Nov 01, 2019 Written by: Chris Scott Barr

After Borderlands, Britanni Johnson takes on esports and Twitch

Articles: Gaming
Article Tags: Community

When you first get control of your character in Borderlands, you’re greeted by a soft voice connected to a strange vision on your screen. The woman in the vision tells you that she’ll be your guardian angel on your journey to open up the mysterious Vault. For the rest of the game, she stays true to her word and guides your way without giving any indication of who or what she is. It will take another two games—Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel—to fully understand the pivotal role she plays in this world.

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When you peel back those synthesized vocal effects and visual overlays, you’ll find Britanni Johnson, the delightful actress behind your guardian, Angel. When she's not voicing animated characters on screen, Britanni has made a name for herself by hosting esports events. Most recently, she dived into the world of Twitch streaming. I recently sat down with Britanni to battle our way through some Borderlands 2 co-op in preparation for its long-awaited sequel.

Ding! Newbie

As Claptrap guided our half-frozen characters back to his lair, Britanni recalled some of her earliest gaming memories. Like many of us from a certain era, she remembered being a bit too young to play Duck Hunt "the right way," but quickly figured out that you could take out those ducks by pressing the Zapper right up against the screen and pulling the trigger. Thankfully, her aim has vastly improved since those days. As she told me about her early Duck Hunt strats, Britanni helped me make short work of the fierce Knuckle Dragger so we could continue on our journey.

Most wouldn’t consider DOOM to be a game for children. Even so, Britanni would spend hours at a time sitting in her grandfather’s lap, playing a modded version of the classic PC title. It wasn’t the brutal, bloody gore that drew her to one of the original first-person shooters. Instead, the mod replaced some of the typical enemies with more family-friendly NPCs like Barney the Dinosaur and the Energizer Bunny. There was something about finding (and shooting) these characters that she found hilarious. Of course, the PG-rated characters could hardly distract from the violence of the game, but the skills she honed back then were put to good use as we battled our way through countless psychos and followed Claptrap into peril. 

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It only seems fitting that her earliest gaming memories would be of a shooter that eventually paved the way for modern FPS titles like the one that kick-started her career. However, her love of gaming wasn’t constrained to a single genre. Later, she would fall in love with RPG titles like Final Fantasy VII and VIII. Britanni reminisced about how the rich stories and complex characters in those games were among the first to speak to her on an emotional level. I commiserated with her about the heartbreak we felt the first time we saw Aerith’s final encounter with Sephiroth. These types of games and stories would lead her to the popular MMO World of Warcraft, where she spent countless hours raiding and making new friends in her guild.

Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s meant living through one of the biggest explosions in the popularity of gaming that we’ve ever seen. But where many parents saw violent and unhealthy trends, Britanni’s mom and dad allowed her to embrace her passion. In fact, as we talked about how much we would play in those days, she said that of all the things she would get grounded from, video games were the exception. Her parents might have grounded her from things like the phone or staying over with friends, but they never restricted her access to her games. She joked about how she should have tried to get in trouble back then, just so she’d have to stay home and play World of Warcraft all weekend.

Made in Fyrestone

With her rich background in gaming, you’d think it was only natural that Britanni would end up working in the industry. However, her ultimate career path was as much a surprise to her as anyone else. While studying political science and energy technology and management at Texas Christian University, her life seemed to be set to take a very different path. It was only when her friends encouraged her to respond to a post on campus to “be in a video game” that life took a sudden turn. Thinking that it was merely someone’s school project in need of a voice, she was persuaded to attend the open audition. She had no idea that she was taking her first steps into a larger world.

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We all know what happened next. Despite having no training or experience in voice acting, she was called back several times for further auditions until Gearbox Software ultimately decided that she was the best fit for the role of Angel. Because of her inexperience in the industry, Randy Pitchford and the rest of the team took her under their collective wings as they started working out the specific direction they wanted to go with her character. 

Since hers was the only live-action role to be filmed, she had a unique place on the team. Long before the game found its iconic comic book-inspired art style, the production team was shooting footage to determine exactly how they wanted her scenes to look. This involved test shoots in various locations trying out different ways to capture the look and sound of her character. The final footage of Angel you see in the original Borderlands is actually the product of Randy Pitchford himself using a camera on the roof of the Gearbox headquarters.

After being a part of a highly successful game, you might expect that Britanni would have been ready to jump head-first into the industry. However, she remained grounded about the situation and decided to continue with her studies. When Gearbox was preparing for the game’s sequel, Randy and the rest of the team were surprised to find that after she received two bachelor’s degrees at Texas Christian University, she had decided to pursue yet another degree—this time in law. But after Gearbox approached her about the second Borderlands title, that’s when she realized that this wasn’t just a one-off thing and that there was a career to be found in her role. It was then that she decided that perhaps law wasn’t her calling, and decided to go all-in on a career in the gaming industry.

Can’t we get BEYOND Thunderdome?

Due to the events of the previous games, you won’t find Britanni reprising her role in Borderlands 3, but if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see a few references to her character throughout. Just because she's not in the game doesn't mean that she hasn't been keeping busy, though. In fact, just before our interview, she had a last-minute audition pop up for a large studio, something she says is a regular occurrence for her these days.

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In addition to voice acting, Britanni has been hosting various esports and gaming events around the globe. She’s hosted events for Dreamhack, TwitchCon, PAX, the SXSW Game Awards, and more. In fact, she was the host of our ROG Join the Republic campaign as we searched the world looking for the next esports superstars.

Britanni doesn’t just stick to commentating, however. Recently she competed in two tournaments at TwitchCon to show off her gaming chops. She made semifinals in the Madden NFL 20 Twitch Prime Crown Cup and played in the Teamfight Tactics Twitch Rivals tournament. Somehow in between all of that, she also found time to host the Borderlands 3 Mayhem Match while at the show.

When Britanni signed onto the ROG stream team recently, we upgraded her home gaming setup to a fast ROG Strix GL12CX-DH981 desktop with an Intel Core i9-9900K CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080. We teamed that PC up with a full set of our ROG PNK LTD peripherals. I asked Britanni what it was like to have such a powerful PC at her disposal for the first time, and she told me how the GL12CX lets her appreciate just how beautiful and smooth PC games can be. She also enthused about how her new rig gave her the power she needed to get into the streaming game for the first time. On the whole, Britanni expects the GL12CX will step up her game and elevate her career. We're glad to provide the assist.

If you want to keep up with Britanni as she battles through games like Destiny 2, Borderlands 3, and Teamfight Tactics, you can find her on Instagram, Twitter, or Twitch.

Articles: Gaming
Article Tags: Community
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