Esports Overwatch

It’s Bren Awhile

Bren

Catching up with Brennon “Bren” Hook on his history, personal growth and hopes for Overwatch League Season 2.

From the Beginning

Holding back his own laughter, Brennon “Bren” Hook tells the tale of how he tried to sneak himself into the Overwatch beta.

A self-professed Blizzard fanboy since age 11, Bren saw Overwatch’s announcement and knew he had to act. “I wanted to get involved in Overwatch straight away,” he recalls. He attempted (with little success) to use his own minor competitive experience in Team Fortress 2 to masquerade as a pro presence for Overwatch.

Bren and Sideshow casting during the Thailand World Cup Stage.
Bren and Sideshow casting the Thailand World Cup Stage. Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

“Yeah, didn’t work out, that,” he mentions, finally allowing himself a chuckle.

By the time that Overwatch was released to the general public, Bren found success as a caster in titles like Team Fortress 2 and DOTA, occasionally working alongside now-Overwatch League analyst Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson. As a more established personality in the scene, Sideshow was the first person that Bren ever reached out to for a review of his casting.

Bren’s opportunity to join the Overwatch scene would come not from his own pro-play “experiences” but instead by way of Sideshow, who helped give him the chance to help cast the iBUYPOWER Invitational in July of 2016.

“It was pretty rare for even a casting opportunity to come up. So I was like ‘Yeah, Hell yeah, I wanna be a part of this.’,” Bren says.

Due to restrictions in his own housing, Bren cast the event in the dead of night in his Grandmother’s living room. Despite the absurdity of his situation, he recognized the unique chance that he had been given. “I just relished the opportunity and I tried to just absolutely smash it as much as I possibly could,” Bren recalls, serious in that moment.

Familiar Faces

Even before the inaugural season began, Bren’s story came to intersect with almost every member of the Overwatch League’s talent team.

Half of Season 2’s newest casting duo Seth “Achilios” King was the second person to review a VOD of Bren’s casting. Sideshow, of course, had worked alongside Bren in other titles and helped get him his first Overwatch casting gig. That same gig gave Bren the opportunity to send an Overwatch cast to Mitch “Uber” Leslie for review (available to view here). Uber’s subsequent recommendation allowed for Bren to join the team of Overwatch TaKeOver 2 in 2017.

Bren
2018-11-03 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

“The only reason I got that gig was because Mitch shouted me out, so shout out to Mitch,” he laughs.

The TaKeOver 2 event would be the catalyst for his Overwatch career. His performance there drew the attention of Blizzard and he was subsequently invited to host Overwatch Contenders 2017 Season 1: Europe.

During Contenders he came to know other  Overwatch League names: Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez and Matt “Mr. X” Morello to name a few. They bonded over the weeks of production and had “just a whale of a time,” doing what they loved, together.

These storied names became new friends and advocated for Bren to be added to the Overwatch League desk despite having made his name as a commentator. “I didn’t expect it to happen that quickly,” Bren says, “when I got offered the desk position I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I’m gonna jump on that straight away.’,”

A Brotherhood at Blizzcon

After the Overwatch League season ended, Bren continued working with his friends and colleagues through the 2018 Overwatch World Cup. Joined by Sideshow for the Bangkok stage, Bren rekindled his flame with casting and bantered his way through the weekend.

Bren
2018-06-06 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

“I wasn’t even supposed to work Blizzcon,” Bren recounts. The original desk of Overwatch World Cup analysts were Reinforce, Sideshow, and Goldenboy, leaving long-time Blizzard fanboy Bren out of the lineup.

However, Reinforce knew by this time that he would not be returning as an Analyst for the Overwatch League in Season 2. Feeling like they had little to lose, Reinforce and Sideshow pleaded Bren’s case to Blizzard. “We have so many ideas; we just want to show you guys what we can do here!” Bren says, recounting their argument.

Eventually, Blizzard relented, and the 2018 Overwatch World Cup became an absolute madhouse.

Although he often acts the straight man, Bren says that Reinforce is the mastermind of many of the desk’s best skits along with Sideshow. Their preparation and parts played enabled Bren and Goldenboy, “to kind of just go crazy,” as Bren puts it. They all wanted to make the most of the time that they had left together.

Looking Forward

As the next season of the Overwatch League draws near, Bren hopes to continue to marry entertainment and analysis on the desk. “[The desk] developed a baseline of just basic ability in terms of being good on-camera talents, being able to banter, being able to analyze,” Bren says, “we got the basics down after that first year. Now I feel like the goal for all of us is going to be just to elevate it.”

Overwatch League Analyst Desk
Photo: Blizzard Entertainment

Although he has a strong analytical understanding of the game, Bren believes that deep informational dives might be better navigated by someone like Sideshow or Reinforce. Bren hopes to bring analytical value by finding something for casual players at home to take away from the current match.

“….Doesn’t matter what rank you are; could they learn from this [segment]? Could they implement it in their own games and could they take away from the segment thinking ‘yeah, okay, I’ve learned something and I wasn’t bored learning about it’?,” Bren muses. He emphasizes the importance of blending analysis and fun, hoping to please both casual and die-hard players.

The Best of Bren

2018 was a year that brought Bren immense progress both personally and professionally.

Bren began his casting career when he was at, “rock-bottom,” to help him get through the day. He had dealt with mental health issues his whole life but found himself on a, “downward spiral,” during his time at University: anxiety trapped him in his room for days at a time and eventually developed into an eating disorder. Subsequently, mental health is an issue very close to his heart and something that he wants to increase discussion around.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 28: Chris Puckett, Brennon Hook and Sideshow attend Overwatch League Grand Finals – Day 2 at Barclays Center on July 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment )

In 2018, Bren found manageable ways to maintain a good quality of life. He goes to the gym often, eats 3 meals a day and makes sure to get out of the house often. His relationships have also contributed greatly to his mental health: “I’m surrounded by good friends back in Los Angeles and even here in the U.K. as well. I’ve reconnected with a lot of friends that I didn’t speak to for the longest time,” Bren says.

“Professionally, I think my greatest achievement was easily the Grand Finals of the Overwatch League. That moment…As soon as that was done, I think I turned to Puckett at the desk surrounded by 12,000 Overwatch fans and just said ‘I…I think I could do anything now’,”

 

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