Esports casting godfather Artosis retires from StarCraft II GSL


Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski, a longtime figure in the StarCraft community and a pioneer in esports casting, presided over his final Global StarCraft II League on Oct. 15. His last GSL was referred to by fans and industry colleagues as the end of an era for esports.

Stemkoski is one of the godfathers of esports commentating and among the first generation of Western esports casters. He and his longtime casting partner, Nick “Tasteless” Plott, were the English-speaking face of the GSL, a South Korea-based premier “StarCraft II” league. During the global esports boom in the early 2010s, “StarCraft II” was the most popular esports title in the world. Stemkoski and Plott were the casting duo that presented “StarCraft II” esports to the West — and in doing so, became an instrumental part of the esports industry’s explosive growth.

Stemkoski announced his intent to retire from GSL in June, explaining that he planned to move to Canada for his family and future career. Stemkoski’s departure sparked an outpouring of support from fans and industry figures, remarking on an influence that has extended far beyond “StarCraft.”

Although this marks the end of a 12 year career at GSL, Stemkoski assured fans that he would continue casting games at other venues and that he would collaborate with Plott on future content.

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Stemkoski and Plott formed a duo known as Tastosis the Casting Archon (a reference to “StarCraft’s” powerful Protoss unit created by merging two Templars), and laid down the fundamentals on how to walk viewers through an esports match. When Tastosis came onto the scene, esports casting in the Western world was still in its infancy. If a tournament had any English commentary at all, it was often rudimentary and matter-of-fact.

Tastosis looked to sports commentary for inspiration, developing methods applicable to video games that melded clear, exciting narration of the action combined with follow-up analysis that expanded upon a player or team’s strategy. The pair worked hard to make their casts informative and entertaining. They spent hours watching “StarCraft” replays, studying commentators in other fields and reviewing their own footage. It was a casting style that could satisfy hardcore fans while also inducting novice viewers into the game.

Over time, they developed a dynamic that has since become iconic with fans, with Plott providing play-by-plays of the action and Stemkoski providing context with analysis. Stemkoski and Plott quickly became fan favorites for their expertise, casting skill and natural rapport. Although Tastosis’ visibility has waned over the years alongside the declining popularity of “StarCraft,” they have cemented their legacy as some of the first and best to commentate in any esport. One would be hard-pressed to find any Western esports caster working today who hasn’t looked to the pair for inspiration.

“You set the gold standard of casting not just for StarCraft but for all of esports,” wrote Victor “Nazgul” Goossens, founder of esports organization Team Liquid, in response to Stemkoski’s final GSL cast.

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“You guys are legends who helped usher in the golden age of gaming/esports/twitch/live-streaming that we see today,” tweeted Chris “Huk” Loranger, former president of the Overwatch League team Boston Uprising. Loranger was also a professional “StarCraft II” player who competed as a contemporary to Tastosis.

David “UltraDavid” Graham, owner of esports-focused law firm DPG At Law and esports commentator, called Stemkoski’s GSL retirement the “end of an era.” Graham congratulated Stemkoski and remarked on Tastosis’ long-reaching impact, which has now spanned generations.

“I hear your voices all over esports, not just in all the commentators you’ve influenced directly, but in all the ones who’ve been influenced by the ones you’ve influenced,” Graham tweeted.

Stemkoski began his casting career in 2008, when he flew to South Korea to become an English-speaking “StarCraft” commentator, and has spent the past 14 years there. He released a video explaining his decision to move to Prince Edward Island, which was mostly prompted by his growing family and a desire to be closer to relatives. Stemkoski currently shares an apartment with his wife, four children and their dog.

“It comes to about 800 square feet for six people and a small dog,” Stemkoski said of his current living situation in the video. “So it’s not that big. We don’t have a yard or anything. You know, there’s definitely things missing that we would like to have.”

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The second reason for the move was because of the changing landscape of esports. Stemkoski explained that he stayed in South Korea for its unparalleled esports infrastructure. But now, with the industry’s global appeal, the demand for English casting from South Korea has gone down.

“I don’t feel bound to Korea,” Stemkoski said in the video. “As far as the career goes.”

Stemkoski and Plott will still be seen regularly casting together on AfreecaTV StarCraft League. In Tastosis’ final GSL cast together, Plott reminisced with Stemkoski about their early start and shared how thankful he was for their relationship. Stemkoski ended his last GSL appearance with some heartfelt words.

“It’s been the best job you can think of really,” Stemkoski said on stream, in an emotional farewell. “Thank you guys. I’ve loved it and I’ll miss everyone in the studio.”