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#Storyteller: Episode 121 with Riot Games' Dave "RumbleStew" Stewart

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72 hours. That’s how long it took for Riot Games to make the decision to go remote, and get the League of Legends Championship Series team producing from home.

Dave “Rumblestew” Stewart says the last six months have been some of the most challenging, but rewarding times of his career. As the Executive Producer of North America Esports for Riot Games, he has seen the team through the transition to remote production amidst the global pandemic.

“I often have to reframe and tell the team, who are a lot of high achievers who are used to a lot of success, look at our show now and look at our show in March when we just got back on the air. It’s night and day,” says Stewart. “It’s exciting, we’re able to get back to some of our previous production value that we feel good about. And it’s unlocked storytelling."

In this episode of #Storyteller, Dave walks us through what’s changed in just the last four months, the lessons they’ve learned about being too ambitious, and what makes storytelling unique in esports.

 

 
On their first show back live on air during the pandemic:
It was a compromised version of our broadcast. It was not the way that we want it to be. It was technologically clean, the games were going, it was on time. We weren’t having a lot of delays and pauses so that was something we were really proud about. But we had to understand that look, this is not the same as being in the studio. It’s not going to look as polished. We needed to be okay with that. And sometimes that’s a big challenge -- telling a team who has really high production value that we need to be okay with doing 80% of what we can normally do in order to get this in front of fans. At that time, fans were really hungry.
On producing separately from home:
There are a lot of challenges about producing in separate rooms across LA as opposed to being in a control room…it reminds me a little bit of that old parable about the elephant, where 8 wise, blind men are touching a different part of the elephant. One is like, ‘this is a tree trunk’. Another says ‘no, this is a rope’. Depends on which part they’re touching. It seems like we are all very isolated working on certain components of the show, and sometimes we are working to try to find ways where we are way more cohesive and working together, while acknowledging certain lanes of responsibility.
On weaving 2 separate storytelling narratives in esports:
In esports because it’s a digital sport, there are a lot of challenges that are really fascinating to me and super cool in how you match what’s going on in the game, which is a digital and virtual world, and the pros who play it. In streaming and gaming, getting that personality attached to what’s happening in a digital sphere is really a unique challenge to esports…When LeBron James goes up and dunks a basketball, you never have to ask ‘I wonder what LeBron James is doing right now?’ Because the camera’s still on him and he’s pounding his chest and looking at the crowd and pointing at people. Whereas in esports, I see a character go in and do this incredible outplay, but it is a digital fantasy champion unloading abilities on another digital fantasy champion. The outcome is significant in the sport and the moment, and it’s intense. But then I want to see what Bjergsen is doing, I want to see Doublelift’s face. What is his reaction? Is he hitting his keyboard, is he excited, is he thrilled?
On listening to your audience feedback:
We don’t want to democratize production. It’s not that there aren’t great ideas out there, because there are great ideas, but I think you can’t take every idea and throw them in the mix…but if you can be patient and try to not be sensitive and read through it, you can find in a Reddit thread or a Twitter thread, you can find really valuable feedback that resonates. You know, we didn’t think about that, but that is really an easy fix, that is super additive, and we should do that…you can’t just cater to a certain sentiment. I want our team to tell balanced stories that are good, and are authentic to a moment. Have fun when something is fun. Be silly even when it’s silly. And be serious and really on it, when it happens.
 
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