What a week it’s been for the NRS community! Hopefully everyone had a fun time that went to CEO Daytona this year. The pools there for Injustice 2 were stacked. Many of the pools were full of upsets also. One of the biggest moments had to be when Infinitii ended up knocking Slayer into losers after his tweet that got blown up about women. Even Frank accepted that defeat and moved onto his next match. The games going forward were filled with intense moments leading up to our top 8 being finalized. We had Tweedy, Biohazard, DR Gross, Semiij, Tekken Master, Honeybee, Foreverking, and SonicFox in the top 8.
Top 8 was quite the showcase. Some of the most hype moments I must say, were brought by Biohazard and his bane later on. However, finally, Semiij secured a 1st place victory. I know it’s been a long time coming for him with the talent this man has in our games. Congrats to you Semiij. Now with that said, we had a very special guy on the mic hosting for our top 8. This man is none other than Mr. Joshua Gray.
Now you may know Josh from the Injustice Pro Series but also from the MKX Pro League. This was a project of his when he worked for ESL and is still one of the most hype events we’ve seen for the NRS scene as a circuit. Josh is also the man who got me introduced to the FGC by taking me on as a cosplayer for the MKX Pro League Season 2. He’s a good man always wanting to give people chances and he’s grown to really be someone those in our community love and cherish as a person.
It only made sense to finally have him on here. He’s a multi-talented person who has nothing but love for our players and community. He puts his heart and passion into everything he’s a part of and it shows.
Without any more delay let’s get to this weeks guests first to ten:
1. Thank you for joining us Josh. First start off by telling everyone a little bit about yourself: who you are, where you’re from, and what you do!
Hi! I’m a 6’2, 210 lbs male with dark hair, dark eyes, and a penchant for beatboxing. I’m originally from the Seattle area. I’ve lived in Kansas, Utah, Virginia, and California. Now I’m back in Seattle enjoying the life my 32 years have garnered. As for my profession: I’m a performer in the realm of hosting, acting, singing, and dancing for stage and screen, also a producer for new media and television, plus a writer for short and long form content, and when not working in entertainment I’m learning how to be a bartender at a chill bar in the South Lake Union area of Seattle, researching cannabis to cultivate, and enjoying nature.
2. Many probably recognize you from the ESL days, how did you get started?
I attended an MLG event in 2010 for StarCraft 2 and showed my support and passion for the scene with my YouTube channel. I was hired as a cameraman at the next MLG event, worked my way up to production assistant, then host. I went on to work for other companies in a host and producer role until I finished my acting degree in 2012. At the end of summer I packed up my car and drove across the country to start a minimum wage gig in California for a startup studio called NASL. I worked up to a living wage with our World of Tanks Wargaming League and enjoyed working with a solid team for about two years. When ESL America was formed I was brought on board as one of the first 10 employees. Our team, many from the NASL days, built ourselves up into a confident new media production studio ready to take on a project I envisioned and we were all passionate about, the MKX Pro League. The 2015-2016 ESL America days were awesome, and many of the movers and shakers in esports today came from the refiners fire endured since the 2010 release of StarCraft 2.
3. What made you want to support the NRS scene and as a bonus what was your first MK?
I’m a fighter. I studied mainly Tae Kwon Do, wrestled, and now climbing the ranks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I remember seeing a Mortal Kombat machine at Shakey’s Pizza when I was young, and calling for my dad to check this out!! We were enthralled. Fast forward a few years later I’m putting on my sparring pads with other fighters before class. We start talking about MK, and I ask if they made a movie would it be rated R or NC-17. One of our fight leaders said ‘Dude, I saw the trailer. It’s going to be PG-13’. I was ecstatic. This was before the internet, so I had no idea a movie was being made. After seeing it in theatres I bought the soundtrack on cassette and listened to it over and over on my walkman for a long time.
Ever since pitching The MKX Pro League NetherRealm has been one of the best game developers I’ve ever worked with. At times it’s surreal to share a laugh with a team of people responsible for influencing pop culture with a kick ass fighting game full of compelling characters. MK9 and Injustice were excellent titles last gen, and MKX + IJ2 are current gen blockbusters. As a developer, NetherRealm knocks it out of the park. My wish list for further improvements: No more random loot please. The entire gaming world is moving away from random rewards aka gambling, thankfully. Develop and release a two year+ roadmap with six month seasons: release fighters, a 4-6 hour story featuring those fighters, skins/items to support tournaments, emojis / victory poses to choose from and quickly communicate with an opponent rather than pressing 6 buttons to send a message on console. An in-game information box / ticker that details tournament information / link to live video. It’s easy for me to create this wish list without having a budget and staff to consider, but NetherRealm is always improving and I hope to see at least some of these features in the future.
4. What was one of the challenges you faced when forming the MKX Pro League? How did you overcome that obstacle?
Many of the same challenges anyone faces when pitching a product in new media: Old media ignores the distribution and marketing potential, executives attempt to force something we know our audience won’t go for, no-brainer stuff to us but sensibilities we have to explain to previous generations. One problem in esports are these marathon broadcasts that go well over 5-6 hours a night. Humans don’t behave that way. We tend to devote about two hours to sports per week, so I wanted to make a weekly show that would fit in a 2-3 hour primetime block. Our finals events would be a mix of bracket marathon during the day and a slick 3 hour top 8 event in a primetime slot. One of my biggest frustrations was when the head of the CW commented on bringing the MKX Pro League to TV. He said something to the effect of ‘oh it’s eight hours and we can’t put that on television’. I was disappointed reading this quote because I believe this executive was misinformed. We could have, with the right planning and budget, put our three hour top 8 show, live, on The CW primetime. I’m confident the internet distribution networks, the places where the modern audience is, from Twitch.TV, YouTube, Mixer, and Stream.me to the larger networks of HBO, Hulu, Showtime, Netflix, and Amazon Prime will continue to refine major event programming to meet the needs of modern and future audiences. Turner Sports has been doing excellent work with ELeague, but I wish I could purchase a TBS subscription that includes Conan, Samantha Bee, and other comedy shows plus ELeague programming for around ten dollars a month rather than purchase a cable package to access this specific content tailored for a growing audience living in the subscription age.
The toughest obstacle for most creatives and producers is at the end of the day, you may have the best ideas, but the owner of the IP has all the power.
When forming the MKX Pro League I had a great team around me, kept thinking what’s best for the players and audience, and continued to raise the bar with our available budgets. Our team still loves to share our crazy production stories over drinks, and both players and fans still come up to me and say how awesome the MKX Pro League was, and they want more (MK11?!). That’s the cardinal rule of being an entertainer, always leave them wanting more.
5. What is one of your favorite NRS memories since your time being involved in the community?
When it comes to NRS: being praised by Ed Boon, the hard work and fun shenanigans with Tyler Lansdown, the support of Brian Goodman, the great talks with Rigo Cortes. I treasure every moment with the NRS team. As for the events and the players, the faction draft during Fatal 8 was fun. DJT’s video our ESL editor Chris put together was so good, breh. All the cosplayers making the atmosphere perfect at our events. The tournament performances from players around the world. Sonicfox going from a 17 year old kid to a world champion with serious money in the bank, and the players that continue to challenge him. The Injustice 2 showcase at Comic-Con and other expos where many DC comics and pop culture fans were introduced to fighting games. Hopefully more great memories on the horizon.
6. Do you play any NRS games competitively? If so, what games and who’s your main?
I try. I still play MKX, and main Mileena, with Kitana and Takeda as backup. Injustice 2 – Catwoman, all day, everyday, but I do dabble with Starfire.
7. What is something most of us might not know that you’re into outside of games and why do you like that?
Yoga!! I just started bikhram yoga and really enjoy it in addition to my weight training and other cardio. I mentioned martial arts, and people have seen my dance skills at the after parties, but singing is something I love as well. Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie is one of my go-to Karaoke songs. I’m working with a pro to create a full costume ready for cosplay this fall. We’ll see if it can be finished before Halloween.
8. Who is somebody that influences you in the scene and how?
My former crew and forever friends continue to influence me, like Brett Bielling and Brian Compton, with their continual drive for improvement while navigating new media waters. Rick and Jebailey, because producing great events is HARD and these guys inspire me to improve. The Stream.Me crew with their perseverance, and the players that show up at their locals and the big events. It inspires me to see a commentary duo deliver an on-point match, or a host highlighting the player’s personality in an interview. We are the storytellers, and there’s so much to tell!
9. Recently you announced your pursuit in voice acting, what brought that upon and how are you handling this new path?
I did a ton of writing and voice over for the Kombat Class and Top 5’s, along with all sorts of narration for videos over the years. I like it, and I’m told my voice suits narration and commercials. I desire more character work, but that takes workshops and personal performance growth I need to invest in. I have a great agent up in Seattle that sends me multiple voice over auditions every month. I try to finds ways to improve every time I review my audition, and I’m looking forward to taking some workshops and coaching in the fall.
10. Can we expect you to be at any tournaments this year?
Combo Breaker was great! I’m currently at CEO. I will be at EVO, and perhaps the Injustice 2 Pro Series Finals. If I don’t see you at a tournament feel free to say hi or challenge me online: @MrJoshuaGray.
If you’d like to keep in touch with Josh make sure you follow him on twitter:
As always thank you for stopping by another week for First to Ten.