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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February 2005, 13:23 GMT
Meet the John Motsons of online gaming
By Darren Waters
BBC News technology staff

Counter Strike Source
Commentators have to know each map intimately
E-sports commentators are becoming a key part of the online video gaming scene. But who are they and what do they do?

"That's absolutely ridiculous," exhorts Marcus DJWheat Graham as a player fires his lightning gun across the map, frying his opponent with a well-placed shot.

Graham is one of a growing number of people who provide play-by-play commentary and analysis of online games and he uses his catchphrase for the most outrageous moments of skill.

E-sports, sometimes called v-sports, are growing at a dramatic pace with games such as Unreal Tournament, Quake and Counter Strike letting gamers not only participate in online duals but also spectate online.

The games are played at a frenetic pace, making real sports such as football and rugby look like petanque, and often it can be difficult to follow the intense action.

A player is constantly having to think on his/her feet, there are no time-outs, there are no penalties
Marcus DJWheat Graham

The matches are usually between teams of professional players, whose skills and tactical awareness can baffle the "amateur" players, or between clans - groups of people who play together regularly.

"Just as a golf enthusiast might follow every move or match of Tiger Woods, many gaming enthusiasts follow their favourite teams or players," said Graham.

'Gaming superstars'

"These gaming 'superstars' are becoming the next virtual sports stars, and many of them have thousands of fans who follow their every move."

Graham was a pro-gamer himself and began online commentating as his own knowledge of the game became increasingly sophisticated.

He now provides commentary for games played and broadcast as part of the Global Gaming League.

"The best commentators are those who understand and know the games inside and out," he said.

Hunter Luisi, who commentates as part of the Team Sportscast Network, agreed.

Unreal 2004
Games are fast, furious and can be hard to follow

He said: "Four things go into making a good commentator: pronunciation, knowledge of the game, professional attitude, and a good voice.

"Most commentators have at least two of those skills. The really good commentators have three. And superstars, well, they have all four."

US sport fans will recognise the rhyme and meter of an e-sport commentary but UK fans, more used to John Motson and Barry Davies, have more of an adjustment to make.

Unlike real-life sports, virtual sports can take place in myriad locations.

A Counter Strike game can take place in an Italian village or in a train station, and each map is often composed of many different levels and multiple strategic points.

Fantastic grasp

The commentators need a fantastic grasp of the maps - and with some games involving more than 32 players they also need to be able to read a situation quickly and communicate it clearly.

Many of the commentaries resemble a typical American sports broadcast - but at 10 times the speed.

"An e-sport commentary differs from real-life commentary as baseball commentary differs from soccer," said Luisi.

"A lot of the process is the same, but each game has its own lingo and style. E-sports is no different".

Professional gaming is becoming big business - some of the elite gamers can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Unreal 2004
Professional gamers are becoming well-known figures for games' fans

Such serious gaming requires serious commentating and the broadcasts are professionally done.

Commentaries often involve three broadcasters - two providing play-by-play remarks and a third offering colour.

"What makes golf exciting? What makes football exciting?," said Graham, explaining the appeal.

"Breaking these sports down, it's the competition and the players in the competition. A 15-minute Quake 3 one versus one match can yield more exciting moments than a three-hour football game can.

"In these particular types of games the action is literally non-stop.

"A player is constantly having to think on his/her feet, there are no time-outs, there are no penalties, it's a player's skill both mentally and physically that will determine who the victor is."

Listen to commentary from an Unreal Tournament match

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