“I’m just the host.”
My hands were shaking the entirety of the opening desk segment at CWL Las Vegas. I’ve done a lot of TV, but nothing like the enormity of hosting an esports event live. I was used to cold, lonely little rooms where I’d sit, stare at a camera and pretend I could see the host while rattling off my talking points. At most, I’d done a show with a live audience of 50. Esports events aren’t like turning on the TV for background noise or going to, say, a baseball game. A handful of your friends may be there to watch baseball, but the majority want to socialize. Every single person who attended Vegas and watched online was there solely to experience competitive Call of Duty. They would demand and deserve, the best I could deliver.
Vegas was so far out of my comfort zone; I wasn’t sure what to be overwhelmed by first: The throngs of people just feet away from the desk? The tens of thousands of devoted fans watching online? The pulsing music and bright lights? The fact that I’d only met StuDyy minutes prior? There was just too much to digest and not nearly enough time to do it – so I cracked a joke in my opening monologue about being an analyst and prayed the community would like me.
I’m thankful to say it seems like you do.
My road to hosting Call of Duty World League was likely a smidgen different than most in the esports industry. I came from politics. I live in Washington, D.C. and spent almost five years living the rollercoaster ride that is the American political system. My days were taken up by presidential races, Supreme Court rulings, and Rose Garden ceremonies. The pomp and circumstance were fun until they weren't. It took me three years to realize I didn’t love politics enough to survive it, and I was left feeling lost.
That is until I was approached about an opportunity to start writing a daily newsletter for the gaming and esports industries. I’ve been a gamer my entire life – Call of Duty being a staple I always played – I just never thought I had an appropriate skill set I could use to get hired. But I was a journalist and editor, and newsletters don’t write themselves. The Daily Walkthrough was born in 2017. While writing it, I attended events like E3, the Overwatch League Grand Finals, various Majors and more where I created connections and made friends. It was hard to not fall in love with this world, and I didn’t try to fight it. Returning home to my regular day-to-day work became a chore. I no longer looked forward to TV hits. I didn’t care about who tweeted what. I just wanted to go to my next esports event.
I was asking for advice from one of those friends about my next steps when he offered something that still floors me to this day: “Would you like me to connect you with MLG?” Feeling a bit shocked, I said yes.
His generosity and faith, and MLG’s willingness to take a chance on an unknown started my months-long journey to that desk at Vegas. From phone interviews to in-person interviews to a marathon run of preparatory training events in Columbus, the process was an exhilarating whirlwind. I can’t thank Pacman, Benson, Nameless and our producer, Ethan, enough for pouring their time into helping me. I spent hours watching Hot Mic, Behind the Controller, Trading Shots and old event videos. Ask Benson sometime about practicing my rollouts. There’s still a folder of flashcards I made covering players, storylines, and teams. Let me tell you, it was a little weird to meet pros in person after memorizing everything about them like I was studying for a physics test. I was too shy even to introduce myself, so I soaked everyone in as I followed other on-air talent to and from the green room.
And then I was given one final test: Do a good job at Vegas, and the job is mine.
There was something indescribably terrifying about realizing I was so close to my dream job. It was mine for the taking – and I’d worked damn hard for it – but what if my appearance at CWL Las Vegas was a flub? What if I choked? I cried over these fears more than once.
Well, I’m still here.
I sat on my hands after that first desk segment at Vegas because they wouldn’t stop shaking. I felt a lot of things: relief at getting my introduction right, embarrassment at forgetting Benson’s name, a whole lot of adrenaline and just a touch of nausea. Vegas was a blur of moments like that, but the one common theme among them all was the constant stream of support I received from fans, players, talent and more.
Brice Faccento was the first pro to come up to me at the bar, introduce himself and tell me I was doing a good job. CouRage relayed the same sentiment in the green room before he went on to introduce the Grand Finals. StuDyy barely knew me and was immediately willing to help. Ethan answered all my frantic questions with patience. Maven shouted at me whenever he saw me, and yes, it was hysterical and mildly alarming. Nadeshot and Muddawg were all smiles and encouragement every evening I grabbed my nightcap before bed.
There was even a positive Reddit post or two. I may not comment, but I see them all. Thank you for giving me a chance.
Change is a scary, unsure thing. I stepped into a role I’ve never filled before, and CWL’s fans were introduced to a new host. I’d like to think that change worked out beautifully on both sides.
I sit here now writing this with the distinct privilege of being CWL’s host. I love my job. I love the fans. I love the players. I love my coworkers. I get to live my dream.
Thank you for taking a chance on me. Even if I like mac and cheese with ketchup.