The International 6 talent invites have finally been revealed, and with them comes the inevitable arguments about who should or should not have received them. I say inevitable, but it’s hardly surprising in a world where talent popularity is almost always polarizing. Obviously not being picked for TI6 is hard on those who don’t get to attend as talent this time around, but while it’s easy to say “better luck next time,” luck doesn’t really come into it. So what does?
Well, hard work for one thing. But just because you worked hard, improved and did a ton for the community in the last 12 months doesn’t make you a certainty for the event, either. This isn’t charity. In fact, if you believe that because you have worked hard, you deserve the opportunity, you’re “doing it wrong.” But hold on, if hard work alone doesn’t count for anything, what else can I do to get the invite? Good question. And though I would make the point that hard work alone doesn’t entitle you to anything, it does count for something.
Also, it’s going to hurt for a while when something you worked hard for didn’t happen, and fans are going to be unhappy, too. How you choose to channel it is exactly that: a choice. Numerous broadcasters in the past have suffered the same disappointment at different events. I, too, missed out on a huge event in 2004 despite working my nuts off the entire year in order to go to one of the few large scale events we had in esports back then. Having missed out, I sulked a little, grumbled a lot and was jealous of those who got to go, believing (as I would think some do now) I was much better than at least half of those who earned the invite. It was easy for me to look at the entire thing and think it was just a bunch of mates who had chosen each other to go, or that somehow there was a conspiracy to keep me away from the event in case I showed others up for being worse than me.
But then I decided, fuck it, I’m going to be in a position a year from now where it’s impossible for me not to get picked to go. I’m going to work even harder than I did already, learn as much as I can, go to evening school to learn how to use cameras better, read countless books to improve my speech and technical ability, study and write on other commentators in sports on radio and TV, and I’m going to learn more games than anyone else. The short story is that I did get to attend the following year and for many years thereafter. It would have been far easier to sit back and moan and groan and blame everyone else, though.
Likewise, James “Kaelaris” Carrol, StarCraft 2 caster and now Heroes of the Storm caster and host missed out on the biggest StarCraft tournament of the year, Blizzcon, in 2013. He did very little wrong all year, worked hard, came in and did unusual hours to cover the game he loved and broadcasted probably more hours than anyone else in the industry that year. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, but for the first month after the event, he was moody and unhappy, obviously very upset at not being able to attend the biggest event of the year for him. Initially he was like me, hurt and upset to the point he talked about moving on from the game, finding something else. But he knuckled down, worked harder than ever before, gained better technical casting through feedback and tutoring and improved throughout the following year from an already good standard. He, too, would end up going to Blizzcon after that first rejection.
There are countless other similar stories I could recite, but I think you get the point. Hard work counts, but not for everything. You also need to work smart, have talent and at least a modicum of screen presence.
So, ok, I’ve got all of those and (far more important) others tell me I have them too, so why didn’t I get to go?
Well, the short answer is, you probably didn’t fit with the show. I’ve spoken about this many times in the past, but more often than not (and especially with TI) it’s not personal. It feelspersonal. Of course it does. But it’s not. Remove the emotion from it and analyze why you weren’t picked, and you’ll find a short list of things, but the main one is likely to be “fit.” Not every show requires a professional and steady host (like me), but instead someone light hearted and more jovial and joking around. While I am sure in my mind I could deliver that too, it’s not what I am known for or have a reputation for delivering, so I miss out on a few events which I would really love to do. If you think I am not upset at missing out on them, you’re mad. But with a lot of experience under my belt, I know it’s often down to “fit” and style. I just didn’t fit the team of people they wanted on the show and/or I didn’t offer them the style they wanted. It also drives me to ensure I continue to improve and operate at a high level, regardless of whether it was “fit” or not.
From a fan’s perspective, it’s easy to say “but, X person is better than Y person, just replace them with X.” A couple of things on that: First, as the fan of person X, you’ll be viewing them through rose-tinted glasses, be highly emotional about them not being picked and may even dislike person Y. There is a strong possibility you don’t know what type of show is being planned either, so you can’t take that into account, just singularly that you prefer one person over another. That’s OK, of course, but without all of the facts and being clouded by emotion, it’s hard to be objective. I’m not saying your view doesn’t count, just that it’s obvious you prefer one over another, but that doesn’t mean you are the majority or that you are right.
Second, you are also unlikely to understand the real chemistry between all of the broadcasters, but instead literally compare one person against another. For example, comparing SirActionSlacks with Purge makes no sense, but it’s been done before in the context of “why on earth isn’t SirActionSlacks going when Purge is?” As if they are somehow interchangeable, when the reality is they both offer different things and perform completely different roles. It’s like saying I’d rather have five carry heroes in the team instead of a couple of supports. It makes no sense whatsoever. If you are going to try and make a case for someone, at least promote what they are good at and what they offer instead of comparing them (needlessly) to others who did get picked.
Even when roles and personality are similar, it’s still hard to say definitively that person X should replace person Y and that’s because it’s not always about a strict, one-for-one policy on a talent list. In some cases, sure, it’s a straight choice between two people you feel offer something similar, but in most cases it isn’t.
While on the subject of those who were picked to attend, please don’t insult them by challenging why they were picked. Just because your personal favorite didn’t get picked doesn’t make it the fault of the person you don’t happen to like. Remember, none of the talent decided the talent list!
Additionally, as harsh as this might sound, just because you live and breathe Dota and others (who got picked) may not, it does not give you any greater entitlement to be picked up as talent. I know we’d like to think it does, but skill, talent, ability to do the job to a high level, chemistry and fit are all greater factors. Again, I’m not saying it doesn’t count for something, but it just can’t be taken into account alone.
I totally understand the fans supporting the people they want to see at the big events — hell, any event — but especially The International. For a lot of people in Dota, it is not only a validation of their skills as a broadcaster, but it also sends a message to the rest of esports: “Here is a broadcaster who is good enough to be at TI.” In addition, let’s not beat about the bush; it’s a good pay day too. Whereas most of the year, talent will jump from one event to another, barely able to pay the bills in some cases, TI is the one event a year where you could legitimately make enough money to cover the lean months and call this a career.
So for those who didn’t make it this time, yes I have every sympathy, because lord knows all of them “deserved” to go, but there has to be a cut off, a limit, and there has to be someone deciding what type of show they want. For those who didn’t make it this time, ask for feedback from Valve, ask for it from your peers. Then try and remove the emotion from it all and be absolutely honest with yourself: “Have I done everything I could do to be the best broadcaster in this scene?” If the answer is “no,” there are probably things you can work on to get even better. If the answer is “yes,” you’re probably a liar.
Ultimately, if you decide after all of this that not being invited, in all probability, lay with the type of show Valve wanted, then walk away unburdened and without any malice. While still not very nice, you’ll be safe in the knowledge there was little or nothing you could have done anyway.
Photos by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com