Discovering eSports was almost like a “religious experience” for Anders Blume, the now voice of Counter-Strike, a title awarded by fans.
Anders is one of the largest play-by-play commentators in the growing eSports scene (also known as pro gaming or competitive video games). He grew up in the small town of Farum, Denmark, playing video games from a young age. It was in early 2013 when Anders did his first cast (commentary) of a match of Counter-Strike, the 5v5 competitive first person shooter. It wasn’t long before this side project of his allowed him to cast matches to sold out arena’s and millions of concurrent viewers online.
Q: When did you get into Counter-Strike?
A: I got into Counter-Strike because a friend of mine took me to a LAN café in the centre of Copenhagen. That was not the first time I’d ever been to a LAN café but it was the first time I’d tried playing Counter-Strike, and that was in 1999. I would say I walked away from that experience thinking “This is something else, this was too much fun”. I just kept coming back.
Q: What do you think it is about Counter-Strike that was different than other games you’d played?
A: It’s hard to say. In retrospect I think it has to do with a great mix of being able to play as a team but that each individual member of the team can do enough to change the outcome of the game. Also it has an infinitely deep or high skill ceiling, you can always become better at the game in some way and that’s just very appealing I think. Back then, at the time, maybe there was that feeling and we just didn’t know how to say it but, it was almost like having some sort of religious experience walking away from that game. I remember the train ride home and everything. I remember how – for lack of a better word – ‘high’ we all were on just having played the game. It might also have that kind of childhood nostalgia to it, but it was something like that.
Q: Did you ever compete in Counter-Strike?
A: Yeah, I did. The landscape is so different now. I think if you tried to measure it against the modern landscape it would be hard to find a fitting way to do that. We started off with a friends-based team, then eventually some of us wanted to play a bit more so we had to find other people online that we thought were good at the game. Obviously, the kind of sponsorships you could get back then were ridiculous compared to today, so it was all just sort of, hobby level. But yeah, we did take it seriously.
Q: What were you doing before you started casting?
A: Well I came out of High School in 2006. So, between 2006 and 2013 I did a bunch of different things all at once. I started doing physics at University and then that didn’t really work out. Then I did Biology and that didn’t really work out. Then I did English and almost got my bachelors in that by the time I’d started casting. In-between all of those things, I’d go back to this one job that I’d had all along, which was database development that I’d sort of learned on the side, at a local company. So that’s where I was at for a long time I would say, no real sense of direction.
Q: So, after hopping around a few subjects at University and working on the side, what made you try casting out?
A: Well, every time I would have time off from University, I would inevitably think to myself “Man, I want to be good at something”. I bought a really nice electronic piano that cost way too much money, and thought I’d learn how to play the piano, that must be nice? Or I thought I’d write a short story, just like 50 pages or something. I had all these, let’s call them ‘creative outlets’ – things that I wanted to do basically. They were a way to try and escape because I knew I wasn’t doing something that I wanted to do. The casting was one of the things I tried, and it just worked. That was just it, the first time I did it I knew like “Shit, this is too good” you know? I have to keep doing this.
Q: Had you always admired casting in traditional sports and wanted to give it a go, or directly through eSports?
A: Well I was never really in to traditional sports so I don’t even know much about football or any other commentary at all but yeah, I was listening to a lot of other people casting Counter-Strike specifically. I thought that they were missing a bunch of stuff that’s going on. I think I even messaged them and told them you know “Listen, you guys are really missing out on some of the details in this game”. And then nothing happened. So, I thought. Okay. What if I do it? What if I try and talk about the game? I have a headset and I have the internet so I’ll do it. And I did. The first night was maybe ten people watching, and maybe seven of them were just my friends. Then the next night it was 20 and maybe still seven of them were my friends. Then a week in it was like over a hundred. When I say those numbers now it sounds kind of ridiculous, but back then it was a hell of a lot of people.
Q:What was it like going from seven viewers to over a million in the space of a few years?
A: What I did in the beginning was think to myself “How big of an auditorium would I have to rent to get these hundred people and talk to them in real life?”. That mental image helped me a lot in thinking you know, now we have 500 people, now we have 1000 people. That’s so many people you know?
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers who aren’t very much aware of eSports?
A: I’ll say this. In case you are someone who is wandering around in life and is not really sure what you want to be or where to go, one of the huge upsides of working in eSports is that the foundations haven’t really settled yet. If you are someone who wants to test, build and create different or strange things, there’s a bigger chance you’ll be able to do it within E-sports than some of the other places that have existed for a long time. Those places have traditions and a culture of doing things a certain way. There may be a lot more risk here but there’s also a lot more potential. It might be worth thinking about that if you’re going to architect your career in a given direction, that there is a field out there that is growing and growing. You might have a lot of freedom to do weird things, whether you are in advertising, or PR, or Coding or whatever. All these kinds of fields are relevant to eSports and have a lot of room for expansion.
Follow Anders on twitter here: @OnFireAnders