Esports program creates a pathway for next-generation commentators

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An announcer guiding a viewer through a game, commentating each play is something usually associated with ESPN. The growing Boise State esports program, however, is no different.   

Nathan Van Hulzen, a freshman commentator for Boise State Esports, a program that has been on campus since 2017, commentated for three years prior to coming to Boise State. His story resembles that of many other professional commentators.

“I wanted to work in esports in any way that I could,” Van Hulzen said. “I really enjoyed the game ‘League of Legends’ and I knew a lot about it, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to a point where I could play it at a professional level or even at a stage somewhere in a competitive scene.” 

Although he lacks the skill that only a small percentage of professional esports players possess, Van Hulzen recognized what talent he did have. 

“I’m very good at talking to people, communicating and not being nervous when it comes to talking in front of people,” Van Hulzen said. “So, I used that as an advantage of mine and thought of commentating as a way to possibly get into esports as a job or profession later on.”

This insight is not in a vacuum, either. It was an objective from the top of the Boise State esports organization to build a communications-level education with the experience.

The experience you gain [in esports commentating]can transfer across so many platforms,” said Ryan McNamee, director of esports operations. “It builds up your self-esteem and confidence. It helps if you are new to public speaking and want to gain that experience.”

The pairing of esports with live commentary was an idea conceived while creating the Boise State esports program; where there is an esports team, there will be student commentators. 

“We’ve been using student commentators since day one of our esports program,” McNamee said. “Lots of students showed interest in commenting on the matches, and we have enjoyed watching [the  commentators] grow into this role.”

For a player, having a commentator while playing is essential for a good performance, according to freshman “Rainbow Six Siege” player Daniel Heffernan. The sensation is similar to a professional athlete for the NFL having their morale boosted by hearing their name yelled by the announcer.

When there is a crucial moment in a game, the sportscaster can put the energy into words; their voice projects a little louder and gets the whole crowd just riled up and excited for that single moment,” Heffernan said. “It reminds me a lot of the track and field announcers when I ran in high school.”

With each word they speak, a commentators job is massive to create a positive and immersive experience to those who tune in. While not even playing they are paving way to put esports on the map as a professional sport more and more.  

“Having in-game commentating changes the way you look [at]and watch esports. With the proper duo of casters, they can describe the games in such detail that even if you’ve never watched or played the game, you’ll understand what is going on,” McNamee said. “Often, when I tune into an esports match, I don’t even watch the games, I just listen to our casters because of how they project the image into my mind of what is going on.”

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