eSports casting - A viewers perspective
Over the last few years eSports has been growing in popularity in an almost exponential manner, popular games like League of Legends, Dota and CS;GO really hyping up the gaming community. Alongside this boost in popularity comes a slew of new and exciting opportunities to forge a career and make a name for yourself in the ever growing industry.
One of the primary roles that people aspire to, seemingly overshadowed only by being a professional player or streaming, is being a Caster. Casting involves a great deal of skill in order to make yourself known; you must have at least a basic understanding of the game you are casting, you must be articulate, you must be able to display charm and strike the ideal level of enthusiasm.
From a viewer standpoint I feel that a lot of the casters for small time tournaments display these essential qualities, but still provide a lacklustre cast. If they are meeting the essential criteria then what exactly is it that makes their casts lack the grip that a tournament requires. What is it that makes a viewer who is greatly interested in the game want to mute the sound and play music instead? In my opinion the answer to this is quite a simple one; the casters are just incapable of working to their strengths.
There are two distinct types of casting -
- Analytical casting which analyses the moves that the players are making and suggests possible strategies the players will take.
- Play-by-Play casting which is very in the moment and talks about what the players are doing now.
Casting is a skill in its own right, in the same way that playing the game is a skill, but unfortunately, where a player can often be taught the skills required to improve through means of coaching and analysts, a caster does not have this luxury. Many casters are self taught and their skills are developed by a mixture of practice and trial and error, often starting out by watching games and commenting within the comfort of their home off-camera.
Watching a number of small tournaments the casters try to fill both roles and while their play-by-play casting can be down to a tee, their in depth knowledge of the game is just not up to the standard required to make analytical casting work. The problem with this is that the viewers of the games become distracted from the games they are watching and instead find themselves challenging the statements that casters are making and delivering as factual.
As an example, League of legends is an incredibly complex game, at the time of writing there are 127 champions, which equates to 520 champion skills (28 belonging to champions with additional forms). There are also a vast array of different items, build paths and a huge amount of different win conditions that a team may take. This complexity means that in order to have the ability to critically analyse a high level player’s or even the overall team's decisions you need to have a vast deal more than a basic understanding of the game. In order to learn the complexities of games like League of Legends to a level where they are capable of analysis at this level analysts devote a huge amount of time to research, a level of which casters; especially those first starting out (often casting for multiple different games) simply do not have the time to dedicate.
Where a game as varied as League of Legends is concerned there is often no right or wrong answer to a situation and analysis becomes very subjective. Take for example two professional players who play the same champion but in completely opposite play-styles. One player could play the champion as an offensive engage, another could use the same champion in a more defensive manner as protection and peel for their team. If both players have the same success-rate, who is to say what is right and wrong? In a game highly dependent on decision making, even raw maths and number crunching cannot consistently give a definitive answer, which would suggest that there often is not a correct and incorrect way to view these situations.
At which point, is it really all that unreasonable for a person with a less in-depth knowledge and experience of the game to analyse the actions of others, and deliver a casting that is a mixture of both distinct types? I think that it is perfectly reasonable for a caster to give their views on strategies used, decisions taken and other aspects of the game, however they should be voiced as an opinion and not as a statement of fact as is often the case in the heat of the moment. Statements made should be open to debate and encourage discussion within the community. However, my personal preference is to hear facts and figures regarding the events unfolding within a game that I am watching as opposed to the opinions of the person casting the game. I also believe that it is possible, but incredibly difficult to strike an effective balance between both styles of casting, something which, for those in the beginning moments of trying to forge a career is unlikely to be achievable.