SEOUL, South Korea — Just five years ago, Clinton Bader was an IT worker at Colony Brands in his hometown of Monroe.
His life is completely different now.
After traveling and visiting friends in Asia on multiple occasions, Bader, a 2003 Monroe graduate, made a decision that would change his life forever. In 2016, he would move halfway around the globe to South Korea and become an English teacher.
Two years ago, he made another change — this time dumping his teaching gig to become a freelance esports commentator.
“When I was younger, I loved to compete in and watch video games. Real life hit me for a while, and I spent about 10 years working in IT, but still kept up with esports,” said Bader, who goes by the gamertag “Paperthin.” “Eventually, I grew restless and kind of tired of my life, so I decided to move to South Korea and teach English. I had some friends that worked in esports, and I did some part-time proofreading work for a company that did esports here in Korea.”
Seoul is what we refer to as the Mecca of esports. It’s where it really started and thrived first. These days though, esports is a global phenomenon. Esports stadiums are being built across the world, including in many major cities in the US.Clinton Bader, 2003 MHS grad
Esports has been gaining popularity for years. The boom first started in Asia, with South Korea the epicenter. Today, esports gaming has exploded in America and beyond, which allows Bader to travel from country-to-country for work.
“Seoul is what we refer to as the Mecca of esports. It’s where it really started and thrived first. These days though, esports is a global phenomenon. Esports stadiums are being built across the world, including in many major cities in the US,” Bader said.
The most popular games in the world are currently League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter Strike. Bader covers a game called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG. The game is a battle royale-style game.
“When PUBG came out, I became obsessed with it and played it constantly. The company I was part-timing for got word of this, and was looking for a color analyst commentator for their league,” Bader said. “I made a demo video for them, with me eventually being offered the job. I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t looked back really ever since.”
Bader covers other games as well, but prefers to work first-person shooter games (FPS) like PUBG.
“Right now, PUBG is still my favorite game to play and call, but I am really interested in Riot’s new FPS game called Valorant,” Bader said.
When Bader travels, it’s typically for a week or longer at a time.
“I have traveled to China, Thailand, England, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and America. I think that’s the list,” Bader said, chuckling. “It’s almost always amazing. Walking into a stadium or venue for an event and getting to watch the best players in the world compete while you get to commentate over it — (there’s) no greater feeling in the world. The jetlag is brutal when I get home to Korea though.”
While moving an entire continent away could be hard for most people — especially speaking a language unfamiliar to American public schooling — Bader said that the transition was pretty easy for him.
“It’s definitely a little tough being away from friends and family back in the States, but my work tends to bring me all over the world, so I can occasionally squeeze in some trips back home,” Bader said. “I love my job and want to do it until the day I die. I love Korea, I love traveling for work, and I love being able to commentate esports. I adapt well to change, and this job is being in a state of constant flux.”
Bader still plays some games in his spare time, like PUBG, but doesn’t compete in tournaments any longer. “These days it’s all business for me. I am much more interested in commentating than competing for the most part.”
I have traveled to China, Thailand, England, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and America. I think that’s the list. It’s almost always amazing. Walking into a stadium or venue for an event and getting to watch the best players in the world compete while you get to commentate over it — (there’s) no greater feeling in the world. The jetlag is brutal when I get home to Korea though.Clinton Bader
The COVID-19 outbreak would seem to be a big hit for the gaming world from the outside looking in. People across the globe are being given stay-at-home orders, which means more people are sitting in front of their TV, tablet, phone or computer screen. However, Bader said at the sport’s highest levels, it means the big money events are left in the dark.
“COVID-19 has given a huge blow to esports, as is the case with many jobs across the world. Live events, which often draw crowds that number in the thousands, are all postponed or canceled,” Bader said. “Many tournaments have gone to an online only format. So, this hurts ticket sales, obviously, and for us casters it’s a huge hit to our wallets. The bulk of the money I make doing esports is from appearances at live events. And since those can’t happen right now, it’s tough times.”
To cope, many esports talents have turned to streaming or other online content, Bader included. “But it is not a particularly lucrative endeavor for most,” Bader said.
When Bader does play, he can be found on Twitch, a live-gaming app. His handle for Twitch and Instagram are the same, Bader’s verbal greeting is “paperthinhere.”