Cogswell Chronicle: Alright, so . . . What’s your name?
Alex Holler: My name is Alex Holler.
CC: Cool, and what do you do here at Cogswell?
Holler: I am the Head eSports Coach.
CC: What can you tell me about your gaming background? What kind of stuff have you played in the past?
Holler: Sure! So I grew up gaming a lot in my household. Both my parents were gamers, so it was never really something that was taught to me as much as something I innately learned through time. In college, I started a gaming club, and I took it to a national-organization level; put on thousand-person tournaments and got a lot of recognition for what I was doing. I then got recognized by Blizzard as one of the top 20 collegiate leaders in North America. I was flown up to [UC] Irvine to tour campus and really learned a lot about the career opportunities that could be within the gaming field and decided I wanted to apply my communication degree in that sort of direction. So I then saw job opportunity with coaching, and I’d done semi-professional coaching before so it was sort of a natural pathway for me and . . . it’s been very successful so far so here I am.
CC: Well, welcome to Cogswell!
Holler: Thank you!
CC: You mentioned that your parents played a lot of video games as well, right?
CC: What kind of stuff did they play?
Holler: It was the precursor to World of Warcraft, so it was—Everquest. It was online, massively multiplayer. It was the whole hack-and-slash fantasy . . .
CC: Right, right . . . let’s talk about Cogswell.
CC: So you started here this semester, right?
CC: How do you feel adjusting to Cogswell compared to other colleges you’ve coached at?
Holler: Sure, so Cogswell is really great in the sense that normally when I come into a program it’s usually under an athletics permit or something like that, and athletics doesn’t really necessarily understand the gaming space. Because Cogswell doesn’t really have an athletics permit, we had me come in under Marketing, and there’s a lot of great support from the staff and faculty here in a sense that other schools might not necessarily have had before. So being able to come in with a staff and faculty that supports it along with student excitement and engagement makes my job a whole lot easier, so I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far.
CC: Do you have any current goals for the current rosters of Overwatch and League of Legends?
Holler: Absolutely. Our current goal is to sort of get up to speed; get on the same page as a team to the point where we can compete. Our first tournament will be April 19th and 20th in Fremont at Battle at the Bay and we are going to be competing in a local competition there. Our current sort of short-term goal, if you will, is to get everybody ready to compete there, and then our sort of long-term national-recognition-goal . . . is we’re really trying to create the program to be the best it can be to help the students be the best they can be.
CC: So stepping away from the whole tournament thing, tell us more about yourself. What kind of other hobbies do you have outside of video games and coaching.
Holler: Other hobbies, oh no. I like racquetball. I play ultimate frisbee sometimes? Most of my hobbies sort of revolve around gaming . . .[so I can] stay on top of all the games . . .. It takes a lot of maintenance effort, but I do try to get out and be active when I can.
CC: You mentioned that at your college, you took your college to a higher level of play, right?
CC: What can you tell me about that?
Holler: So when we started off I was coming into a small group of friends that were just playing Magic the Gathering by themselves. And y’know that’s great but I guess I saw a lot of potential for what the organization could be, and how you could grow it and how you could see that bigger picture. So I got us involved with Tespa very early on when I was first starting up—which is a Blizzard collegiate group—and I started putting on bigger and bigger tournaments until I met some of the other local collegiate leaders and I organized a tournament called Clash of the Carolinas, and—that was when I was in North Carolina obviously—I had five other college organizations working with me and we put on a thousand-plus person tournament, and it was enormous. It took up all of this very large school ballroom and it got local news coverage, and I had a lot of success with that tournament so I ended up getting brought down to Florida Gulf Coastal to put on a tournament for them in this huge basketball arena. Between those two tournaments, it really propelled me onto a national stage of recognition.
CC: So what do you want to tell people who are just sort of interested in eSports program or just gaming as a whole, but don’t want to commit to like a team. What do you want to tell them?
Holler: Sure, that’s completely fine. I don’t think that it’s something you have to invest your time in; to be competitive in. I think that video games are a very individualized thing for different people. Some people use it as a means of competition, and some people use it as a means of unwinding. I think at the end of the day, knowing what you want out of your video game experience just enables you to be happier as a person. You don’t need to play competitively to be happy with gaming.
CC: Is there anything you wanna tell freshmen who are coming into this college and are interested in the eSports program at some point?
Holler: Yeah, absolutely. So I’d love to talk to anybody interested in eSports even if it isn’t necessarily the impact of trying to join the team. I had my entire career based around eSports and I love talking to anybody I can about career pathways or opportunities for competitive nature, or just how to go about thinking about how to get better [at the game]. There’s a million different ways you can approach video gaming and I’m an open book as far as if anybody ever wants to talk, and I’d love to hear new students coming in that are interested in competitive play as well. It gives us the opportunity to flourish and grow as a program to get to that national-recognition standpoint.
CC: Do you have any plans as far as establishing eSports team and student relationships?
Holler: Can you elaborate?
CC: Is there any way you wanna like help—?
Holler: Bridge the gap?
CC: Yeah! Bridge the gap between people who play eSports on a team and those who might want to watch from afar.
Holler: Sure, absolutely. One of my personal goals for the program here at Cogswell is—because we don’t have an athletics program per se there’s really less of a sense of school spirit because there’s no really unifying thing to rally around as a student body. I’d love to be able to, as much as I can, [to] introduce that sort of school-spirit aspect to this school. So one of my goals will be to have the teams host events for the student populus and for staff and faculty that are interested, as well as have viewing parties for the tournaments that we’re in so that we can better promote what it is we’re doing and what it is we’re achieving as a team and as a school.