The point of this article is to NOT serve as a guide for the individual who seeks a profession in eSports, because that would be misleading. Instead it is to paint a picture as to what you can expect to experience if your dream is to become a commentator. Everything written below is from my own personal experience.
I would like to begin this article by clarifying who I am. My name is Scott Lussier, but the majority of you who will read this know me by my alias and/or gamertag Gandhi. I have been apart of eSports for eleven years now. Throughout this time I have been a competitor and a commentator. I competed on the Major League Gaming circuit *consistently* from the years 2005-2008. Within this time I was considered a professional gamer. The definition of professional gamer varies depending on whom you ask.. My favorite definition of this term comes from one of my good buddies named Sir Scoots. Scoots believes that you can’t be considered a professional unless you are getting paid to compete. Just because you win money doesn’t make you a professional. Instead you should be paid to just show up before you can consider yourself a pro. Too many people in today’s scene believe a professional gamer is one who simply places in the Top 8/16, depending on the game, but I believe these people like the title more than actually being a professional. Anyways, given that definition I was technically a professional. Within those four years of competing for MLG I won 7 events, 1 national championship, eight 2nd places, and in my respected game which was Halo 2 I never placed outside of the Top 2 at a national championship. During the 2008 Halo 3 season I began to lose interest in competing and became the first Professional Halo player to become a commentator. Fast forward to today and I’ve commentated at over 25 large scale events and I am not limited to commentating one game.
“How did you become a commentator?”
My journey to become a commentator is much different than most of you who seek the same profession. You see, I competed on the professional circuit for four years. As you can all imagine the transition from winning a national championship to becoming a commentator is much easier than it is to climb through the ranks and get into the “inside clique.” At the end of the 2008 Halo 3 season I reevaluated my priorities and I came to the realization that I didn’t have the drive to be the best anymore. What was I suppose to do? Well fortunately for me I was able to sit down Sundance, the CEO of MLG, and have a long talk with him. For the record, Sundance was practically a second father to me. He watched me “mature” over the years and never failed to tell me what was on his mind, and for that reason alone I will always think highly of him. Anyways, I told Sundance that I had lost interest in competing in Halo 3, but I didn’t want to turn my back on my MLG/Halo Family. Sunny responded to me by saying, “As long as there’s a MLG there will be a place for you. With that said, what do you think about becoming a commentator?” I instantly jumped on the opportunity and that’s how it all began.
A lot of you are probably saying to yourself, “What a lucky piece of S#%^,” and you’re in the wrong. The only way you can be entitled to that opinion is if you have won a national championship and were denied the opportunity to become a caster. If that’s the case, I have nothing by sympathy for you. Perhaps you have the personality of a blade of grass.
That is the broad overview of how I got to where I am today. “Yes it’s true that the past is the torch that lights the way, but what’s stopping you from putting that torch out and making a new one?”
The Two Styles in Commentary
In traditional broadcasting you will have a play by play commentator and color commentator. The play by play commentator is the guy who will say things like, “Pistola, positioning himself on the top tower. Ogre 2 is pushing through green box and Pistola connects with the headshot.” It’s weird typing play by play, but hopefully that was good enough ha! This commentator will be “driving the bus.” His responsibilities include bringing in the show, keeping up with the in-game action, throwing to commercials, and closing the broadcast. A perfect example of this style is Chris Puckett. Puckett does an amazing job at following the action while maintaining his energy levels. For the aspiring play by play caster, maintaining your energy levels is imperative! There is nothing worse than listening to a commentator who’s 110% excited ALL the time. The viewer should be able to tell the difference between a normal play, a clutch play, and an INSANE play. Plus, by the time 6pm rolls around that personality can no longer carry on a show because he’s too “tired.” Gee, I wonder why?
The other type of commentator is called the “Color commentator.” The color commentators job is to break down the gameplay he is seeing before him, be the expert, and provide entertainment. “Well on midship the main focus is to really control the pink tower.” That’s about as basic as it gets regarding the color. The most important trait this type of caster can possess is the ability to convey his thoughts thoroughly. Why is that important? Well, his job is to break down the most advanced tactics so the viewer can understand and in case you didn’t know the average viewer isn’t a professional. SHOCKER!
Now there are some casters that are able to do a mix of both color and play by play, but this relies heavily on their chemistry. Chemistry is a very overlooked factor in regards to commentating and I wished more companies understood this. One of my favorite sports personalities to listen to is Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, because they have such good chemistry. It doesn’t sound forced much like other commentator pairs. Instead it sounds more like they are having a conversation.
“Finding your style”
It’s hard for me to think back on this time due to the endless amount of insecurities I have regarding my beginning casting career, but I’ll do my best.
It took me three years of commentating to unleash my personality when the camera was on. I, like you, based my work off of all of the people who paved the way for me. My “casting role models” at the time were Chris Puckett, Tasteless, and Artosis. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t come to realization of how blatantly fake I had become. This was the hardest problem to overcome for me because I wasn’t sure how to be myself on camera. “Me? Who the hell cares about Scott Lussier? People care about what Tasteless and Artosis because they understand how to cast. Scott, well you just suck.” This is the shit I would say to myself! How absurd is that?
The main feedback I have for aspiring casters is to BE YOURSELF. No offense but I can’t stand how fake people try to be on camera. **WARNING** it is very easy for the viewer to tell if you are being fake or not. Nine times out of ten you will be called out for this.
Commentating is a conversation! The problem I see with a lot of young casters is they try to do too much, which I think stems from having to do a lot of solo casting work (which I will always respect the grind). Sure, if you’re the play by play you can do some color but don’t over do it to the point where your co-caster can’t get a word in. I immediately refuse to work with anyone who tries to do it all because it’s just NOT fun to work with. If you are struggling to find a person who enjoys working with you on the regular then there is most likely a reason behind that. Listen to yourself objectively. I know the ego is a pain in the ass to tame, but you should be your main critic. If you aren’t then you will simply seek the people who will tell you what you want to hear. This causes people to never leave their comfort zone, and I feel for those people.
It’s important to discover your style as quickly as possible, but there are steps to finding that out. The first thing I had to do was become comfortable in my own skin. This comes with a certain level of confidence that is a necessity to possess. I’m not saying you have to think you’re better than everyone to be on camera, but if you get on camera and you perceive yourself to be less intelligent/funny than everyone else you’re going to bomb. Realize that you, as a person, are completely different than EVERY other person on this world. That alone makes your perception on this world UNIQUE.
Now it is time to see which style better fits you. Personally I adjust my style of casting depending on who I am casting with. I believe it is good to be able to do both play by play and color, but for the sake of this article I’ll stick to just picking one. The first thing you should ask yourself is how much you know about the game. Are you able to dissect top tier gameplay and pinpoint on the fly what was the turning point in the game? Or what was the reason why one team won? Are you able to know the players background information off of the top of your head without notes? If you are able to do those things then you are able to become a color commentator. If not, play by play might be more your style. With play by play comes an understanding of the game on a professional level, but you must be able to keep up with the fast paced game WHILE keeping your energy levels. Play by play has the important role of embracing the moment. Everyone knows that moment when you hear the caster go “xyz is running the flag but he does have to be careful because there are two players around the corner.He hops the corner ANDDDD OH MY! HE GET’S THE TWO PIECE TO SECURE NOT ONLY THE FLAG BUT THE GAME!” It is an extremely important role to fill and it’s a necessity to have on the broadcast.
Scariest Part of Being a Commentator
Well, the scariest thing about getting into this profession isn’t rejection or failure. It is the simple fact that our profession, whether it’s commentating or being a pro, lies in the hands of the developers to produce a game that is “eSports ready.” In order for the commentators to make money, as well as the pros, there HAS TO BE a casual audience. Without the casual audience means there is limited or no viewership, which means the scene will slowly die out. This dilemma is one that has affected me. What happens when this phenomenon occurs? There’s two things a person can decide to do. He can pack up his bags and say “well the ride was fun while it lasted.” The other is the ability to say “Well, that scene has come to an end but that doesn’t mean my career has to end. I just have to put a lot of work into learning the next game.” If you choose the second option, like I did, then I have one thing to say to you. Your name means nothing in any other scene. All you have is the skills you have acquired up to point and your work ethic. I salute everyone who puts their pride on the line to chase their dream. I believe the world should be made up of these individuals.
The words I have written above will only help you out so much.If I said what I really wanted to say it would have been about a paragraph and and half. The truth is you’re going to read this and *hopefully* have a better understanding of the two different types of personalities and which style you should pursue. That will only take you so far. The real battle comes from within yourself. Suffice it to say the climb to the top is a long and enduring road. There will be times where you will have no faith because you just “can’t get a break, even though your are the best at it!” When this thought pops into your head you have to beat the hell out of it. This is your ego’s way of trying to protect you from failing, because emotional pain is quite similar to physical pain and the ego doesn’t like to be hurt. Personally, every time I feel a lot of resistance before making a decision (Such as making the switch to cast COD) I know that is is imperative to go through with it. Why? Because that is how you unlock your true potential.
No one talks about the guy who chased his dream and just gave up when things got “tough.” That guy sits in the local bar drinking every weekend with the same group of people, who may not even be his friends, talking about how screwed over he got in this life. Do you really want to be a 50 year old drunk filled with regret? If so, by all means be my guest.
Other than that, I love ya but I don’t love ya.