Training With The Pros: Ben de Ridder

We're trying something a bit different in Training With The Pros today. One of the integral parts of e-sports is the commentary. While the players may provide the spectacle, commentators for games like StarCraft II play an important role in contextualising matches for viewers. In light of this, we caught up with one of the region's most highly-regarded StarCraft II commentators, Ben de Ridder.

Ben provides commentary for StarCraft II matches and also recently brought together a group of professional gamers to form a new e-sports team, Xeria Gaming. Ben is the manager if Xeria Gaming but is better known for his commentary, so we decided to ask him a few questions about it!

Hey Ben, a lot of people are probably curious as to how someone becomes a professional game commentator. How did you do it?

I get asked this a lot, and have never really had a great answer for it because it really wasn't something I just picked up and went 'Right, I'm going to do this from today'. I had streaming software installed on my computer for a bit of fun and I always wanted to give commentating a go. During one particular event, the usual commentator was not available, so I offered to help out for the week and had a lot of fun doing it. I wanted to keep doing it so I worked hard for a few months providing commentary for very small events and low level games and eventually I started making a name for myself. I now consider myself one of the leading StarCraft II commentators in the region, but it wasn't anything sudden, I worked my way here by just helping out and doing a lot of live commentary for events over the last year. What skills are required to be a commentator in general, and what skills are specific to providing the commentary on StarCraft?

In general, the commentator needs to have a good voice. This means it needs to be clear and easy to listen to, as well as having an accent that is easy to understand. If your voice is annoying or hard to listen to, perhaps commentating is not right for you. You also need a good set-up, a good microphone, internet, and computer. If the quality of video and audio you are presenting is poor, you will not be very successful.

As for commentating StarCraft 2, you need to have a good knowledge of the game so that you know what’s going on and understand what is important in the game. This way you know when to be excited, which adds to the content you are presenting. If you lack game knowledge, people aren't going to be as interested in what you are saying.

Why is it important for a match to have commentary? Surely people who know about StarCraft will know what's going on, right?

Watching a StarCraft II game without commentary is simply not as exciting. Sure, if you're a good player and understand the game, you can appreciate the skills and decision making of the players, but what about those players that might not understand the game, or even play the game?

Commentary in my eyes turns the game into a show, people can turn on a stream and watch some of their favourite players play whilst sitting back and relaxing, whilst doing some work or even while talking to some friends. Try watching a game of rugby with the TV on mute, and see how entertaining it is, then unmute it and you will see and hear the difference. For the scene to grow and for e-sports in general to take off, its going to be because people are watching streams and events, and commentary is something that encourages this. What tips do you have for people who want to become commentators?

I have a few tips for new commentators:

1. Make sure you have a voice that suits commentating. So many people start and simply are not bearable to listen to. If you want to be successful, you need to have a nice voice that people can listen to easily. If you have got a severe accent or similar, there are plenty of other opportunities to contribute to the scene.

2. Be persistent. So many commentators expect to start up their stream and be instantly famous a couple of weeks later. It takes months, and during those months you aren't going to be popular, but if you persist people will start getting used to you as a caster, and your content will improve, which brings me to my third point.

3. Listen to criticism. Its the internet, so people are not going to be nice when they don't like your content for whatever reason, but most of the time you need to read it and try to improve. If you ignore what people are saying about your commentary because they are being negative, you will never improve.

Can you show us a picture of your set-up?


Comments

    Benji! I haven't watched your stuff in ages (ever since Mukade stopped hosting the SC2SEA KoTHs), but damn, manager of a team, guess that's a step up from being the benchmark for nGen. :P

      And geez, I was name dropping like a pro there, not that it matters since he's not actually going to read it, and nobody else will understand what I said...

    Speaking of the first thing you need for commentating, it remings me of the post a few months ago on Kotaku about the 10 best esports vids. The warcraft 3 one was memorable, partly for the wrong reason...

    It's annoying how easy good commentators make it look. Like they're just chatting about what's going on. Nothing much.

    That's a surprisingly hard skill to master, at least if you want that chatting to be interesting in any way, not just meaningless words.

      But meaningless words are the best! Just ask Light (Name dropping, YEAH) about how amazing my casts of random games were. People love it when you talk about the undulating nature of overlords, or make a "caw, caw" sound every time mutas appear on the field. *cough*

        I still need to do that terrible cast of you vs a mater playing poorly.

          Yeah, but I'd need to convince a friend to do it. Hell, we could just play normally and you'd still have so much to facepalm about (I did a 10 py the other day, so very, very derp).

            Better yet, I could just play.

            Can't get much worse than that.

      A lot of the time, there's the point where you become such a respected caster than it doesn't matter what you're talking about any more, you can talk about llamas and ferrets and people will accept that that's a good thing to be talking about during a game. So you can really just chat about anything and as long as it sounds like normal conversation, people will go with it.

      Once, Tastosis was casting a GSL game, and about 2 minutes (real time, so almost 3 minutes game-time) in, Tasteless said, "okay, I think we need to start talking about the game now," and Artosis IGNORES that, and keeps talking about the thing they were chatting about before.

    Is that more Razer gear? Wow, they certainly go hard on the sponsorship...

    [Or they're good products - I really don't know, to be honest.]

      A huge part of pro-gaming is in the sponsorships.

        I accept that, but I'm only seeing Razer!

          Razer has a partnership with Blizzard itself (they made the official line of StarCraft 2 gear), and end up sponsoring a lot of StarCraft 2 teams that way I guess. Sometimes it seems strange when a team (like EG) uses steelseries or other gear, simply because I associate Razer with StarCraft (I'm aware EG have teams games other than StarCraft)

    Moletrap is the greatest commentator ever.

    But seriously, <3 Tastosis & Day9.

Join the discussion!