Into the Spotlight – Anthony Salzarulo, Graphic Designer for the Florida Mayhem
Welcome to Into the Spotlight, an interview series where I interview awesome people in unique positions across esports. So many people seem to think that if they want to be in esports its going to be as a caster, players or coach, but there are so many more ways.
In my second installment of this series, I get a chance to sit down with Anthony Salzarulo, the graphic designer for the Florida Mayhem.
Below is an edited version of the interview, if you want to listen to the full interview, the attached audio and video both have the full, unedited version of the conversation we had.
Andrew Nimsgern: I have Anthony here with me from the Florida Mayhem. He does all those awesome graphics you’ve been seeing all season. So I’m definitely excited to chat with you and I think a lot of people are kind of curious to see how you got to where you are because you’re the poster child for Path to Pro, at least on the creative side versus the player side. But where did kind of it all start in terms of graphic designer or just creating things? You’ve talked about YouTube videos but I mean have you always just wanted to create things since you were a kid?
Anthony Salzarulo: So my dad personally like is a very creative person. Neither my parents are like artists they have like normal jobs. My dad was always a very creative person and he was into like stuff like the Grateful Dead. So I always saw that type of art growing up and I always was like, wow tie dye. That’s really cool. So when I was really young, like kindergarten or first grade I also had a really cool art teacher. I literally never forget her. I was always really bad at traditional like art like drawing, painting, stuff like that. But when I was like in her class I just felt so creative and I always had great art teachers growing up and I think that’s where it started. But like art was never like my first thing and I was never like I want to be an artist. It was always something that I just kind of enjoyed doing.
My first thing I always wanted to do was basketball but it never really worked out, I’m 5’6″. I didn’t make the team like my school’s team in middle school so I started like branching out like what else do I really enjoy doing. I found this game called Minecraft and I was like wow Minecraft is really cool. I wonder what I can do with this. So my friend got me into like making YouTube videos with it like around the same time I started high school. When I was making YouTube videos for Minecraft I thought I should make my channel look a little bit more professional. I thought I need to get thumbnails and then I realized like why not just try and make them myself to like a little art thing. So I started doing that and that was like the first time. I think I started YouTube in September of 2013 and I think around like December of 2013 is when I like really started making my first thumbnails. That was like the first time in a couple years where I really enjoyed art again and I kind of rekindled that passion and thought about what I want to be able to do in my life and really enjoy this art thing. Minecraft, like doing YouTube was always kind of like the pipe dream thing for me. Its kind of like people wanting to be like “Oh I want to be pro and like in a video game or basketball” or whatever like that kind of became my pipe dream. I always had art to then fall back on. So once like Minecraft died as a game I was like OK what can I do with art.That’s where it started really.
I dropped out of college in January of 2018. I think I got that job in April or March and once I got there and that was my job I was like this is really cool. This is what I always wanted. Then it kind of just got boring to me, like it was really easy and I wasn’t really challenging myself and improving as a designer. I was always really into Overwatch since Overwatch started so I thought why not try and make some designs for teams around like August, September is when I really started. I did some stuff for Phase Two and I kind of just did Overwatch design in my free time. So I basically just design for like 12-14 hours a day and I mean it just kind of snowballed from there. Phase Two, they became KungarnaI did stuff for Kungarna, Mirage,Triumph, SkyFoxes, Second Wind and a whole bunch of contenders teams in North America. You know I just from there people recognize my work and when Florida Mayhem had their job opening that community I kind of built myself I guess an image in the community and a lot of people reached out to Florida like hey this is the guy you want. And then Florida contacted me they wanted to see what I could do and now I’m here to do that.
AN: I do remember seeing that post the day that Florida post went up and when I went to the comment sections it was just all you.
AS: It was crazy because when that when they said the job like you were the first thing they said is this is not remote. Like you need to be based in L.A. already. So I remember I quote retweeted it. I’m like well I need to find a way to get to L.A.then if this is gonna be the job and literally just everyone was like don’t even care about the relocation. This is like just hire this man and just fly him out. And I was like Wow I like it honestly like that was one of the most humbling days in my life like I was like wow people really really enjoy what I do and can see what I’m capable of.
AN: I want to get to the next point I mean you’re doing at 19 what a lot of people want to do at a much older age and that comes from your drive of how much work and hours you put into this. Where does that come from? What pushes you always keep improving?
AS: So again that’s kind of where design comes in. I was like this is something I’m good at. I need to push everything I can into it. And on top of all this I have a very addictive personality. My parents always when I was growing up they were very happy I never tried any drugs because I was like I like when I’m on something like I’m tunnel vision incredibly so. I mean I would play Minecraft for like 14-16 hours a day. It was nothing. Just completely non-stop and I would just basically transition from playing Minecraft something that was not really impacting my life and I would say a meaningful way to trying to just do as much as I could with art. I would wake up for my work and go to work and then when I come home I would design for Phase Two or do something else.Even now with Florida our work hours are I think eleven to six like Monday to Friday right. So instead of just going in 11 to 6 and you know there’s my work hours I’ll wake up at 8:00 and then work at my house at my desk right now for like two and a half hours before I go into work and then work at work and then work until like 11 p.m. when I come home from work.
So I just want to do as much as I possibly can at all times because like I just like I’m not going to be the best by sitting around and wasting my time. I am very hard on myself which I mean it’s not like it’s kind of too difficult to to really think about why but I’ve always been like there’s I don’t like I don’t like free time. Like personally I don’t enjoy the idea of me sitting doing nothing not being productive. It’s like physically makes me sick like I don’t know what it is I hate not being productive in any possible way. I have to do something productive like if I play like two games of Overwatch, it’ll piss me off like the rest of the day like I haven’t done enough. I need to do more. It’s probably to the point where it’s really not healthy but for me it just it’s it’s what makes me happy and doing something that. I know I’m making a difference to a community makes me happier than just having maybe an hour of fun at some point I’d rather I’d rather build something that’s bigger than just me.
AN: I mean obviously the amount of hours you put in all that is ridiculous. That’s what it’s got to here but do you also think it’s because you built so many connections? I mean when the Florida Mayhem post went up it seemed everyone in Tier 2 Overwatch initially thought of you. Do you think something that really made you stand out as a graphic designer is that you worked with so many teams and you made so many connections? Do you think that it made a big difference for you, or do you think you’ve purely got hired based on your skill.
AS: No. The community definitely made a massive massive difference. So funny story. My first ever like OWL fan art that I did was on for the Mayhem. So I’m like I would also like to publicly state like before I was hired by Mayhem, the Mayhem was not one of my favorite teams. A reason that I made fan art for Mayhem was because they didn’t have a good designer at the time or at least in my opinion they didn’t have a good designer at the time. That’s that’s kind of how I treat things now. If you’re a designer is to find the place that needs your work the most. So when I was doing stuff for example with Phase Two who didn’t know who I was. I originally made fan art for Phase Two and I knew that they would see it on Twitter because none of them were you know Overwatch players with 20,000 or 30,000 followers. They were all kids with like you know 600-700 followers, they would see the post. So when all these off season things were happening I decided to do stuff for Mayhem. I made like a welcome Zephyr graphic, a welcome HaGoPeun graphic like way before anything was even remotely close of me being popular or anything in the community. It’s funny because when I got hired by mayhem the social media guy has been here the whole time. So he’s like I remember seeing your posts like I remember it.One of the one of the people that I made art for with Mayhem was Apply. when Apply got moved up to the official team, I made him a banner because I didn’t like how Mayhem’s were and I was like he’ll probably use it. Like he’s a contender player, he only has a couple of thousand followers he’ll probably see this and he did. Having applied know who I was in I made that in October when the job came around in February.
AN: Did you get paid for any of the work you did with the contenders teams, or was it all for free?
AS: So yes, that’s the other thing. So in contenders a lot of the teams are unsigned, I never did anything except with Atlanta Academy which is a whole different shebang. A lot of the times like the art the only team that ever actually commissioned something from me ironically is Second Wind because before this season really all their stuff is like this hand drawn MS Paint. Like congrats we beat Skyfoxes and it’s just three random green lines. SI did stuff for free, I just kind of wanted to get my name out there. Triumph if had stayed and the Mayhem thing didn’t come around I would have eventually got paid. But like going into this open season but with Mayhem they just we decided like it wasn’t worth it and I would rather them have the money and save it for whoever they were gonna try and get next.
Skyfoxes was also unpaid. So all the things I did with multiple teams is completely unpaid and I think it’s it’s also probably now is a good time to mention I was incredibly fortunate to be in the situation. I was working a 9 to 5 job and being able to do this so it wasn’t like I was in college and needed money. It was I was already making my own money doing something and a lot of my kids my age or in college like they’re not going to have that time like they’re going to have classes and a part time job. Like I just had a full time job and and did this as a part time job so I didn’t have to worry about money that much as as some other people would and I like I’m very forward designers getting paid especially in the contenders level but in especially right now if there is you just have to make sacrifices at some point. If you want to stand up above above other people and I mean hopefully one day that won’t have to be a thing and people will actually get paid what they’re worth.
AN: So whats next? I mean, I’m not saying you’re leaving Mayhem anytime soon . What’s your next big goal now, where do you want to go from here?
AS: There’s two answers that question the very easy answer is I want like my next big goal that I want to accomplish is I want I want to do the design stuff for the World Cup team. I think that would be really really cool. I have a very steep competition with that. It’s gonna be basically me versus the designers for gladiators so that’ll be quite fun. We’ve talked when I made a tweet about it recently and the a designer who did it last year reached out and he’s like you know we’ll have fun with this friendly competition but I very much want to do that I think that would be really really cool. I just like that’s there’s not much else I could really accomplish as an overarching diner that’s higher than that.
However, I mean obliviously the Mayhem are not most respected team in Overwatch right now. In fact very far from it but I want to do as much as I possibly can as a designer to alleviate that. AI think my short term goals right now. I want Mayhem to look as polished as possible on social media. I want people to not just think of us as a joke.
Quote pulled from our conversation talking about graphic design in the Overwatch League and how someone can follow in Anthony’s footsteps.
AS: I think the other thing is that in something like Overwatch your time to get in is right now like I said there’s four teams at a professional level that most amateurs can do better than and that can’t be said for any other sport of my knowledge in any professional sport to my knowledge. So if you have a passion for design or content in general you now is the time like don’t make any excuses like now. Now is it, work with as many teams as you can. Do not say no to any opportunities. I was really really stressed out working with four teams at first and it did take a toll on me personally but I mean I want to be here right now. I didn’t have a rough time for a couple months and you know I’m not going to I’m not going to be. I wouldn’t be the person to make it if I just took it easy and worked with just Phase Two or just Skyfoxes like I wouldn’t be here. I would still be in contenders and doing some random stuff but never saying no and really trying to make yourself marketable to other teams can be super super important to just improving yourself not only as a designer but to your image in a field that’s growing absolutely.