I’ve done some casting in the past, and while I’ve always found it pretty engaging, I’ve never focused on improving my casting. I remember after doing my first couple of DPC casts, some of my friends asked me how casting was. I said something along the lines of it’s easy and fun, which in hindsight was stupid and naive. One of the many things that the great KBBQ taught me about when I worked with him through the TI9 season was the concept of the four stages of learning. You should google it for better understanding, but the gist of it is that you start at unconscious incompetence, move to conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and finally to unconscious competence. There’s a theoretical 5th stage where you can empathize with people at different stages of learning but again, you should read about it from people who have explored it more than me.
One thing that the four stages of learning helps me think about is why improvement is a process. When you’re consciously thinking about something, you have to focus additional attention on it, which results in less attention for other aspects and overall means your performance will be worse. This is counter-intuitive for improvement, because it means that as you learn something, you temporarily get worse. However, once you reach unconscious competence, you no longer need to split your attention and become fundamentally better at whatever you were learning.
Anyways, I think because I’ve never focused on casting, I’ve always been at the unconscious incompetence stage. But as I’ve been casting more, I’ve moved into conscious incompetence. To deal with said incompetence, I’ve been thinking a good deal about what I should improve on, which has led to me overcompensating for certain aspects of my casting and leading to a worse final product. I feel like my first couple casts on the DPC season were ok. The middle of the casts had some better ones, and then some of the later ones were not that good. I’m not trying to make excuses for delivering a subpar product here, rather I'm just trying to think about why it happened.
My current model of the situation is that, at the start, I was purely focused on talking about things that interested me in the game. I was pretty uncomfortable casting because although I've been public-facing as a pro player/coach/dota personality for the last ten years, I’m still really self-conscious and anxious about public speaking (sort of what casting is but not really imo). As I’ve started to become a bit more comfortable, I think my casting has improved. However, at the end, I think I over-indexed on certain points of feedback (the feedback was not bad, but how I reacted and overfocused on it was bad) and my casting became spammy and subpar. I thought I had valuable things to say in the casts, but I would talk more than I should have because I was afraid of silence or downtime. Or rather, I was afraid of not being able to say what I wanted to say. My casting became pretty selfish and it ended up resulting in a bad end product.
I think casting has a lot of parallels to playing on a pro team. The end goal is always to create a product that’s sum is greater than its parts. When I played and coached pro dota, that was always one of my core goals; I’ve always wanted how my teammates and I interacted with each other to boost us to the next level. I think I’ve been really fortunate to cast with some excellent professionals who were able to compensate for my shortcomings to make the end product much better. In particular, I’d like to shout out to Lyrical, who was my main casting partner. Not only did Lyrical make the casting process extremely smooth for me--as did every other person I casted with in the NA DPC--but he actively tried to help me. He gave me valuable feedback and was always willing to talk about the steps I should take to improve. I’ve always thought Lyrical was a really beast caster, and now I can understand why; he puts in a lot of extra work and actively works on and thinks about casting. Apparently putting in the work makes you really good at things. Who could have known.
I didn’t know how much work went into the casting process because as aforementioned, I was stupid and naive. Anyways, I’m probably still at the conscious incompetence stage, but I’m constantly thinking about how I cast and how to improve. I’ve received some pretty valuable feedback from Lyrical and my friend !drew who is poo. I think the things I’m currently focusing on are trying to tie my points into what my cocasters are saying, helping build a storyline for the game, making my thoughts more condensed and cohesive, and not being afraid of silence in the cast so I’m not just spamming the comms.
I’ve written a lot of this blog in a pretty self critical way because that’s generally how I think about things in life, but I’m also very confident in my future ability in casting. I think I have the background to be a good analyst, and I know I will put in the work to improve. I think I'm on the road to a very good product and I just need a bit of time. Honestly I’m really disappointed that the BnY vs. EG series was a forfeit because I think I could have delivered a pretty good cast for that one. I put a lot of thought into how to improve for that cast and was excited to see if it was going to make a difference. There’s always a chance I can’t improve and bomb out of the casting scene, but I’m pretty hopeful right now.
Anyways, I hope I can deliver a good product at the Animajor. I don’t exactly know how much casting I will be doing there compared to analyst desk stuff, but I will work hard to do well. One thing I do know is that Weplay has put on some of the best events in Dota 2 history, and from what I’ve been told about the event, I expect this one to be even better. Lastly, I want to say that I’m incredibly grateful to the community. I don’t think I would have been given the opportunity to attend the major if I didn’t get a positive reddit thread. So thank you, it means a lot. Positivity and shoutouts mean a lot in the scene both on a personal and professional level. With that said, I think Lyrical should be a caster at TI. He’s one of the best casters I’ve watched and worked with, he’s put the work in, and I hope it gets recognized.
If you’ve made it this far in the blog, thanks for reading. I’d appreciate it if you would leave me casting feedback in the comments here. I’ll read them all. Please be constructive and nice because I’m fragile. I’m already aware I spammed too much in some of my casts so no flame too hard thx.
Anyways I’m done talking about myself and casting, but I wanted to apply the four stages of learning to something in the pro scene. I think the NA scene is weak right now excluding the top three teams. I’d love for the other teams to prove me wrong but I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with the mentality of a lot of the tier 2 teams. When you play on a Dota team, there suddenly becomes a lot of feedback that changes your unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. While you are working on a myriad of issues, your performance will worsen as you focus on improving. What this means in the NA scene, is that a player in the process of improving will get kicked; all the time and effort that has been invested from both the individual player and the team has been wasted. It’s an awful cycle that makes the scene worse.
Imo, there are very few good reasons for a player to be kicked from a lower-tier team (these concepts apply less to the very top teams, as they are not as focused on improvement, but rather results--although oftentimes the two are related). The reason you are not as good as EG is not because one of your players is weak; it’s because all of you are worse individually AND as a team. You need to have a process where you build each other up and learn and grow if you want to reach tier 1--Rome wasn’t built in a day. Every time you kick someone, you are only creating a scapegoat, and it’s incredibly bad for the team’s development. The process of learning takes time, and tier 2 players especially need to know that they have to put both the effort and time in.
In particular, I’m calling out team SIMPLY TOOBASED here, although I think this happens in a lot of NA teams. This is a team that was in the process of improving. I could see it from game to game. I went over a replay with this team for free because one of their players asked me to, and I thought they were all pretty cool humans and I wanted them to succeed. They are not a tier 1 team right now, but they probably could have learned a lot together and built each other up to get there. It’s incredibly disappointing to me that after accomplishing their stated goals for the season (compete in the upper division and maintain their slot while improving), they kick one of their players. Sadge. Anyways, I hope they prove me wrong and succeed but I’m less hopeful now based on the mentality they’re currently displaying.
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edit: i made related yt video on this subject: