VPesports had a chance to sit down with desk host Alex “MACHINE” Richardson during the grand finals of the ELEAGUE Premier where our own Steven Cropley took some time to pick MACHINE’s mind about hosting, CS:GO’s peak and London. Astralis would go on to defeat Team Liquid 2-0 and secure the $500,000 first place prize and cement themselves as the best team in the world going into the player break.
VPesports: Kicking things right off, do you still have the same fire and passion for hosting? Moses has said before he prefers casting over being an analyst and you’ve also stated you’d like to do some more commentating – is that because you’re not feeling hosting or you just want variety?
MACHINE: It’s just the variety. I love hosting, I love that I get to be a part of those epic moments, I love that I get to be the voice of the trophy lift, etc, etc. I get to truly be a part of the event and I get to travel the world and I don’t think I’d have those same opportunities if I was just another caster because there are so many talented casters. I’m still waiting for more people to step into that desk host role and there are definitely names now climbing. So I don’t want to leave hosting, I love it, but I do want more variety. I’d love three or four events a year I’m casting and that requires some people stepping into the desk host space. I think Jason’s talked about it, he’s willing to swap around a bit. I’m certainly not complaining I just want to be able to do a bit of both.
You know it’s hard to avoid when you’re at a different tournament a week later with the same two analysts with the same two teams. Like how am I supposed to keep it fresh and diverse? You need someone else’s perspective on that and if I’m casting it’s different so that’s what I’m looking for.
VPesports: When it comes to hosting, do you think that this is something that someone can really practice and hone in on or do you think that it comes down to natural ability? We’ve seen guys like you and Richard Lewis with ELEAGUE where it seems as if from the get-go they’ve been good at their job.
MACHINE: Good question. I think there definitely is just a core personality requirement to be a desk host. Not necessarily being the biggest personality, but you have to be a capable conversationalist and have an ounce of empathy, a way to understand people because you are going to be given personalities and you have to understand what they should be asked and what you absolutely shouldn’t be asking them and I think that’s something that comes quite naturally. Then there’s the whole technical side of hosting, the getting used to someone’s voice relentlessly in your ear. That’s something that takes a while to get used it. Also, just practice makes perfect and it’s hard to practice so it’s like getting your foot in the door with your personality and then picking up all the skills to add to your toolbox.
A lot of my desk hosting I learned through play-by-play. In the fledgling commentary days, we were just locked in a studio and we’d have a play-by-play and a color. That was it, that was the whole show – it was just that and a wait screen. So I think I learned a lot just being the person who did the ins and the outs, the person throwing to a graphic, which is hosting at its core. I was the play-by-play caster who did a lot of it which gave me the practice.
VPesports: Now when you spoke of knowing how to approach certain analysts in different ways, that leads me to my next question. Who is your favorite analyst to have on the desk? We can do two, one for information and one for flair.
MACHINE: It’s not fair because I work so often with Janko and Chad. When we’re on our A-game and we haven’t done a desk in 3 weeks instead of just this kind of combination of tired repeated conversation. And that’s not me complaining, it’s just something truly unavoidable unless we mix things up. I love those two dearly. For entertainment, it is a lot of fun to have Duncan on the desk or an ex-player just because they accidentally give you like the best insight you’re ever going to have. Like when Sean Gares is talking and he just says something in passing that we’ve never heard before like “you know its interesting to see Cloud9, they haven’t done that split since 2015 and they’ve added this new flashbang to it,” and I’m just like excuse me can we just slow this down, whats the Cloud9 split, we haven’t heard this before and I love that you can get complete golden nuggets from fresh ex-players.
VPesports: Do you think CS:GO still has room to grow or do you think the heights we’ve seen it reach are as far as it goes? Do you think it can still grow or do you think games like Fortnite or PUBG are pulling people away?
MACHINE: I think people would be foolish to consider CS:GO peaked. This is something I said in a podcast with DDK the other day, I think people that are getting worried or nervous about the prevalence of the likes of Fortnite are short-sighted. I think that actually the fact that this has become so mainstream, that the person that’s doing your shopping at the supermarket knows what Fortnite is, that is only good news. That means that they are perhaps on Twitch for the first time, perhaps they see ELEAGUE is live, perhaps they click it, perhaps they’re interested, perhaps they start to support a team. If 5% of Fortnite players did that, we’ve tripled our viewership. It’s something to be celebrated not defensive about.
VPesports: The last question – what is the one thing I HAVE to do when I go to London for the Major?
MACHINE: When you go to London the thing you HAVE to do is get on the tube, pick your favorite colors and see where you end up. You will see a lot of London through that tube. Just basically get off when you like the sound of the name, have a walk around, go back down, choose another color line, walk around, and do that for an hour and then hop in an uber back to your hotel. That’s the best way, London is so big, you won’t see but a thimble full of London if you don’t just get on a train and see where you end up.