Bren: “Having the crowd cheering you on is seriously like having a seventh man on your roster.”
The ever charming Brennon “Bren” Hook took some time out to speak with me at BlizzCon 2017. We spoke early on Friday before most of the Overwatch World Cup was been played out. Bren and I chatted about his future in casting and what his thoughts are coming into the World Cup.
I am here with the one and only Bren. How are you doing my friend?
Hello, I am Bren. It’s me!
After the long trek to find the press room we’re finally here. Now, we just came from the Overwatch Arena where Canada just beat Australia in a nail-biting fashion. Any thoughts or highlights that you’ve got fresh in your mind?
I actually caught the second half of the match, but I saw we were in reverse sweep territory and that's never good for the team on the other end. I actually thought they played quite well seeing how they are playing with about 2 players that are not on the Blank roster anymore. Mangachu definitely stepped up, popped off, and he carried the ever loving heck out of Canada in that last match. They managed to catch back up and manage the reverse sweep which is impressive.
Speaking of Mangachu’s Pharah performance on Nepal, I know you come from the Team Fortress 2 (TF2). As Mangachu also comes from the same scene, do you personally wear a badge of honor when someone in your community does well?
Kind of. It’s kind of a shame that he isn't on an Overwatch League roster, as far as I'm aware. Because is a phenomenal projectile player. Something that was also always a weakness of Canada as well was the fact that they didn't seem to have a dedicated off tank player. He was shoehorned into that role, but he really is an extremely good projectile player. He was formerly a TF2 player and that translates quite well across the games. So yeah, it is a little badge of honor when you see people from your scene do really well and a lot of Overwatch talent does come from that scene. It’s always nice to see.
Speaking of the TF2 boys, we did have Zebbosai, who is a veteran of the TF2 scene overcome team United Kingdom. Were you conflicted at all seeing a TF2 boy take the win over your home team, or are you just UK till you die?
Nah, I’ve got to represent my boys. I mean, I say that, but I didn’t take part in any committee business or anything. I've just been cheering them on from the sidelines and I think that they played really well to get to the quarterfinals. Seeing how the UK scene in most esports is a bit under-represented and that they made it to the world stage, and we had something like 100,000 concurrent viewers? That's something special. Those numbers are crazy! Yeah, it’s heartbreaking that they lost in such rapid fashion, but they are playing against Sweden. They really are the clear favorites. I mean I do meme and joke about team UK being the best when Sweden made those changes and just introduced what is basically Misfits, it’s just an insane team. As far as I’m aware, team UK never really had much scrim practice and when they did, apparently they didn’t do too well. I feel like that stems from the reluctance to play Mercy.
Wish team Sweden the best, and team UK should be proud to get where they did. Sweden will more than likely play against South Korea in the final so, they are going to need all the luck they can get.
With that, you know you’ve omitted the US from their match with South Korea, right?
Yes, absolutely! As much as it’s going to sound like trash talk, I honestly didn’t even think about it. It’s almost a guarantee. I’ve got a bet going that Korea beats USA 3-0, so that's a thing. However, I did make a bet with Achilios, that team UK would make finals and look how that turned out. I’m 2-0 in bets this weekend, hahaha. A lot of people do give the favorite to South Korea, but team USA does have a lot of talent on their roster and they’ve been boot camping, so we’ll see what happens.
I remember back at Contenders when the ol’ lottery draw where the US drew Korea and everyone apart from me a few of us just cried out in agony. [sic] It was a great time! It was almost like fate, it was almost like it was meant to be.
Know given the time between the Mercy and D.Va changes, do you think that could impact the standing and upset the balance at all or do you think teams have adjusted?
A lot of people had Australia pinned as a darkhorse, but I actually had them coming out over Canada here. I think Blank, as a unit, has been together longer and has been really good. Whereas Canada has been quite shaky at times, especially in their sub-tank situation. There is some upset potentially there, with South Korea and team USA. The Mercy patch has thrown everything into disarray. It really changes how people have to play now. But from the things I’ve heard behind the scene, it doesn't look good. Korea is riding a wave of pure skill straight to the final. You also have to consider that USA is going to have the home crowd on their side and you seriously have to consider that.
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“Having the crowd cheering you on is seriously like having a seventh man on your roster.” - Brennon “Bren” Hook
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If and when Korea wins, who do you think is the catalyst to really drive home the win for South Korea? I spoke with Achilios in passing and he mentioned that South Korea was extremely confident going into their match. What are some of your thoughts, who do we keep our eyes on in South Korea?
They seriously all play up to the same level, which is very high. Having Junkrat patched gives a nod to Fl0w3r. A lot of these changes, to me, feel like they are a direct buff to South Korea. Having the culture and the prowess to adapt in the time they do is like some unfair advantage. It really is; I feel like it’s ingrained in their minds. Now, saying that, I’ve never been in South Korea and I’m only speaking on what I’ve heard. I feel like it’s going to be very hard for team USA to match that level. To go back to the original question, I feel like everyone is seriously so good. There's not many I would even replace them with. To be really honest, I am just worried about the US.
Now, earlier you did mention GC Busan and as a man from the UK, how do you feel having such a stacked roster representing London?
I actually like it. Contrary to popular belief, it would be nice to see UK players in the London team. The strategy that C9 Jack is employing is that he really wants to win this first season. I totally respect that decision. It resembles traditional sports a lot when the players on your team are not necessarily from the same city. These days in esports, why can’t that also happen? There is already like 50% Koreans in Overwatch League—I actually don’t know that; I pulled that number out of thin air. Is London going to be an amazing team with KongDoo and GC Busan all on the same team? They are a scary, scary combo. They're my favorite to win OWL Season 1.
When it comes to Bren and seeing how this is a Bren interview, let’s learn about ‘the’ Bren. Are you still itching to cast OWL or will you go to Contenders? What are your plans for the foreseeable future?
It’s not like I’m not going to cast Overwatch again. I definitely plan to. Even if I don’t make it into the Overwatch League, there is seriously going to be so much Overwatch to cast soon. If Blizzard makes good on the “road to Overwatch League” improvements then they are going to need casters and analysts.
Will we ever see Bren on an analyst desk?
No. I mean, probably not. I feel like I am pretty flexible, and I feel like that really was true when it came to Contenders when I did the ending interview, even though I did fuck it up. I guess this would be a good time to tell that story. I was super nervous and it was a bit of a mix-up. They needed someone to interview EnVyUs at the end, but at the position I was standing in, I couldn’t see the game. I could hear the Bastion, so I wanted to ask them about the Bastion composition. So, I ask Taimou how the Bastion went and that was all well and good, but production wanted me to ask Micky a question. So, I go to Micky, “Micky, how was the Bastion?” and he goes “I don’t know, I didn’t play Bastion!” Ahh, it was a mess. I made a baddie. I’m glad I did it though.
In all seriousness I would take a gig on an analyst desk though, I’d give it my best shot and kill it.
To wrap this all up with the World Cup, if Korea is to run into any trouble, what team could give them their loss and why?
Ohhhh, that's a toughy. As of the recording of this, France and China are currently going on and I’d have to give that match to France, as China’s roster had some visa issues. I feel like it’s going to be a Sweden against South Korea grand final. South Korea should take their side of the bracket and meet Sweden. They need the crowd to help cheer on Sweden. If they can exploit the metagame, then perhaps, but it seems unlikely. It’s going to take a lot, it should be a one-sided affair.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLG’s of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.
Image credit to Carbon Entertainment.