Sean "Day" Plott has become a very popular person within the StarCraft II community. He runs his own stream over at day9.tv and has become one of the most prolific SCII commentators (read: casters) on the scene. He's known for his zany antics on his stream, something that is likely to carry over into today's Red Bull LAN event, which allows the audience to interfere with the players in ca-razy ways.
I got a chance to interview Sean about himself, eSports, and the Red Bull LAN event, which proved to be quite the surreal experience, as I'm such a huge fan of his.
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Destructoid: Hi Sean! Before I begin I'd just like to mention how big of a fan I am and that I appreciate everything you do for the community. I also want to thank you for taking the time out and answering my questions!
Sean "Day" Plott: Hey Patrick! Thank you so much! And thanks for thinking of me for this interview! I have to return the favor: I love your website and read it all the time! Thanks for the great entertainment! :D
Aww, shucks! So anyway, let's begin: If you have any, what non-StarCraft-related activities do you like to do in your free time?
Oh, I have a million interests outside StarCraft! Too many! In fact, I need to spend more time nurturing them and less time working (don’t we all?).
For one, I love to explore electronic music. I aggressively hunt down songs I hear and explore unusual genres. I try to track 30 or 40 different artists and keep up with their releases. Weird beats and sounds always intrigue me.
I also do a lot of reading: books, comic books, online articles. Reading is my salvation when I travel. I do a ton of industry-specific reading to keep up with what is going on in the digital/interactive media world and then I relax with dark, gritty, genre novels. I love fantasy, sci-fi, apocalyptic plots. Recently, I’ve been reading Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, and Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. For comics, I love: Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, Watchmen, Akira, Spawn. The eSports community points me to great new stuff all the time. I have piles of it waiting to be read.
Then of course I play a lot of games -- computer games, card games, board games. I’m really into Magic the Gathering right now (and I SUCK at it. :/ ). In general, I spend a lot of time just thinking about games, game design, game philosophy, game dynamics, game culture, game motivation, game items, etc. (it’s what I got my master’s degree in).
I’m also interested in the game of business and entrepreneurship. Business is basically a real-time strategy game where you only get only one life and you manage resources frantically until you get killed off. :P (Sometimes I get in situations where I just wish I could just reload the game. Or get to a save point. Just once.) But, nevertheless, a very interesting experience!
How did you get into casting? Why did you choose to pursue this path rather than continuing to compete?
Well, my brother Nick (“Tasteless”) got into casting before me. He was one of the original StarCraft casters. So casting was a concept I could wrap my head around. For a long time, there was a really nice partnership between us: I played competitively and Nick cast the tournaments. Then I entered graduate school and really had no time at all to play as a pro, but wanted to remain involved in the scene. Casting became an outlet for me to continue to explore and think about the game. I started a podcast, then switched to streaming and it grew organically from there. Casting may not be something I do forever but for the moment I am really engaged and enjoying myself.
What do you think it is that helped separate you from other casters and make you the well known community icon you are today?
Well, I don’t think I am separate from other casters. At tournaments, casting is ultimately an ensemble act and I’m just one member of that ensemble.
One of the reasons the SCII eSports scene is so vibrant right now is because it has a wide assortment of really competent, professional casters. No other game can lay claim to the same level of casters as StarCraft. Moreover, there is a personality, a viewpoint and a casting style for every type of spectator. This also makes for a rich viewing experience. If I were the only caster out there, the audience would rapidly become bored out of their minds -- and so would I!
That said, I think I’m very lucky to have gotten to where I am today, and to be working with the people I work with. You have to understand that I am truly a product of the StarCraft community: I have roots in the game. That is the real reason I got a head start as a caster. I spent more than a decade as an active member of the community. I was known. I played a shit ton of StarCraft back before there was any tournament scene. I grew up socializing on all the SC Brood War forums, and the community played a significant role in forming me intellectually. In short: I was (and am) a big damn community fanboy. And, being a fanboy gave me the background I needed to talk about StarCraft.
As people may know, you run a challenge called "Funday Monday" in which you challenge viewers to play a very specific style in their games. What was the inspiration behind this and how do you come up with these challenges?
You know, I just reached a point, after the launch of SCII: Wings of Liberty, where I decided that players were taking StarCraft way, way too seriously. I mean, they were getting all uptight about their rankings and all anxious about getting on the Battle.net ladder and losing their standings. People kept writing to me about ladder anxiety and I thought, WTF? Nick and I grew up having fun with StarCraft. StarCraft was challenging, sure, but it was also about fooling around with our friends and having a good time in 2v2v2v2s. I began to think that maybe the community should lighten up a little. After all, one of the things I always loved most about the community was its hilarious sense of humor. So I came up with some crazy constraints to create some lighthearted tomfoolery.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, in game design, constraint inspires creativity and play. By adding a constraint to gameplay in Funday Monday, I created a clear goal around which even the most inexperienced player could form a game plan. And the outcome made for a great, hilarious spectating experience. StarCraft players delight in seeing the crazy solutions that other players come up with.
So, the Red Bull Seattle LAN -- what inspired this event? Personally, I'm looking forward to a more light-hearted tournament that should provide quite a few laughs.
The Trial of the Xel’Naga is an idea we pitched to Red Bull in an early proposal in 2011, but I had the idea bobbling around in my head for at least 2 years before that. :D Reading stories of ancient Rome where the audience toyed with the gladiators sounded really fun. I wanted do a modern twist with more options and less risk of actual human death.
I’m not sure anybody but Red Bull would have bought into the idea. Quite simply, Red Bull wants to push the boundaries of eSports and take eSports to the next level. Their LANs are designed to explore what being a cyberathelete means, what gaming performance means, what the spectator experience means. (Plus, let’s face it, Red Bull loves extreme spectator sports, loves crazy fun, and loves designing events that are a good time.)
In any event, Red Bull was totally open to the idea when we pitched it. Then we took it to Blizzard, who said “Sounds cool! How can we help?” And that was that.
So now, in Seattle, we are breaking down the fourth wall and asking the audience to be part of the game. We’re trying to exploit the possibilities of mapmaking and interactive media and shake up the game. It should be a blast.
What do you expect from this event? What SCII skills will help the players thrive in this random environment?
I’m hoping the event gives the audience a total power trip. It’s a complete role reversal. Ordinarily, the audience is at the whim of the players, left to passively hope for their favorite pro. At PAX, the pros are virtually at the mercy of the viewers. In that light, though quick thinking and good humor will be essential playing skills for the pros, pandering, begging, and being cute will likely also be critically important to winning. :D
This is a bit of a loaded question, but what do you think of the current eSports scene? What do you think is the "next step?"
What I like about the current eSports scene is the amount of effort everybody is putting into it. It’s really exciting to see the industry grow. There is just so much going on. On the other hand, I would love to see more structure imposed on all that activity so there is a better build up to events. Sometimes it just feels like every weekend is just another major tournament. There are almost too many leagues to follow.
I’d love to see more developer involvement in helping grassroots eSports grow. For instance, I like that Blizzard has created the World Championship Series and that it involves the community at every level: community streamers help run local qualifiers and large organizations like MLG and ESL help run national and regional finals. It makes for a more coherent story across a season.
I’m also intrigued by Valve and Dota 2, where they seem to be building tools in their games that support their community’s eSports efforts, such as creating ways for fans to generate revenue within the game client by creating events or running teams. I suspect that eSports will move more and more in this direction in the coming years -- an efficient economy built out of cooperation between developer and grassroots fans.
A BarCraft gathering in Pittsburgh. (Image source)
If someone was interested in StarCraft II and the eSports scene, where would you recommend they start?
This is what I would recommend:
Step one: start by watching the final day of one of the big eSports tournaments --an MLG or IPL event -- online on a Sunday. Try to watch with friends who know the scene. Get acquainted with the players who are competing, listen to some commentary. Drink some beer.
Step two: Post tournament, go to one of the major community sites like www.teamliquid.net or www.reddit.com/r/starcraft and just hang out and explore. Look for threads about the tournament you just watched. Follow the discussions and get some context.
Step 3: Start immersing yourself in these sites, and start posting and asking questions. (Never be afraid to ask questions -- people will help you out!)
Once you’ve done that, the next step is to use these sites to find your local eSports community -- usually a Barcraft or an eSports club. From there, you can start planning to attend one of the big live tournaments -- they are really electrifying, and are totally worth the trip.
Thank you so much for your time and your amazing answers! Please keep up the outstanding work helping the eSports scene grow larger and larger! Hopefully this won't be the last time we cross paths.