Q&A: Anders Blume on ELEAGUE Season 1 and adjusting to live TV

Anders Blume is one of the most respected and well-known casters in Counter-Strike. His distinct style and chemistry with partner Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat is widely heralded in the community, and the duo has casted some of the biggest events in the scene.

The first season of ELEAGUE provided a new opportunity for Blume, who had the chance to be on live television while also working behind the scenes with the rest of the talent to help produce the inaugural season of ELEAGUE.

Slingshot’s Vince Nairn had the chance to catch up with Blume during the final weekend of ELEAGUE Season 1 to talk about the ups and downs of the season, framing esports for a broader audience and what to expect going forward.

Vince Nairn: What are your thoughts overall just being here and seeing how this first season has played itself out?

Anders Blume: I think it’s exciting. Already, it’s a big surprise mousesports made it this far. Its gotta be one of the best runs they’ve had as a team. I think that’s the most outstanding thing. I think the rest, you could have expected them to get this far. Virtus.pro looked strong recently, and Fnatic look a bit shaky, so I think it’s actually a bit difficult to predict exactly who’s gonna be in the finals, but it’s a good four teams.

VN: Yeah, mouz in general has been kind of interesting. I think it was Thorin who said they’re kind of the gatekeepers of the top tier of Counter-Strike, so to speak. What would it mean for them to continue this kind of upset run?

AB: I mean, I think it would sort of justify keeping NiKo almost a prisoner on that team and it would suddenly make it look like they had all along. They brought in Kassad, a former teammate of NiKo and a very experienced player, and he’s the coach now and he seems to be coming alive and looking really active in his role as coach. It’s always that difficult thing. If you’re trying to make it as a team into becoming a top five team in the world or something like that, obviously at some point, you have to think, “Have we extended all our resources to bring in someone else? When is the roster change move going to come?” And they haven’t done it for a long time now. Even though it seemed like they should have maybe — they’ve been very close to beating really good teams and they just continuously haven’t, and at that point you have to think you’re only going to get so many chances before you just have to give up and try something else.

VN: How has the first season of ELEAGUE just kind of met your expectations coming in?

AB: I had more fears than anything else. I was worried about the sort of television world clashing with the esports world, and a lot of restrictions being imposed on us for what we could and couldn’t do, all of these things. That really hasn’t happened. It’s been much more a case of Turner and the producers being very interested in learning what we normally do, and then there are some hard limitations. There are obviously some advertising blocks that sort of have to fit into a television schedule. But I don’t feel like they’ve been a big imposition on where we were sitting. So overall I’ve been super pleased with the way everything has been going. The mentality seems to be all the time that “We’re learning. We’re still building. We’re still evolving,” not that “We are an Emmy award winning production company, we’ll show you how it’s done and that’s the end of it.” That’s been a real pleasure, in my opinion.

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VN: What is the difference in the production standpoint in terms of storytelling when you’re in a league format versus the tournament format, where it’s long arcs as opposed to a week or weekend?

AB: We have weekly production meetings where everyone gets to pitch in. Anyone can say, “This is an interesting story. I think we should be looking out for this.” And that goes into it. If everyone agrees, then someone will go to work on that, interview the players and film it. That in itself is fun because you can put something into the world just by having the idea. For us, when we’re actually doing the casting, we have a lot of back and forth between us and our producer, so we can very easily sort of say, “Hey we need this,” or “We need to show these stats.” There’s a lot of really dynamic sort of back and forth with the production team. That helps too.

VN: Is there any adjustment you had to make transitioning to being on TV?

AB: Everyone who’s watched whenever we’ve done the Friday shows, which are the ones being broadcasted, we tend to change our vocabulary a little bit. We try and make things more accessible for new viewers; a little less with the technical terms, a little more with explaining basic things. But the majority of our audience already know Counter-Strike, and eventually they’re going to be bored if we go really hard at it, so we try to find a balance. But I think most people appreciate the idea that ultimately what we’re trying to do is grow the community. It will keep happening for a while, and we’ll see if it pays off.

VN: What do you think overall right now about the state of the game? There are so many things happening on both positive and negative ends of the spectrum. What’s your take on where we are as a whole?

AB: We’re in a really strange place right now because we have all the gambling stuff that’s going on that seems to detract from the competition and the fun of that. We also have simply too many games, too many tournaments and too many leagues that end up colliding, or at least they are so close to each other that it’s hard for the fans to focus on any one of them. If you missed one game during the major, then so what, you could practically catch that game the next week in a different league somewhere. That obviously shouldn’t be the case. Especially for the majors, it should be the case that you should be just a little bit starved for content. You really wanna see some of these games, and you wanna spend all your time doing that. I don’t think that’s been the case this last major. It’s not ESL’s or anyone else’s fault, but it’s a problem that happens naturally, and it happened in Dota 2 as well. It seems to require either a lot of cooperation from the people who are essentially competitors, or it requires some top down decision making from an entity that either doesn’t exist yet, or it’s Valve. You’d have to form some sort of coalition that has everyone involved, like WESA or something else like that. That’s one of the good things an entity like that could do, but you would have to obviously include everyone. Whoever is left out is going to say “We’re not going to abide by this catch all, and we’re gonna just do something else.”

VN: When ELEAGUE started, the executives who came in were people who were not in esport or Counter-Strike, and that seemed intentional. How much did they go to you guys, the talent, or the teams, in terms of trying to figure out the best way to gain traction in this space?

AB: That’s part of the production meetings. On a regular basis, someone will notice this is confusing or it’s not happening the right way. In the beginning when we were doing replays, it wasn’t particularly obvious we were doing replays. Because if you were just looking somewhere else for a minute and you’d come back, you wouldn’t know if you were watching a replay or not or if it was a live game. Stuff like that has been pointed out regularly, and again, that can come from almost anyone. That is part of the charm of working here. There’s almost no rank once you’re doing the production. It doesn’t matter if you’re Craig Berry or Lenny Daniels, someone who is really high up in Turner and obviously influential, of if you’re just a caster or an observer, that doesn’t matter. You can say whatever you want and people will listen.

Photos by Scott Choucino/ESL, eslgaming.com.

Slingshot Editor-In-Chief. Former newspaper reporter from Cleveland, Ohio, who appreciates clean copy and good Counter-Strike. You can reach him at Vince@slingshotesports.com

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