Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Riot Games caster Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler during Week 7 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series.
Andrew Kim: You have a very unique way of casting that has stuck with a lot of fans for a really long time. How did you find the type of style of casting or castor voice of your now illustrious career?
Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler: If I think back to the beginning, I was just coming off playing with CLG and I really wanted to get back into the scene somehow, and I wanted to go into casting from a player’s point of view. That’s how I did all my first ones. I didn’t really have any practice or any idea beyond trying to be like, making viewers feel like they’re sitting with maybe a player at home. The thing I wanted to avoid was, when I paid attention to, NBA is the main sports league that I pay attention to. Those commentators, the only thing I ever remember is making fun of things that they’re saying, like super obvious analysis or like, the weird stats where they’re like “On Wednesday nights after eating pizza he can shoot 74 percent free throws,” or like those useless things. Basically avoiding those and trying to make the viewers at home feel like they’re having fun with a very knowledgeable player sitting next to them or something like that.
AK: As a caster, what kind of aspect of your job to be the most enjoyable?
SHK: Actually to this day, I still get super excited watching intense League of Legends games. That’s one of my favorite parts. I also really enjoy talking and connecting with all the players and when the new players come in because before — I was already friends with a lot of the pro players because I was one of them, but then I’m getting older and older, and more removed from it and less relevant, I guess? But all the new players coming in, it’s always fun to keep in touch and just talk about other extremely hardcore gamers. I think that’s one of my favorite parts, is just being friends with all the different newer players as well.
AK: One thing I do want to ask for your input is the unique situation that international tournaments are in for League of Legends where teams are declining invitations but there are still a lot of voices in the scene that there needs to be more international tournaments. What are your thoughts on the current status of international competition?
SHK: It’s kind of an interesting push/pull because everyone wants more international cool clashes, between like SKT and, well maybe that’s not a good example because they’ll smash almost everyone internationally. But everybody wants to see more of them, but then you come up with this situation like IEM, like maybe referring to where they’re so focused on their home league and doing well on their home league, that they do decline the one international in-between tournament that people have. I’m definitely, as far as personally, I’m in the favor of maybe reducing some of the normal league duration or formats or something in order to squeeze in more international play that actually has emphasis on it, that has pull where we do get to see these teams clash. No. 1 EU and No. 1 NA play against each other, things like that. It does take a lot of coordination to try and get something like that moving and it might even be a multi-year process, but moving towards maybe finding some more space as far as reducing some form of regular season and opening up more international play.
AK: A lot of people might think that because you are a NA caster, you mostly watch NA games or maybe some European games. Are there any other regions that you watch on the regular even using your own personal time?
SHK: Korea is a must for pretty much all, anyone who’s interested in competitive League of Legends has to keep up with Korea just because so many regions, all players all teams are watching Korea to try and update on the strategies or the builds, they’re basically at the forefront of competitive League of Legends, so that one is kind of a must. And then especially with our league, expanding to best-of-threes, and games that I have to review even on the day I’m casting, I miss games because there are two streams going on, so North America is the next one that I go to. Watch Korea, watch North America, try and watch Europe because a lot of them are actually on during hours when I’m awake as well, but then just so many games as far as LMS, and LPL that those ones you have to whittle your time down to basically the top teams and reach out to the casters of those areas and go like, “What do I watch? Is it EDG vs. WE right now or RNG?” and then you just have to pick and choose maybe one series to try and keep up on the top ones.
AK: With casting being expanded from multiple different regions and gathering talent from a range of people to do Riot casting, who did you have the most fun casting with let it be worlds, Mid-Season Invitational, All-Stars, or in North America.
SHK: I think the answer is almost always Deficio (Martin Lynge) whether the question is most tilting, most fun…
AK: Just most anything is Deficio then.
SHK: Yeah. Me and Deficio have had a long friendship, and I remember when he first was attempting to join and become a caster, and after he’s coming off of being a support player and he first won me over. The first thing when he first got here and he was talking about it was, he was like ”Oh yeah, I really liked watching you when you were playing Amumu and stuff,” and I was like, “Oh yeah, sweet talk,” so he got into my good graces there. I just enjoy his sense of humor, and talking to him about the game as well. He’s just a generally entertaining and informative person.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games