We talk much about the games and their players. We pay attention to the organisations and events. But do we pay attention to the commentators?
The shoutcasters are an integral part of competitive gaming and in some cases it’s lifeblood. When the tension is high and things get messy on the screen, it’s the commentator’s job to make sense of all the split-second action and be entertaining at the same time. Not an easy task, to be sure.
But what exactly is the caster’s job and how do we tell the good ones, from the bad?
When they are bad, we notice. Many things could go wrong during a game and the casters have to be prepared. A bad caster isn’t knowledgeable when it comes to the game itself and its meta environment. A bad caster gets distracted and talks about irrelevant things at the worst of time. A bad caster could be plain annoying.
So what is a good one, then?
There are at least two main types of shout casters with their strengths and weaknesses, much like the class roles in our favourite games.
A play-by-play commentator is the usually the thing that pops first to our mind when we think casters. This is the guy who yells in the heat of battle, emphasising the key moments and generally hyping everything up. They bring excitement and provide emotional feedback, that’s a key part to the eSport spectating experience. However, they are also often accused of overhyping situations and are more prone to say funny, inaccurate, or straight-up inappropriate things in the heat of the moment.
The other ones are the colour commentators. They are the other side of the coin – very analytical, down to earth, sophisticated in the game’s intricacies and always providing expert information, explaining why exactly this other guy is shouting so much. On the downside, due to the very nature of the commentary they provide, they could be less interesting at best, and straight-up boring at worst.
Some sort of balance has to be struck between the two styles, and this is where teamwork pays off. Again, a concept all competitive gamers are well familiar with.
So how can you become a great shoutcaster? There is no magic potion that you have to drink. Like any other skill set, this is something you gradually build up with hard work and effort. But it’s not an impossible task, either. Here are some quick tips that we find important.
- Know what you’re talking about. You must know the game you’re commenting. You have to be familiar with the mechanics, the characters, the maps and the interactions. The lore of the game is extremely useful for colouring your commentary and a nice way to get out of a situation you’re not prepared for.
But that’s not all. You have to know the metagame, the current trends, what the communities are passionate about at the moment and what the developers are announcing.
And this one goes without saying, but you must know the players! It’s their actions that you’re commenting, it’s their play style that you’re analyzing and it’s their victories and defeats that you are conveying to the audience.
- Build a style and stick to it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the shouty guy, or the brain behind the mic. There is nothing wrong with being a multi-class of these, either. But pick your role and lock to it. This will help viewers recognise you and adjust their expectations from the watching experience. It will help tournament organisers recognise you and pick you for certain events over your colleagues. But most importantly, it will help you become better at your job. When you stick to your ‘lane’ and your co-caster does the same, you are working in perfect synergy.
- Be entertaining. With so much money and passion on the line, it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is entertainment we’re watching and not an actual battle on life and death. The audience appreciates casters who crack jokes at the right times and find unexpected ways to communicate what’s happening on the screen. A good caster can turn the most predictable or mundane in-game situation into a hilarious anecdote that people will talk about after the game.
- Have a catch phrase. This one ties to the previous point and might feel a little weird, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Think of all the big personalities associated with eSports and video game content in general for the past ten years. You can’t hear the words ‘Tons of damage’ and not immediately think of Phreak. Or ‘never lucky’ for Forsen. You get the point. Having a catchphrase helps you build a following and leave an impact in the game you’re commenting and its community.
- Know your limitations and find a partner. You know what’s better than an amazing caster? A team of amazing casters. Having a buddy by your side can help you in more ways than one. If you separate your roles right, you’ll be able to cover all aspects of the game in front of you. You’ll provide insightful, but also entertaining commentary. And most importantly – you will cover each other’s back. It’s human to get nervous, let a slip of the tongue, forget, or just don’t notice an important detail. This is where a second pair of eyes and a friendly remark can not only remedy your mistakes but also turn them into a fantastic moment people will remember fondly. As the old League of Legends motivational poster states – ‘Team work OP!’.
But hey, if you can only take away one thing from this lengthy piece right here, let it be this – just go ahead and do it. If you’re deliberating if you should give the casting a try, don’t. Just open a VOD of a game you like and start yelling at the screen. Record it and then critically examine it. If you suck, just do it again. And then a few more times until it doesn’t suck anymore. Follow your passion and build on your style, and you might be the next big thing on the eSport stages around the world. Good luck!