You probably know Banoobs from our previous articles as the guy who spent an enormous amount of money on a digital in-game item and for being a highly competitive MMORPG player. But did you know that there is more to him than just being a “malakas” in game?
Julius “Banoobs” Mariano is one of the pioneer gaming personalities that helped shape video game streaming and Esports in the Philippines. His positive contributions to the industry is already set in stone and widely recognized by the gaming community.
“Back then, Esports was not even a term yet. I just met a bunch of ordinary gamers with an extraordinary vision. We were just a bunch of kids in search of our passion. We were trying to discover what we wanted to do with our lives.” Julius recalled.
Julius describes himself as a typical gamer who likes to trash talk opponents whenever he is in the game. But for him, it was all just part of the fun and never meant to be personal. In fact, he met a lot of people who were initially co-players that eventually became his friends. “You meet what you call ‘seasonal friendship’ that would contribute something to your life.” he shared.
Julius admitted that he did not mind his studies when he was in college. He would rather spend more time on online gaming. His parents were OFWs working in the United States of America. They would regularly send him money for his tuition fees and other school-related expenses but he only spent it on online games.
“I just followed my heart. I was stubborn and did not study well. We were all just playing in LAN cafés. I considered myself a ‘competitive player’ and we enjoyed playing LAN games, specifically DoTA. My gamer friends always visited me in my apartment to remind me of game battles. My apartment that time was near a computer shop.” Julius said.
A lot of friendships were formed during those times spent in LAN cafés. One of those is Ronald Robins, the founder and CEO of Mineski Global, whom he met in a computer shop in Taft, Manila. “My first encounter and conversation with Ronald happened when we were in the smoking area of this computer shop. I was just having my smoke break when I eavesdropped on Ronald and another friend as they talked about me. I approached them and the rest was history.” Julius said.
Esports back then had a bad reputation. Most Filipinos, especially parents, have a negative impression and were plainly uninformed about it. Esports was a relatively new concept and tournaments were limited to weekend LAN (Local Area Network) parties. There were no regional and global championships and most especially, no support from sports organizations. Simply put, it was not regarded as a “sport.”
“I trusted the vision of Ronald. He acted as a leader and welcomed me to be part of Mineski. I’m always in the background. I’m like the storyteller of the group. I remember moments when we were in the same house just to play DoTA. We occupied their mini-office at night and unofficially made it our turf. We were like a family and our friendship was priceless.“
There was a time when gaming tournaments almost ceased to exist. It was very difficult to build credibility because of a few issues of anomalies, as well as the shady actions of some scrupulous organizers who were out to take advantage of legitimate brand sponsors. As a result, the esports industry’s reputation as a whole was taking the hit. But Ronald did not falter and just kept on looking for ways to continue organizing tournaments to help uplift the credibility of the industry.
Julius remembered how Ronald was always busy working on something on his laptop. Ronald was planning to launch Mineski 101. It would be the first tournament without the Mineski team competing so it can give way to new teams. “I believe that there should be someone leading a team. That time it was Ronald and we created Mineski Events together with Marlon Marcelo,” Julius said.
Hiatus in the Gaming World
“For some time I had my hiatus in the gaming world because I got sick. I had Dengue Fever and was already sleep-deprived due to my gaming habit. To make matters worse, I was diagnosed with depression and Bipolar disorder,” Julius said.
He was admitted to hospital. He spent two months in a facility to treat his condition. “I don’t know what really happened to me. It was quick and I experienced a nervous breakdown. The facility was like a PBB house. Fortunately, I met new friends there that helped with my fast recovery,” Julius said.
Many people did not understand his situation at that time; some even thought that he was mentally unstable and won’t be able to go back to his usual activities. However, that tumultuous stage in his life became an eye-opener for him and made him reflect on a lot of issues he had within himself.
“It takes a lot of action, courage and realization to bounce back from that circumstance. I suffered from a huge downfall, ending up to stop the pain by killing myself. The good thing was that I prayed before I planned to do it. Somehow, God showed a vision, a sort of a preview of what would happen if I die. I saw my own burial. I saw my family and friends mourning for me, then realized that if I died that night, my pain would just be transferred to the one who loves me which is more painful than any kind of pain” Julius recalled.
“Before, I lived by quotes that explains exactly what I’ve been through. I believe that everything happens for a reason. The trials that I had encountered made me reflect on my life. It made me stronger. God helped me through this battle that I can’t go through without him. God really works in mysterious ways.”
After his full recovery, he went back to school. He studied computer programming and met a new set of friends. Everything was going well but after some time, he decided to stop because of financial reasons. However, his motivation to pursue what he really wanted in life was what pushed him to keep going.
“I always look for positive things in a negative situation. For example, I look for ways to lessen the impact of my condition. I search the internet for the things I do not know.”
Eventually, he went back to the gaming scene and reconnected with his gamer friends.
While he was on a one-year hiatus from the gaming world, Mineski Team had improved significantly. The gaming industry evolved and became Esports. Many gamers were put into the limelight and have benefitted from the deluge of opportunities that opened up for the industry. Big brands finally supported the industry and sponsorship started to come in. Julius saw the true essence of Esports.
Not one to quit, Julius was patient enough to start all over again. He was at the bottom part of the organizational chart but slowly climbed to the top. “I wanted to contribute again, that’s why I returned to Mineski events. It was an opportunity to continue my passion,” Julius said.
Julius and his friends founded Mineski Events in 2009. As years passed, it continued to grow. The team’s dedication and passion to help the Esports industry was their driving force. While there were bumpy roads and hurdles along the way, they exerted all their efforts for the industry to thrive.
While working at Mineski events, Julius met with many gamers, gaming executives, and other well-known gaming professionals in the industry. One of those was Matthias Beyer, whom he met in a smoking area in PGF 2012. It seems that smoking areas are proving to be a great spot to build connections for Julius.
But in 2012, Julius’ active participation at the Mineski events took a toll on his health. He decided to resign and move forward to other things.
The Marketing Guy
Aside from health concerns, Julius resigned from Mineski to seek for other career opportunities. He cannot overemphasize how very grateful he was for his experience in Mineski. It has led him to work at MSI Philippines.
Julius considers Tryke Gutierrez as his inspiration in terms of career growth. He is also thankful to Marian Grace Gomez for hiring him as Marketing Assistant in the company.
“I realized that I need to level up, that’s why I resigned to look for another opportunity. Fortunately, I learned that there was an opening at MSI so I went through the typical hiring process. I can’t believe that someone trusted me despite the fact that I’m an undergraduate and quite unqualified, “ he said.
“I just continued the legacy of Tryke. I have a wide knowledge of the gaming industry that helped me conceptualize various marketing strategies for the brand. Marian, Tyrke and I would often brainstorm while working on various marketing projects for the company.”
Just like most starters, the work was overwhelming for Julius. On his first day of work, he was tasked to come up with a marketing concept. He did not have an idea how to do it. Instead of wasting time worrying about it, he Googled the key phrase and looked for a template. Luckily, he was able to complete the task and submit it to his boss on time.
“It’s my first time to receive a salary and I’m proud of it. Before I just worked for free since I love helping other people. I don’t like to take any recognition for what I do. I just want to help other people because it’s part of my mission.”
Julius worked in the marketing department for SteelSeries, MSI Notebook/Components, Xigmatech, Aerocool, Plextor, and Thecus (2012-2015). He established the Team of MSI Gaming Notebook in the country as the Marketing Manager for four years.
The Twitch Gig
“I believe that you will meet good people in the smoking area,” Julius said. “I did not expect that I would meet Matthias Beyer again at the Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS) 2015. That time we had a booth in the event and I was busy doing my thing as a marketing person in charge. During my smoke break, he approached me and asked for a lighter. We had a brief conversation, mostly catching up, and then I showed him our booth.”
What he didn’t know was that Matthias works at Twitch as the Director of Content (Southeast Asia). He only discovered it when he checked Matthias’ Facebook profile. That’s where he also saw the posted job opening at Twitch for Country Manager in the Philippines.
“I feel that I can contribute more to the company. That time there were thousands of applicants applying for the job. I applied for it and went through the tedious selection process. I thought I would not get accepted,” Julius recalled.
Julius started working at Twitch in February 2016. As the Country Manager, he started to advocate for the streaming community in the Philippines, with the guidance of Matthias. Julius first pitched it to his inner circle of friends who happened to be content creators. It was a success and his friends became the first set of Twitch celebrities in the country. Julius helped many content creators become successful in the streaming platform. Twitch Philippines expanded their operations and it became a profitable endeavor for the company.
“Matthias saw something in me. He mentored me and shared his vision for the company. I improved a lot under his leadership. He’s like a brother to me and I enjoyed working with him. We shared the same passion; we played together; he gave me tasks to work with. He’s not the usual boss. I learned a lot from him,” Julius shared.
Matthias trusted Julius on many occasions when they were working together. Julius helped Matthias on executing his start-up ideas as they shared a common vision for the gaming industry.
Julius left Twitch Philippines in 2018 to pursue a career in streaming. “I felt that I was meant to be on this platform. That I was born for this thing,” Julius said.
Julius dreamed that one day, Esports would be recognized as a sport in the Philippines just like basketball. This dream would eventually become a reality when someone from TnC Pro Team and Execration contacted him back in 2016. They asked for his help with regard to securing P1 US Visa for their players. He was thankful that he has Jobe Nkemakolam and Sebastian Duterte who referred him to the Gaming and Amusements Board (GAB).
This meeting with the officials of GAB gave him the opportunity to discuss the booming online gaming industry. During their meeting, he talked about professionalizing Esports and the importance of professional license IDs for the country’s players/gamers. It turned out to be a successful meeting because GAB issued the necessary documents to help fast track the players’ VISA application. They were also grateful for the support of then Senator Bam Aquino, who is an avid supporter of Esports. Julius vouched for the players and made sure that everything about their travel went on smoothly.
“I knew they would win. Nobody saw it coming,” he said. TnC won against the powerhouse European team in DoTA 2, the International 6 tournament. After the game, Julius along with three officials from GAB visited a tournament in Seattle to show them how big Esports actually is.
“When we came back to the Philippines, there was a ‘heroes’ welcome’ for us. It was also my first time to receive appreciation for the things I’ve done for the industry.”
The Philippines now considers Esports as legitimate sports. In 2017, GAB signed a resolution allowing the professionalization of Esports in the Philippines. The agency believes that Esports tournaments boost tourism promotion (with foreign Esports participants coming into the country). It also increases the revenue shares of the government through issued licenses and permits, as well as GAB shares from the tournament tickets. GAB also imposed regulatory guidelines that protect the players and the industry from illegal activities.
But it remains to be a long road ahead for the majority to accept online gaming as a legitimate career. It may take some time but hopefully, it will be regarded as a legit career choice just as others are.
On Game Streaming
The gaming community in the Philippines is enormous and lucrative. The gamers and streamers have become the new celebrities in platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming. In these platforms, content is king. Professional streamers often combine high-level play and entertaining commentary to get the attention and earn income from sponsors, subscriptions, and donations.
In the study, The State of Online Gaming – 2019, conducted by Limelight Network, research revealed that video game streaming sites such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming are becoming increasingly popular especially among young gamers aged 18-25. They spend 77 percent more time watching online gaming than traditional sports on television, and gamers 26-35 spending nearly the same amount of time watching online gaming as broadcast sports.
Julius saw its massive potential and he took the opportunity to try streaming to test out his ideas.
“I decided to try streaming because I want to know if I can survive on that kind of platform. I’m good at mentoring other people and I would like to see if my advice would be applicable to myself.”
“Before, streamers were mostly doing it for their passion to the craft. I witnessed how the streaming industry started and grew. Most of them are engaged in streaming not solely for the money. The community was very supportive and helping one another,” Julius said.
“When I left Twitch in November 2018, I missed the ‘Banoobs personality’ as a gamer. I missed the trash talking in the computer shop, the fun side of it and being a competitive gamer.”
“I just missed the memories of playing online games. Where no one is judging you because you are only expressing your gamer self. That time I did not mind if I would have viewers. I just want to relish the moment and create memories worth remembering.”
Julius just wanted to be true to his roots so he played various games, notably League of Legends (LoL) , DOTA2 and Ragnarok M Eternal Love.
“One of my motivations why I started streaming was for entertainment and to show off my abilities. It’s your own show. I believe it gets hard if you are used to reading scripts. The gamers are smart enough to smell if you’re faking it or into hard selling. That’s why some content creators had short careers. Just believe in your abilities and be true to yourself.”
Julius’ content creator friends inspired him in so many ways. He started live streaming on his Facebook profile. He was just boss hunting in Ragnarok M Eternal Love because of his boredom and wants to flex his game. “Surprisingly, a lot of my friends saw my stream and encouraged me to create a Facebook page. I created it on November 28, 2018, and that’s it. I met new friends that became part of my gaming life.”
Julius always rewatched his streamed videos to see whether his content is performing well. He would try to cross post it to other platforms. He also wanted to know the areas that he can improve on for his content.
Julius shared great nuggets of advice for people who want to venture into streaming. He emphasized the need to know the market first and to understand how viewership works. As he said, online streaming is a competition – a survival-of-the-fittest type of environment. He also reiterated the importance of building a supportive community and knowing how to engage them properly. Most importantly, an aspiring streamer should know how to sell his/herself to that community.
“Don’t just judge a streamer based on how he/she expresses his/herself. I’ve seen streamers working really hard to reach their status now. Instead, learn to appreciate and respect them. Just learn from their experience,” he said.
“Always believe in yourself first. People would know if you don’t have confidence in yourself. Don’t be discouraged if you have a small number of views. Everything starts within yourself. You can’t please everybody. But if you focus on your vision and goal, no one can stop you.”