On Dota 2 Casting
Alright, serious time. Mad's tweet started a big discussion on Reddit and Twitter and I want to give my perspective here. Casting Dota is really hard. Broadcasters in traditional sports have decades of experience to build on and their audience, *and the game itself*, change very slowly.
This is a big issue for Dota and all of esports for that matter: Who are we actually casting to? We all started as gamers. A lot of us are inundated in Twitch chat culture. I'm 38 and I have a lot of fun with memes and shitposting myself. Hell my 73 year old dad thinks some of them are funny. But there IS a big part of the audience that doesn't care about that stuff. Dota 2 and other esports WILL be on major TV networks soon and already are in some places. Casters are going to have to make really hard choices about what type of experience they want to provide.
The first thing you need to understand is **what people say on Reddit and in Twitch chat matters**. I've been behind the scenes for a while now. I have been taken off panels at major events based partly on negative feedback from forums and social media. I stopped cocasting and decided to focus on panel work largely due to the same type of feedback (despite greatly enjoying the latter I actually somewhat regret the former). I've spent more than a few moments reading screenfulls of "STFU NAHAZ" and seriously questioned whether I should be doing something entirely different with my time.
Those are *not* complaints, by the way. I've spent 15 years lecturing in front of the classroom and some of those habits are a) not well suited to casting or panel work, and b) hard to break. My point is, if I'm doing this as a hobby and certainly don't need the income, and am *still* affected a lot by this, how much WORSE is it for the mostly much younger people trying to do this for a living? Memes are fun. Memes that are overtly negative about a specific person or group are NOT harmless.
It also doesn't help that there are a lot of misconceptions out there. My biggest pet peeve is that you do not need 6k MMR to analyze Dota. Blitz and Bulba (the latter I know will surprise people) are just about the smartest people I know when it comes to analyzing games. The biggest difference between me and them is that they can watch a teamfight once and see everything where I have to watch it 3-4 times, sometimes more. As an aside, the disabling of live replays in Dota TV is absolutely crippling when I'm doing panel work. At events I actually often have to run back to the video room and beg the production guys to show me the highlight clip replays. And even then I can't go back and see teamfight recaps and use them to get rough estimates of hero damage output (Pugna :( ).
The second difference is they know a lot more about how specific lane matchups work in high level play, but I also think people underestimate how quickly you can pick that up if you a) talk to pro players and b) watch a LOT of replays (it may surprise some people but I actually spend a ton more time watching game footage than I do looking at numbers; I pretty much constantly have replays going while doing other work). Yes, I really do wish I was a better player; hell I often just wish I had time to play. But frankly every time I read "4k MMR analysis LOL" I want to ask that person how many pro teams have asked if they would be interested in doing consulting work or how many pro players messaged them to ask their opinion of the last new patch. I don't do that, largely because I'm not an asshole (or at the very least, most days I try to avoid being one). And for goodness sakes, I have been in many, many discussions now with pro players (current and former) who disagreed over drafts, item, and skill builds. Calling someone an idiot noob because his or her favorite build differs from yours is just ridiculous.
As I wrote this, Redeye posted some thoughts about caster feedback. It's well worth a read but the TL;DR is that he values feedback from colleagues and largely ignores feedback from the community at large. The latter is *not* due to arrogance- I've gotten to know Paul Parker [sic] a bit and he is quite simply a tremendous person. It's because a lot of community feedback is driven by emotion, and even when it isn't it's often about parts of the job over which he has no control. I understand Paul's position but he's also already very well established in esports (and not just Dota!). It's a very different thing when you're starting out.
There are lots of reasons I won't go into here (mostly it's just that the Dota 2 scene is so decentralized compared to say LoL) but in Dota 2 COMMUNITY FEEDBACK MATTERS. It affects what events you get invited to and how much exposure you receive when you're there. It affects lucrative outside options like streaming revenue (MUCH bigger deal that people realize), coaching (for pros), ingame item sales, youtube video views, or getting invited to do shows or interviews. If you see casters catering to the meme culture, it's because they have the incentive to do so.
The only ways to change this are to modify or remove these incentives or to change the nature of this feedback. The former may happen over time, but here's the thing I think a lot of people may find surprising: I'm PROUD of the Dota 2 community. There are lots of memes on r/dota2 but there are also lots of smart people whose opinion I value (and yes, the two overlap)!
There are an incredible number of awesome, high ability people who play Dota. Many of those people need to talk MORE. The community in Dota 2 has an incredible amount of power over the game, and I'm actually mostly ok with that, but at the same time Stan Lee and Ben Parker [no sic this time] had it right: With great power comes great responsibility. If you like analytical casting, go say so. If you want to criticize a cast, do that too, but try not to make it personal. If you want to meme, do it responsibly, and please don't be hateful. Remember, for better and for worse, Dota 2 is and will continue to be largely what we, the community, make of it.