Caster Spotlight: InanimateJ
Hey guys Dazerin here! Giving Player Spotlights some breathing room as we go into Caster Spotlights where we highlight some of the people who are the voice over the Rocket League matches we love to watch.
Yesterday I had a chance to sit down with InanimateJ who is the council member and broadcaster for Minor League Doubles, Caster for Rocket League Central , captain of team ‘Stage 1 Hypertension’ and more.
The interview was done live on my Twitch channel and you can watch the vod on Youtube
Starting off how I usually do because origins are interesting.
Where did you get your name?
Late in high school, I was doing some advanced English classes, and I got really into paradoxes. I ended up creating a free email with the handle inanimate_animation, which I eventually shortened to InanimateJ around the same time, and I needed an updated username on the Internet, as gaming became more popular (this was in 2003.)
Kind of a meh origin story if you ask me.
What made you get into Rocket League?
I was given the game as a gift by a friend that wants people to play games with him. I ended up going deep into Rocket League because the game just made sense, and I saw the potential for really high-level esports applications. I had always wanted to be a professional at something in the realm of video gaming, and here was something that was basically at the ground floor, building up. So I dove in. Kind of. It took me over a year to really get involved in the scene.
Do you have any prior experience of commentating outside of Rocket League?
Nope. In fact, I come from a software development background as I went to school for video game programming. Which I promptly left behind the second I graduated. I did software testing for five years though, which gave me some skills that you’ve given me a question later to use this as an answer for.
What made you want to become a Rocket League commentator?
Boredom, mainly. Truthfully, I’ve always known I’ve had a knack for public speaking, and a way to explain things in simpler terms, quickly. Those two things are probably just enough to get in the door and learn the rest as I go, which is essentially what I did. An opportunity arose while I was watching a stream, and I threw myself through the door. Found more opportunities on the other side.
What are some of the things that go through your mind as you are casting a match?
It depends on whether or not I’m running the board as well. Because of my streaming setup, I sometimes fall into a rhythm of both casting and streaming at the same time, which is a degree of difficulty beyond just casting. If I’m just casting, I’m generally following the play, quickly identifying events or decisions in the play that flag in my head as talking points if a major event occurs (like a goal). I’m also trying to listen to my play-by-play and be aware of opportunities that they’re opening up for me to take over the conversation in the booth, and build on the points that I’ve been taking note of.
If I’m running the stream, I’m primarily multi-tasking at a high level. I’m monitoring OBS, Twitch Chat, along with following the game and doing everything I mentioned above. Like I said, degree of difficulty beyond.
What is your overall goal as a Rocket League commentator?
I’m really just trying to keep enjoying what I’m doing. I’ve had battles with depression that trigger a really nasty spike of anxiety, believing that what I’m doing is pretty pointless, because the jump from community caster to anything meaningful in the eyes of John Q. Twitch Chat is so wide. Sometimes it takes a bit to get out of that cycle and realize that if you’re not doing this for fun, what are you doing it for? Certainly not the money right now, because the scene just isn’t quite wide enough for everyone to get a slice of the pie. I just enjoy being able to talk about the game, and being able to be part of memorable moments in Rocket League, even if they aren’t the biggest.
Every once in awhile there’s a debate , usually on twitch chat, sometimes reddit, about what makes a good Rocket League commentator/analyst. What do you think makes a good commentator/analyst?
Hard work. It doesn’t take much to sit yourself in front of a microphone and a screen and yell at carball. Like being a high-level player, being a high-level commentator requires you to study the game, the players, and develop an understanding of it that you can then relay to the audience in a fashion that appeals to them. Raw talent will only go so far, not that it hurts, but it takes real effort to dig in and polish that talent into something really meaningful and memorable that the community will embrace. It doesn’t take more than a couple glances around the community to see who’s really put in that work, and who still needs to hit that grind.
You’ve casted in various places in the Rocket League community. Overall how has your experience with the Rocket League community been?
Wildly varying from community to community. Some places really idolize their casters, and you’re their favourite regardless of anything else simply because you’re their caster, you know? Other places have this pre-formatted image of what a caster should sound like and already shipped you out to Memetown the second you un-muted your mic. I’ve yet to have any really direct toxicity from chat directed at me, which I guess is a good thing. Sometimes when you’re live though, especially in busier chats, it’s easier to just turn off the noise and focus on you. End of the day, it’s your opinion that matters the most to you, because letting things that people say stick to you is a quick way back into the spiral of depression.
Do you have a favorite caster whether it be RLCS or Community? If so who and why?
Me. Just kidding. I’m garbage tier caster.
I have a really large amount of admiration for a lot of casters, to be honest. A lot of the community guys really stand out, especially the ones I work with on a regular basis. I really enjoy listening to Liefx as a viewer though. The tinges of Canadian hockey commentary that bleed through into his calls resonates with me (partly because it’s familiar to me, also being Canadian.)
You not only cast but play the game competitively as well. Talk to me about your team and also does your casting have an effect on your gameplay?
We’re on the fourth iteration of our starting roster since we formed as kind of a “whatever” ESL team. My brother and I have been playing together since the start, so we kind of dragged our friend from real life into the game to play ESL tournaments with us. He eventually figured he couldn’t put in the hours to get up to our skill level, so we started looking for a third. We’ve gone through three now, with our current one being Agoney, who was on our sub bench for the longest time. It’s been a growing process, but we’re seeing progress. We’d see more if we played more, but we’re human.
As for whether or not casting affects my gameplay, I’d say my gameplay affects my casting. Minamacky (my brother) has the sharpest mind for the game that I’ve seen. If he had any aptitude for public speaking, he’d be the caster everyone knows, and not me. If you ask him, I’m just the face for all his ideas and theories on how the game should be played. That being said, learning from him and working with him for the 1600+ hours we’ve both put in is a big reason why my analysis of the game is at the level it is.
You’re a council member of Minor League Doubles. What exactly is Minor League Doubles and why did you decide to get involved with them?
Minor League Doubles is a rank-limited (Platinum 3 and below) 2v2 league modelled off of traditional North American sports leagues, such as the NFL, MLB, NHL, or NBA. Players apply to join the league, which runs as a single-entity using a franchise model (the league creates the teams, which players then populate via a draft.) Right now, we’re in our fifth season of operation (seasons last approximately 14 weeks with roughly 4 weeks of an offseason between) and our growth in the past six months has been explosive. We’ve doubled the league in size between now and when I joined in September of 2016.
How I decided to get involved was another story of “right place, right time.” Agoney actually had casted their season 2 championships with Curtis, and asked me if I wanted to do a regular season game at the start of season 3. I did it there, and the next week or two had the ranked values adjustment back in Season 3 of Ranked. MLD at the time operated on a Challenger and below model at the time, and with the adjustment of MMR values, over half the league was suddenly Rising Star or above, meaning they would have to quit the league. I did some work on the numbers, pointing out that nobody’s skill magically changed, the system that determined what part of the bell curve you belonged in had changed. Halfshelledhero, the founder of the league, saw what I was saying and asked me to join the advisory council for the league, since I seemed to have the best interests of the league at heart.
Since then, I’ve been responsible for all of the aspects of the league relating to the broadcasting, from running the streams, to coordinating casters, and generally being the primary idea-driver for ways to improve our Twitch viewership. At this point in time, we’re Twitch Affiliates with almost 40 subscribers already, in addition to our Patreon supporters (all of whom, Twitch subs or Patrons, get VIP access to our Discord which is invite-only), and our viewership has been growing steadily since the end of season 3. I can’t think of a more exciting place to be involved with my time, right now.
You are very well known for your analytical mind in terms of your casting and beyond in the Rocket League community. Where does that stem from? What makes you want to analyze games to every detail?
Really? Well-known? Might want to check your notes on that one.
As I hinted at above, it stems from a lot of the time I spent as a software tester in my life. I found I had a really good mind for breaking things down as a system, and analysing exactly how things would go wrong in code. Rocket League has a lot of systemic aspects to it, in how teams play the game, and finding the reasons why those systems break down lead to good talking points for analysis.
As for what makes me want to analyze the game, it’s fun. I love finding faults in things, especially faults triggered by decisions. That’s kind of the sum of Rocket League in general; how well your decisions compare to those of your opponents’.
What do you enjoy about Rocket League the most?
It’s so easy to grasp as a concept. Cars. Nets. Ball. Most balls in net wins. That along makes it so intriguing as to what can actually be done within the constraints of the physics engine, and as we get slowly closer to the theoretical skill ceiling, you wonder how Psyonix might change that engine and raise the ceiling even higher.
You can come home, play a couple casual games with friends against bots, or spend 16 hours in a day on the grind working your way towards an RLCS bid. There’s so much opportunity and variety to the game that it’s impossible to really pinpoint a reason why I enjoy it to the level that I do.
Last time I saw you was at the RLCS S3 LAN in LA at the Wiltern. How was that overall experience for you?
Until about 24 hours after I got home, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I hadn’t been to Los Angeles in a decade, and I always felt when I visited that it was kind of a warmer home away from home. So, when I landed and stepped out of LAX, it kind of felt like a homecoming of sorts, and to have the reason for that be a chance to meet dozens of people in a community who all love the exact same thing I do (which is Rocket League) was mindblowing. You could tell from the collective energy outside the venue on the first day, with everyone in line, that those 3 days at the Wiltern were meant to be something special, and from how loud we all were inside, it absolutely turned out that way.
Then I got home, got deathly sick from the moose flu (along with like half the community,) and got crushed by adult responsibilities like my property taxes and my credit card, which bore the brunt of the cost of the trip. So yeah. Highest of highs, then some lowly lows.
Where do you think the future of Rocket League as an esport is headed?
Haven’t you heard? Rocket League is a dying esport. Kappa
There’s only one place for it to keep heading; up.
Always excited to bring you guys other perspectives in the Rocket League competitive scene! Player spotlights will be back soon as well as more interviews with casters and members around the community. Till then