Finding Yourself as a Commentator

After writing my social dynamics article and listening to so many fantastic commentators at Summit, I want to write about discovering one’s self.  Trying to be someone that you aren’t on the mic is one of the easiest ways to be a terrible commentator.  This isn’t to say that being yourself guarantees a warm reception.  I’m going to talk about some of the most popular people in our community and why they are so beloved.  Scar, Mango, The Moon, HMW, Phil, Vish, Lovage, Blur, and Tafokints are some of the people in our community who garner the most adoration.

Scar and Mango are over the top characters.  Their mouth flows directly from their heart without much filtering.  They ride and die with their opinions, regardless of their validity.  They are stubborn motherfuckers who are unapologetic about being who they are.  They have dominant personalities that are extremely entertaining, making them natural born showmen.  Few people have problems with their jocular and assertive personalities because they own it so well.  Most of their haters are probably people who wish they were as cool.  Even if you don’t like them and resent their personalities, Melee would be dead if either of these people hadn’t been born, so you owe them some level of respect.

The Moon, HMW, and Phil are amazing human beings.  It’s hard to listen to these guys without having a good time.  They are quirky and make lots of references using hilarious diction that lots of people might not get, but even if someone doesn’t get what they are talking about, they will almost certainly still find it entertaining.  These guys make you feel like you’re there.  For people like me who know these people, and probably for many people who don’t know them, they make me want to hang out with them.  Since The Moon isn’t from NorCal, whenever I hear that man’s endearing Mike Tysonesque voice, I miss that motherfucker and have a compulsion to hang out with him imminently.

Vish and Lovage, not unlike Phil and others, are almost impossible to listen to and not have a good time.  They are chill homies who exude positivity.  Their nerdiness is unmistakable but it doesn’t come at the cost of charisma.  As people who have had some great tournament results in the past, they have lots of insight into the game, but their analysis comes second to them hanging out and having a good time.  Since they are having a good time, you feel like you’re having one too.  Listening to them nerd out about how sick things on screen are is always hype.

That brings me to my last pair, Blur and Tafo.  These guys are as big Melee nerds as any other people in the community.  Blur’s Marthgasms make everyone hype.  Blur yells shit like “WHAT AN AMAZING DRIFT!” when it’s actually mundane as fuck, but it’s still hype.  It’s hard to hate on someone for loving Melee so much that they wet themselves constantly.  Tafo, on the other hand, isn’t quite so hype, but everyone still loves what he brings to the table.  He’s the analysis guy who gives us actual concrete information.  Tafo might have the worst commentator voice of all time, but no one really finds it objectionable, because what he does is so valuable to us.

The point of all this is that you should not try to fit some preexisting mold.  Create your own mold.  People will appreciate you for who you are as long as you bring something to the table.  I would sound retarded if I yelled “THE PRESSHUH!” into the mic.  It’s not my thing.  It’s awkward if I do it.  DJ and The Moon have the stupidest names for shit and people still love hearing them talk about it.  Just act like you do around your friends and you’ll come off as much more personable.  I yelled “INDISCRIMINATE PUNISHMENT” when playing friendlies with PewFat for years.  I don’t want to hear anyone else saying that on commentary ever (and lucky me I don’t think I have to worry about this).

Bear in mind that different stages necessitate different commentary styles.  As far as I’m concerned, biased commentary is extremely closely correlated with how good commentary is, but I still wouldn’t want Evo top 8 to have biased commentary. Narrating the match, as if it’s a radio broadcast, is not something very useful or endearing (though I think it’s not a bad way of doing solo commentary).  I wrote a Reddit post about my opinions of commentators and their different stages before, so I’ll just copy and paste that below.

Here are Melee commentators that I think are good: Wobbles, Mango, Blur with Mango, Brandon+Phil, Toph/Scar sometimes, and DJ+Moon (for the same reason as Brandon+Phil, just pretty funny guys to listen to). Toph+Scar are hit and miss because Scar’s thing is being grumpy and spouting bullshit, which is sometimes funny but other times obnoxious. I also think Chroma and Vro are decent because they manage to say a lot about the game while avoiding inaccuracies. Vish is pretty good too just because you can tell how cool a dude he is. Lovage and Bob$ are the GOATs, because they’re real full packages that bring everything to the table, but unfortunately they are both semi-retired.

Commentators like you [Tafo] and Fly are ok for me, because I like commentary to learn, but there are many of us who lack the voice or charisma to go along with the knowledge. At least 80% of Melee commentators are way behind the meta. This has been really obvious with regards to how slow they were to notice shield dropping stuff. Almost every time there’s someone I didn’t list on the mic, their commentary is >95% boring platitudes (“nice bair”), memes (“air wobble to rest”), or actual inaccuracies (lots of commentators are actual shit players, it blows my mind that Chroma has managed to master inaccuracy-free commentary while being a noob). Even with Chroma in mind, it’s not necessary to feign knowledge to be a good commentator. Artosis and Tasteless, who most people regard to be some of the best eSports commentators, never have a problem admitting their confusion. They don’t bullshit. CrimsonBlur manages to say 500 things that are wrong in one commentary block.

Doubles is even worse. When I listen to doubles commentary, it feels like the screen is showing a CS stream but the commentators are talking about Overwatch. Every time there’s a counterpick, they say retarded things, that are not only inaccurate, but actually frame the game in the wrong context. E.G. “They probably won’t pick FD because Marth is so good against Fox there.” What the fuck are you talking about? Marth has literally nothing special against Fox on FD in doubles. Have you ever seen it come down to a 1v1 where a Marth chaingrabs a Fox on last stock? I sure as fuck haven’t. It also triggers me to hear that a team has a lead whenever they are up 1 stock but are both high percent against 2 fresh stocks. That is legitimately a disadvantage and if people had paid any attention, it would be obvious that it swings the other way the vast majority of the time.

In games like DOTA and StarCraft, the commentators are much more on top of the meta. DOTA commentators have their predictions manifested in the game within ~10 minutes like 90% of the time. Most of them have played at the highest level of the game, and even if they don’t currently, they tend to be pretty good. Unfortunately, most decent Melee players who commentate are bad at commentary. The days of Lovage and Bob$, who are some of the most hype and DEFINITELY among the most informative, are well behind us. Now, we have people like Zhu. I complained to Zhu that his commentary on a match sucked. He said the match wasn’t interesting. Does he actually think that’s a legit john? The job of the commentator is to make the experience enjoyable and to explain shit. If a match is bad, this is the best time to flex your commentary. Banter a bit, have some fun. I’ve never heard Lovage or Bob$ commentate a match poorly.

[Sorry Zhu, I wouldn’t have called you out for this on my blog post, but in the context of the reddit thread, it made more sense]

Laudandus and I had a conversation where we concluded Artosis+Tasteless+Wife would be better than 99% of Melee commentary despite their lack of knowledge. It would go something like this [If you are familiar with these commentators, please try to read it in their voices]:

T: HOLY SHIT, HE JUST KEEPS BLIPPING HIM BLUE ACROSS THE STAGE

W: That’s known as the waveshine. The first time Ken did that on the big stage, oh man, we went nuts.

A: Mmm, it seems like he’s going to be using this waveshine technique a lot. It really lets him take control of the pace.

T: I’LL SAY, ARTOSIS! CAN HE EVEN DO SHIT ABOUT THAT?

W: You never know, these kids, they can do stuff we’ve never even imagined. That’s the beauty of Melee

A: It seems like he can’t keep him off the stage! So even after he waveshines him, if he can still get back, he’ll be fine

T: HE’S GOTTA KILL THAT MOTHERFUCKER!

Anyway, point is, that would be vastly more entertaining, and honestly just as informative as typical eSports commentary. We have a bunch of people who try to puppet the most mainstream commentators because we’ve constructed archetypes of what commentary should be like, but these archetypes are actually fucking retarded. I think we have a lot of people who represent our community well. Some basic bitch eSports commentary is fine for Evo top 8. But in top 32 at Big House, I want real fucking commentary. Commentators who know what they are talking about. Commentators who are allowed to say “HOLY SHIT” when something super hype happens. Commentators who are not afraid to say when a player made an obvious terrible decision, like going for a combo extension instead of a guaranteed kill.

Lastly, if you say air wobble to rest, you should be banned from commentary. You are legitimately ruining our community by cultivating the demographic of retarded noobs who actually think this is a thing. Jokes shouldn’t be risk free and try to appeal to everyone. Memes are cancer. Watching Tastosis, they just banter and say random shit, and most people find it funny. They literally never say any memes. It’s all original and they aren’t trying to be low risk, parrot bullshit. Why did commentators copy each other and start saying “extra credit?” I’ve literally never once heard someone say extra credit a single time off commentary. It’s so fucking stupid

Hopefully this post helps clarify my point of view. I knew my original post would get downvoted because it’s incendiary and doesn’t have any detail, but since you asked, I’m really happy to vent and explain my point of view. I guarantee you there’s no other eSport where as many of the top players mute commentary as much as ours.

Edit: Just for the hell of it, I’ll put in my ideal commentary lineups. Evo top 8: D1+Toph [When writing this blog post, I might actually want Webs to be one of the people representing us at Evo]. Genesis top 8: Brandon+Phil. Big House top 8: Toph+Scar. I’m Not Yelling top 8: Wobbles+Tafo+Vish (some triple commentary anyway, good trios are actually fucking sick). SSS grand finals: Blur+Mango. Doubles top 8 at Pound 7: Me+Wife or Me+The Moon. Doubles top 8 at Genesis: Me+Toph. KoC5 top 8: Hammered Alex19+Blur. BH top 32: DJ+Moon. Genesis top 64: Vish+Vro. R1 pools at a national: Me+JB. Doubles top 32 at Genesis: Chroma + G$ (I don’t know if G$ is a good commentator, but he’s good at doubles and he’s fucking cool, so I imagine he would be). In this list, I tried to come up with people who could feasibly commentate, IE would be attending and who would not be averse to commentating due to their competing in the tournament. The point is that we can have commentators find their niche. Personally, I like doing doubles commentary on top doubles matches, and I like commentating shit singles matches where I get to banter a lot. Different people can represent us on different stages. Commentators have many different skillsets, and we shouldn’t be trying to get everyone to fit into a few preexisting molds.

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2 thoughts on “Finding Yourself as a Commentator”

  1. You don’t mention Webs for the entire article and then say you might want him for EVO top 8 – where does he fit into the mix in terms of style compared to the other categories you mentioned, and with regard to the meta? This coming from a big Webs fan.

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    1. I don’t like Webs commentary because it’s boring, adds nothing for people who know the game well, and is sometimes inaccurate. However, if we are talking about good faces who represent us professionally, he’s #1. The guy is presentable, decently articulate, and just seems like a professional all around. So he doesn’t appeal to my demographic but I don’t have a problem letting him represent us to wider audiences.

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