Commentators in esports play a massive role in contributing to the entertainment value of esports broadcasts, which end up generating all the money in esports. If you are reading this, chances are you are interested in becoming an esports commentator for your favourite game. Below I listed the 5 step process every commentator needs to go through to doing esports commentating as a career:
- Understanding Your Current Positioning and Plan
- Learning the Commentating Scene
- Building Foundational Skills
- Building a Portfolio from Streams and the Grassroots Scene
- Networking with Publishers and Tournament Organizers
In this article, I will be going through each of these 5 steps in-depth, explaining how you at any stage of your professional life can start making headway into the esports commentating scene.
Becoming an Esports Commentator
Before we get started on the steps, it’s important to note that becoming an esports commentator is not an easy feat. Being a professional commentator requires a lot of hard work, discipline, dedication and a bit of luck and natural talent.
As you look to embark on this road, understand that it’s not going to be smooth sailing. I explain why that is further in step 2. But know that you’ll likely be jumping gig to gig and reliant on your other sources of revenue as a commentator as well. It depends on your goals and how much you want to make, but the work doesn’t slow down for aspiring commentators.
1. Understanding Your Current Positioning and Plans
The first step is to understand your current position and plans for your professional and personal life. As I just mentioned, this is a risky endeavour and it’s honestly not for everyone.
We want to first make sure that this is a path that is right for someone like you. Rather than starting on this journey and realizing mid-way that you aren’t able to push further due to personal reasons, let’s clear the air and get that possibility out of the way.
Is Commentating Right For You?
To becoming an esports commentator, you first need to understand where you are starting off. You’d want to ask yourself the following so questions:
- How old are you?
- What current responsibilities and commitments do you have?
- Do you have the ability to invest time and energy into a career path that may yield no fruits?
Your age and stage in life will play a major factor in your ability to take risks and invest time into building a possible career. If you are just graduating high school, you are in a really good position to start building out a career as a commentator.
But if you were 29, juggling 2 jobs and have a massive mortgage and student loan debt to pay, perhaps investing any more time into a career path that may not yield any results may not be right for you. Burnout and inconsistency are major downfalls for many, and being in a situation I described will only breed failure. Obviously, you need to take this on a case-by-case basis and look at your own situation and abilities.
Not only does your personal energy-matter, but also the commitments and responsibilities you’ve taken on in your life. This would include elderly parents, significant other and children. I know many individuals who’ve pursued difficult feats such as this one but received an ultimatum of either keeping the relationship or their career.
When you are responsible for others, by taking risks not only are you putting yourself in a risky situation but you are jeopardizing the safety of others.
- How much time can you invest into this each week?
- Am you willing to sacrifice time doing recreational activities to build on this?
- Will you stop working on this as you become tired?
Again, commentating is not safe and it requires work. If you find it fun, good, but there will be times when it’s not fun. You need to think and really build a strong reason why you’d push when it doesn’t make sense to push further.
As far as any technical skills, everything in the commentating world is learnable! The only evaluation you’d want to make is on the soft skills side. That is, besides 2 questions which are difficult to evaluate by yourself.
- Is your voice one that would make for a good commentator?
- In a dual-commentating situation, can you bring valuable banter or play-by-plays to the table or do you struggle with communication/banter in regular conversations?
Both of those questions come more into the talent/luck side. That isn’t to say you couldn’t build the confidence or prepare talking points before steam (something almost every commentator on broadcast that I know does), but it’ll only aid you if you are built with this naturally.
The voice is a hard factor to define. So if you have the soft skills and are unsure of either of or both of these 2 points, I’d safe just push forward and with consistency hopefully great things will come!
2. Learning the Gaming Commentating Scene
Know that you know more about your positioning in life, you’ll need to learn more about the commentating scene and how you’d fit into it.
What is Esports Commentating
An esports commentator provides voice-over information for a broadcasted game in real-time. The typical format is 2 commentators with one specializing on what is called play-by-plays, where they are detailing the actions taking place during the game. This ability is crucial for those action-packed situations where the viewers may otherwise struggle to follow along.
To see good instances of play-by-play commentary, check out this video:
Commentating Scenes in Different Games
I’m sure I didn’t teach you anything new on what commentating actually is. Instead, what you’d actually need to learn is the current commentator scene for the specific game/s you are looking to specialize in.
That isn’t something I can document here since it progresses really rapidly, especially now during Covid where there has been a massive influx of amateur commentators in the scene, especially for games that are starting to ramp up their esports scenes like Valorant.
What you do want to understand is the following:
- How many commentators are in the scene? Who are the biggest commentators and what do they do uniquely well to be known? How did they build their awareness, what were they originally known for?
- What is the tournament scene for the industry? What is the viewership contrasting between tier 3, tier 2 and tier 1 events for this game? What are the tournament organizers in the scene? How involved are the publishers? Do they seem like they may look to get involved?
- What is the lifespan of the game? Is this game going to quickly attract others contending to be professional
commentators?What mediums are most popular for amateur commentators for this game?
- What individuals on the game publisher and/or tournament organizer side do I need to get in touch with to take my career to the next level? How could I attract and/or personally contact each of them?
If you are looking to be a professional, you need to take this seriously. Look and understand your options and competition. Honestly, you don’t need to do this at the start, and most people likely aren’t looking at this until they finally start making ground on step 3 and step 4 below, but if you are serious, it’s more advantageous to lock this down before anything else.
Not only will it save you time in case you need to pivot, but once the targets are clear, you know what you need to aim at and who exactly you are competing with (and for).
3. Building Foundational Skills
In complete transparency, I cannot tell you the best foundational skills you need to develop simply because I’m not a commentator nor have I studied commentating skills professionally. I am a business strategist and I’ve worked with people to help them get a footing in esports (therefore how I know what to write on the blog), but I can only give you my best basics on the most obvious skills you’d want to work on.
Are they other skills you’ll need to develop? 100%. Are these skills I list below fundamental to any good commentator. Absolutely.
- Controlled vocal inflections and fluency.
- Speaking points to be made during downtime.
- Ability to perform play-by-plays*.
- Energetic when the gameplay reflects it.
- Aware of what is taking place in the game and is able to follow along during the most action-packed circumstances.
* Not foundational, but strong skill to have
You’ll continuously need to be building on these skills. In the future, after doing more research and running through some interviews, I may compose some literature on how to improve on these skills, but for now I’d leave that to you.
The best way is to research your favorite commentators to watch exactly what they do to be great. You also want to watch commentator’s podcasts as a lot of times you’d provide tips and insights of the industry there.
4. Building a Portfolio from Streams and the Grassroots Scene
Building a portfolio is to get a job in esports is very important for all sectors, but commentating is especially important. Luckily, for commentators building a portfolio is actually a very straightforward process that provides a lot of validity to your name.
If you are a good commentator, your portfolio will reflect that with flying colors. Let’s talk about what are the 2 main ways of building your portfolio as a commentator.
Streams and Video Portfolio
The most important one is your streams and video portfolio. This can come in the form of a Twitch channel, a Facebook Gaming account or a YouTube channel.
This will not only allow you to show prospective employers your abilities, but it gives you exposure and it shows employers the actual value the community is receiving from your work. It’ll also display the growth from when you started until where you are now. That’s why I’d recommend not deleting old videos where you just started out and weren’t so good. Growth speaks volumes.
Grassroots Tournaments Commentating
Grassroots commentating is valuable because it will be your stepping stone to bigger and bigger events. You will need to be able to list out the biggest events you commentated for, and the grassroots events will be the foundation of your portfolio before you can actually start taking on smaller tier 3 events.
You can find these simply by looking on social media and asking them for opportunities. Grassroots organizations and leagues are always looking for commentators, you’ll be surprised how many are grateful that you’d be volunteering your time to help them. It’s a win-win situation, and it aids in your step 5, networking.
5. Networking with Publishers and Tournament Organizers
Networking is such an important skill in the esports scene and it does make a world of difference when looking for commentating gigs. Most of your work as a commentator is contract-based, so keeping a large well-known identity in the scene, it opens you up to a lot of potential work.
I’ve written about networking too much on this blog and this article is already much longer than expected, but I’ll provide some quick information for those who haven’t read how to network on the blog before.
LinkedIn is a powerhouse when it comes to networking. It’s a social media platform with the purpose of connecting with business professionals.
LinkedIn is amazing to get in with grassroots and small-time tournament organizers, but you’d sure find the owners of games and organizers of tier 2, tier 1 and almost all of tier 3 tournaments.
The best part of LinkedIn is that you are connecting to people, not directly to businesses, and from that, you can find exactly the people from specific companies you want to be in contact with.
Major Esports Networking Events
Networking events and general esports events are a great way to expand your network. Especially during covid, since a lot of events are now online, you have the ability to connect like never before. That said since many networks are being made it’s less of a strong relationship like in person, but there is still a lot of opportunities.
Assuming covid is over, look at your local area and see what networking events are being run. There still will be a lot of things happening online, you just need to look. These aren’t as easy to find, but there is a lot of these events out there.