Behind The ScenesESPN EventsesportsInnovation

“When it comes to engaging die-hard fans and a more casual, maybe less-informed audience, I always like to lean on one thing: story.”

With 22 teams from 20 schools competing in the first-ever ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship this weekend, there are scores of stories. Here's how ESPN expert commentators will relate them while calling the action.

HOUSTON – All 22 qualifying teams from 20 schools participating in the first-ever ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship (CEC), being held at Comicpalooza here Friday through Sunday, are officially locked in.

Hundreds of schools from across North America competed in qualifiers hosted by Tespa and Collegiate StarLeague (CSL) to secure their spots in the LAN (local area network) semifinals and championships. Overwatch competition will also include a quarterfinal at the LAN event.

From the George R. Brown Convention Center, ESPN Esports expert commentators Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, Alex Corea and Anna Prosser will provide coverage.

Watch history unfold on Twitch.tv/espnesports beginning Friday at 10 a.m. ET and throughout the weekend. Visit ESPNEvents.com for more details.

Front Row caught up with Mendez and Corea for their thoughts on commentating approaches.

What are the most difficult aspects of your job and how do you conquer them?
Mendez: Hosting and commentary can be challenging when you’re going game to game. What’s unique about esports is that every game is different. They all have their own unique terminology and communities which makes them all so fun to cover.

Corea: Oh! The pressure! The stakes! The monumental gravity of it all! I hope you read that as sarcastic as I wrote it. My job is the easy one. Compared to the players who have to practice, compete, go to class, take finals, you know, do their laundry, eat, etc, and the people actually working to make sure the CEC event happens, my job is a walk in the park.

How do you walk the tightrope of describing the action during matches, informing newer fans simply and concisely without losing the endemic audience?

Mendez: It’s all in the wording and when you’re trying to keep ahead of the action you can’t be bogged down in the specifics and do you best to speak in terms that anyone can understand but you also don’t want to be disingenuous to the core audience so there’s definitely a balance to be had.

Corea: When it comes to engaging die-hard fans and a more casual, maybe less-informed audience, I always like to lean on one thing: story. No matter if it’s Starcraft, or Heroes, or poker, or football, or that other football people in Europe play, everyone can rally around a story.

We have to get technical for a bit? Try and steer into talking about the players executing said technical expertise. Need to explain a concept to a new viewer? Try and fold that into a team’s past struggles with said concept and how they overcame.

No matter what you’re playing, always remember the story surrounding the game is just as important as the pixels on the screen.

What will ESPN bring to the coverage this weekend that’s unique and most beneficial for the fan?
Mendez
: I think we’re just going to have a good time. Videos games are fun and awesome. There’s no reason why our show shouldn’t be as well.

Corea: I really believe ESPN is creating an interesting and innovative broadcast here with this event. It feels big, without losing the players and stories in the spectacle. It feels important without losing sight of the fun of the game. Overall, it legitimizes the collegiate scene without gutting it of its personality. Giving the college scene needs, and avoiding something I don’t think the college scene tolerate. Win-win!

Front Row will have more on ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship on Friday.

Twenty-two qualifying teams from 20 schools are competing in the first-ever ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship (CEC) in Houston, May 10–12. (Gabe Christus/ESPN Images)
Close