The latest Call of Duty game – Black Ops 2 – has landed, besides lots of explosions and addictive girlfriend aggravating multiplayer, there’ll also be the chance to take part in shoutcasting or codcasting, as they’re calling it. This is essentially live commentary over online matches.
One man that’s been making a name for himself as a shoutcaster is twenty-year-old Ben Bowe from Manchester, he’s travelled all over the world and been paid to commentate huge gaming events. Apparently the world of eSports (competitive gaming) is a growing market, so we grabbed Ben for a chat to find out how you can get involved…
What exactly do you do for a living?
Essentially I play video games… a lot! I’m a Professional e-sports commentator. Although, my talent is not actually in the playing, I go to events across Europe and commentate while others play the game. Imagine a football commentator, only over you favourite video game.
How did you get your first break?
It was a company called EGL (European Gaming League) they are the biggest competitive event organiser in Europe. When I was new, I contacted them via Skype saying showing them my work and asking what I needed to do for them to give me a chance. It was a pretty bold, as I was still relatively unknown in the world of eSports, however the staff there were fantastic in the way they handled my question. We spoke, and they gave essentially a list of things they think I could improve on and need to do before I could be given a decent shot with them.
One month later I had taken everything on board and done as much as I physically could. It was a big shift of work, but it paid off as I got offered the opportunity to commentate competitive Call of Duty at EGL6 in Sweden. It was a chance that I will be forever indebted too, it was a massive risk on their part, but luckily I was well received and formed a great working relationship with EGL. I have worked with EGL the most. I have just come back from EGL8 in Manchester, which was the best competitive event I have been to yet. There I was once again commentating competitive Call of Duty (my specialty).
Do you have any qualifications?
I decided not to go to University despite getting some great A-level results and offers from Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield. I was planning on studying Economics at University, but took a gap year. I’m glad I did as I stumbled across this great opportunity.
What is a typical day for you?
I wake up at around about 8am, grab some breakfast and stock up on a few litres of water. You nee to drink LOTS of water otherwise your voice will go within just a few hours. I arrive at the venue for around 9.30am where I will have a quick walk around, meet the players and spectators then quickly run through what matches I will be commentating on for the day. From then on the commentating starts, I wont stop until the last match is done, (apart from a few quick breaks to ensure I don’t lose my voice), which at times can go on till around 2am!
What is the money like?
The money at the minute can be very inconsistent. People can make anywhere between £10k to around about £30k per year, but it is purely based on how hard you work. It depends on how good you are and the opportunities you get. It is essentially done on a contract agreement, which changes at each event, so it is dependent on the event organisers to predict your worth. However with the e-sports scene growing as quickly as it is in Europe, more stable jobs with basic salaries are starting to appear more frequently than ever. What’s the best thing about your job? Meeting people from across the world that share my passion. It’s incredible to see so many people passionate about e-sports and gaming under one roof. It still shocks me at every event I attend.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
The only bad thing I could say is after each event, you tend to lose your voice and feel a little under the weather, so managing your health is probably the hardest and most challenging part of it all.
What are the biggest events you’ve covered?
The biggest event would be EuroGamer – the biggest gaming convention in the UK. At EuroGamer I was commentating on Call of Duty. Anyone who knows much about Black Ops 2 will know the name David Vonderhaar (the Game Design Director). It was awesome to meet the man who has had so much influence in creating the game.
What events do you have coming up?
There are lots of events for Call of Duty in the next competitive season, which will be starting shortly. I am also hoping to attend a few big events over in the USA next year as well.
Is this something you want to do long term?
Absolutely! Especially with the way the eSports industry is taking shape now in Europe, I want to take what I do to the next level. I have put a lot of time and hard work into it so far, and I am fully committed to commentating it the future. I believe eSports could go as mainstream now as any other sport. A quick look over to Asia shows you it has started to do that there, so I need to ensure I am in the best possible position, if we see the same kind of growth here in Europe.
Five tips on getting into shoutcasting:
- Step one, start a YouTube channel and upload videos of you playing your favourite game. Essentially talk over the game after it has been played. Talk about anything you want it really doesn’t matter, you just want to get used to talking fluidly into a microphone over gameplay.
- Once you feel comfortable doing that, take it to the next level. Try playing and talking at the same time – it might sound easy, but try it out. It is one of the hardest things to do, yet so essentially as you need to learn to stay focused on the task at hand.
- Ok now were getting closer to becoming a commentator! Next step is to watch your friends play and commentate over them. Explain to the camera, why they are doing the things they are. Analysis is one of the toughest parts of being a commentator. You need to get very good at this part, so spend as much time as possible doing this.
- Now your almost there. You need to find a partner to do this with. It has to be someone you gel with, yet are not too similar. For example I am extremely excitable when I commentate, I can get crowds pumped up and excited about what they are watching, so for me, I need Bricey. He is a good friend of mine and we commentate regularly together. He is essentially my other half when it comes to commentating. He provides the analysis and I bring the excitement.
- Once you and your partner are feeling confident, you need to actively look for small jobs. It’s the only way to start off. You have to start off small. Once you start getting noticed within the eSports community opportunities will present themselves to you. The most important thing to do is to stick at it and stay motivated. It might take a while to get there, but with the way the community is heading now, it would be well worth it.
Would you advise other people to try out your job?
To be honest, this isn’t for everyone. Many people will think, that commentating sounds so easy, but genuinely I have seen a fair share of people fail at it after saying just that. You need to have great charisma to be able to talk with the fluidity of a top commentator and as well as that, not be afraid to laugh at yourself from time to time.
How would other people get into your line of work?
To start out in commentating, it is very tough! The best advice I could think of would be to start up a YouTube channel and give it a go on there. If you get good enough, people will notice and opportunities will present themselves. Plus, I’m happy to answer questions on my Twitter account: @TBC_Benson.
What kind of person does it take to do your job?
You have to be able to take things with a pinch of salt and realise you can never be the best in everyone’s eyes. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your accent, your style and will quickly jump on the smallest mistake you make. Just don’t try this if you’re easily offended, as you need to be able to handle criticism constructively and professionally at all times.