Apparently Confucius was a wise old goat. We never met the guy, but we’ve heard that he said some cool things. One of the small chunks of wisdom he once mumbled loosely translates to “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Now, we do love video games. But get paired against a Bravado player in a Dota pub or a Flipsid3 player in a CS:GO match and you quickly realise pro gamer isn’t the career path for you. So, what are our other options? Managers? Nah. Promoters? Nope. Event organisers? Maybe, but not this day. How about shoutcasting?
What’s shoutcasting? Well, it’s commentating, but for eSports. When you get really into a game and your parents or significant other keep yelling at you to keep it down, you’re basically already doing it. They’re the ones responsible for much of the excitement and trepidation that comes with watching any eSports match. If you doubt these words, watch this video on mute, and then change your life by watching it on full blast. We think you’ll agree that TobiWan’s complete loss of mental control brings a bit more excitement to the play. This is the case for action-packed, free-flowing games like CS:GO and Dota 2. But not even TobiWan himself entered the game as an expert caster. He had to work his way up from unknown Crazy Screamer Guy from Australia to extremely well-known Crazy Screamer Guy from Australia.
Sam Wright over at TechGirl recently did a short interview with Lewis ‘Vudulew’ Williams about eSports casting as a career. But we wanted to know more. So we got in touch with Vudulew and his casting partner Barry ‘Anthrax’ Louzada to dig deeper into the realities of casting as a career in South Africa.
Naturally, the first thing we wanted to know was if eSports casting was a financially viable career in this country. The pair, unfortunately, tells us that it is not. Not yet. They believe that there is still a large amount of growth required in the local gaming scene before it can reach that level. Sadly, at this point in time, there just aren’t enough tournaments, which means not enough work, which leads to low and unstable pay. Vudulew and Anthrax do remind us that the international guys can make a pretty decent living, but this is through years of hard work in an arena that has 20 years of growth and experience on us.
And it certainly isn’t all plain sailing from Day 1. We asked our two casters what it is like at the beginning of a casting career, and while it wasn’t all doom and gloom, it also certainly wasn’t rainbows and cotton candy clouds.
“The hours are pretty easy going. But when it’s game night, don’t expect the loved ones to be understanding of why you have to leave the BBQ early, or why you can’t put your child to bed. There is simply no pay to speak of when you start, and it is pretty slim pickings once you have become established.”
It is painfully hard work for minimal to no financial reward, so it’s a good thing that the casting duo undeniably love what they do. Everyone does like money though, right?
So we asked them what a newbie caster needs to do to get his or her name out there, and how to work towards eventually getting paid to cast. They told us that you essentially start out casting to a minor viewer base, and once you grow your talents, that viewer base expands until you have somewhat of a cult following. Your devoted followers then request your voice at certain big games and tournaments. Once you’ve established and built up your brand, you can then start getting paid for the events that you’re asked to cast at.
“But what things do I need to cast? How do I get my voice into a game and onto the internet for my adoring fans to watch and listen?” Yes, we asked them that too, don’t worry. Our two friendly neighbourhood casters tell us that the first things you’ll need are a good quality mic and headset (no ways!), and a high speed internet connection. Something you may also want to look at is a webcam, but they advise us to not worry too much about that – your face gets scaled down anyway, and your viewers aren’t really interested in your face but rather the action unfolding before them. On-screen overlays are something that many people take for granted, learning how to Photoshop your own overlays together is a good skill to learn, as some tournament organisers may not provide them.
Consider this hypothetical for a moment: you’ve bought yourself a mic, and you’ve cast your first few games. But now you want to get better. Here are some secret training tips:
“There are no secret training tips”
Okay, here are some regular training tips:
“The bottom line is you need to play the game, and know the game really well so you know what to look out for. You also need to know the other players in the game, so you should become ensconced in the community. And eat your spinach, because there are hard people out there that are going to give you negative criticism even if you do better than your predecessors.”
Play the game, know the game, be the game. Eat your greens.
That’s all good and well as a solo act, but what about casting with a counterpart? Perhaps you have one friend that you really enjoy playing games with, and you guys are seriously considering becoming a casting team together. Will it help or will it hinder? As two guys who have paired up to work together, Anthrax and Vudulew tell us that while it is not necessary to pair up as a casting duo, it does help when one person can focus on the plays, and another can bring some colour or analytics to the mic. It makes it a lot easier to call the game when you are not trying to concentrate on two topics off hand.
Finally, we asked Vudulew and Anthrax how they feel about the future of eSports and professional gaming in South Africa, and how excited they are to be involved:
“eSports has procured a firm footing on international channels, be it ESPN or Time Warner. People are noticing that it has a following. That exposure brings with it money in the form of advertising sponsorships and investment from corporates looking to breach this untapped market. It’s growing exponentially here, and I believe it will continue to both locally and worldwide. It will spool into movies, as there are already documentaries, and will go from fringe entertainment to mainstream media. It is an honour to be in on this beautiful game we call eSports.”
So there it is guys and girls. If you want to become a caster, this is all you need to know. Now go get busy. Shia LaBeouf said it best: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.”
Many thanks to Vudulew and Anthrax who took time out of their hectic schedules to answer our questions. We wish you two all the best in your careers and future endeavours.