East’s Corner 03: Commentators, The Story-Tellers

About a year and a half ago, for work, I needed to learn about golf. Granted, back then, and even now I didn’t give a damn about the sport of golf, or it’s players, but for the sake of becoming better at my job, I needed to learn about the pro tour, the different championships, and the players in it. So to get up to speed I would watch commentary clips of the different games and the highlights. In a matter of a months I was caught up to speed and for work, whenever I needed to talk about golf, I could probably fool you into thinking that I had been an avid fan for years. I’ll be honest, learning about the pros playing the game actually became pretty interesting.

So what the hell does this have to do with fighting games at all? Well as of late, the topic of conversation with my fighting game friends has been, “Who are the best commentators” in the FGC. It’s actually been a pretty heated discussion, mainly because we’ve had a hard time nailing down exactly what makes a good commentator. A lot of the favorites names have been thrown out, “Tasty Steve, Sajam, James Chen, Yipes, Ultradavid etc.” and frankly when I think about it, I think they all do something pretty well, but as far as having all-round best commentary, I’m having a hard time being convinced.

I think a commentator’s job is to make whatever you’re watching more interesting. Now that sounds simple, but there’s actually a lot of moving parts here. It’s only now that I appreciate my time spent trying to learn about golf, because I know what it feels like to be hear commentary for something I don’t really know or care about. I feel doing that really gave me a deeper understanding of the whole topic. When I watched and learned about golf, I felt the best commentators were the ones, who would bring you in and make you want to learn more about the scene itself. They were entertainers, but you could tell they were passionate about their sport. They were able to decipher why players would make certain decisions, and do it in a way without explaining exactly what you were seeing [Pokemon VGC commentators are notorious for this].

Taking that past experience into account, I think the person who really embodies this in the fighting game scene is MajinObama [@2djazz on twitter]. Whenever he commentates Guilty Gear, I can see that he loves the game, is knowledgeable about it, and knows the lore and stories behind what’s going on in the match. He can tell you stories, about the players, rivalries you may have never heard of, while also keeping current focus on the game at hand. He’s got the gift of gab, which may or may not get him in trouble from time to time, but he’s who I would say is the current best commentator. He’s the kind of guy who can take a person who doesn’t really care about Guilty Gear, and pull you in. He makes people want to become a part of the scene, to learn the game, and to learn about the players. I feel like that is the true mission of a great commentator; To take the uninitiated and initiate them. Everyone is always talking about growing the scene and honestly I think commentators carry the biggest burden when it comes to this.

Who do you think is the best commentator? What do you think makes a good commentator? Let me know on twitter or in the comments below.  

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