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Luci Kelemen
Luci Kelemen

Writes about way too many things. Has way too many opinions. Wants to tell all the interesting stories in the world.

November 24th, 2020

It seems Richard Lewis’ crazy concoction that was the BOT Major might actually end up getting Sadokist back in the casting fold, and his performance in the final of the brilliantly stupid competition gave us a glimpse both of what we’ve been missing by his absence and the many disparate elements that go into top tier casting even when the gameplay is just window-dressing.

Beep boop, out of the loop

It’s been said that a good actor can make reading the phone book sound like Hamlet to their audience, and casting a bunch of bots messing up the basics of CS under the guise of a Major final is pretty much the esports equivalent of such an act. Sadokist and Jacky passed the test with flying colors, delivering quite the hype cast for what was basically a big practical joke.

Yet, it’s one that has value beyond the fun factor, especially to those of us who are interested in the world of commentary. It turns out that you can put together a pretty entertaining cast on the fly even without any real gameplay, simply because that has very little to do with what brings the hype.

Turns out even casters need inhuman reactions to catch the exciting moments in time: in fact, a quick look at any lower-level event’s casting will show that the commentators often take a few seconds before they can interrupt their train of thought and vocally highlight the highlight-worthy moment. It kills the hype when the guy who got that sick double entry is already gunned down by the time the caster shouts the second syllable in his name.

This isn’t just the question of verbiage: getting up to speed with the hype moments requires a fairly wide vocal range, too. Sadokist can go from a regular conversational tone to THIS IS ULTRA EXCITING in the time it takes to pull off a noscope with an AWP. Again, this is something you’ll often find missing with lower-level casts, where the big moments get treated by those typical restrained shouts from a tired commentator: vocal cords strained, no air left for the oomph.

Esports casting is very different from the way traditional sports broadcasts are managed, with extreme examples like tennis or snooker commentators only chiming in in-between gameplay breaks. Imagine a similar approach in Dota where there aren’t any and weep!

The human element

It can make sense not to impose your personality so much on the broadcast, but with a lot of the human element missing due to the players’ in-server representation being the main focus, much of the burden of communicating the human impact of the big moments falls on the casters.

A good understanding of the gameplay is also paramount, and even if you can toss off the in-depth analysis to a secondary commentator, you still need to be able to identify the big moments for the audience. It was exactly what made Semmler so popular during his original stint in the CS:GO space, and it’s a very important attribute to have for any caster, so much so that many in the community ended up taking the good thing for granted, driving him out into the OWL wilderness for a few years. His hype reactions were derided as repetitive and without any strategic insight – the former wasn’t true, and the latter has never been the point.

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The new breed of CS:GO casters have also been excellent at crafting wordplay on the fly, alliterations and rhymes springing from their minds in the middle of a round to provide that extra flair to their descriptions. Though most would agree that Machine is the undisputed master of the art, Sadokist is a close second, with perhaps an even better understanding of when to hold back. Sometimes simple is better, and no matter the lyrical excellence if the context isn’t right. The exploits of stunna and James Banks behind the desk show how loud the clang is when the wordplay has nothing to do with what was previously said, and as tough as it is to come up with a good transition, it can be even tougher to find one that’s appropriate to the moment. The added joke factor of the bot-based matchup made this all the easier this time around, but it nevertheless served as a great highlight of the experience.

There are also the soft skills which you don’t get to see on the broadcast but can make or break a career. Beyond the ever-pervasive question of social skills in esports, casters that are flexible enough to be paired with anyone at a moment’s notice and able to find the right wavelength at no time will have an edge over those who are still clinging to a set partner in a well-established duo. You also need to be able to manage the same tensions of the long travels and the insane hours as the players do – but spending a whole lot more time in the public eye in the process.

Of course, the BOT Major is no substitute for the real thing: it’s not possible to conjure meaning out of thin air and it’s the twists of fate and the real people involved that make those big moments on the servers memorable for the rest of us. And still, it’s perhaps no surprise that this fun little affair nudged Sadokist all the closer to a return to the casting booth – after all, if he could get this much mileage out of ten bots’ attempts to tenderize one another, he’ll be just as good as he always was when it comes to the real deal.

Photo credit: HLTV