many people I would like to think can give that help. Honestly I do not feel like most of the guys even need it, they are great at what they do and hopefully they can get even more opportunities like this.
I remember when I first met Adam “Dinko” Hawthorne, when he and Alex “Hawka” Hawkins had won the ECS casting competition and at the first event he was literally like a little kid. You just mentioned you did your A level last year. I met Dinko when he was even younger, when he was 16 around five years ago. Him and Hawka were so nervous around everyone and I did not get to see him for a while and now seeing him at Katowice he is a very confident person and he always does say that having people like me and others around was super helpful during the beginning. I see him now and it is so sick to see the confidence he has, he was already good back then but was rough, and now he is more refined and is so good at what he does. It is nice to see growth in people like that and you can only try and facilitate that and hope that you do. But Ultimately you would have to ask the other people to see if that is true or not. I try to make an effort to make sure everyone is comfortable and there is no hierarchy, we all work in the space and we are all equally valuable, putting in to keep things growing. That being said, us who are more experienced, it is good to make sure we try to make sure everyone knows that.
Did you ever have anyone that would support you then when you were younger and more green back in 2013?
I already had some relationships with people from when I went to events, and had some events before, i already knew Henry “HenryG” Greer and Alex “Machine” Richardson, Anders “Anders” Blume was always great alongside Jason “Moses” O’Toole. There have always been people that look out for new guys coming in, I didn’t have a guide per say or a mentor, but my early friends that I had early, continued to be that way, recommend you for stuff, help you for stuff along the way and I already had those relationships that continued into the work. A lot of them are my good friends today still, it would be hard to list all the people that have helped me, but of course I have had lots of people from the early days to now who have had good friendships that have been beneficial to each other.