Tue, Feb 02, 2016 - Page 12 News List

In with a shout

It’s more than just a game if you leave your hometown and travel half way across the world to do what you love

By Jules Quartly

Benjamin “BreAKer” Novotny shoutcasts whenever he can.

Photo: Jules Quartly

Unless you are into eSports, the betting is you don’t know what a shoutcaster does and you won’t have heard of Benjamin “BreAKer” Novotny — Ben for short, aka Bin Ge (賓哥). Don’t worry about it, you’re probably old and past it.

For the uninitiated, shoutcasting is to eSports what commentating is to real sports, but much, much louder. There’s a lot of breathless building up of video game play excitement, narrating how the action plays out and giving insight on the players and their strategies. Broadcasts go out on YouTube channels to just a few viewers, or to millions all over the world on terrestrial TV and dedicated gaming platforms.

It’s not a job for noobs. You really have to know your game and be on top of the action, which means being well prepared and working with a small army of producers, directors, reporters, graphics people and statisticians. You better be good looking, have A1 networking skills and the political skills of a Machiavelli.

Shoutcasting is intensely competitive. It’s easy to become a star today and yesterday’s news tomorrow. The online community can be brutal and being trolled or dealing with the haters is just part of the job. That said, the rewards are great, the attention satisfying and you probably have groupies.

A career option that only appeared out of the Internet ether five to six years ago, it’s a job that practically anyone who has an interest in serious gaming has considered. What’s not to like? You do something you love and get paid well for it. And when it works out, Novotny says, “It’s the best feeling in the world. I love shoutcasting, more than I love gaming itself.”

Novotny’s schtick, in addition to being a master game player of CS: GO, League of Legends, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and StarCraft II, is being fluent in Chinese, which he studied at National Taiwan University. This qualifies him to shoutcast at events here and in China, simultaneously pleasing both the home crowd and international audiences.

Originally from Oklahoma, like Betsy Bobbin he’s made it to the Land of Oz, and has been working for a number of eSport-related companies in Taiwan, including Tt eSports, which makes computer accessories with a focus on gaming.

His career highlight, so far, was MCing the 2014 Taiwan eSports Open, organized by the Taiwan eSports League and held at the Expo Dome in Taipei. It was a huge live event, with some of the world’s best gamers and shoutcasters, such as Nicolas “Tasteless” Plott and Daniel “Artosis” Stemkoski.

But, Novotny says, it’s been downhill since then and he’s calling this year his make-or-break year.

“It’s my last shout for shoutcasting, or I will have to find something middle-management in the business to do,” he said.

One thing you have to realize about eSports is just how huge the market has become over the past two decades. According to Newzoo — a research company and“the experts on all things games” — eSports saw revenues of US$325 million worldwide last year. The business is experiencing year-on-year growth of 43 percent and is expected to break the US$1 billion mark in 2019.

It’s a young man’s game (though not exclusively, since 38 to 44 percent are women) and 72 percent of players are under 35. Tournament prizes have gone through the roof, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The 2015 Dota 2 “International” offered US$18.4 million in prize money, while the 27 million US TV viewership for the annual League of Legends Championship dwarfs the NBA finals at 15.5 million, according to an ESPN report based on Newzoo figures.

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