Heroes of the Dorm: Interview with Logan Fishel of Tespa

Last Saturday at Heroes of the Dorm, I had the opportunity to sit down with Logan Fishel, the Competitive Manager at Tespa for an interview. During the Buffalo and Cal Poly Pomona semifinal we chatted about the future of collegiate esports as Heroes of the Dorm. 

To kick things off, do you play Heroes of the Storm?

I do. Not as actively as when I first started to get involved with Heroes of the Dorm, but still I queue up with my coworkers once in awhile. I mostly play Cho’Gall with one of my close buddies and roommates. It goes in and out of the meta.

Are you Cho, or Gall?

We rotate a lot, depending on how we are feeling.

Jumping into Tespa, I actually work at a University. For students who are interested in forming a Tespa chapter what would be the first step?

Two first steps. One, finding other people on campus who are passionate about gaming is always a first good step. Two, we have lots of resources online and you can contact us. So even if you don’t have anybody on campus, you can’t find any other gamers at your school you can always reach out. We have a lot of staff who are also current students. We have regional coordinators who kind of work with all of our chapters.

So you can always reach out to us at Tespa and we’ll try and pass on some of the knowledge we have learned along the way. We will help you find other players at your school, help surface your school to people who might not find it, and just kind of put you in contact with the network. I think the network of Tespa is honestly, maybe the most powerful aspect of that, because we’ll say “You’re interested in forming a chapter at your school? Let’s just put you in contact with every other chapter leader in your state, in your area, or any other chapters you are interested in”. They’ll have lots of good tips and tricks to give as well.

Photo by Bahamut

How many chapters are there across the United States?

We just passed the 230 mark. I’m not sure what the exact number is now. 230 chapters across North America and Canada, and if we were to compare ourselves to other fraternities and sororities we’d actually be top tenth largest in the nation. It’s definitely grown a lot over the last couple of years.

That’s really exciting! That actually segues into another question I have: what do you expect from collegiate esports five years down the road?

I guess there’s two aspects of that. The obvious one is that we are starting to see it more and more parallel college sports in a lot of ways. Obviously there are differences because publishers hold the IP rights to the games. But in terms of how schools are starting to adopt varsity teams for various games and setting up the structure, as well as the leagues and the broadcasts it’s definitely starting to parallel college sports a lot more. For Heroes of the Dorm we actually partnered with Raycom Sports which, they produce a lot of college basketball in the southeast region so we partnered with them and they televised one of the 15 regions of Heroes of the Dorm. I think over the next five years we’ll start seeing media outlets and schools starting to adopt it the same way as college sports.

I think the other cool thing, with the Tespa chapter we focus a lot on community. Building communities and using the game to get connected with other people at your school and hopefully advance in your career. So I’m hoping in the next five years, using gaming and esports as a curriculum to pursue whatever your path might be will also be prevalent in schools.

Between esports and physical sports we see a lot of similarities with leadership, cooperation and teamwork. There’s a lot with motivation and how students balance their studies with extracurriculars.

Exactly.

In terms of faculty members that want to create something bigger on campus: say they want to create scholarships or financial backing in the University or college, do you have any suggestions for how they can approach their administration? Or is that kind of an unknown territory?

It was definitely unknown a few years ago. But there’s a lot of schools, like one of our chapters UCI are leading the way in how they get their school to adopt it officially on campus. There hasn’t been one set, proven way. We’ve noticed every school approaches it differently. Really, I think the first step is showing your school and administration the amount of attention, excitement and value that an esports program can bring.

Over 50% of our players are STEM majors, which is awesome. Through esports programs, schools are able to attract a lot of players who might not otherwise know about the school. They might not follow college football but if they tune into Twitch and see that UCI is dominating UCSD at the Fiesta Bowl that instantly puts the school on the map. Just looking at the data about how much esports is growing and presenting that to your faculty. As well the kind of demographic that is heavily involved in esports is a good first step.

So there is a lot of support, info that they can bring to their administration.

Totally.

Photo by Kagekiri

Switching gears over to Heroes of the Dorm specifically, how has this year’s Dorm felt compared to the previous three years?

I’d say the biggest noticeable difference is the legacy of the program. This is our fourth year running it and so we are starting to run into players or people in the community who have been following it all four years. Everywhere we turn there’s been a lot more story behind everything, whereas before we were trying to help build these players’ storylines and try to tell the story around college players. Now, the scene has really developed. We have teams like CPP where they kept their roster all four years. I feel like everybody that I have talked to – the conversation has incorporated last year, two years ago, so I think it’s really cool to see how much history and legacy is in Dorm this year.

Especially for the event, as the runners up for the past two years have come back and taken the crown. This year it’s different, but we still get to see teams like CPP who have kept the same roster. That’s crazy to have kept a roster for so many years, in the Open Division and among amateurs there’s a lot of turnover – people don’t want to stick together.

Totally, and I think that’s one of the big values in this competitive program. We started with Heroes of the Dorm but we now host leagues for over six game titles. Honestly a big value is that players may come together because they see this pie in the sky scholarship prize pool and playing on a big stage as something to aspire to. But in the case of CPP these were people in the same dorm and made lifelong friendships that have sprung into whole communities. We’ve seen this as largely successful for the whole college experience and it’s super awesome every time you can see that.

A few years ago you partnered with Blizzard, what do you think is the best part of this partnership?

That’s a good question, I don’t think anyone has asked me that before. I think the best part is a lot of the Blizzard core values resonate really well with Tespa. Blizzard really cares about their players and Tespa really cares about our students. Our first core value is “student-first” and that mirrors very closely with Blizzard. Through those many parallels between both organizations’ goals we’ve been able to really support the collegiate community in an authentic way that’s meaningful to all of our players. Just the fact that it resonates so well with Blizzard’s core values has just meant it’s easier to get their support. Obviously we’ve been able to work with all of their different game titles and bring those to our chapters.

Heroes of the Dorm has been a large success, starting off with being featured on ESPN. It’s helped break that barrier of esports in the place of traditional physical sports, how do you think you are bringing what you have learned from Heroes of the Dorm to the other five games that Tespa offers?

Heroes of the Dorm was the first. Almost everything we have done with Heroes of the Dorm was the first we’ve tried things: first time televising a collegiate esports program, first time we’ve tried running tournaments from thousands of schools. So it’s really shaped the way that we structure all five of our other games. From rulesets to our league format. This year for example, we broke down Heroes of the Dorm into 15 local regions to try and bring out more local rivalries, stuff that all college players aspire to do. Due to the success of that I’m sure we’ll start seeing other of our  leagues next year start to adopt similar formats.

So I feel like Heroes of the Dorm is innovating and our other leagues see the successes and failures and can adopt those into it. We try to keep a lot of consistencies into all of our other titles and Heroes of the Dorm is the leader in creating where those consistencies are.

That’s all of my questions, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Honestly, I’m just thinking about the finals right now (laughs). This year is the year I’m most excited for. I think every year there has been kind of a frontrunner. Year one Fan was on Cloud9 and I was like “UC Berkeley is probably going to win”. They won. Year two, kind of the same deal, year three, same deal.

But this year, LSU was actually the top-picked favorite in our bracket challenge. We did a million-dollar bracket challenge which was super fun and LSU had 22% of the votes, but they got knocked out in the Round of 32. UCI, seed #1 got knocked out in the Round of 8 by Buffalo. So now I don’t know what to expect anymore.

Laval just won 3-0. I thought both teams were super solid. I thought Kentucky would actually win because they were returning and were really confident. But they got 3-0’d so I don’t know what to expect anymore. I’m really excited about this year’s finals. I know Buffalo is down a game, but one interesting thing about them – we did a pick ‘em challenge as well and out of the 30,000 people who filled out the pick ‘em challenge, 40% were rooting for Buffalo. Laval was actually the second pick. I’m so excited to watch the finals because I have no idea.

Thank you so much for taking your time to answer these questions!

Thank you guys for making it out here!