The Overwatch League caster tells all about his turbulent success story, his quest of self- discovery, and how he wrote his own story while doing right by others.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really told anyone this story,” Mitch “Uber” Leslie says over the phone without missing a beat.
The Overwatch League caster has become something of an esports folk hero. Uber has built himself from the bottom up, focusing on fostering honesty, integrity, and fun within the Overwatch scene. Whether on his own stream or casting a match, he has a distinct aura of confidence and determination that color his every interaction.
Uber is a storyteller, a showman, a born entertainer. Mitch Leslie, however, is a human like any other, colored brilliantly by mistakes and beloved all the same.
He speaks more calmly in our casual conversation than the “rap god” style that defines his casting. Despite this difference in pace, Uber tells his own story with the same care that he uses to cast with Matt “Mr. X” Morello during the OWL.
The bright lights and the fame of the OWL weren’t yet a part of the story that he’s woven for me. Uber is telling the tale that started them all, one of his youth and naivety. At 17, Mitch Leslie was young, proud, and preparing to head off to university.
“Difficult things to remember”
A man of science, he would be studying aerospace engineering and was in the running to have his schooling sponsored by the Australian Air Force. Naturally, this process involves a series of interviews and evaluations, including an interview with a psychologist.
“At the time, I was not a good person. In fact, I was so full of myself for no reason. And I remember, I did a psych analysis…” There is a measured pause, a moment of consideration before he continues. “I had displayed that I was, in my young age, so arrogant that I was bordering on being a sociopath,” Uber says. “Just in terms of not giving a shit about people at all.”
It’s followed by a small, slightly-embarrassed laugh. These are difficult things to remember, let alone to say aloud.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Adelaide, Uber’s internship with British Aerospace fell apart after the program’s funding was cut. Aerospace jobs were hard to come by in Australia and, despite his efforts, Uber found himself unemployed and unsure of where to go.
Life moved forward, and so did Uber. He reckons that he humbled himself a bit during his stay at university and lost some of that ego. Still, Uber had more to live through, more to learn.
“Humility strikes again: I failed to find a job. I had to eat humble pie again,” he says.
Putting aside his pride, he asked a friend to help him get a job at a pharmaceutical warehouse. Uber spent 2 years there, grinding casting jobs when he was able to and encountering people from all walks of life, including those that were facing issues like chronic pain and addiction.
“It wasn’t like ‘Hey, would you like some facial cleanser?’” he remarks. “It was like, ‘I need my Fentanyl,’ but you’ve been in here two times this week and I can’t give you this medication.”
He also mentions that after many such interactions, customers would pick up the nearest object and throw it at him.
When he was invited to join ESL, Uber left for full-time casting work in Germany. He remarks on the almost shocking contrast between the 2 years he had spent seeing the struggles of the patients and the sacrifices of his coworkers, versus his new life in a “really cushy job.”
Discovering true leadership
This juxtaposition of lifestyles made Uber began to synthesize what, exactly, all of his struggles had taught him: “The most humbling and challenging experiences of my life had, realistically, been the greatest opportunities to grow.”
“I realized that I had thought leadership was about being in charge and getting to call the shots and being the most capable and being the smartest, but leadership was entirely about giving up your own desires to raise up the next generation of leaders.”
This sentiment may sound familiar to those who knew the career of Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka. The Overwatch League as we know it would not have been possible without Dennis Hawelka, who sought to foster talent and esports community across the world.
At the end of the Inaugural season of the Overwatch League, Uber and Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles presented the Dennis Hawelka award to Ponghop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod in honor of their late friend and colleague. Both spoke about the positive influence that Dennis had had in the world of esports.
In his speech, Uber shared the wisdom that he had struggled so hard to acquire — and saw exemplified in his friend.
“Leadership is, essentially, everything but you,” I suggest, hoping to understand a message that is clearly dear to him.
“Which is everything that social media doesn’t tell you, society doesn’t tell you these days, ” Uber remarks. “These were all things that Dennis knew.”
“Philosophically, we agreed on a lot of things. Even though he was never on time, and always very socially unaware of when he was making people uncomfortable,” he adds with a chuckle, “When it came to stuff like that… we very much were kindred spirits.”
When it came time to honor his friend, Uber sought to remember Hulk’s legacy as a leader and convey the truth that they had both arrived at, albeit in different ways: The most important thing that you can do with your life is to enrich the lives of those around you, to work hard for what you want and to help others along the way.
“I think in life, no one has a greater ability to impact their own circumstances than themselves,” Uber says.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview took place October 2018.