When you view a sporting event of any kind, you have a few expectations. You will often come for the game first and foremost; to see your favorite players and teams fight for victory.
The second important expectation is presentation. A good sporting event, whether live at the venue or streamed on your laptop, needs to have a wow factor built into its presentation.
Presentation can cover a wide array of things before, during, and after the game. The most significant part, though, is the commentators.
The Commentator Game
A commentator, whether alone or with a panel, is there to do a variety of things. The number one idea for a commentator is to connect the audience to the event.
The basics of a good commentator come from breaking down the information of the event in an entertaining and organized manner.
The first rule is never to be negative about a player or a game. The second is to make every game exciting and dynamic. The third is to do your research
Most of what applies to eSports commentating can apply to any sports commentator. As such, all of the ideas related here can, in general terms, be put onto any commentating position.
You don’t want a commentator to be rambling about something other than the event. It would be distracting. As well, while they don’t have to make you laugh, a good commentator should still engage you.
The Four Roles of an eSports Commentator
Whether you want to learn how to be a good eSports commentator or just curious about the world of eSports commentating, it is a good idea to understand how the commentating is broken down.
From a general standpoint, there are 4 major roles in an eSports broadcast. Not every broadcast will have all of them, but most will. These roles can be filled by any number of people, but rarely with all 4 roles be done by one person.
1. The Host
The job of the Host is to provide structure to the entire broadcast. They will often do both the introduction to the cast and the signoff farewell, as well as set the pace for all the commentating done throughout the broadcast.
Between games and during breaks, a host may introduce other segments such as interviews or extra commentary. The Host acts as a guide to ensure that there is no lull in the commentary and presentation.
For each and every moment in the game, there is a Play-by-Play commentator. These commentators provide coverage for the minute details of a game as it happens. The level of Play-by-Play varies heavily from broadcast to broadcast.
Some prefer to touch on any and all action in the game, often in case a quick shift in the flow of the game comes up. Others may prefer a quieter commentator, coming in for only the most intense, game-changing plays.
Play-by-Play is meant to guide the viewer in following the content. It can help newer players to understand the mechanics of the game better and can help any player to keep track of what is often a very fast paced environment.
The Color Commentator acts as a form of assistant to the Play-by-Play commentator, especially during times when there is no immediate gameplay to commentate on.
The term refers to adding color to the broadcast. Color commentators are most important for their levity and wit to help brighten what could be very straightforward and by the numbers broadcast.
Color commentating is not always needed and can be the hardest to pull off because it is not strictly about information. This is often where the most vibrant personalities come into play.
The Analysis commentator covers the nitty gritty details of how and why the game went the way it did. Analysis commentators cover player strategies, game mechanics, shifts in the metagame, and other in-depth details.
The Analysis commentator will need to have the most experience and understanding of both the game at hand and the individual players involved.
Often Analysis will have its segments between the games or during replays and prerecorded games. This allows the commentator to go heavy on the detail of strategies and ideas without worrying about lining up with any current gameplay.
Making the Game Shine
There are a few rules to commentating that you should follow. None of them are hard and fast rules, but they all have a place in keeping commentating fun, useful, and respectful.
The first rule is to never be negative about a player or a game as a commentator.
Your job is not to bash or degrade, but to report the event and provide information and entertainment. This means you may have to put your personal bias aside for professionalism’s sake.
Now, playful jokes may be able to work in certain contexts. As well, some well-known commentators may get away with bemoaning poor choices. These situations are rarities, and when in doubt, best kept out of the commentary.
Drama is the Key to Entertainment
It happens all the time. Whether it is a poor matchup, a bad day, or simply luck on one side, eventually you will find a one-sided and often boring event.
The second rule of commentating is to make every game exciting and dynamic. Even if the players themselves are ready to throw in the towel, they never assume that every member of the audience is ready to.
You are here to provide an experience to the audience and that means to never lose your enthusiasm.
To help with this, the commentator can often talk about and discuss what is needed for the losing side to pull through. This can paint the game as winnable from out of nowhere, which builds excitement for the potential turn around.
As well, commentators can highlight why the winning team is doing so well. This provides not only insight to players eager to do well themselves but gives a sense of accomplishment to those who have earned it.
Keep Yourself Educated
A commentator who has no idea what they are talking about is a commentator no one wants to watch.
The third rule of commentating is to do your research. Whether that is on the game itself, the players involved, or any number of minor details.
This does not apply to just the Analysis or Play-by-Play commentators. Everyone should know what they are talking about.
Very few can fake it well enough that they are impossible to detect. When the audience knows that the commentators are frauds, the entire broadcast loses credibility.
The fourth and final rule of commentating is to be confident but not egotistical.
This last one comes as a form of balance. Remember, most broadcasts are taken live, so any mistake on your part cannot be edited out. Most audience members will forgive a simple slip-up, but there is a solid way to keep yourself accident-free.
When in doubt, keep it simple. Pace yourself and take on what you know. Longtime professional commentators can often pull off multiple roles and improvise things as they go. Until you have the experience and built-up skill for that, don’t push yourself.
Good commentating comes from a likable personality, a clean and clear voice, and simple confidence that comes from knowing what you are doing.
At the end, when it comes to commentating, it’s all in the presentation.1