I’m sure this looked great on paper.

(Update: Own3d.tv died a ridiculous death and took this broadcast with it. Pity.)

And kudos to Riot Games for attempting it - a game developer who seems to have an understanding of the value of spectatorship (or at least hired someone who does), as this looks to have been produced ‘in house.’ But they really should have done a test run or two of this first before launching a sizable marketing campaign to promote it. They might have been spared the subsequent embarassment.

I mean, seriously, this broadcast opens lamenting the ‘suffering’ of a virtual monk after a virtual protest. Which would be fine if the entire production was done to be entirely within the ‘universe’ that the lore exists in. This shoutcast-DnD hybrid can’t seem to find its center. There’s nobody to blame but the people producing this hot mess.

Scroll to 2:35 and prepare to be sad. Fantasy lore mixed in with technical gaming terminology, with an awful radio/shoutcaster inflection to boot. Mix in some technical farts 30 seconds later followed by several minutes of music and then…nothing…and you’ve already completely broken the sense of immersion with your audience.

Reading more about this event, the actual concept is not terrible. Hold an exhibition match that ties into the storyline of the game, where the outcome has a direct and not entirely meaningless effect on a core gameplay mechanic. It thus generates interest within the player base automatically, since it provides a built-in vested interest. And allowing the outcome of the match to dictate the continuing direction of the game’s lore is a great idea too, since nobody knows where it’s going to go…not even the creative director writing the stuff.

The biggest problem with this really was the immersion factor. The commentators, in trying to pepper in lore references whenever they could be bothered to remember the note to do so, produced a show that constantly bounces between the ‘real world’ of gaming and organized esports, and the purely fictional world of League of Legends. The result is that both the esport and the fantasy aspect of the event get trivialized; the audience never gets fully immersed in either experience.

The only way in which this would have been properly pulled off is if it were completely post-produced after the match was over, and done entirely from the standpoint of a storyteller from within the fictional world, retelling the course of the battle. The narration would need to be carefully written and deliberate, not this on-the-fly sensational bullshit that shoutcasters can’t seem to kick, raising the pitch and volume of their voice and the tempo of their speech uncontrollably every time something even tepidly interesting happens on screen. Getting someone with some actual presence of voice that’s not a product of deliberate inflection would have helped greatly as well.

Immersion factor is key, both in sports commentary and in gaming lore. The object is to suck people into this other thing, whether it’s the match or a completely fictional universe, and get them to forget about anything else around them - both in coverage of sports and in fantasy gaming. I’m really not sure that the two are really a compatible mix; at the very least, the proper formula wasn’t found here.

(Hat tip: Franz)