In this edition of the eSports Spotlight series, we’ll be talking to two of your favourite eSports casters, Breaker and Edison. These are the guys who currently helm the WGL eSports match live streams, providing insightful game commentary and blow-by-blow accounts of who’s trying to take down who.
Watch our video interview with them, then find out more about what it’s like to be a professional caster below!
Benjamin 'Breaker' Novotny
Chen Chien Wei 'Edison'
If you’ve ever seen them on air together, you’ll have noticed that Breaker and Edison are as different as night and day in terms of casting style. One specialises in exhilarating play-by-play commentary, while the other draws on a seemingly endless internal pool of knowledge to deliver incisive game analysis.
“My specialty is play-by-play. It always has been my highlight in casting,” says Breaker. “In tanks, I think the best thing to note is how shots connect with or miss their targets, and if they hit any modules – especially tracks.”
“Breaker is a pro caster,” says Edison. “I have a more ‘team leader’ style of casting – like a teacher, telling someone what they should or should not do. Not really like a caster. My role in streaming is, in some way, to tell the audience why this team is doing that.”
Breaker is quick to leap to his partner’s defense, though: “Edison has all of the analysis skills that I lack. He is a living index of World of Tanks knowledge.” “Yeah, if Breaker has questions about the game, he will ask me,” Edison concurs.
So it’s clear to see that despite their dissimilarities, Breaker and Edison work well together – each complements the other. As it turns out, aside from working as a casting team, the pair have actually previously played on the same WoT team too. In November 2013, Breaker joined yoe Flash Wolves (the team that recent Gold Series champions Horsemen originated from), of which Edison was captain.
Edison started out as a professional WoT player with 2 years of tournament experience in top WoT teams yoe Flash Wolves and IAF, while Breaker was then a caster working with TeSL, one of Taiwan’s leading eSports broadcasting partners, on an informal basis. He discovered WoT while looking to diversify his casting portfolio in Taiwan, and the rest, as they say, is history.
But what drew them both to casting in the first place? Passion, for one. “I’ve always wanted to do something like this since I was a kid. All I ever thought about was games,” says Breaker. “Nowadays, seeing people making a living playing them competitively, although it’s not an option for me, pleases myself and hundreds of thousands of other happy viewers.”
For Edison, too, it was a natural career progression for someone who truly loves WoT. “I am too old to keep participating in tournaments. Casting is a nice choice after retirement, because although I do not join tournaments anymore, I can still maintain my reputation as a pro player,” he says. “I still love the game and tournaments. As a caster, I can stay involved but not spend a big part of my life on it.”
Ever since they started casting for WoT Asia a year ago, the pair have essentially given up competitive play to focus on casting. “I think sometimes casting is less stressful than playing!” exclaims Breaker. “But in general, I feel that there is a fine line between being a caster and being a professional player. If I am going to be a professional player, then I cannot cast when I am supposed to play. I may also have access to information that other teams may not have and therefore, my team may have an unfair advantage.”
Their decision to retire from professional gaming was also motivated by practical concerns – both of them are currently holding full-time jobs in addition to their casting duties. “Time constraints, in some ways, are a real problem,” admits Breaker. “I work seven days a week, and if I'm not casting I'm teaching English [in Taiwan, where he is based].”
Edison, who is a private investor at present, plans to start a new job in investment banking in the coming months. “I’ve got 2 kids,” he says. “If I did this full time they would be starving.” It’s the unfortunate reality of an industry that, at least in Asia, is still in its infancy – the difficulty of garnering professional, social and financial support for a career too often seen as ‘not serious’.
“The truth of the matter is there are very few casters in all the world for any game title who can make a living from casting full time,” says Breaker. “Outside of Korea, eSports has just not reached that level, but I think the rest of Asia as a whole is catching up very quickly.”
These revelations beg the question: Besides love of the game, what else keeps our casters going? Perhaps, as Edison has mentioned, it has to do with staying involved in the vibrant WoT eSports community – simply being a part of it.
“The most rewarding part of casting has to be the opportunity for fan interaction,” declares Breaker. “I love being able to walk in to almost any eSports event here in Taiwan and having people call me by my Chinese name [賓哥 (bin ge), literally meaning “Ben Bro”, an affectionate contraction of 鈕洋賓 (niu yang bin), his chosen Chinese name] once I walk in.”
Like every other industry, the success of eSports as a whole, and of those involved in the competitive gaming scene, depends heavily on the support received from the community it is rooted in. And for Breaker and Edison, it seems Taiwan has proven a relatively conducive eSports home ground so far.
“[When it comes to] being a professional gamer in general, I imagine it is somewhat accepted here,” says Breaker. “For example, I can tell my taxi driver ‘I am an eSports caster’ here in Taiwan, and maybe half of all the taxi drivers out here in Taiwan would know what I'm talking about, without me going into extreme detail.”
What about individual support for professional gaming from family and friends? “I can't say that I know for sure anyone here in Taiwan who has had trouble with their family over their pro gaming careers,” he adds. “But I do know for a fact that a few players or casters here in Taiwan have had their love for eSports directly interfere with their university education – to the extent that they have had to go to different schools time and again.”
So how does one go about preparing to cast for one of the world’s most popular online games? “There's nothing that can prepare you for that one day when you are casting like you’ve always wanted,” reveals Breaker. “I was a bit nervous on the WargamingAsia channel my first couple of times, even though I had already been a home streamer for two years by then.”
“As for a day in the life of a caster... well, for most it starts with their day job or university studies, then maybe watching a few different streams to warm up their brains for some casting,” he says. Edison, on the other hand, focuses on the big picture: “For me, I will check the current standings before casting. I regularly join tournament training sessions with my team, so I’m always updated on the latest team strategies. I don’t really prepare for individual match-ups.”
Of course, with the benefit of their combined professional playing and casting experience behind them, our casters are the ones most attuned to what it would take to make the WoT eSports scene even more exciting than it already is.
“Actually, this game is not easy. It's somewhat hard for young kids,” admits Edison. “But if you are a WW2 or strategy gaming player, you will love it… I guess one issue is that tournaments are in a different format from the random battles we usually play. If we want to attract more tournament teams or viewers, maybe we can hold tournaments in a more familiar format.”
“I must add that although there are fewer offline events to go to for World of Tanks, there are many, many, many people who will show up in person just to watch, because it is their favourite game and they want to see some action and share it with their friends. I think that right now the best improvement to WoT, eSports-wise, would perhaps be somehow integrating a LAN feature, or producing local servers to reduce the likelihood of disconnects.”