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Counter Point: TotalBiscuit’s Response to our Casting Article

TotalBiscuit wrote the following response on reddit to our op-ed on what we felt the NASL and popular casters could learn from IdrA. He was gracious enough to let us publish it as a counter argument:

I’m rather disappointed that this article did very little to substantiate it’s claims, but allow me to try and provide a counterpoint anyway.

IdrA is not a good caster. He does not have the training to be a good caster, he is too quiet, he is frequently monotone, he stumbles in his speech, he has no flow to speak of, he lacks the ability to express passion and emotion. He is however, an analyst of exceptional skill and calibre, easily one of the best in the business. He should be lauded for this however the distinction must be made there.

This is how sportscasting works 101 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Play_by_play

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_commentator

IdrA is a colour-commentator. He fits all the criteria, he is analytical, he is there to provide background and extensive game knowledge, based on experience as a current/ex-player. He is there to fill in time when the play-by-play commentator is not talking and as a knowledgeable resource to back up the play-by-play commentator, who is more often than not, not a professional player/coach/ex-player, but a professional broadcaster.

Of the listed commentators in the IPL, there was 1 colour commentator (Painuser) and 4 play-by-play commentators (HD, DJWheat, Catspyjamas and myself). This was in itself a problem and is not the correct setup, something that all the casters have acknowledged publically and are doing their utmost to resolve (to the point where Apollo may be moving in with me temporarily if we are chosen to cast IPL 2, doing all my assigned matchs with in-studio co-commentary).

Now onto the main point of this article, the idea of ‘telling it like it is’. This is fairly ironic in itself, since casters frequently get criticised for doing such shallow things as telling people what’s going on. Half the time it seems some hardcore viewers have an Inception mindset “WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER!”, demanding almost precognitive casting and metaphysical insight. Lasers may also be involved.

It is not the play-by-play casters job to tell you when a game is over, it is the play-by-play casters job to heighten tension, provoke emotion and increase the viewer’s excitement. You cannot do that by calling a game before it ends. The climax of a game should be the GG, regardless of whether or not it’s blatantly too late. You call a GG 10 minutes before it actually happens, even if it’s absolutely the right call, then you stop engaging a good portion of your viewers, specifically the majority of the viewerbase, the casuals who are there for entertainment. In-depth analysis in sports is generally done post-game, not mid-game. There is definitely space for analysis, plenty of it, but drowning a viewer in 10 mins of in-depth analysis of how Player A fucked up while the game is still going on in the background, will turn off the casual viewer.

I should also point out that it is not dishonest to avoid calling game over before it actually happens. You can without question explain that the situation is very bad for Player A with a wide variety of colourful synonyms and language. However, let us consider the viewing demographic.

Your average master’s league player, hell even high diamond, is definitely analytical enough and knowledgeable enough to see when it’s over. He does not need to be told that it’s over. He will not learn anything from being told that it’s over. I refer to this sentence at the end of the article

“Don’t be afraid to tell us when a game is over, or when players aren’t playing like they deserve our attention. Do so, and your audience will only gain a better understanding of the game.”

Hardcore players will not learn anything from this. Casual players more often than not, don’t WANT to learn anything from this. Different kinds of people watch SC2 for different reasons. SC2 has a substantial viewerbase that doesn’t even own the game for god’s sake, what do you think they tune in for? It certainly isn’t to learn how to play better, they don’t play at all. No, they tune in to watch one of the most, if not the most exciting eSport in the world and they expect it to be presented as such. It is impossible to get excited about a game that ended 10 minutes ago, when you’ve just had the fact rubbed in your face by the casting team. It is possible, if you are a skilled play-by-play caster, to keep the tension up, particularly when there are more casual, less knowledgeable viewers watching. You do not have to lie to them, but you don’t have to tell them it’s done 10 minutes before the GG either. By all means, have the analyst explain why Player A is in such a bad situation and the decisions that lead him up to this point (although I really think some of that should be saved for post-game commentary, a’la sports), but as far as I’m concerned, calling an early GG is a mortal casting sin and should be avoided at all costs.

Just my two pence folks. It’s a nice opinion piece but it lacks perspective on what casting actually is, as well as being from an obviously niche viewpoint which, while it should be catered to without question, is not the only way to look at things, nor even the majority view.

Or if you don’t prefer to read:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1bTWjVqHFE

  • Jeff

    Thanks for taking the time to write such an in depth reply. Thanks even moreso acknowledging that the article was more than just an anti-caster rant, which it was not intended to be.

    A few points for clarity:

    The purpose of the article was not to highlight IdrA as an ideal, or even terribly good caster. It was instead to highlight a series of his specific traits, and heavily imply that popular casters could improve considerably if they acknowledged their importance.

    In particular, his willingness to be openly honest about lackluster play, one-sided situations, and moments where decision-making is far from ideal. This is what I’m referring to with the idea of “telling it like it is”, which you appear to misinterpret in the following statement:

    “Now onto the main point of this article, the idea of ‘telling it like it is’. This is fairly ironic in itself, since casters frequently get criticized for doing such shallow things as telling people what’s going on. Half the time it seems some hardcore viewers have an Inception mindset “WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER!”, demanding almost precognitive casting and metaphysical insight. Lasers may also be involved.”

    I am not suggesting that casters monotonously repeat what is occurring, but rather that they make an effort to be as true to the integrity of the game as possible. The crux of it is that some things simply aren’t worth being excited over. While you may be under the impression that your job is often to MAKE those moments exciting, I think doing so is a disservice to moments that really ARE worth getting hyped over. It also encourages people to watch the game in a way that is ultimately shallow. There’s VALUE in the nuance.

  • GreggSauce

    I think the biggest issue that is brought up is the fact that the majority of the play by play commentators build “fake” hype, or say a lot of just plain wrong things. In other real sports, that happens rarely as everything thats happening can easily be described besides some rare tricky plays.

    I have yet to hear a complete commentator that had enough knowledge to not really ever say anything wrong. Day9 is the closest it gets to that but he’s not even up to date on everything that’s going on sc2.

  • cryingday

    TB’s opinion about not calling GG early is like those NBC sports execs who thought that by not constantly showing the score of a NFL game they’re broadcasting, they could fool the audience into thinking the game’s still competitive. They were wrong. They capitulated and now show the score constantly.

    TB’s commentary style is like the baseball radio broadcasts of the 1920s. Those broadcasts were totally balanced (i.e. afraid of offending a team’s fans when that team sucked), full of artificial sound effects (e.g. hitting a wooden block to fool the listener that the broadcaster was actually at the game), and generally offered showmanship over accuracy (i.e. pretending the game was live instead of being re-enacted via box score reading).

    I do agree with TB’s criticism of Idra’s broadcasting style. Casting alongside Gretorp, who stumbles, mumbles and bumbles his way thru a NASL cast, Idra does drone on. You should, however, check out his work with DJ Wheat on the EG masters casts. Their synergy works really well as DJWheat leads Idra to provide his (often prescient) insights. I would compare their combo to Madden and Summerall (to continue the NFL analogy). DJWheat is energetic like Madden; Idra is spot on accurate in analysis like Madden. Idra has a monotone like Summerall; DJWheat describes the action well like Summerall.

    Just my 2cents.

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