Among all of the North American League of Legends casters, no other caster has crafted a legacy like Rivington Bisland III. Originally a Counter-Strike 1.6 caster, Rivington started casting League of Legends at its genesis, commentating the very first competitive League of Legends game with David "Phreak" Turley.
Rivington has been casting League of Legends for nearly a decade, branching out into other roles including interviewing, hosting, and announcing as he did with Clayton "CaptainFlowers" Raines at the opening ceremony of the 2019 NA LCS Spring Finals in St. Louis. Rivington joined Inven Global to talk about his casting career, future goals, and the change in casting dynamic throughout the years of LoL Esports.
We're here with Rivington Bisland III at the LCS Finals in St. Louis. How have you been enjoying the playoffs so far?
I feel like the hype is so continuous this time around. It's always nice to have the 3rd place match, but coming in knowing it's the Final, seeing all of these videos behind it, and also being in St. Louis for the first time is incredible. I got to see the Gateway Arch, and it's great to see the players get a chance to travel and experience something different as well.
Being in different areas and seeing the League of Legends community still as strong as ever feels so awesome, and here at the Chaifetz Arena, it's no different. The St. Louis trip has been 100%, and it's going on 200% to 300% as the day goes on.
That's great to hear. Since this is your first interview with Inven Global, I'd love to hear about how you got into casting League of Legends and what makes you so passionate about it for some background.
I got into casting League of Legends around the end of 2010. I did a lot of things for World Cyber Games, but then they closed their doors in the states and I still wanted to cast. I knew taking the plunge and joining Riot Games was the right thing to do. I had been casting Counter-strike for a really long time, and I loved relating in the game.
For example, a bomb diffuse that saved the entire game — I loved relating and sharing that moment to the audience. It transferred to League of Legends easily: the Baron steals; the Dragon steals; the base-races. Sharing those moments of hype that everyone is participating and relating to the viewers through those moments in the game is my passion.
In casting those big moments over the years, has there been anything that's changed about how you approach those big moments?
Absolutely. If you look back in our casts back in Phreak's basement, there wasn't too much synergy between casters. One of us would talk for a bit, and then the other person would talk for a bit. Eventually, we split things into color casting and play-by-play casting so we could analyze the game to help people understand more of what they are watching . It's background noise that doesn't take them out of the game, but allows them to enjoy it to a higher degree.
We started to lock down that dynamic, but there would be times in training where they would tape our hands to the desk because we talked too much with our hands. We had to slow down and use our diaphragms for breath support and have inflection in our voices. We began to understand the intensity dynamics of a game. For example, the first dragon fight isn't the biggest, so you can't go 100%. You have to keep it lower, because that fifth dragon fight is going to be a little bit cooler.
Seeing that dynamic change and how you approach it is almost like writing an essay. You give your thesis and you want to prove something, and you have the body worked out, but you can't get to the conclusion too fast. It's been amazing to see that crafted over time. Now, we can have a tri-cast or bring people in from regions that haven't really casted before, and you still get a super fluid production.
From a personal perspective, has casting LoL taught you things as a person through experience?
The casting dynamic changes time to time. Right now, we're in a very big rap god phase. Clarity with speed is the name of the game, whereas before it was more of a talking vibe a la John Madden. It was a bit slower-paced; the fights were fast and hype; but they weren't rap god fast.
That dynamic is changing and it becomes awesome to anticipate what's going to be next style to come. Right now, the rap god style of casting is super flavorful and brings everything to the game. That's why you see Captain Flowers on top of his game right now, because he kind of brought that style into the scene. Asking 'What will be next?' in the style of casting is always an awesome question to think about.
Speaking of Captain Flowers, you two introduced the Finals in the opening ceremony together today. Is it different doing an opening ceremony with another person instead of by yourself in the past?
We wanted to make sure we were playing off of each other, but also more to the crowd so it didn't feel like we were battling at all. We're here to hype up both teams, not pick sides. The dynamic going in was, "We're here together, we're going to hype the shit out of this. There's no water for the roof to put out the fire we're about to bring!" So we just kept upping the energy and playing to the crowd was really what we wanted to do here.
You've been casting LoL for quite some time now. How do you handle the lesser-hype times outside of those big moments you love to cast?
Before, play-by-play casters would go in with some statistics so we could play off of the analysts, but we're there to cast the fights. We're going to jump in and hit it hard, and then back off so the color casting and analysis can come out. However, there's something I've been trying to do recently. You know how a baseball scorecard can tell exactly what happened in a game? I've been trying to do that throughout games because there are a lot of factors outside of the game now that can be discussed.
A quick historical recollection of something can divulge more information to build a brand or someone's perception of a team. I feel like the players are sometimes reserved in doing that. They know they're awesome and have huge presence, but they often don't realize how much the fans want to know about them.
I've been trying to find those historical anecdotes and craft a new way to read a League of Legends game post-game so that anyone can take it in and up the level of everyone watching in terms of information and what this whole thing has been built on. This scene is almost a decade old now, and we can all recall a few big moments in finals past, but having a robust selection of history to choose from would be awesome, so that's what I'm trying to create outside of the actual play-by-play.
Do you have an all-time favorite team, tournament, or game you've casted?
My all-time favorite team has to be the original Cloud9 lineup in 2013. I have so much respect for Hai "Hai" Lam and what he's done, and how he's done it. He's not a guy you saw mechanically outplaying everyone, but he was a chess master for his entire team.
I think Hai is one of the only players who has that same aura for his team like Bjergsen and Doublelift have. When Hai came out of retirement as the Jungler for Cloud9, the team was able to make it through the 2015 NA Regional Gauntlet and qualify for Worlds because of that emotional power. I have so much respect for what Hai has done.
My favorite game I've ever cast was when Misfits took SKT to 5 games at the 2017 World Championship. It was such an amazing series:
I'd have to say my favorite event was the first time I got to open up in Madison Square Garden for the 2015 NA LCS Summer Finals. I grew up in New York, and my dad was there for his first esports event when I got to do the MVP interview with Lee "Rush" Yoon-jae on stage. Afterwards, my dad told me, "This is awesome. The last time I was here was to see Van Halen in 1976."
It was amazing for me in my hometown to be able to do something in Madison Square Garden, so those are my favorite moments along the way.
Do you feel that you have set out to accomplish what you originally wanted to as a caster, and if so, what are your next goals?
I feel like I've accomplished what I wanted. There are still many more goals in terms of having those post-game historical recalls and what not, but also, I want to start looking at the dynamic of building casters. We've always had support from Riot for vocal lessons, VoD review, training, etc but I want to find a way to make a better shield for caster confidence.
For example, finding a few tweets daily or weekly after games and sending them to the caster with some remarks would be a great way of reminding them, "Hey. People out there love you." By the same token, that type of feedback could help them work on their less strong areas as well. You build up that confidence shield, and for a commentator, that allows them to never second guess anything.
Your thoughts flow so easily when you know that confidence shield is there, so I feel like making and developing a way to continuously send those emails out every week is something I want to take on. I want to help build that shield to see whether it becomes something all casters can use. We're always growing and working together.
You were the voice I remember most vividly when I fell in love with LoL Esports. In that context, what would you tell someone who wanted to become a caster?
To back up a bit, the factor of relation I try to bring to my cast was something I told myself that people wanted. When no one was really doing commentary, I didn't realize how much delivering those big plays to people would hype them up. It was a self-realization of sorts: "This ISN'T awkward. People love it. I have to go harder."
In my first cast of Counter-Strike 1.6, I was more like, 'Okay they're going to go to the Nuke room...' take a sip of water '...and they're going to plant the bomb.' So for two years I had no real footing in commentary until someone came up to me and told me that something I did was cool. I realized cultivating that excitement was my shield, and I could go back to that.
Finding those moments is what helps you. Cast while you're walking around the house. Find phrases that flow off your tongue easily:
'Coming around the corner, they're going to go to the top of Dust 2 A site and they're going to get the bomb. Counter-Terrorists are coming down from the bottom side to try and get the diffuse.' '
Coming around the corner' was one of my phrases, and that became a moment.
I can say 'coming around the corner' or 'they're going for baron' and you realize that's your moment that you can create intensity or hype.
You'll get these moments where you're by yourself and you realize what works for you, but you have to try. You have to get the feedback and have people tell you what is good and what is bad so you can have those self-realizations, so don't be afraid when you start, even if you can't form a full sentence. Cast with a buddy so you can bounce off of each other and then you'll understand. You just have to take the plunge.
The one thing I want to hear from people is, 'Hey, I have this cast for you to listen to, can you check it out?' That's amazing! When they come up and say to me, 'Hey, I'm looking to get into casting.' It kinds hurts a little bit. I love their passion, but I would love to see that they've already done a little bit and that they're already in, but they want more. That is such a bright light to see in someone. I've seen it in myself, and you can go so far with it.