Christopher: Hey everyone. I am here with Steve Pierce, also known as Toffees, the host of TI Today. Go ahead and give me a brief introduction about yourself for those who may not know you.
Toffees: My name is Steve Pierce, I go by Toffees. I have been playing video games as far as I can remember. So to put that into perspective, the first job that I ever had I was unpacking hay bale containers in the middle of the summer so I could buy a Voodoo 1 graphics card to play EverQuest beta when it first came out. So I have been playing along time. I discovered Dota right before The International 3. Some friends were telling me to play, but I was a hardcore World of Warcraft raider. WoW kept getting easier and easier and later a friend told me, “If you want a tough game, come play Dota with me.” At the time I never really liked top downs. I never really understood them and didn’t know the mechanics of it. So he sent me the link to TI3 and told me to watch the tournament in my spare time. I actually watched the finals and then went back and watched every game in the tournament because I was caught up with how exciting it was. From the moment I had watched the entire tournament, there was about a three week lag where I turned over leadership of the raiding guild, transitioned out of WoW, cancelled my subscription and went full blown Dota2 nonstop addiction.
Other things about me, I have a wife and a kid. I love my family to death. Outside of Dota I take care of the family and do podcasts on the side. I am doing the morning show, TI Today, but normally you can find me at Around the Pit or Coffee with Toffees.
Christopher: How has your experience at TI been? Have you been to one before?
Toffees: I came to TI5 as a correspondent for a website called Defense of the Patience. I got to do some interviews and posted some web videos. This year I wanted to make content that wasn’t commercial and traditional. I have a team of people producing TI Today. I had approached them and said the Dota scene has some pretty specific content types. It has interviews for websites, angry guys talking, serious guys talking, and then there are some silly fun memeing stuff. There is nothing that is NFL game day-esque or Regis and Kelly or Michael in the Morning. Something that is good at showcasing the scene and community while having fun doing it. So we got TI Today idea and started a GoFundMe stating if you think this is cool and you want to see this happen chip in $5. We didn’t make a fortune, but we got enough to get a camera, some chairs, and we did the show.
Christopher: What are your thoughts on the tournament results so far?
Toffees: It is a terrible tournament for fans of specific teams. But it is an amazing tournament for Dota fans in general. The game has changed. Over the past year, Wings has showed us that you cannot predict and that teams have to be ready for anything. I came up with the idea that Wings may never rise up to the highest level or be a TI champion, but will definitively go down in history as the team who changed the way Dota is played at a competitive level. All the teams have been picking up on their style. There have been one hundred and four heroes picked by day 3 of group stages out of one hundred and eleven. That is just crazy to me because I look at other games sometimes and I see thirty two heroes in the pool even though they have hundreds as well. This TI has been awesome as a fan who plays because we get to see all of the heroes showcased and may try them in our own games.
Christopher: You started off with some casting and a couple of talk shows on your Youtube channel 5MidasGaming, tell me a little about how you created presentations similar to TI Today.
Toffees: So I started off as a caster. What really happened was I got super into TI. My son was born and if you haven’t had experience with babies, for the first few months they are slobbery and smelly. But they don’t need a lot of immediate attention because they kind of just sit there. So I watched a lot of Dota. There was a period where I went to my in-laws house for two weeks and there was nothing to do there. So I literally watched every game of Starladder and fell in love with the competitive scene outside of TI.
I figured that I liked talking and have time. So I casted a few games and really enjoyed it. My son was born, I love him to death and wouldn’t change anything, but it made it hard keeping a caster’s schedule. During the period when my son was small, I decided to launch a podcast for a couple of my friends. There is a misconception that Dota is only played by young men. There are many of us who are working adults, family men, or have other responsibilities. After TI3, the scene exploded and there were up to three or four tournaments a week. It is hard for people to keep up with everything going on. So my podcast sort of recapped what happened in the week. The show kept evolving. Every donation or sponsorship was invested right back into the show to improve it’s production. That is how we ended up here. Over the past two years I told myself that I wanted to make a morning show at TI. Eventually I stopped doing tournament wrap ups. I have seen TLDR and Reinessa does a good job at it.
Christopher: Reinessa, your co-host, cosplayer, and the host of TLDR Dota News, how did you two meet and start working together?
Toffees: As I have watched Dota develop I have looked for diversity within the game. It is important to have a perspective of people who are outside the norm. So I have looked for women and people from different regions and tried to include them. I know Reinessa through various different avenues. Whether it is twitter or TLDR. She was a guest on Around the Pit a few times. Reinessa has a unique perspective. I was impressed with her knowledge of the game and the things she said from her appearance on Around the Pit. I needed a co-host and I wanted to make sure we had a diverse and fun panel. I knew she was good at talking and knew how to carry herself improvisationally so I reached out to her. We were essentially putting Coffee with Toffees and TLDR together into one show.
Christopher: Did you make any content for other titles before Dota?
Toffees: No. I started making content because I love the community that is Dota. TNC beat OG yesterday. Going into that game, the ratio of OG fans and TNC fans between the stadium and the lawn was definitely skewed towards OG. TNC played incredible, they played out of their minds. When you saw the the stadium when OG lost. The People were heart broken, but they cheered for TNC. They respected the fact that they played so well and that they were so passionate about the game. That is why I make content. I love that aspect of things. It is what drives me. I think it is partially why I have been able to get some recognition in the scene or is the reason why people come out to the show. I don’t make content because I want a ton of followers or to make a bunch of money. I just want to talk about Dota and if you want to listen, great.
I also really need to give a shout out to the people who are in the community that are leaders. Sheever was the first person I sent an email to that I didn’t know. She is someone who I respected from the scene. I was super nervous when I typed it out. I remember reading it like sixty five times, editing, and coming up with the right contact point. It was something like, “I am making a small show and I respect what you do, could I maybe get an interview?” Instantaneously she replied, “Absolutely. Give me a couple options for days” And here is the best part. She had just gotten off of a six hour cast and then made time to come on my show for an hour and talk. This was a turning point for me realizing how amazing our community was. Sheever did it, Cap did it, Ayesee, Nahaz was on the show. They got nothing of value for it. My show only had 200 listeners. But these guys made the time for me. They inspired me to invest into the scene even more. Even though it is a competitive market. People getting hired by Valve. People getting their hearts broken by Valve. A lot of them support each other and always work with the little guy.
Christopher: Are you able to do this full time now?
Toffees: No definitely not. My full time job is that I take care of my son during the day, but this has been a massive positive. Prior to having my son I was working full time and so was my wife. Dota has become just enough of an income point that I can use it as a part time job allowing me to stay home with my son and raise him. So we figured out that if we put what Dota has given me together with what child care costs. I make enough to justify not going back to work. That has been wonderful because I wake up with my son every day. We spend the entire day playing and exploring. I get to experience raising him. Then he goes to sleep with my wife at 8:30. And I go to the studio to work on content. It has been the best of both worlds and has been phenomenal.
Christopher: What are your short and long term goals for your presence in the scene?
Toffees: My long term goals is to feel that if someday I decide to walk away from Dota that I have brought something to the community that wasn’t there before. Honesty my short term goals is that I am able to continue to do what I love, for the people that I love. Whether that means taking care of my family or putting out content for viewers who wish there was more inside of the scene. I have lived awhile. Not forever. I am not the oldest man in Dota, but I am getting there. My life experiences have told me that if you are grinding for the long run and for the money then you easily burn out.
Christopher: Before we go, is there anything you want to say to the readers?
Toffees: Yeah.. the last statement was really cheesy sounding but it is a valuable perspective that we lack sometimes. We get caught up in the glitz and the glamour of a 20 million dollar tournament. I think Nahaz said it best when he came on a show and said, “Nobody cares about how much money Peyton Manning makes at the Super Bowl, they care about the fact that he is playing at the Super Bowl. We love the prize pool and what it gives to production but in reality the players would play here whether or not the prize pool is 20 million dollars because they love this game.
To the readers. Keep playing Dota. Embrace the change that is coming. But never lose your roots. Never forget that we came to be from a community built game that we chose to love and support. That is honestly the most complicated, the most convoluted, most confusing game ever made. That is also the best game I have ever played in my life. And that is what brings us together.