“Oh wow, he just took a ROCKET TO THE FACE!” may not be a phrase you hear regularly, but with the new trend referred to as ‘shoutcasting’ (or simply ‘casting’), steadily climbing to its’ peak in popularity, you’ll likely hear a lot more like it. For the non-video gamers out there, casting is a new hobby of providing commentary for live or pre-recorded competitive video game matches.
You can picture a caster’s role as like being a sports announcer, except the “play-by-play” calls are for a competitive video gaming session instead of a baseball or football game. That comparison makes a lot of sense for Melissa Ford, at St. Louis, Missouri-based gaming caster for Team Fortress 2 (TF2), dubbed the most popular online cooperative team play game of all time. “I’ve done some acting and improv previously, but growing up I always wanted to become a baseball announcer,” she said.
Ford – better known to her audience by her gaming alias, “Kip” – has played TF2 competitively since 2007, but only started casting matches about a year ago. “I always had fun playing the game, but by nature I’m just not a competitive person. I wanted to be involved in the TF2 gaming community, but didn’t enjoy the pressure of playing in competitive matches,” Ford said. “Some Googling around and looking on a few gaming forums helped me get started with casting, and soon after I started my own YouTube channel, KipTV.”
With the help of friends spreading the word, Ford quickly gained a dedicated niche following of competitive TF2 players who watch her casts, and Skype she says, played a role from the start. “It’s been pretty crazy how Skype has been with me since the beginning,” she said. “When I first started looking for matches to cast, I got responses from players in Ireland, Europe… places I never had friends in before. Skype helped me be able to talk to these players – it was free, easy, and most importantly, everyone already had and was using it.”
Most recently, Ford has expanded her work beyond casting matches to include interviews with gamers from around the world via Skype video calls. “I like the face-to-face time Skype provides. Gamers are real people, and I try to bring recognition to players who might be known to the community as a name, but not necessarily as a person.”
Ford recently started graduate school, and while that’s taking up a lot of her time now, she’s still striving to improve her casting ability. “I want to start a series where I talk to top players on teams,” she says. “I’d also like to highlight the female players on gaming teams,” which she says there are many more of than most people realize, and “speak with players in the lower divisions of competitive play, as they generally don’t get the same recognition as the top-level pros.”
You can catch all of Ford’s match casts and player interviews on her YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/falafel1066. She also encourages competitive gamers interested in having your next match casted to “just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll make magic happen!”