VCT Game Changers Prep
The Background Info
I received a rather surprising email on Friday, 9/17, at 8pm. It asked if I was interested and available to cast a day of VALORANT Game Changers, specifically the day of 9/24, or the following Friday.
I don't know what I did to get put on their list (I did have the wonderful opportunity of casting Game Changers Academy thanks to the Galorants, but even that was a surprise!), but I'm quite thankful someone out there thought I was good enough. I did do a bit of cramming for the Academy cast (similar notice timing) but knew that there wasn't much pressure because, y'know, it's the academy version. The "real event" was a bit more intimidating, even if it was only the qualifiers. So I had to prepare. Not only did I see this as a great opportunity and wanted to deliver a cast that justified the hire, I also saw it as an opportunity to prove I could do something like this. That I could, in fact, keep my nose to the grindstone and adapt to other esports. So let's see how I tried my first real go at this.
First, I set a schedule. I got out my to-do notes and made one for each day (only saving the last three when I thought of doing this blog). I still had to do some streaming on my own channel, a sponsored stream, and miscellaneous whatnot, but I tried to fill my days as much as possible with Valorant.
I always started a day by playing Valorant because I do believe playing the game is necessary to cast it. It also helped me put my mind in a "Valorant" place more than just watching VODs. I made sure to go over a lot of basic stuff such as callouts. I didn't have a great way of doing this initially, but I figured out a process that worked for me.
I printed out blanks of the maps and got out some tracing paper. I used an imgur album of typical callouts to reference, and proceeded to fill in the blanks. I went with pure repetition with this one, and fortunately I didn't have to repeat it too much. I learned the callouts usually within one sheet of paper (or four fill-in-the-blanks), and just made sure to do some everyday to keep it fresh.
Some other basic stuff included how economies worked. Making sure I understood the terms of the game and what a bonus round was and why it's better to die for the money, all that type of stuff. I had already created flash cards for things like how much guns cost, what money is given when, what character abilities names were, and what the gun icons look like thanks to my previous study session for the Game Changers Academy broadcast.
Covering the game itself was the focus for roughly the first half of the week. The second half was my attempt to dig a little deeper. I queued up all of Sean Gares' most recent videos and took notes, and if there was a suggested video that also analyzed Valorant, I added that to the watch list (that's the "YT videos" portion of my studying on my to-do list).
Sometimes things would fly over my head, but it did a good job of opening up the analytical world. I could at least think of what could/would/should happen next, as opposed to just 100% talking about what was on the screen.
The "last" thing I did (I was doing most of this all simultaneously) was focus on the tournament itself, as this is the step I'm most familiar with and doesn't feel so game-specific. What's the format, what's the prize pool, who is playing, and what are the stories?
The format and prize pool of the tournament may seem unimportant, but it's all about being familiar with the scene. It's a very different look between a commentator who says "wasn't it swiss last time? No? Oh nevermind, but yeah 16 teams looking to get out" and one who says "the big difference in this tournament is that we now has a swiss format, meaning every team has multiple chances of making it to the top 16". One just sounds more professional. It's not the biggest of deals, but there's almost no reason to not sound 100% certain.
The "who is playing" and "what are the stories" are bigger and more important, and is also, again, a chance for me to sound 100% certain of myself. It's also what really drives commentary and connects the viewer to the tournament. This is especially important when there's lesser-known teams, or competition that isn't considered top tier. If I said that there was a gold vs. gold match happening, how many would care? Not many. If I said that there's a team who has placed 2nd in the same tournament 5 times in a row, but has added a new teammate and may be looking to finally win the 6th, a few more people would tune in.
This is also part of the process that I consider the most fun. I get to build my own investment into the tournament. I went from mostly cheering on Shopify to being giddy over org pick ups, subs who may be making their main debut, old rivalries, etc. I also go from reading stats ("oh okay C9W is pretty good") to knowing the players ("oh wow these people are so passionate I hope they kick ass"). I took some pictures of team breakdowns and the like, but it doesn't show all the videos I went through. I went through Complexity's twitter and watched all the player interviews, I went back to the previous Game Changer events and watched pre and post match interviews, and I watched a few episodes of Protocol Unlocked: Valorant, a show that is all about "highlights and features of the women's Valorant scene".
To attempt to sum up what I did -
Learn Valorant at the basic level (economy, weapons, skills, abilities, map callouts) with the help of flashcards and tracing paper.
Learn Valorant at an analytical level (what could/should/would come next, what did happen) by watching Sean Gares videos, how-to agent videos, how-to map videos, match analysis videos.
Practice the casting of the game by casting over VODs, or practicing with other commentators such as the wonderful DrDelta and Gompers.
Learn the tournament format/history with the help of the Valorant liquipedia .
Learn about teams by watching game VODs, Series 1/2 interviews, Protocol Unlocked videos, and good ol' Google.
Create strong storylines by taking most of the above and simplifying it all.
Conclusion And Reflection
I'm actually not 100% sure on how I want to evaluate myself. My feelings before, during, and after the show were a rollercoaster. One minute I'd be having fun and coasting, the next I'd be panicking. One minute I'd be thinking "oh yeah that was probably alright", the next minute I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I just made a complete fool of myself. Almost a week later, I can at least say I don't think I made a fool out of myself. And I am proud of how much work I put into this. But I do think I messed up in at least one way -
I really wish I had put more time into just casting the game. Over and over and over and over. I think everything I studied was important, but I think I had to pick and choose a bit more with the limited amount of time I had. I probably should've pulled back on learning about the teams, as there was hardly any time to talk about more "macro" stories. Valorant is just so much, so fast - there isn't time to do much but talk about what just happened, what is happening, and what may happen next. I think I studied more like a host would, if they were given a small amount of time to prepare. I would absolutely love to do some hosting of Valorant events, and I was the "leader-host" of the duo (shout out to Pastytime for being a damn good Valorant caster and super easy guy to work with, he 100% carried), but I needed more practice with the actual action of Valorant.
I do think that's my biggest regret, or take away now that everything is done. But I find it difficult to be especially hard on myself...kinda. I do flip-flop between telling myself "you did what you set out to do, you put a lot of work into it and did your best, you can't argue that" to "holy shit yes you can argue it, you stupid prick, you should've slept less and skipped meals". But, y'know, aside from the super self-critical monster that resides in most people's brains, I do generally feel good about what I did.
I come out of this experience with a better appreciation of what commentators of multiple games go through. There's a reason you don't see many have a consistent streaming schedule, or stream at all for that matter. It's all behind the scenes, off-camera. I imagine it gets somewhat easier the more you do it, and I'm open to any feedback on how to prepare...but at the end of the day, it's just about putting in the work.
Thank you to everyone who gave me a chance, and to everyone who helped me during the week/during the show. Galorants for getting me into this, DrDelta + Gompers for the practice, Pastrytime for being such an excellent co-commentator, and the production for making it a seamless show. And of course, shout-out to the entirety of VCT Game Changers.
Hopefully I get to cast/host more Valorant in the future! Thanks for reading!