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Guest Episode | Alexandre 'FunKa' Verrier: The State of Esport Casting

Guest Episode | Alexandre 'FunKa' Verrier: The State of Esport Casting

Hello everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of Gaming Science.

Today's episode is a guest episode and written by an OG of the esports business - Alexandre 'FunKa' Verrier. To you StarCraft, DotA, or Smash fans out there, FunKa is no stranger, and I'm very exited and thankful to have him contribute to this newsletter. As a caster, host, streamer, former SC2 observer, and business owner he opens up the science-centered approach of 'Gaming Science' and contributes to it by providing a practical, business oriented view.

💡 Today, he will dive deep into the casting business and the transformation that is currently going on. He explains the new approach game developers are taking to increase their numbers, and how that impacts the craft of professional casters.

Hello everyone, my name is Alexandre Verrier, also known as FunKa, and I've been a professional video game caster since 2013. For the last couple of years, I've seen a rather interesting change in the industry and I wanted to talk about it a little bit!

As the internet as a whole sees the rise of influencers and companies rely on their reach to increase their sales and their social media numbers, esports casting is also affected. We’ve recently seen a major increase in the numbers of viewing parties and secondary streams allowed to take place alongside official broadcasts. For instance, during the last season of VCT (Valorant’s biggest league), almost every language featured an official stream and an “influencer” stream.

Those secondary streams sometimes even outperformed the official language one. In the case of French - the difference was quite crazy. 10K on the official, 35k on the secondary. A stream that didn't feature a single experienced caster. Yes, you can argue that the success and numbers of these streams is a reason to allow them in the first place. You can argue that the viewers they brought to the stream is a way of increasing the popularity of their game.

It’s crazy to see the popularity of influencer streams when you think that when the industry was still at its beginning, showing a poor performance as a caster, lacking knowledge on a specific topic or letting emotions get the best of you was regarded as a terrible thing and you’d get message boards requiring your head on a spike. As someone who’s spent the majority of his adult life refining the craft of casting esport matches, this situation frustrates me on many levels.

First of all, it devalues the work of people that invest their time and energy to build up a healthy scene, all year long.

Casting a game professionally implies a complete commitment from the casters. Sometimes you might find yourself prohibited from working on other games or even streaming them. The pay might not be incredible, especially for a “language stream”. I can’t fathom being in this spot and seeing people showing up for the finals and outperforming the clearly superior quality broadcast.

Second, it devalues the job of casting video games in general. Casting is a hard job. It requires many skills. Tempo, elocution, game knowledge, synchronicity as a team, story telling, scene knowledge. It’s a job you need experience and passion to do at a good level.

When an influencer comes in with little to no connection to the actual scene and no casting experience, it’s not surprising that the actual content of the cast is lacking many qualities. This changes the entire perception of what a “good” cast is.

Third, the viewership gathered by these secondary streams won’t easily translate to better numbers for the game in general.

The people watching those streams are not interested in the game that much. They’re here for the influencers in the first place. This seems like a short term decision by the game dev’s (in this case, Riot) to increase the numbers for financial purposes. They’re not building towards a stronger scene and broadcast. They want big numbers to show on slides. What will happen to your numbers when the influencer, you chose to represent your game, decides it’s not worth their time anymore?

Of course, I’m not challenging the great “results” that these streams and broadcasts show. But I feel like we need to protect the craft of proper video game casting.

I wish that the devs that are pushing for such influencer presence to, rather than allowing them to host a second stream, add them to the official broadcast. Pairing these people with expert casters that will make sure the standards of quality are respected, while the audience following these influencers are still brought to the broadcast and can experience their favorite internet stars, while enjoying a proper broadcast. This way, I anticipate that the broadcast all season long might have a better chance to attract these “newbie viewers” on a more regular basis.

The corollary of that entire situation might be that the actual job of casting video games is evolving and that there’s a strong incentive for any caster to also cultivate an “influencer” personality. Work the broadcast and perfect the art of casting video games but also create content out of thin air, without the help of video game footage. I guess times are changing!

My worry is that by making influence more important than actual expertise, we might lose what makes sports and esport broadcasting so interesting and precise and nerdy! In a good way!

To end this piece I would like to emphasize the fact we should  all happy be for a bigger esports community, more inclusive, with more options for the viewers, but I would also love for the next generations of casters and on air talent for esports to be building of whats been done before and not forget the craft, the passion that fuels the whole thing!

Huge thanks again to Alexandre for his writing and inside on the matter of casting and industry insides. Please make sure to follow him and his work on X.
What do you think? Let me hear your thoughts on Twitter (X) and LinkedIn.

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And as always, see you guys next week. Cheers,

Christian 🙂

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