Jessica “Jess” Bolden has done it all in Rainbow Six — player, coach, and now caster — and while she was only ever in Siege for a break from her criminology career, she’s back into the thick of it, and going along wherever it takes her.
Jess never intended on staying in Rainbow Six for long. While she played during the early days of the scene at a top level, she was busy wrapping up her Masters in Criminal Justice and looking at a career in criminology.
Siege, for her, was a chance to learn another language and work in Europe.
“I wanted to learn another language, and I took German as a result,” she said. “I took German in the last semester of my Masters degree on top of my thesis, and the university let me, and then taking the job with Penta kinda spurred on picking German rather than another language.
“I thought ‘yeah great, I’ll work with Penta, I’ll learn the language, live overseas for a while, come back, do my PhD,’ and it’ll just be the same.”
It wasn’t the same. Now, two years later, the criminologist-by-trade has done it all. From player, to coach, and now desk analyst at the Six Invitational — her first major casting event — Jess is still getting caught up in the rabbit hole of esports.
This time last year though, she was behind a desk of a different kind. She was coaching a new Penta roster at the event, mashing together her analytical skills from her ‘real-life’ profession and her burning passion for Siege.
However, that passion was slowly dwindling in the final days of the Penta roster. The team disappointingly missed out on a spot on main stage in 2019 to APAC’s Nora Rengo, before the team slowly slid down the rankings.
“There was a time in coaching where there was a distinct moment where I lost my passion, and I think that was forced upon me by some players [at Penta] who had already lost their passion,” she said.
Faced with the decision of coming home and returning back to criminology, leaving behind her life in Europe and her Siege career entirely, she instead stuck it out, rekindling her passion with a group of upstarts ready to set the world on fire.
Those upstarts were Italy’s Samsung Morning Stars. Coaching them was like a completely different game, and soon after, she realized why she went and learned German in university — even if it didn’t prove to be worth much on the other side of Europe.
“Those young players — anything that came out of my mouth was gold for them,” Jess said. “They wanted to take it, they wanted to do it, they didn’t care about how much I criticized them or how much positivity I gave them, they just wanted to be better.
“I took pretty much Tier 4, Tier 3 players up to close to Tier 2 in close to three months. We made PG Finals, and then unfortunately the whole visa issue happened and I went ‘I don’t ever want to go back to what happened at the end of Penta’ and I wanted to hold those really good feelings I had at the end of those three months.”
After being sent home back to Australia, Jess once again came to a crossroads. Does she keep digging further into the rabbit hole of Siege? Or does she take flight from the scene once and for all.
Her choice was made for her though. She was invited out to the Six Invitational as an analyst, where she could share her previous experiences with Penta and Samsung in a broadcast capacity.
“I think I’m predominantly charismatic and I’m pretty well-spoken when I put my mind to it, so I think it’s a really good opportunity to use my critical thinking skills, my high level analysis from coaching and just playing Siege for so long.
“I was a competitive player as well, so I’ve been in every area that you could really be in Siege, so I feel lucky to be able to speak about the game at a super critical level and being confident in doing so. It fits me because I can say what I want without the worry of hurting a player’s feelings.”
She also got to have a look back at the scene she was once a part of in APAC. While coaching in Europe made following along with the Aussies harder, seeing Fnatic, Wildcard, and Giants at the Six Invitational brought a smile to her face.
It gave her the same feeling she had when she got the chance to explore the world through Siege with Penta.
“The globalisation that I felt from Siege has been at — both at face value and at intricate levels — is incredible,” she said.
“I’ve flown around the world in eight months, I’ve been to all different continents, all different countries and cities, and I’ve learned culture that I would have never learned otherwise.”
However, her analytical side also took over. APAC has always been in a rough spot on the international stage, and the tides don’t look like changing just yet. While the region is always touted as underdogs at major international events, year on year, skeptics are proven right.
“I think APAC unfortunately — I always felt this after being a part of it as a competitive player and then from the outside looking in — is that everyone underestimates the capacity of APAC as whole. Not just ANZ, but the other regions as a whole. Unfortunately, statistically, they’re not wrong. On the numbers, on paper, they are the weaker region and they have been for a while.
“Fnatic has allowed us to skew the results in our favour a little bit further, but I also just feel that we don’t have the support staff and capability — the simple things that you’d need to be a high calibre team — is not provided in any other team aside from Fnatic at the moment, and that’s why they themselves have come so far.”
With the Six Invitational over, Jess has once again got to make that decision between her passion and her profession.
“I have two options essentially. I either dig as far as this rabbit hole will let me dig and it’ll probably pop me out at the other side of the world if I keep going at the rate I’m going, or I stop it completely, cover up the hole, and just remove myself from this scene 100% otherwise I won’t thrive in my area of my industry if I have one foot in each door.
“I have a visa meeting coming up, so I’ll move back to Italy for 12 months, it’s easy to travel there, everything’s accessible, stream from home.
“My partner lives in Italy as well so it’s easier for me and her, so if I get some good offers, and they sound like they’re coming up, then I might be stuck here for a lot longer than I planned — stuck in a good way.”
Passion won out again, and Jess wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can follow Jess on Twitter.