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Anders on over-saturation, starting his career and what players would make good casters

Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Anders Blume during ELEAGUE’s Season 2 playoffs to talk about the new season, his role models in casting and which players he thinks might have a good future on the desk.

Vince Nairn: How do you think that this season went compared to Season 1 in terms of logistics?

Anders Blume: I think this format (is good), because all the games matter right? There are no games where you just play the game to decide seeding. It’s really hard to get excited about a seeding game unless you’re talking about a major tournament or something. But if you’re just talking about going into the playoffs or something it’s just not that interesting. So without the seeding questions, you just have every game matter. They all have a relevancy for who makes it through. So for the fans it’s pretty good because it keeps people interested. From a team point of view, they’re here for fewer days for playing, right? I think this is the, sort of the strength of ELEAGUE is you get a lot of exposure and you’re only here for a couple of days, and you go do something else. Sadly people don’t use that time to then actually practice and do things. They just go to other tournaments. In a perfect world, there’d be an ELEAGUE season and then an offseason and then there’d be some time for people to regroup and get ready for the big tournaments.

VN: From your standpoint, over-saturation affected you too, since you’re traveling a lot to a lot of these places as well. What are any ways we can kind of make it a little bit better for everybody?

AB: From a caster’s point of view, it can be a good thing that there are a lot of tournaments, especially if they’re from different employers, you know? Because that way, if there exists a monopoly wherein there’s only one employer in the market, then it’s very hard for us as casters to leverage anything against ELEAGUE. They’d just say “Well, you’re not working then,” you know?

VN: Like what’s been happening in League of Legends

AB: That is exactly what is happening in League of Legends. That’s a really big problem. The only way out of that problem is if the one entity doing that agrees and says, “OK, since the casting talent is an important part of the product, you guys should be allowed to some sort of revenue share in the overall product,” right? Which is very hard thing to negotiate, but I think is something worth fighting for from a caster’s point of view. It will take years for that to happen, but it’s a path that’s worth going down. But as long as that doesn’t exist, it’s actually better to have multiple employers, because that way you have some leverage. You can always say, “If you’re not hiring me, then hopefully somebody else is.” But obviously, it’s tough, I mean, there’s a lot of trouble, right? I think in in 2015 I was away 180 days out of the year. So, I don’t know what’s it’s been this year — I lost count. I don’t mind working a lot. In fact, I do very badly not working. I just can’t have, like, a whole month or something without doing anything. I do want to do a lot of events, but obviously you can’t get past a threshold where people stop sort of being interested? People have to feel like there’s some tournament they must watch, that they can’t skip this tournament because it’s so important and there are so many big games coming up. If we end up in a situation where you will say “I’ll just watch the tournament next week if I missed this one because it’ll be the same teams anyways,” that’s a bad thing.

VN: When you first started the idea of wanting to cast, was there anybody that you looked up to or try to find anyone to model yourself after? Because there really wasn’t anybody in esports. Was there anybody not in esports that you used to try to learn from?

AB: Sure, but they would have nothing to do with casting. They would be people from different realms. In some ways casting is, at least some of the time I think casting has to do with, picking up information and restructuring it, and then putting it out so that it’s more digestible to people. You don’t have that much time, so you have to sort of make some sort of persuasive argument in the 20 seconds that you say something. For me, almost all of my influence and the reason I care about English at all, at least part of it, has to do with people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, and these people who are sort of, I consider to be very good orators, just very good at what they do and did. So for me, that was always sort of an exciting thing, and I think that, I mean I could listen to those people talk for a long time. I guess yeah, in some way that is sort of an inspiration but, as you can sort of tell, it wouldn’t have any direct link to say, well I was listening to those people, and then I thought, “I should do some casting.” Just sort of an inspiration and be impressed about, and I think I as the whole looking up to people, I feel like it is, it could be fine, there’s nothing really wrong with that. But I just prefer to, if somebody does something well, then I try to think about what was it that they did well, and is there any chance that I could do something similar, or can I borrow something, some part of what they did and try to bring it on.

I was watching 1.6 when Joe Miller was doing the casting before me, and his voice closely tied in with that. And I think no one could ever argue that Joe didn’t love that game in the same way that all of us when we’re kids loved that game. So I think that kind of love of the game is pretty important and that’s something you have to have, I think, to be good at what you do. So that’s some with connection there, but I don’t have any time picking one person and saying, “This is my (inspiration),” or, “This is how things work out, and it’s how I should be, I’m a big fan of this person, and I want to mold my life based on this.” And I just can’t understand how people do that.

VN: You came along in this era when Counter-Strike took another large leap in popularity, and I think there are a lot of people watching today that you remember, Joe Miller casting and stuff like that. I think you and some of the other pairs that are all good are part of that group that people look up to now. How did you go about trying to mold the way that you guys wanted to be when there was really no road map?

AB: There is sort of a popular belief in casting, especially among the generation of esports people who have been sort of slightly before Semmler and I, that the perfect mix for having a caster setup is having one color caster and then one play-by-play caster. You have that duality, and there’s a lot of strength to that. Some casters do that, and they work out very well. But there is a problem with that in Counter-Strike, which is that you don’t have that much time to talk, so the analyst can only do so much. So at the most they have 20 seconds where they can try to break down 10 seconds of warmup and on some maps they will have 10 seconds before the fight sort of continues, but on a map like Dust 2, there isn’t even 10 seconds because people start shooting each other down the middle or whatever it is, so you really don’t have a lot of time. And the problem is if the play-by-play caster does no analysis at all or gives no input on what might have been going in the last round, then the color caster will always only call the basics, right? That person will always be in a situation where they can only cover basic things, and that’s a shame. So whenever I end up with someone, if I’m doing casting with Moses or if I’m doing casting with SPUNJ, or somebody else like that, then I will always try and say, “Alright, if I can do most of the basic stuff, and if I can ask questions in a good way…” I guess in that way it’s like a journalist. If you know something about the topic, you can ask much better questions. So, I want for that to be a thing, so I can even in the play-by-play, you know, you can sort of put in stuff that the color caster won’t have to touch on, and they can touch on more interesting things. That’s what we’ve built this on. Now, in some ways we ended up sort of hybrid casters, I feel like. Do a little bit of both. But obviously someone who has played the game professionally will always have a different view on things, and in some ways will be better informed on certain things. It’s just important, and I don’t think we can get rid of that, but then I’m thinking Counter-Strike is a little bit unique in that sense, right? Whereas in Dota or League of Legends, you have so much time to talk. The color caster can talk for five minutes without anything happening, or something is happening but not something that needs to be play-by-played.

VN: In other games you see players when they retire, they’re still this young age and they don’t know what to do, a lot of them get into casting. I feel like we’re close with CS:GO to the point where that first generation of player who might be matriculating into that space. Are there any players right now you think would be good on the casting desk, and if so, what’s the path like when you first get into it?

AB: You could count Moses as someone who could have had a (playing) career instead, right? He was playing in early Global Offensive, with some of his older teammates. So I wouldn’t rule that out, I mean, that could have been a thing. YNK did play with iNation and did have, and actually better than people seem to remember. SPUNJ, obviously, the most recent example of someone who left Renegades and is now doing a fair bit of work as a color caster. I think he’s doing a really good job, by the way. The rumor has always circulated that if ever someone like Sean Gares decided to retire he would be sort of a good fit for it, and I think that’s true. I mean, Sean just loves talking about the game and does sort of theorycraft of what can happen and how things work out, so I think he’s a good candidate for it. I don’t know maybe if someone like LeX could do this. He’s just a very friendly guy. He’s got like a big personality for it in that sense I think some of the people would like. I think there are people out there who could definitely do it. For a while, Maniac was in there as well, doing some work, and I think there’s still space for it.

Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE