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ELLY

Interview With ELLY – From JSB III to Fortnite, A Look Into the Gaming Hobby of a J-Pop Star

When he isn’t entertaining stadiums of fans with his live performances as a member of J SOUL BROTHERS III, ELLY (also known by the stage name CrazyBoy) can be found entertaining people of all kinds as an active member of the Fortnite community. Over the past couple of years, he has participated in the official Pro-Am tournaments for several global events hosted by Epic Games, where he most recently placed in the Top 10 at the Australia Summer Slam Pro-Am. In addition to major tournament appearances, he can also be found regularly streaming gameplay for scores of fans online.

In a space where there aren’t a ton of major celebrities who also maintain an active relationship with a gaming community they participate in so openly, we found this balance super interesting. So when we were given the chance to chat with him about his activity as both a performer and gamer we jumped at the opportunity. Read on as we discuss not only his activity in the Fortnite scene and how it compares with his musical career, but also to just talk about the future of e-sports and video games in general.

OTAQUEST: Thank you for joining us today and participating in this interview. I’ve gotten to see you play at the Fortnite Pro-Am in the past and I’m really interested to hear your perspective on gaming and E-sports.

ELLY: Likewise, Thank you.

OTAQUEST: First off, have video games always been a part of your life? If so, if you’ve been playing since you were young, what are some of your favorite games?

ELLY: I really enjoyed Street Fighter, also Smash Brothers and GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64.

OTAQUEST: Good choices, GoldenEye is a classic. So, when did you discover Fortnite?

ELLY: About 2 years ago.

OTAQUEST: What about Fortnite was it that drew you in and made you want to play it?

ELLY: I used to play FPS games like Call of Duty, but when I tried Fortnite, being able to build walls and buildings in Fortnite really stood out to me. It’s like a combination of Minecraft and a first-person shooter so it really caught my attention.

OTAQUEST: So, you’ve been playing for a while and have participated in several of the Fortnite Pro-Am tournaments, how would you describe the difference between playing in a tournament and performing live at a concert?

ELLY: It’s not too different.

OTAQUEST: Would you say that it’s the same amount of stress when performing?

ELLY: As an artist, I don’t really have anything that stresses me out. It’s essentially zero. It’s all stuff which we have prepared prior and we know what is going to happen when on stage. Of course, there are things which are really surprising when they happen and feeding off of the energy which brings a bunch of joy, but basically in terms of stress, I don’t have anything in that regard. But for tournaments, you don’t really know what’s going to happen from the beginning. It’s not really stress, but if you were to attribute it to stress I would say I feel it more in gaming.

OTAQUEST: There aren’t many things that cause adults to feel that level of stress like the first match.

ELLY: You’re right, there really aren’t many things like that. It is nerve-wracking. That’s why I feel that E-sports are a real sport. It’s really a mental game, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Yesterday, there was an online tournament that I participated in for a little bit and I was able to get a victory royale and it was really funny being at home and getting that excited by myself I really felt a sense of growth in my own skill. It was a tournament across Asia.

OTAQUEST: That amazing being able to participate in an Asia wide tournament from your home.

ELLY: It’s separated throughout various parts of the world and I was able to get 60 or 70 points placing me in the top 4 percent of Asia. I didn’t have much time to play only about an hour, but maybe tomorrow or the day after I’ll be able to sit down and play some more.

OTAQUEST: So, kind of like a league with a ranking system.

ELLY: Exactly, next time I want to be able to participate from the beginning of the tournament and shoot to be in the top 10 for all of Asia.

OTAQUEST: You have a really good track record with these tournaments and have placed in the top 10 in Australia and performed really well in the US tournaments as well. Does it help relieve the stress at all knowing that you’re a pretty good player?

ELLY: It really helps with being able to enjoy it more. Also, being able to play with the Japanese pro-players as well as my level at where it’s at, allows me to see that I still have room to grow and become a better player.

OTAQUEST: In regard to your skill in the game and being a performer, how do you find the time to balance practicing Fortnite along with all of the training you need to do as a live performer?

ELLY: It’s actually quite strange. I haven’t changed any of the scheduling that I have set for my training as a performer or a musician. Rather, in my private life when I would watch TV, play on my phone, or go out for a drink, I have re-purposed that time to be able to practice Fortnite.

OTAQUEST: Do you bring Fortnite with you when you go on tour so you can play when you’re out of town?

ELLY: I did it once. I brought my PC and my gaming monitor, but it turned out to be way too much to bring, so I stopped doing that.

ELLY

OTAQUEST: What do you feel is your strength as a player?

ELLY: I would have to say aiming. I used to be a Call of Duty player, so I feel that I excel in aiming. Plus, I am good at keeping the pressure on while moving forward, so I would have to say that as well.

OTAQUEST: Since you’re a PC player, I would assume that you play with a mouse and keyboard, how do you feel about people who play with a controller but still have a high skill level?

ELLY: If you could do the same level of architecture as a PC player…Actually, playing on a controller is more beneficial with aiming because it has auto-aim. It’s a really difficult thing, but if the time comes when people will be able to construct on a controller as well as a PC, the controller generation might be able to take over. Because now for a PC, the younger generation has to have their family purchase it for them, but many of them already have a PlayStation 4 or something along those lines and they have the ability to raise their skill with using a controller. But if the time comes when playing on a controller is better than playing on a PC, they would probably have to change the rules. But Fortnite has the concept where there really is no benefit to playing with a controller or a PC and it’s all based on raising your skill. But in terms of skill, the controller has the benefit of aim, that on top of your own ability and the fact that everyone has the same set of rules.

OTAQUEST: Do you feel that auto-aim is a handicap?

ELLY: The things that you can do with it compared to a PC player, you probably lose about 10 times the ability of aiming on a PC compared to a controller player. The controller has special abilities with the auto-aim where the crosshairs will snap to a player. Of course, there are PC players who play with a controller as well adding about 10 percent to the total players. I’m interested to see what will come from players using controllers getting better. Because players are getting better on controllers, I would like to see a tournament with controller players vs. PC players.

OTAQUEST: This is a question that I personally am curious about, what kind of PC setup do you have?

ELLY: I have mainly everything Logicool (Logitech), and the same equipment that all the pro-players use. I can’t play on anything less than a 240hZ monitor, the global standard for the game. It can really be a deciding factor in the game. I don’t think I could even play on a TV anymore because of the refresh difference.

OTAQUEST: Do you think about how your activity as a pro-gamer and your participation in these tournaments can help expand your fanbase to the west as well as expand your music career?

ELLY: In the game, there are more younger kinds and teenagers who got to know me as Soncho first than those who got to know me as a performer. The former surprises they find Soncho dancing on TV and that left an impression on me. At the beginning they only knew me from the game. In retrospect, the fans that cheer me on for live shows and on my music career get to see gaming side of things and I think that it’s really great for both sides to be able to see each other.

OTAQUEST: Are e-sports something that you’re interested in getting more involved with? Outside of Pro-am, are you interested in taking on solo tournaments or participating in more tournaments as a whole?

ELLY: If I had the opportunity to do a solo tournament, I would love to do so. I would like people to know that “Soncho” can do that as well. Plus, I feel that my direct contacts with the Fortnite community that I am a part of would understand that as well. Also, I think that because I do dance and music, maybe we could do something really cool with the emotes used in the game and I think that you might see more involving me with that in the future.

OTAQUEST: That would be cool. It seems like you’ve thought a bunch about this. What do you think the future of E-sports is going to be since you’ve participated in tournaments and seen the inside of how everything works.

ELLY: Well on one side, we have VR and I really felt that it was that direction. It’s like you have one world which is that, and then you have another world which could be Fortnite and another as a combination of other things. For instance, all of the game companies could combine and make another world with that so you could have a bunch of worlds to choose from. For example, a dance world and a game world and each world could have its own community, and everything could come together. Imagine where you have the real world and then you could have a second VR world which is all based off of gaming or dance, etc.

OTAQUEST: Do you play with VR yourself?

ELLY: I have. There is a VR center in Shinjuku, and it gives you a really good impression of being able to detach from the real world. I have VR at home as well.

OTAQUEST: Do you have any VR titles at home which you could recommend?

ELLY: I’ve tried to play the VR Resident Evil, but it was too scary, so I had to stop. It was too real.

OTAQUEST: I have a bunch of friends that said the same thing in the States when they were playing. (laughs) You mentioned the community aspect of things and you as a player, you sometimes stream your gameplay. What was it that inspired you to get into gameplay streaming?

ELLY: Of course, it’s great making videos of gameplay and sharing them on the internet, but when playing live, people can see the good parts of you and the bad parts of you and really adds a personal aspect to it. Fans can participate and cheer you on as well as comment when you mess up. The Fortnite is a really fun and engaging community so being able to share that great feeling live with everyone.

OTAQUEST: Does your existing fame as a performer help or hurt your streaming activities?

ELLY: When I stream live, whether it be my music, or Fortnite I feel that they’re both good things. But I do it primarily because I enjoy it.

OTAQUEST: Do you see your fans of your music watching your live streams and becoming interested in Fortnite because of it?

ELLY: I do. So many of them tell me that they’ve downloaded it and ask him to play together. They want to play together even if they’re not that good at the game. But I think it’s really awesome to be able to make that connection with them.

OTAQUEST: It’s really cool that you play with and participate with your fans. You mentioned that you spend a lot of your time playing games rather than watching videos like you used to. Are there any gamers that you watch on Twitch or YouTube currently?

ELLY: Of course, I watch streamers. I watch the FaZe Clan guys quite a bit. I enjoy Tfue and Ninja. There is also a lot of really high-level players in Korea for Apex Legends.

OTAQUEST: So, you primarily watch streamers for their skill or because they’re entertaining as people.

ELLY: I mainly watch them for their skill. But I watch Tfue and Ninja because they have a fun environment and are entertaining. But it’s primarily for skill.

OTAQUEST: Do you feel that watching higher level players helps you elevate your skill as well?

ELLY: I think it certainly has an effect on it. Also, there is the creative aspect to it, being able to challenge things that I haven’t done before.

OTAQUEST: Are there any other games that you’re excited about playing or a currently playing now in addition to Fortnite?

ELLY: Call of Duty? I also have recently been wanting to get back into Street Fighter again as well. I played it again recently on a TV show and I was surprised that I could still do it, so I want to challenge that as well. Also, Animal Crossing, I want to give that a try. It’s really different than the games that I usually play, and I have a lot of female fans, so I would like to give them something to watch which isn’t so aggressive.

OTAQUEST: Animal Crossing is really relaxing to play, so I really recommend it. I’m a little crazy about it. You mentioned Street Fighter, have you ever considered trying to get into competitive Street Fighter? Similar to how you do Fortnite tournaments, have you thought about doing Street Fighter tournaments too?

ELLY: I really just started getting back into it, but some of the pro players that I know have told me that it’s something that I could do, so it’s something that I’d like to give it a try. But I’m the type of person that I want to be the best at everything that I do, I don’t like losing at things so if I give it a try, I think that I would be able to make it happen.

OTAQUEST: It would be awesome to see you in an international Street Fighter tournament sometime.

ELLY: I really like it, it’s a game which I’ve really enjoyed since I was a kid. I memorized all of the movements.

OTAQUEST: It’s like riding a bike. Easy to pick up and do anytime.

ELLY: Yeah, exactly.

OTAQUEST: Since you have fans both on the music side and on the gaming side in Japan and the US. Do you have any message that you would like to like to deliver to both of them about the video game world?

ELLY: Absolutely, in regard to the online community and even the Fortnite community. In regard to the Japanese community, people were able to see me on YouTube mainly in Japan with J SOUL BROTHERS III for music and dance and there weren’t many chances to have that expand outside of Japan. But with CrazyBoy, I went into it without many preconditions and really just want as many people to be able to experience it as possible, including Japan and internationally. I also feel that the Fortnite community is a worldwide phenomenon and is a way to connect with the world. This is why I play Fortnite and participate in the tournaments as a way to connect with the world. But even more so than the connections with the world, it lets me connect with the next generation of kids and the other players and artists who also participate in the Fortnite tournaments. With that mindset, I feel that Fortnite is the best fit for me to be able to connect with the world. Please look forward to what’s coming. I want to keep making friends throughout the world.

ELLY

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