What’s It Like To Be An eSports Commentator?

What’s It Like To Be An eSports Commentator?  Pause Resume’s Kenneth Teo had the opportunity to speak to InanimateJ about how he got started and what the future might hold for the Rocket League community …

Starting his career a few months ago, InanimateJ now casts for several tournaments, including Rocket League Asia, Minor League Doubles, Shift Pro League, Mythical eSports, Mind Games eSports, and Rocket League Central. I had a chat with him, asking him questions about his life, the problems of being a shoutcaster – especially one that covers three vastly differing timezones – and the Rocket League scene in general.

J first started out at Rocket League Asia, tuning in one fine Friday night, pondering about his professional Rocket League career and the Asia scene in Rocket League when he stumbled upon Rocket League Asia’s first ever community cup. Back then, the casters were Pro.Ton and ALS, the former who is still casting with J these days during Asia tournaments, and ‘the chat was being a bit savage to them, so they asked if anyone wanted to help out, they could volunteer.’ J stood up to the task, despite having no experience, and was casting the last 3-4 matches in the tournament, and his career as a shoutcaster has taken off ever since.

Pause Resume’s Kenneth Teo: Earlier you mentioned you basically cast for 3 different regions, how’s that like on you, personally, having to cater to such different time zones?

InanimateJ: Truthfully I don’t do a lot in Europe (EU) anymore, now that Rocket League Central picked up ESL casting again on Sundays. Weekends are the only times I had available for EU broadcasts, and it’s hard to do two casts in a row. To more specifically answer your question though, it can be hard, but there are tricks around it. I’m naturally a night owl, so staying up late on a Friday night for Rocket League Asia is just a natural extension of my behaviour. That’s actually how I found RLA in the first place!

KT: Ah, but do the other organisations you mentioned earlier require you to cast on weekdays? Because I know RLA only does weekends …

J: They do, but as far as North American (NA) scheduling goes, I’m usually available for anything that starts a bit later in the evenings. Some organizations start their tournaments right when I get off work, so I can’t make those. I actually just finished casting for Shift Pro League before this interview, though.

KT: Ah, which leads me to my next question actually, so based on that I assume you don’t do this full time?

J: No, there’s a really small percentage (to the point where you could probably count the exact number on fingers) of people in the community that can use this as a career. The rest of us do it for free out of the love for the game and the community at large, and want to see it be something really huge.

Personally, I think this speaks a lot about our gaming communities in general. Rocket League aside, there are only a handful, perhaps slightly more in the bigger communities, that can fully rely on their career in the gaming industry to be their sole source of income, but the love and passion for the game, whether player or shoutcaster or other background staff, helps to fuel and drive the want to be involved and participate in the communities. As I spoke more to him, InanimateJ’s passion and love for the game really shines through when he talks about our beautiful community.

I also asked J about the differences between casting with Asian shoutcasters as opposed to that of the NA and EU ones, to which he spoke coyly that twitch chat, being twitch chat, was always going to find any sort of fault and criticism and run with it, which happens no matter the regions. He, however, did mention that NA casters drew “… from sports broadcasting such as hockey and basketball, which shows in their styles.”

He was quick to downplay the difference though, suggesting that the most important difference was in fact experience. “Casting takes the same amount of dedication and discipline to get good at as playing the game at a high level competitively does. You really have to work at it, and very few people are naturally talented enough to really make an impression right away.”

KT: But going back to you jumping in impromptu on your first cast, did it come naturally to you? Or was it something you had been thinking of doing for a long time? Did you yourself draw from watching sports?

J: I had been considering it for a couple months, I think? And I really did channel watching sports in the early days. Once I got my start, and started getting noticed, I made contacts with other casters in North America, and really drew from their feedback to improve and get better every time i got on the air. I did feel like I was naturally suited to do it, though.

KT: Is there anything you do in order to get into the right state of mind before these games? Like some sort of pre-game ritual?

J: Not really. To be honest, it’s easier to get into a state of mind for casting than it is to get into a state of mind for playing.

Personally, I find it really easy to get up in public and talk about something I’m passionate about. I find it a lot harder to get into a frame of mind to succeed in a win or lose scenario.

KT: Do you play any other games competitively or are involved/know about their competitive scenes? How would you compare the RL community to those, say DOTA or League?

J: I’ll be honest, I avoid DOTA and League like they’re going to give me incurable diseases. However, I do play a MOBA in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. Heroes’ competitive scene has blown up to huge levels, and are probably in a place where Rocket League aims to go in the future, with a really high-level pro league that has promotion and relegation with an amateur league. As far as the players and fans go, they’re just as passionate anywhere they go.

Take DOTA2’s Internationals. The prize pools for those are basically all crowdfunded through in-game item sales, and look how huge they get.

That’s why I think some people were kind of salty when the prize pool for RLCS3 was announced; they thought it was going to be like DOTA2, but Psyonix had a plan, and it’s one I think will really benefit the community as a whole. Just needs patience.

KT: Do you think RL will ever reach those levels, both in terms of prize pool and player participation from the ‘casuals’, and what do you think about RLCS3 as a whole, especially now that OCE as well as certain parts of Asia, (The Philippines and Indonesia) have been included? And do you think RLCS4 might…possibly include Asia?

J: RLCS3 is just the first step in what I am sure is a long-term plan that Psyonix has for small, manageable growth. And that’s a phrase I like to use with orgs that ask me for advice: “small, manageable growth”. Grow too large, too fast, and risk collapsing under your own weight without the right supports.

Do I think RL will reach those levels? I think it’s possible, but the community has to let Psyonix execute their plan. They’ll do right by us, but only if we don’t rip them apart demanding unrealistic things from them.

RLCS4 will include regions that make financial sense for Psyonix to include in the LAN. It’s all going to come down to costs.

InanimateJ’s humility and personable personality shines through the interview as well as on stream when he casts, proposing that he is one to be excellent at faking his way through things when he casts by himself, but anyone who watches him knows, he handles himself, even when alone, extraordinarily. The love for our community also shows because he is currently in the process of running a workshop for the up-and-coming shoutcaster enthusiasts of Rocket League Asia, saying that he “sees it as a way to give back and also to potentially give himself a bit of a break.”

KT: That is amazing, thank you for your time and personally, thank you for your work with RLA, who knows where the competitive scene would be without our established, regular caster. Any shoutouts?

J: Agoney, for giving me the opportunity to get involved with MLD, Curtis for being an amazing mentor and a great friend, Minamacky for putting up with me as a brother for 28 years, and RLA for giving some random guy in Twitch Chat the chance to yell at his screen in the middle of the night for entertainment.

KT: Cheers man, thank you!

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