Ex-Player Casting/Analytical Talent

In came a new ESL Pro League season.. We’re in the final months of the online Pro League games, where the top 6 teams from North America, and the top 6 teams from Europe will head over to the Ginásio do Ibirapuera in São Paulo, Brazil. From the 28th to the 30th of October, those 12 teams will compete for their share of a $750,000 prize pool (The prize distribution)

Alas, how I would love to talk about playing talent.all day and every day but I feel like we should divert our attention to the casting and analytical talent that ESL has brought in for the EU Pro League and the NA Pro League.

First, the NA Pro League. By introducing individuals like Alexander “LeX” Deily, Erik “da_bears” Stromberg, David “DAVEY” Stafford (temporary appearance) and Sam “DaZeD” Marine, the production quality for the Pro League in North America has increased significantly.

Introducing someone like LeX gives that ex-player perspective that we’ve been yearning for. Someone that has played professionally up until recently. Someone that knows the game and can explain a bit better as to why teams might be doing the things that they’re doing and even recount personal experience coming up against teams that are making the plays they are making.

It’s something that just makes the game easier to understand by having someone like that there, and can prove to be a learning experience. The casting/analyst talent that ESL has at their disposal is absolutely fantastic but then by introducing newer casting/analyst talent that have been around the game more recently, it not only provides a refreshing voice to the desk, but also provides a different perspective/a newer perspective on things that teams can/should/did do. It’s always nice, and the more professional opinion/perspective you have in strategic games like Counter Strike, the more the casual player can absorb if they wish to become a better player. Not only that, if a professional player happens to go back and watch the VOD of the stream, they might get a different perspective on how they could have played different/better in that situation and take it on board and adjust their game accordingly. The same goes for DAVEY. By having DAVEY on the analyst desk, although he is still a professional player, you get a deeper view into how teams play/what they do and so on.

The North American Pro League also saw the introduction of Erik “da_bears” Stromberg. Having played CS from 2002 – 2009, then playing CSS briefly in 2008 before moving to CS:GO and eventually coaching for CLG Red (Source). da_bears brings a completely different kind of flavor to the desk. Whilst being a former professional player with good insight into the game, he also seems to bring a more casual approach to the desk. da_bears has brought up some things that haven’t really been thought about and should be taken in consideration as an analyst/caster, and on the other end of the spectrum his attitude invites the more casual viewer looking for something that isn’t quite as analysis intensive from the desk, and da_bears is the perfect person for it. He’s able to crack a joke at a whim and be serious and analyse accordingly. This is the kind of person that should, and probably is, making Counter Strike a more appealing eSport to watch for both casuals, first time viewers and hardcore fans of the eSport. Personally, I feel like da_bears is able to cater for all of the present and potential audience members that will view/are viewing Counter Strike’s NA Pro League.

Sam “DaZeD” Marine. For those of you who don’t know, DaZeD was apart of the iBUYPOWER betting scandal. As a result of this those involved were banned from all Valve events “indefinitely” and one year later, Valve announced the bans were permanent. Aside from this, DaZeD is a phenomenal Counter Strike player, fluent with both rifles and the AWP. DaZeD is also known for his incredible knowledge about the game and is widely regarded by professional players as the best, if not one of the best in-game leaders the North American scene has to offer. DaZeD is widely regarded by European and Brazilian professionals as well. Now, here’s the thing. All of those involved with the iBUYPOWER betting scandal were banned from all Valve related events in every way, shape or form. They’re not allowed to be an observer (the controlling the player cam for the stream one, I’m sure they’re allowed to be in the crowd). They’re not allowed to be on the analyst desk or casting desk. They’re not allowed to be coaches for professional teams.

ESL hosts majors that are sponsored by Valve, and the ESL Pro League is also run by, you guessed it, ESL. For ESL to bring in DaZeD surprised many, and for him to stay on until the end of the season at least is a big deal. People have brought up the possibility of this being a step towards iBUYPOWER being unbanned but it’s highly unlikely that the day will ever come. So for ESL to bring in DaZeD it’s like wow… Cool. Aside from all the ooh’s and ahh’s that people have been posting about.. DaZeD’s arrival to the analyst and casting desk is arguably the best thing to happen to the ESL NA Pro League. Production quality is at it’s peak whenever DaZeD is on the desk(s). His breakdown of how players do things/why teams are doing it/how each players play and strategic, in depth analysis of the gameplay going on in the stream is outstanding. Ex-players like him are what the desks at events need, and DaZeD is the prime example of an ex-player who can provide such in depth analysis while casting and at the analyst desk. You need someone who knows the game so well, and DaZeD is that someone.

Moving onto the EU Pro League, they saw the arrival of Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill to the analyst desk. For those of you who are unaware, SPUNJ was the spearhead of the Vox Eminor squad, which was the first Australian team to play CS:GO internationally. That team later became the LA Renegades. Bringing SPUNJ to the desk was also a smart move, for the same reason as DaZeD. Former in-game leader with incredible knowledge for the game. Not only that, he brings a different flavor to the desk, he’s able to be funny and just say it how it is in his own way whilst delivering meaningful analysis.

Good job ESL, bringing in ex-players is a step in the right direction for meaningful, in depth analysis and I hope to see the trend increase over the years. It helps the casters/analysts we already have and makes the production value that much more better by adding people like this. In this we can also find new combinations for casting talent which also makes the streams more entertaining. More people, more desk rotation, more opinions, more knowledge.

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