There were many changes to League of Legends esports at the start of 2019, from the usual roster shuffles to turning the competition in the largest franchise in esports. But for European viewers there was another change, one they would be feeling - or hearing, rather - throughout the entire season: industry veteran Indiana "Froskurinn" Black exchanged the LPL's desk for that of the newly formed LEC.
At the culmination of the LEC Summer Split in Athens, we sat down with Froskurinn. She opened up about the difficulties of being a caster and an analyst, what both roles have taught her, and how 'forbidden words' have helped create a better broadcast experience for viewers.
I want to start by focussing on your role as an analyst and caster. Recently you tweeted that switching between being a caster and being an analyst didn't go as smoothly as you had wished. Could you explain this a bit further?
The sentiment was that I wanted to expand the vocabulary for the community and discuss the difference between a color caster, shoutcaster and an analyst. While I analyze as the color caster, and I am responsible for the educational and analytical portion of the cast, I am not an analyst. I worked as a coach and as an analyst for a team—they are completely different roles. The analyst cares about different things. That's why we have a casting desk and an analyst desk.
The issue on our broadcast, and in fact on a lot of broadcasts, is that color casters usually have to double as analysts when they move over to the desk. That's also why you'll notice two different personalities if you track how someone behaves on a cast versus how someone is on a desk. On the desk you're dealing with far more resources, you can be bigger with your personality and you can be biased. That's why we'll have pro players come to our analyst desk, but not to our casting desk often. It's also why you won't ever see someone from a team cast their own team's game. The idea is that you're there to entertain and teach the viewers. But most important is that entertainment value. A shoutcaster is there to tell the story of the game.
I know that there's a complaint that all the LEC does is focus on narrative, but I do challenge people to go back and really listen. We do inject narrative, but where we inject it is very important. During the pre-game, we want to give people a reason why to watch the match. We want to build the players' brands, like about our incredible Polish junglers such as Selfmade, Inspired and Jankos, and ask what the hell is in the water in Poland to make such amazing junglers. But during the game, for 99% of the game Vedius, Ender and I will not touch a narrative point. We're only there for the analytical narrative, how moments in the early game lead to situations in the midgame and then lategame.
"A huge issue I had when I moved (...) to being an actual shoutcaster,
is that I tried to be an analyst on cast."
So when you're swapping between being an analyst and a caster, how do you find the right balance?
A huge issue I had when I moved from coaching and analyst work to being an actual shoutcaster, is that I tried to be an analyst on cast. You just can't do it. There's not enough time. If you ever watch someone do VOD reviews, they'll constantly pause the game and rewind before going on long tangents. In a normal game you just don't have much time to absorb it, and you really need to pick and choose what information you're going to talk about.
That doesn't mean that you can't be better about the things that you choose to talk about on screen. For example, I think Deficio had a really lovely balance when he was commentating.But on an analyst desk you can do that. You can take out a telestrator, you can talk about all of the details and go in-depth.
Since you've done both: what is something that being a caster has taught you about being an analyst?
Oof, hm... I think presentation and showmanship. I think people underestimate what it's like to have your information stick. Part of the reason why our broadcast team is important is our ability to explain really complex things in really simple terms and make sure that the majority of the mainstream viewers understand it. Right now we've dabbled with Shakarez a bit and we've tried to get him on the analyst desk—he's clearly a very talented analyst. He does a lot of the breakdowns, is well known in the community, he's lovely to work with. We're trying to ease him into that broadcast mentality and frankly: it's been kind of rough. We've had chats about it, so I don't think shy about it and we'll keep working on it with him.
What I'm trying to illustrate is that being an analyst is a very different beast from standing up and knowing the right answer at the moment. You need to have charisma, like Deficio has, for example.
What about the other way around: what has being an analyst taught you about being a caster?
It makes me a much better color caster. I think Vedius, Ender and I really took the feedback to heart when people felt that the LEC didn't have analysis on it. So we, as color casters, threw everyting in the air and decided to just go hardcore. They want hardcore? They'll get it. Let's talk about crashing waves, let's talk about the intimate, nitty gritty of a matchup. Let's talk about tempo—by the way, we're forbidden to say the word tempo on broadcast.
"Being an analyst is a very different beast from standing up and knowing the right answer at the moment. You need to have charisma, like Deficio has, for example."
So it taught you to weave in in-depth comments, basically. Why is tempo a forbidden word?
Because it means something different every single time. We were told: "Get rid of the buzz words, it's too confusing." So we call it uptime, numbers advantages... things like that. But it's basically tempo. The only time you'll hear someone say tempo on our broadcast is when Medic says it, and he is saying it to describe the pace of the game, the actual speed.
So going back to when we threw everything out: we talked to a lot of analysts, coaches and players, we bickered with ourselves... We actually went into a room for two hours and we nailed down consistent vocabulary, asking ourselves things like "What is a split map?", because every time we say it, it has to mean the same thing. Any time we say the word 'priority', it has to mean the same thing. Are there different versions of the word priority? Yes. There's kill priority and there's push piority. So when we're talking about these things, we can't just say 'priority'. We have to give specific examples.
That makes sense, because while to you a sentence with more generic can make sense, the audience isn't always on the same page.
Yes, whereas before it could happen that someone would say some bullshit like "oh yeah this team has tempo and with this priority they've created pressure and—". The average viewer would ask: "What the fuck are they talking about?"
I guess 'fuck' is another one of those forbidden words on broadcast, right?
[Laughs] I think you get one in your career. I haven't used it yet. Deficio used his right out of the gate, Drakos got his, but I want to use mine for a good moment. It's gotta be something like G2 lifting the Worlds trophy. That's when it'll be the moment to shout "They did it! They fucking did it!"
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.