NIHONGO HONYAKUSHA – This means Japanese Translator and it is just one of the many things Sarah “LiquidSenders” Enders does for Team Liquid, an esports team filled with world-renown players like Double Lift, Nemo, and Hungrybox. Enders’s day to day as a departmental assistant is just as varied as the games Team Liquid are involved in, such as Overwatch, League of Legends, Street Fighter, Smash, and more. However, how does a person go from Oklahoma, where football and basketball are kings, to working in the emerging field of esports?
Enders graduated from OU in 2017 with a B.A. in Japanese and Asian Studies. After that, Sarah entered The Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies (IUC), a prestigious Japanese-learning institution, and lived in Japan to continue her studies. Working in esports, however, hadn’t ever been her aim; Enders couldn’t even imagine herself being able to do what she does now.
At the beginning of college, Enders didn’t like League of Legends (League), the game she now mainly writes about. One of her childhood best friends introduced her to the game and this was her first reaction.
“I remember looking at it and laughing,” she said. “I’m not playing this…”
It was only when she first saw the early cinematics from League that her opinion started to turn.
When Sarah first started to play, it was casual and not very often.
Then she watched the NA LCS Finals in 2014.
“This is really cool,” Enders said. “I ended up sort of binge-watching a bunch of the games from the spring and summer season of 2014.” This led to watching the Worlds tournament that year, solidifying her position as a competitive League of Legends fan.
By 2015, Sarah was hooked and was watching multiple games across multiple regions. During her study abroad in Japan while at OU, Worlds 2015 was in Korea, making it easy for her to watch and understand every single game. “At one point in early 2016, I was watching EU, NA, LPL, LCK,” Enders said. These four regions make up the majority of all competitive League of Legends scenes.
Enders returned briefly to finish her undergrad at OU, before returning to Japan to the IUC. Despite being a dedicated fan of competitive League and a desire to work in esports, Sarah still didn’t think she could.
“I was a classically trained musician, who was learning Japanese,” Enders said.
Since the esports industry stems from video games, Enders’ idea of an esports industry job was more Bill Gates and Steve Jobs than a Japanese-speaking Mozart. Enders, at the time, planned on doing manga or anime translation after graduating from IUC, despite not knowing how she would really get there.
“I was definitely like ‘Well I guess I’m just gonna be translating for the rest of my life. And I was ready to do some Toshiba microwave manuals till I got into manga,” Enders said.
That was until a friend told her about a writing job at Team Liquid. And reading through the application showed her that there were other roles in esports.
“I don’t have to be an engineer. I don’t have to be a graphic designer or an IT kind of person,” Enders said. “I don’t have to have that tech background.”
This is the application that got her into the esports industry. It seems like a complete stroke of luck. Enders wasn’t originally a Team Liquid fan. She originally followed Cloud 9, another popular esports team, and it was only through a Swiss friend who was in a Team Liquid chat server that she came to know about the position.
Despite being in the esports industry and understanding the behind-the-scenes, it hasn’t really changed Sarah’s love of the game or how she watches it. Enders also understands that one doesn’t necessarily need to be skilled at the game to be able to write about it.
Writing about technical topics of the industry, or discussing the game mechanics itself, does require further knowledge and understanding. However, this does not equate with skill inside the game itself. If you can read it and watch it — you can comprehend it after some time.
“I think that it is actually more important to understand interpersonal stories, history, and rivalries and stuff like that than it is to understand the game where it is,” said Enders, who is and always has been competitively unranked in League of Legends.
The rest of Sarah’s job is pretty varied. She primarily writes articles but does much more than that. For instance, she is one of the members of Team Liquids content creation team serving as a translator.
One of the strangest interviews she had to translate was with the Street Fighter player Nemo. Nemo is known to be the “salaryman” player. He works a day job in addition to being one of the top players in the world. As such, he is known to be professional and courteous.
Except when it concerns Itabashi. The two have a rivalry that has manifested in, perhaps, the only way it can between two Japanese players.
Itabashi (left) and Nemo (right) at Capcom Cup 2017. Photo from Team Liquid article by Jeff Anderson.
When the interview turned to the topic of Itabashi, that’s when things got strange for her.
“I translated this interview, and then I get the answers back,” Enders said. “And his answer was, ‘[Itabashi is] not my rival. I hate him.’ And I was like ‘That’s not possible. He did not just write that.’ So I literally had to google the Kanji.”
Kanji is one part of the Japanese language. And there is upwards of a thousand Kanji. When she googled it, Enders found she had read it right.
“And then a couple of questions further down from that, I think he got mad,” Enders said. “This doesn’t make sense grammatically.” She had to turn to a close friend’s Japanese husband to double-check. “He had to send me a paragraph and a half- like a long paragraph and a half- explanation in Japanese about what the hell he was talking about.”
The question was asking about grapple characters in Street Fighter V. And this set Nemo off on a rant chock full of specific Japanese Street Fighter terms. “Just from a grammatical standpoint, what he wrote in response on why he hates grapple characters was a mess,” Enders said.
Enders has been working at Team Liquid for almost a year, and she has been able to interview and interact with esport pros that she had once only been a longtime fan of.
It’s not typical for an alum of OU to cover a game outside of the traditional “sportsballs trilogy” of football, baseball, and basketball. As esports fans and Sooners, we should definitely give Sarah Enders all the support we can. You can follow Enders on twitter @senders127. She writes for Team Liquid and Monster Energy Gaming.
-Written by Matthew Viriyapah (@matthewViri), now OU Alum.