Mankatoan (and BLC alum) to be play-by-play announcer for Starcraft game in Korea

Mankatoan (and BLC alum) to be play-by-play announcer for Starcraft game in Korea

Friday, December 9, 2011

This article originally appeared in the July 3 edition of the Free Press, Mankato. It was authored by Dan Linehan, Free Press staff writer. 

Erik Lonnquist’s upcoming job as a play-by-play announcer for a TV show sounds pretty standard for a communications graduate of Bethany Lutheran College.

Standard, except the TV show is filmed in Korea. And the action he’s covering is for a video game.

Instead of announcing fast breaks, touchdown passes and fly balls, he’ll be calling zergling rushes, medivac drops and baneling busts.

The language of Starcraft is as foreign to a mainstream American audience as it is familiar to a Korean one, where so-called “e-sports” has been popular for a decade. In a reflection of that popularity, South Korea’s defense minister defended the military last year by saying real life is “not Starcraft.”

Lonnquist, a Mankato resident since 2001, plans to move to Korea later this month to work as an announcer (called a “caster”) for broadcaster GOM TV.

He started casting Starcraft games about seven months ago as a hobby. He said he wanted to contribute to the Starcraft community but didn’t have the skills to play at the highest levels.

Commenting on videos of Starcraft games, especially those played by top-level players, is popular with the top casters having hundreds of thousands of followers. Lonnquist wasn’t one of the most-followed casters, but his broadcasting experience gave him confidence.

He first visited Korea in March to cast a tournament for GOM’s Global Starcraft League.

“How do you say no to something like that?” he said.

It was like an on-the-job interview, and Lonnquist apparently passed.

Trevor Housten, a New Jersey native who lives in Korea, is the company’s liaison with Americans. While he said Lonnquist has a “natural camera presence,” that’s not what sets him apart.

“ ... Most importantly,” he wrote in an email, “he has the drive and courage to follow his dream.”

Lonnquist’s family looked askance at this whole video-games-on-TV deal until he showed them a broadcast of the show. His wife, well, she was “skeptical at first,” but he said she plans to join him in Korea soon.

Korea itself is hospitable to Americans, Lonnquist said, partly because of their widespread English proficiency and partly because they are almost unfailingly polite. Almost too polite. There’s a cultural taboo against criticism and saying “no,” he said, so negotiating can be more complicated.

Housten said the biggest adaptations come at the dinner table, where spicy food dominates.

“If they can adjust to the food, everything else is quite easy since all Koreans learn at least basic English in school ...” he wrote.

Lonnquist’s day-to-day work will be at a desk with a co-commentator next to him. He’ll fill the play-by-play role with his partner adding context and insight.

 Lonnquist is pumped to be paid to talk about Starcraft.

“It’s cool to be on the forefront” of e-sports, he said. When asked if the trend will come to America, he said “to be completely honest, I think it’s here.”

Large companies have begun to notice the advertising opportunity in e-sports, and sponsorships of players are becoming more common.

Lonnquist hasn’t yet been sponsored, but he still has a moniker all his own.

He’s known as DOAStarcraft, pronounced DOH-uh, a nickname he earned long ago that refers to a video game habit of being nearly instantly taken out, or being “dead on arrival.”

“I wish I could change it,” he said.

While his English broadcast won’t be seen in Korea, Lonnquist is becoming kind of a big deal in the online Starcraft world. He doesn’t mind, but the pressure is on to develop his skills. He needs to get good. By playing a video game. For work.