OrnLu is an Age of Empires streamer who frequently commentates on tournaments and gets involved with the AoE community. As well as streaming, he’s a student of international affairs and history in Washington, D.C. We spoke with OrnLu about how he started streaming, the slow process of building his profile, and the motivation he gets from his viewers.
Hey Ornlu, how is it going? What are you up to?
Hey! It’s going alright – I’m very busy these days with casting the King of the Desert 4 tournament and finishing up the Age of Empires IV campaigns on my YouTube channel. As to what I am up to now… well, I’m answering these interview questions. I’m not really all that great at multitasking…
What’s your background with the Age of Empires community?
So I have been involved in several different roles within the Age of Empires community, but I’m sure most people will know me for my casting and my YouTube channel. I actually started casting/streaming on a whim back in January of 2018. I was at university and had a bit of free time on my hands, and I actually asked Reddit what I could do to help out the AoE2 community.
A few people suggested casting, so I went with that. As it happened, I really enjoyed casting, and eventually became popular enough to be given the opportunity to cast with other popular streamers.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to Nili’s Apartment Cup 2 back in February of 2019, which was my first LAN event. From there, I was involved in most AoE2 tournaments – whether it be casting them on my own channel, with other streamers, or attending other LAN events.
My YouTube channel has always been kind of a separate project. I love the single player AoE2 campaigns, and my channel really took off when I started playing them with the launch of AoE2: DE in November of 2019.
Because of that, the majority of my YouTube content is focused on official and custom AoE2 campaigns, although I also make multiplayer-focused videos as well such as tier lists, tournament recaps, and exploring weird mechanics within the game.
Why do you enjoy casting to an audience?
To be honest, I am a pretty shy and quiet person in general, so it surprised me that I enjoyed casting so much! I think it speaks to the history/academic side of me that just loves learning and sharing what I know with others.
I suppose I am somewhat known for being an encyclopedia of AoE2 knowledge, just because I have spent two decades of my life exploring every aspect of this wonderful game. Yes, there have been numerous expansions for AoE2, but I still always learn something new about the game every time I cast, and being able to share that with an audience is really enjoyable to me.
What has the experience of growing your profile in the AoE scene been like?
Slow, and a lot of work. I don’t think people realize just how many hours building a Twitch stream and YouTube channel take – especially relative to the financial returns. Unless you are fortunate enough to get a big break and go viral, the only way to grow is just consistent content.
I happened to start streaming just after AoE2 became popular again, and it was only through the relationships I built with all of the other wonderful members of the community that I was able to see the light of day at all – so to say.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m still a relatively small streamer and YouTube channel, but even if my growth is slow, it’s very consistent. The support I get from fans and other content creators has been absolutely critical in motivating me to keep going with Twitch and YouTube.
What’s your favourite historical period?
I’ve always been passionate about history – a fact that is likely both a cause and effect of my love of AoE2. Personally, I study international affairs and history for my university degree, with a concentration in East Asia, and particularly Korea. Beyond the region of the world I enjoy studying the most, I don’t really have a “favorite” era to study.
Since I study international politics, I spend most of my time focusing on more recent history – particularly the 19th century. However, there really isn’t any time period or area of the world I *don’t* enjoy studying. It all feels like adding in more pieces to the puzzle of the human story.
What’s your favourite bit of history in gaming?
So, history in gaming is always a kind of controversial topic in Age of Empires. We literally have decades of memes of hilarious logical and historical inaccuracies like converting riderless War Elephants to Christianity, or slashing a stone building with a sword to set it on fire.
As much as I love history, and think that AoE and other games are a great way to make history interesting and accessible to people… they are still just games at the end of the day.
If the choice is between making the game play better or making historical sense, I say pick gameplay every time. Yes, the AoE2 Chinese lack most gunpowder units, despite inventing the stuff. Well, if they had access to it, they would be incredibly overpowered!
So with all of that said, I still believe that nailing the “big picture” when it comes to portraying history in gaming is critical, as it’s the bridge that connects people from gaming to the real world. Therefore, I would argue that specific “bits” of history are less important than the overarching themes that are portrayed in a game.
What other historical games do you enjoy?
Okay, so this is going to be embarrassing, but other than the Age of Empires series, I don’t really play any other historical games. In fact, I only play 2-3 other games on anything close to a regular basis. Still, I obviously love Age of Empires 2, and have also enjoyed all of the other games in the series (except AoE1, which I never got around to playing).
What’s the story with your emote?
Well, it kinda went like this: when I made my Twitch channel, I needed to have some kind of unique artwork to use for emotes, thumbnails, profile icons, etc. The issue is that I have absolutely no talent when it comes to graphic design, and, as a broke college student, didn’t have the money to pay someone to make stream artwork for me.
So, knowing that any attempt I made to create “professional” artwork would just look horrible, I decided to go in the opposite direction, and made all of my first emotes, stream artwork, and YouTube thumbnails in good ol’ Microsoft Paint. The idea was that it would look so obviously terrible that people would find it funny. And, to be honest, that’s pretty much exactly how it worked!