How TV's Kaci Aitchison fell in love with eSports

TV Reporter Kaci Aitchison talks about her work as an on-air reporter at Dota 2: The International.

Kaci Aitchison © Courtesy of Valve

Kaci Aitchison lost her microphone inside the mouth of a bright blue rubber horse’s head at one point while interviewing a particularly enthusiastic Team Liquid fan at the Dota 2 tournament The International. It was quite a change from her usual gig as a TV anchor and reporter for a Fox News affiliate in Seattle, Wash., but Aitchison has enjoyed playing roving eSports reporter.

“The thing that I love doing the most is interviewing people,” Aitchison told Red Bull eSports.

I’d never heard of Dota, I had no idea what it was. I was just excited about talking to people who were passionate about something.

When the news hit that Aitchison was going to be hosting the backstage interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage of TI3 over other personalities already working in the Dota 2 professional scene, it was met with some consternation and frustration among online communities like Reddit. It was thought by some commenters that she’d be patronizing, or willfully ignorant to Dota 2 eSports.

Aitchison herself didn’t completely know what to expect.

“I had a stereotype about what gaming was. I pictured people sitting by themselves well into the night at their desks. I mean, my experience with gaming is old school Super Mario Brothers,” she said. “I am in complete awe and complete shock. I had no idea this was even happening. And yeah, going in I was really worried. If I had really grasped how many people not just absorb the content they’re watching but interact with it? I’d have been terrified.”

Kaci Aitchison interviews a Team Liquid fan

But from the very first day, she exuded a mixture of earnest interest and playful banter while managing to inform those attending exactly who the players were that would file into the booths before games. She didn’t make any attempts to come across as someone who knew the intricacies of a game like Dota 2, instead turning that ignorance into a doorway through which she could bring in those people who weren’t familiar. And for hardcore fans, she helped paint a broader picture outside of the dense strategy and detail of each individual game.

It helped her to view eSports just like she might traditional professional sports like basketball.

If you close your eyes and listen, it’s no different to the NBA or the Sweet Sixteen, Final Four. It’s the same level of enthusiasm; it’s the same stakes, even higher, with millions on the line. And in that way it’s exactly like a sporting event for me.

Valve’s Erik Johnson, the developer of Dota 2 chose Aitchison for a multiple reasons.

“With someone who conducts interviews really well, it’s a lot harder than most people think. And Kaci has other things - she sings in a band, she’s got an improv background, she’s really colorful and really likes meeting people, and for this event that’s a really great mix of skills,” said Johnson. “And the main thing, and this is true of all of Valve, is she wanted to do it. She’s really having a good time. I’m really glad, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for what she’s doing.”

In the end, Aitchison found herself all but an evangelist for the tournament by the time it was through.

“It’s been a great challenge. I love finding new ways to talk to people and I love finding new ways to bring what’s happening to people everywhere. I’m just really excited about how it’s gone, and I really hope that people who aren’t familiar with this world at least develop a respect for it. I think it’s really important that people know that this world exists and it’s filled with passionate and smart people.”