Ever try watching ants? It's not that fun. All they do is crawl around, trying to hunt for food or whatever, just living their ant lives until they get stomped, eaten, or otherwise slain in some unceremonious fashion. Sounds boring, right?
That is, until you watch them with commentary.
As sports networks and the Discovery Channel have demonstrated, good announcers can make anything worth watching. A march of ants, a game of poker, elephant copulation – no matter what the subject, if somebody is commentating with enough excitement, it's hard not to get caught up in the fervour. It's even true when you're watching somebody else play a videogame.
Although your average game of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is more entertaining than your average colony of ants, both are far easier to watch when somebody's giving you a play-by-play. That's why hundreds of thousands of people regularly head to YouTube to enjoy professional StarCraft II matches broadcast by people like Mike Lamond. Lamond, who goes by the handle HuskyStarCraft, uploads around 100 videos a month – some in three or four parts – that have garnered a whopping 100 million total views. He's also very entertaining.
"I try to make the game as exciting as possible," Lamond tells Eurogamer. "When I'm watching this stuff, I'm getting legitimately excited, so that comes through in my commentary."
And there's lots to be excited about. Lamond moved to Los Angeles recently to take a full-time job at The Game Station, an internet-star-studded YouTube channel that he describes as "about gaming, made by people who actually play games." The popularity of his own channel helped make that happen – the HuskyStarCraft account currently has 250,000 subscribers, not all of whom are hardcore fans of the game.
"My style might appeal to someone who just wants to sit down after work and enjoy some StarCraft," Lamond says. "Or the more casual gamer, who doesn't necessarily care if he's going to beat the next 10 opponents or not."
But Lamond's brand of fast-paced excitement isn't for everybody. Some players might want less hype and more analysis, especially if they do care about beating the next 10 opponents. Enter Sean Plott.
Known as Day in the StarCraft community, Plott has been playing professionally for 10 years and has placed first and second in a number of World Cyber Games tournaments. For almost a year now, he's been running the Day Daily, a series of videos that he streams every weeknight with the goal of helping players get better at StarCraft.
"Everyone wants to know a way to win," Plott says. "That's pretty consistent in all games, whether it's players using a strategy guide, coach, or anything else."
If Lamond's videos are basketball matches, Plott's are 'Inside the NBA' – he stops games mid-battle, analyses specific plays, and often points the camera at his own face so he can "go on long random tangents and try to make goofy jokes." His natural charisma combined with a great sense of comic timing help keep the Daily engaging, despite the frequent breaks in action. In the past year he's cultivated a loyal group of followers; one of his most recent videos had over 12,000 live viewers.
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