It was 2017, and his mom had passed away only days before. His dad, who had given him his first gaming console, had died when he was 7. Paul “Pauly Hype” Santoro (formerly Paul “Rabies” Santoro) was lost. Sitting at his desk, he asked his mom for a sign on what he should do next with his life. He had been a pro gamer for the last 10 years, but he needed a change of pace, as gaming was not paying the bills. Then he scrolled past a Facebook advertisement for becoming a professional gaming commentator; the rest was history.
We at Syft had the opportunity to sit down with Pauly Hype and learn the ins and outs of his gaming dreams, his professional career, and his driving principles. This is an interview you won’t want to miss.
The transition to commentary came in 2017, but Pauly Hype’s journey started way before then.
“I got into gaming when I was a little kid; I started off with Yu-Gi-Oh and wanted to go pro, but I just wasn’t ready,” explained Pauly.
Pauly Hype wasn’t like the other kids in his class: while most kids were attentive, his brain was “just not there,” and all he thought about 24/7 were video games. “I was dedicated to becoming a competitive gamer: while other kids would be doing math, I would just be giving like 20%, my mind would be elsewhere.”
Pauly’s journey in the gaming world continued when he started entering tournaments for Halo 2. This was where he realised he was skilled and could honestly make something of himself in gaming. His next step was to go competitive with the game Dead or Alive 4, and he came in 3rd place in his first competition, which is an extremely impressive accomplishment. When asked what steps he took to progress to the competitive side of gaming, he had this to say:
“This might seem super cliche, but the biggest thing I did to transfer over to the competitive side of gaming was simply go to an event.”
I suppose when you have as much skill as Pauly Hype, the transition to competitive gaming can be smoother than for most others.
Pauly Hype had been in many competitive tournaments over the years before he got into gaming commentary, but the one he remembers best was the Championship Gaming Series, a TV series with two seasons from 2006-2008. He was too young for the first season but was cast for the second season for being one of the best Dead or Alive 4 players out there. “All the biggest teams in gaming were there, and for this tournament each player on your team would be drafted to play a different game and the team that did the best overall in all the games would win.”
This tournament was a very big deal: the whole season, players lived in LA and had the chance to compete for $600,000 if they did well enough. Although he did not make it far enough to have the chance to compete for the money, he still made it to the finals of the prequalification rounds, an accomplishment which started to get him enough buzz in the gaming world, enough to eventually join the New York team. While he impressed the gaming world with his skills, he still considered this tournament a failure, but explained that “Failure was one of [his] biggest driving forces.”
This was not the only gaming reality show he was a part of. Besides the Championship Gaming Series, he was also a finalist to audition for Ultimate Gamer as well as a part of Friday Night Fights, with famous celebrity hosts such as NBA stars Dwight Howard and John Wall. He was also on a show called Twin Galaxies Infinite Crisis Experience where five random gamers would come together to try and make a team. His final reality show was called The Caster, which he was a part of in 2017 while first getting into gaming commentary. The Caster was like American Idol for gaming commentary.
After a full decade of living as a professional gamer, Pauly Hype felt he needed to go in a different direction with his career. After receiving that sign from his mom, he transitioned into the world of commentating. Another reason Pauly Hype was interested in commentary was because his old gaming nemesis/friend Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez had made the jump from gaming to commentary a little while before. They would always trash talk each other and go back-and-forth in wins.
“I remember seeing him (Goldenboy) do it first,” Pauly Hype explained. “I was 24 and was not sure if I wanted to be in gaming anymore. I was tired of working 10-14 hours a day. If I went to a tournament and lost, I would actually be losing money because there were not many sponsors at the time. Then it dawned on me that maybe commentating was something I wanted to try. After being on The Caster and practicing my craft, I was actually able to get gigs pretty quickly.”
The transition was relatively easy for him, as he had already been on-air as a commentator in the past, back when it was only a hobby. “I was nervous in terms of not having my craft perfected, not in the sense of being on air in front of people. I just wanted to do well, that is where the nerves came in.”
Pauly Hype had some tips for gamers trying to get into the commentating world. “Commentating is simple, but people always avoid the first step. You need to practice your craft! You can wake up one day and say you want to do something but you will never get anywhere without practice. I tried to cheat and fluff by but after watching my first film, I was like ‘Bro, I don’t sound good!’”
Practice was crucial to Pauly Hype’s success as a gaming commentator. He started doing a self-audit on himself every month and would focus on his pitch, vocab, articulation and fact quality.
“Your voice is not given to you at birth,” Pauly Hype explained to me. “You are able to train it, but it takes a lot of consistency and practice. My voice style is something different from what others do, I try to ride the wave, I bring people high with a hype pace but then drop you low with a slower pace and vocab. I used to have a problem with being hype all the time. If you are hype all the time then you are hype none of the time, you need to change it up throughout the broadcast. I try to be the bridge between casual and competitive and with my 15 years in the industry, I can make any video game sound as casual or competitive as I want.”
The main thing Pauly Hype saw in other commentators was that they were all copying each other. He wanted to make a name for himself by being different, and that is exactly what he did. As he got better and better, he started getting more high-profile gigs. The favorite event he has ever covered was his time as a fill-in host for the NBA 2K League.
“I got to work with some legends, this was when it all went full-circle for me. I knew commentating was no longer a freelance gig for me, it was turning into a real job. Gaming was a tough road for me. It took me 15 years to get to this point, most people would have given up.”
Besides his success in video game commentary, Pauly Hype also has a loyal following on social media, despite hating it as a concept.
“I can’t stand social media, I think it’s pointless, but the success I have had from it came from staying consistent. I post a couple times a day and never repost content. People try too hard and stress too much over numbers, when you stop caring about social media is when you will find yourself succeeding. I make sure to post some negatives in my life to keep myself open and honest. Some may say it is a flaw, but social media is to each their own.”
Pauly Hype didn’t have the easiest childhood. His father was a freelance musician who almost hit it big but sadly passed away when he was young. “My dad would play piano and sing to me on his lap until wee hours of the morning, teaching me notes and scales even though I was little. He instilled all these passive traits and skills in me at such a young age.” His mother took his father’s death hard, and Pauly had to live with his grandfather from the age of eight all the way up to 23 as his mother was not able to take care of him.
“Living with my grandfather was very tough because he is an old-school German guy, tough love, yelling if you mess up and he was honestly old and didn’t want to raise kids anymore but did it anyway. My mom was incredible when she was healthy, however she was in and out of mental institutions here and there. She’d be healthy for 2 months, then would get sick again, be gone for 5 months, come back, be OK for 6 months, then gone again, pretty much my entire childhood and early adulthood.”
Despite this less-than-ideal childhood, Pauly was able to overcome adversity and become what he had always dreamed of. To say the least, it’s quite an incredible comeback story.
So, what’s next for Pauly Hype? Like everyone else, COVID-19 has affected his profession. He is in hiatus right now, as video game commentary has mostly been closed-down due to the pandemic. He is keeping himself busy by moving to streaming while he waits for COVID to calm down. He has streamed over 2000 hours this year, and you can watch him on Twitch as PaulyHYPE or on Youtube at Rabies Entertainment.
“I am looking forward to the future, the world of esports is only going to keep growing. The future is bright and I can’t wait to be along for the ride.”
Pauly Hype ended the interview by giving a huge shout out to his manager Justin. Pauly’s story shows that it doesn’t matter what hand life gives you: if you work hard on what you love and believe in, anything is possible. From a bored kid in math class thinking about gaming to a professional gaming commentator, Pauly Hype has really accomplished his dream, and we think his mother would be very, very proud.