Breathing Life: An Overview of Commentary in Smash

With streamed tournaments being the norm, this article seeks to shed light on commentary. It gives a very brief overview of commentary types and the current state of casting.

Ever since sports broadcasting has existed, sports commentary has existed. The amount of technical information and sports mentality requires translation to a wider audience. This is provided by commentators. It is unthinkable to watch a boxing or tennis match without them. The spectators would be stuck wondering just what was happening and why. In fact, NBC tried to experiment with an “announcerless” game in 1980. It was an immense flop. After over a century of sports broadcasting, there is no debate over the need for commentary. eSports is no exception. If two men throwing punches can confuse the layman, then a game like Smash Bros. can lose them for a week. The popularity of streamed tournaments requires information to be fed to the audience. The technicality of the game requires that the information is not lost on the audience. It is a difficult position, but necessary for the growing amount of spectators.

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eSports casting is quite fluid in application. Few rules exist about commentary. The ones that exist are centered around professional behavior to take while on stream. No cursing is the most basic example. Though even that is up to the management of the streamer. Though, there are basic guidelines that are followed. For example, off-topic commentary is frowned upon. With casting, there is more of an emphasis on style. Commentators take different approaches to how they translate information to the audience. eSports in general popularized the “hype commentator.” Referred to as “shoutcasting,” it is not uncommon to hear a caster get excited during a match. These casters, such as Homemadewaffles, have the ability to generate excitement in the audience. By raising their voice, making exaggerated statements, and showing investment, these casters transfer the energy to the spectators. It can be argued that this style of commentary is the most popular. There is also the analytical caster. These commentators, such as D1, put emphasis on the play-by-play nature of the game. They seek to give the audience an understanding of what is happening in real-time. Their focus is more on the quantitative information that exists. They focus on the specific steps taken to reach where the match is. It can be draining to commentate in such a way for games like Melee. The amount of raw information that exists in a single match can be difficult to translate over. So, they put an emphasis on the important pieces of information. That is, which steps were vital to reaching where the players are now.

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The third most popular caster archetype is the color commentator. These casters, such as Progducto, give the qualitative information behind a match. Their emphasis is on the mentality of the players, and the significance of decisions. With a color commentator, the focus is on getting the audience to understand the why of gameplay. They want viewers to see the match through the eyes of the players. They want viewers to know what is at stake with the decisions made, and how it might affect the ebb and flow of the match. These casters need a strong understanding of meta-analysis. They need to understand the game at a fundamental level, and be able to transpose that knowledge onto the current match.

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Scar and Toph

Most casters take a page from traditional sports casting, and pair off with those of distinct styles. These tend to be casters, such as Scar and Toph, that play off of each other to create a balance that works best for the audience. Pairs work as a team, giving different perspectives to the same match. The usual pairing mixes the analysis with color commentating, with both adding their own hype. In fact, this is the default setting for the majority of Smash streams. There is almost no major event with a single commentator taking the helm. This is a tradition that extends

far beyond esports. The prevalence of dual commentary has existed for a majority of sports casting history. It is the most popular format for commentary, and the results speak for themselves. As Smash continues to grow, commentary is integral to the scene. Online audiences of thirty thousand plus is becoming normal for major tournaments. With the growth of non-playing spectators, commentators bridge the gap between game and audience. Pushes have been made to get more compensation for casters. Other games, such as CS:GO and League, already have full-time casting jobs in professional circuits. Yet, Smash has no central circuit or governing force. So, compensation is decided by individual tournaments and streaming services. We may see more push to get casters full-time positions, and the beginnings of a central body for Smash. However, that is a topic for another article.


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