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I'm an Engineer and ... an Esports Commentator

Jan 16, 2024   |   by Rusty Spydell

Dartmouth Engineering PhD student Philip Mulford discusses how he became an esports commentator, and how practicing communication skills benefits his research.


Hi, my name is Philip Mulford. I am a '24, I guess. I'm a PhD student, so we don't really think in those terms, I'm done when I’m done, but the plan is next year. And, I'm an engineer and I'm an esports commentator!

I work on putting sensors on the moon and in places that rovers can't really get to. I'm working on a system that is effectively two balls on a string, and right before impact, we separate one. So, we have one that'll land very gently, and one that'll land really hard. So that gentle one is going to have our sensors and our equipment that allow us to figure out a little bit more precisely what is in these hard-to-reach areas. 

I had stopped playing Starcraft for a couple years, but I got back into it with the World Championship in 2020, and I said, "I should start playing this again. I'm not doing anything else." And then, well, you know, "I've gotten good enough to where I feel comfortable being able to talk about it." And I spun up a stream on Twitch, really baseline, no assets. Started doing that, I got lucky. A couple of pro teams had me do some show matches for them. I got picked up by them. ESL—which is the big tournament organizer—reached out to them and said, "Hey, we need someone to fill our C-stream." So, I would get, like, one C-stream day a season, back then, and then I moved on to the B-stream, and now I'll be—well, by the time this video is out—I'll have worked DreamHack Atlanta, my first big offline event that'll be in Atlanta in the middle of December. 

I am a strong believer in that my research does not matter if I cannot communicate it properly, if I cannot convince someone why what I do matters and why it's important. So, from that perspective, this experience of presenting information—really, which is what a commentator does—in a way that is hopefully interesting and exciting and fun, and presented technically well, is something that absolutely I think impacts my ability to go and—and maybe not do my research, but when I go to a conference, or have a presentation, it does allow me to showcase why what I'm doing is important, better than I otherwise would be able to.

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