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Hello Dota lovers, and welcome to the first installment of a series that I will be putting out called What We Should Expect. 2013 has brought us some great Dota moments thus far, and we’re certainly all excited to see where the rest of the year takes us. We’ll have some great new landmarks, such as The International 3, as well as some recurring favorites like Dreamhack Summer, and all those seasonal festivities that find their way into the Dota world. Considering that April is upon us, I’m sure it’s safe to say that most of us already gave up on our New Years Resolutions (probably by February, if we’re going to be honest). However, I know that we all have one resolution that we will never concede: Make Dota better.
So, how do we do it? Well, the answer is… I don’t really know. I don’t know how to make Dota the most popular game on the planet, nor do I know how to get sponsors to start pouring millions of dollars into our competitive scene. I do know, however, what we as a community should expect from our game. The first step towards making big changes and improvements is always an investigation of one’s current state, and that’s what my aim for this series of articles is. I want to take an honest look at our current state of affairs in regards to the professional scene; I want to give credit where credit is due, and point out areas in which we can improve.
This series of articles is, of course, my personal opinion. I am by no means attempting to speak for the entire community in regards to what is good and what can be made better. I am, however, attempting to get the discussion started in a way that will make people seriously consider these topics.
I’d like to start on a positive note and address the aspect of our professional community that I believe is our strongest asset: our beloved casters and commentators. Before I say anything, I want to say this: You are all fantastic! The dedication that you all show to the game, even going as far as to wake up at 4 AM to cast matches (here’s looking at you, Ayesee), is humbling. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
What Is Good
Let’s keep the positive streak going, eh? In my opinion, one of the best things about our casters is their enthusiasm. I remember sitting in my dorm room watching Tobi cast a match from Starladder; though I cannot remember the match, I can honestly say that I have never heard Tobi yell half as much as he did in that game. After an absolute explosion of enthusiasm, my roommate turns to me and says, “Wow, that guy is really passionate about that game.” I laughed, and in my head I thought Damn right. A caster is so much more than someone who can give a play by play of the action; a caster is as much as part of the excitement as the teams themselves. Look at any professional sport with millions of viewers, and you will find commentators who get as excited as Tobi does. If you don’t believe me, listen to any Spanish football announcer, ever. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL! While we might laugh, we know that the game would be far less interesting without that level of excitement from the casters. To sum it up, casters, keep on yelling! Be loud, be enthusiastic, be passionate! We love it, and it makes the games that much more exciting.
It may seem like an odd category, but hear me out. Who doesn’t love a good co-caster? One of the best parts about having our community based online is the ability to connect with each other no matter how far the physical distance between us. You simply won’t be able to get football commentators from Argentina and Spain together without a vast amount of resources. For us, however, a new co-caster is merely a Skype call away. I’d like to give our casters and co-casters a big thumbs up for keeping the casts all different and unique in regards to who shows up. I’ve seen Tobi cast with three different people over the past week! The GD Studio is a great example of this as well; though it’s a bit easier because all the casters are housed in the same studio, the guys do a great job rotating through who casts on any given day in order to keep the atmosphere varied and interesting. Hats off to you guys who use your resources so well to keep your casts varied.
It’s incredibly difficult to admit when you need to improve, and it’s even harder to actually do it. Dota is a complex game, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are about 500 spells in the game to know, about a hundred items, and more jargon than you can shake a stick at. I know that casters get a lot of heat when they make a mistake, but they always improve. I’d like to give some serious credit to both Sheever and Ayesee; you two have great personalities for casting, and your game knowledge has improved so substantially over the past half year or so. Kudos to you two, because your dedication and hard work have really paid off.
What We Can Work On
I am going to go out on a limb and call this category the most divisive one that I have come up with. Let me preface this section specifically by saying that these are my personal thoughts and feelings. If you disagree, please feel free to continue the discussion, or feel free to call me an idiot and move on. I promise not to be offended either way. So, with that being said, here goes:
We do not need curse words or other inappropriate language in our content to make it good content. That’s my point, clear as day. Now, hear me out. I, like all of you, find the employment of curse words a staple part of my daily routine. There’s no getting around that; people like, and feel compelled, to swear. Sometimes, it’s the only way to truly express what one is feeling. However, and it’s a big however, they have no place in professional productions. I’d like to start by saying that as a whole, the maturity level of the professional scene has grown immensely over the past six or so months that I have been following it. Casters specifically have really begun to hit their strides and found their comfort zones in which they can provide compelling and exciting commentary. The same goes for nightly streamers, amateur casters first breaking into the scene, etc. All in all, we’re doing well. Very well. But there’s changes that I believe need to be made.
Curse words and inappropriate language, in my opinion, do nothing but detract from otherwise positive and productive work. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who says “damn” or “hell” should be burned at the stake. What I am saying is that casters should continue to go out of their way, as I know they already do, to guard themselves against using this kind of language. My rule of thumb is “If you can’t say it on TV or in front of your grandmother, don’t say it on the air,” and I’m sure any radio or television persona would say the same. However, I don’t think curse words are our biggest problem. I see their use dwindling more and more as casters grow, to the point where I may hear something worse than “hell” once every few weeks at most. Nevertheless, there is language apart from curse words that I think we as a community, and our casters specifically, should really shy away from.
One of the biggest culprits I often see is the liberal use of the term “rape”. Now, I don’t see it coming from casters so much as co-casters who are not necessarily mic’d up in the spotlight all the time. I know it’s become vernacular at this point for “utterly destroyed” and the like, but I think we need to remember the connotation that this term has. I place the phrase “Cancer Lancer” in a similar vein. Yes, it may be comical. Yes, it may be widespread. But, I think it’s quite inappropriate for casters to be saying “They picked Cancer Lancer” or “X Team has finally found a way to cure cancer.” I understand that as an eSport and an online based community, we’re not really held to the same standards as, say, a baseball community or commentator would be. But let’s prove we’re just as good as a professional sport by holding ourselves to that standard, and not waiting for a guy in a suit from a big business to hand us the dictionary of “Can and Cannot Say”.
Sexism is an issue that has been prevalent in video games pretty much since their creation. Now that eSports has grown to a level at which it blips on the public radar every once in a while, that sort of criticism is louder than ever. If we want to be taken seriously as a community, we need to guard against this behavior. I recall the Starladder Women’s Dota Finals in Kiev in October of last year. I’m going to be blunt: it was awful. Downright awful. There were comments made by spectators and casters alike that reeked of sexism in a way that set our public image in the realm of sexism back about 10 years. It was bad, guys, we have to accept that.
For us, sexism can be a tough issue. Although we have professional female Dota teams under the same organizations as the professional male Dota teams, they are not as much in the spotlight. Therefore, when they do get their turn in the limelight, the harsh words become all the more harsher. I’m happy to say that I have not seen anything of the likes of that Starladder Finals series since October, and I hope it stays that way. After all, we want all people, regardless of sex or gender, to be treated with the same amount of respect, don’t we?
For those of you who don’t believe that these kind of inappropriate words/phrases matter to the success of the scene, I encourage you to take a quick lesson from the FIFA series. Andy Gray, a beloved commentator in FIFA, is mysteriously absent from FIFA ‘13. For those of you wondering why, Andy reportedly made sexist remarks towards a female linesman and a female colleague, and was promptly fired from his commentating position and replaced for the newest FIFA game. We may not be FIFA, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a lesson from it. Take a minute to assess your opinions of a Call of Duty player. If the image that pops into your head is one of a thirteen-year-old shouting out swears that someone his age shouldn’t know over Xbox Live , you understand why we need to be vigilant about the use of language in the Dota scene. We as a community know that we are not all even remotely like that. However, when big moneybags are on the outside looking it, it takes a bit more convincing to get them to see past that stigma.
For more information regarding the Andy Gray controversy, here’s (click this here) a brief article on the matter.
This isn’t so much a point on which casters can improve as it is a hope for the future. I think we can all agree that the production quality currently coming from the GD Studio is amazing. They’re really setting the bar high for the rest of the Dota scene. Of course, I understand that production like that takes a good deal of money, money to which casters with smaller studios do not have access. Therefore, there is absolutely no justification for me sitting here and saying that all casters should have the production quality of the GD Studio; that would be ignorant and just plain stupid. I do, however, hope the GD Studio serves as a benchmark for others as the money begins to flow more freely in the future.
I know that there are some streams that have things the GD Studio does not have, such as instant replays. However, this is again a matter of money (apparently the hardware needed to do that is expensive!). For my money, however, I think the consistent quality of the GD Studio productions is currently the high mark for casters, and I hope one day they may all enjoy the backing that James and Co. enjoy.
That last point ends my rant. I sincerely hope that I have not offended anyone with any of my remarks; if I have, please direct all hate-bricks to Greg’s window (second floor, third from the left). My goal is merely to start an open, frank discussion about the competitive Dota scene and all that it entails. I want people to be able to both praise and criticize and freely talk about what is good and what can be improved. Again, I’d like to give a huge shoutout and thank you to all our wonderful Dota casters that we enjoy on a daily basis. Without you guys, this game simply wouldn’t be as fun as it is
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope it got you thinking. Please feel free to drop any comments or criticisms to my email or Twitter listed below, in the comments section of this article, or in the comments section of the Reddit post. Be sure to stay vigilant for the next installment of the series: What We Should Expect: Players.