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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘I can’t do anything about this, but go team’: Announcers find new ways to experience esports

Aaron+Mariconda+and+Sean+Fontes+compete+against+eachother+in+a+game+of+Super+Smash+Brothers.
Brianna Cook
Aaron Mariconda and Sean Fontes compete against eachother in a game of Super Smash Brothers.

Tobin Hoshower has been playing video games since he could walk. With a dad in the tech field, gaming was a big part of his life growing up in Palmer, Alaska. 

Announcing for video games, though, is a different story.

Hoshower’s journey with esports started in high school. Alongside some friends, he formed an esports team, playing “Overwatch” and “Rocket League.” Nearing the end of his high school career, Hoshower and a lifelong friend toured the lower 48 states to scout out the best college for them. They ended up at Wichita State. 

As soon as he started school in Wichita, Hoshower tried out for the “Overwatch” team. He didn’t hear anything back.

Luckily, the “Rocket League” team had an opening, and he fit right in, having played the game for eight years. After three years of playing competitively in college, Hoshower now resides on the sidelines, announcing for “Rocket League” matches. 

Meanwhile, Nathan Feyen is at the beginning of his collegiate experience with esports. The freshman also didn’t make it onto the original team he tried out for: “Valorant.” 

After a strict practice regimen to bulk up his skills, Feyen burnt himself out on the game.

“I’m good for my skill group, I am not good for (WSU’s),” he said. “I knew that I wasn’t going to make it onto the varsity team by a mile, JV team, probably not.”

After not hearing anything back after the tryouts, Esports Assistant Director Joe Mazzara asked if Feyen would be interested in casting for “Valorant” matches. 

“I was like, ‘What can I do to stay involved?’” Feyen said. “I enjoy the game and playing and casting it and watching it with people and by myself.”

Growing up gaming

Feyen was raised watching his dad play video games and even inherited his dad’s username.

“The username was originally ShwettyBalls26 from an SNL skit,” he said. 

As Feyen played more and more video games, his mother deemed the “Balls” part of the username inappropriate. Now, you can find Feyen gaming online under the username Shwetty26. Meanwhile, Hoshower goes by the alias MrGopher.

Although Hoshower started playing video games with simple math games, as he grew up, his tastes expanded to include indie games and plenty of other games he’d grown up watching his father play.

Esports, however, were a different matter entirely. Hoshower’s parents were apprehensive at his involvement in esports, with his mom worried about playing video games so consistently. 

“I think my father was on the fence, but my mother was very much so against me playing esports,” Hoshower said. 

However, she came around near the end of his high school career upon seeing the positive impact the team had on him. 

“She realized how much I enjoyed it,” he said. “She really likes the aspect of me meeting other people and interacting with others.”

For Feyen, parental support has never been a question. His parents tune into the streams when they can figure out how to.

“They don’t know what’s going on, but they’re like, ‘You’re enjoying this, have fun,’” Feyen said. 

Now, Hoshower’s parents have two sons in esports, with Hoshower’s younger brother playing competitively for Boise State University. 

“I think that I’ve definitely inspired (my brother),” Hoshower said. “I think I’ve set a good example of being able to pursue my dreams and things that I enjoy without fear.”

“Strange transition”

After joining the Rocket League team as a freshman, Hoshower quickly rose through the ranks, transitioning from a player to team captain within a year and a half. 

Now, he’s “gone into retirement” and spends the matches announcing on the sidelines while still holding a leadership position. Although he found the movement from the computer to the booth a “strange transition,” Hoshower finds he can relax more in the new role.

“Going from player to captain to now being on the casting team and doing other leadership things … it’s been really good the way Wichita State has handled it,” Hoshower said.

Practice

Each caster has a unique approach to preparation for casting. For Feyen, it’s to not really practice at all. Along with his girlfriend, Feyen tuned in to “the ‘Valorant’ equivalent of the NFL” to familiarize himself with announcing.

“That’s how I figured out, ‘This is how you cast,’” he said. “For the most part, it’s kind of been ‘I’m throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick.’”

Hoshower took a more classic approach to working on his casting skills. 

“I think the biggest (issue) when I started announcing was getting over the fear of being a bad announcer,” Hoshower said.

To combat his fear, Hoshower implemented a few forms of practice into his life, like gathering tips from his favorite announcer, Jim Mountain, from Boise State University. 

“I would basically watch the games that he would cast in silent mode, then I would cast, then I would rewatch and see what he said instead of what I said.” 

Although he doesn’t practice as much as he used to, Hoshower plans to start as his role changes once again. Whereas he used to duo cast alongside someone else, he’s now going to be serving as a solo caster. 

“This will also be a new start for me, a completely foreign experience.” 

Hoshower will likely be commentating random bits of his life in his best casting voice while in his apartment, where he lives with the “Rocket League” JV coach, Jacob “Ikigai” Smith. 

After spending this semester solo casting, Hoshower will graduate with his bachelor’s degree, with grad school possibly on the horizon.

Looking past graduation

The announcing industry has boomed in recent years with the growth of collegiate esports. Hoshower and Feyen are just two of many to take the leap.

Hoshower has fallen in love with the esports program at WSU, so much so that he is not closed off to the idea of working for a collegiate esports program after his education, whether that’s at WSU or elsewhere. 

Feyen is in his second semester as an aerospace engineering student and hopes to continue casting along with his education. He’s found it’s a unique way to stay involved with the game while not having to play professionally.

“Sometimes when the team is losing, you’re sitting there like, ‘I can’t do anything about this, but go team.’” Feyen said. “(Have a) positive mentality … sometimes, that’s all you can do.”

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About the Contributors
Sascha Harvey, Opinion Editor
Sascha Harvey is the opinon editor for The Sunflower. A junior majoring in graphic design, this is Harvey's third year on staff and second year as a section editor. He is originally from Arkansas but has no accent to speak of (unless you listen really hard). The graphic design major enjoys covering feature stories and local news. Harvey uses he/him pronouns.
Brianna Cook, Photographer
Brianna Cook is a second-year photographer for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore biology major from Wichita, Kansas. When not taking photos, Cook enjoys leather working and after graduation, hopes to work for the park service. Cook uses she/her pronouns.

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