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What an incredible experience: An interview with Moth’s Parents, Mimi and Nate Espe

Some of the brightest stars of the Overwatch League’s first season joined a little later than others. Some, like Grant “moth” Espe, were signed halfway through – joining teams that sorely needed them to fix problems revealed in the first stages of a hectic, stressful span of games. Having played for Toronto Esports for months, moth was a battle-tested main support – though more than a few doubted his ability to replace Daniel “dhaK” Martinez, one of the oldest and most well-respected names in Overwatch.

Through it all, his parents – Mimi and Nathan Espe – have watched on with wonder and bemusement. While they were confident that their son could make a name for himself in the Overwatch League, they weren’t necessarily sure what that entailed. I sat down with both of them to talk about how they’ve been taking all of this in when we met at the World Cup group stages in LA. For clarity’s sake, Mom’s answers will be in red, and Dad’s answers will be in blue.

Having first come to see their son’s games in Stage 3, Mr. and Mrs. Moth are grizzled veterans of Blizzard Arena by now. Robert Paul has snapped plenty of pictures of the two, watching tensely as their son darts around the map, saving his team from certain doom time and time again (usually). For the both of them, this is an experience they never knew was even possible.

It’s been totally crazy! Completely unexpected for us. We didn’t realize that Grant was anywhere near this level at all, or that this was something that he was really interested in. I think the first time we came to suspect it, it was, gosh, around December 2016 or January 2017. That’s when Grant’s brother Jack mentioned that he was ranked globally and doing really well. Things moved pretty quickly after that, and here we are!  

As the selection process got underway for the World Cup, moth was once again chosen to step up – this time for Team USA. Joining a new team also meant gaining new fans, clad in red, white and blue, instead of bright orange, gold and grey. Seeing the crowd assembled in LA for the World Cup has been something entirely new, according to Mom and Dad.

It’s been very different, actually. It was really fun getting connected with the Shock family, because the teams each have a strong, unique identity, even though they all live together and play together. Getting to know moth’s teammates and coaches was pretty fun. This is a completely different experience, though.
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
On Team USA, he’s got an entirely different set of teammates, but they’re the best of the best. That’s a big difference. They’re like a super team, and they’re really impressive as a unit. And who knew that moth would be on that list? I don’t even think he expected it, really. 

His parents aren’t the only people he’s impressed during this year’s group stages. Team USA and Dallas Fuel Head Coach Aaron “Aero” Atkins selected him specifically from a crop of twelve star players. Aero is all about synergy, and Team USA was no exception. There wasn’t much time to put this team together, so he had to make sure he made a squad that could rally together quickly. So far, moth has been integral to that process.

A portion of Nate’s previous answer stuck with me as the interview rolled along. He mentioned meeting the Shock “family”, a collection of players, staff, coaches and executives that together make the wheels turn in San Francisco.

You talked a bit about integrating with the Shock as a family. What has that been like? How have they welcomed you into “the family”?

Well, we haven’t gotten to spend a ton of time with the Shock as a group, because we’re usually just here for the games. They’ve been extremely courteous and welcoming everytime we’re here, though. We got to meet Brett [Lautenbach, President of NRG and the Shock] the first time we were here, and he was so, so nice. Brad and Harsha were always really welcoming, too. And the teammates are all just nice kids! 
It was mostly just introductions with them – Grant tends to pull us away. He doesn’t want us to hang with them too much and start telling embarrassing stories or anything. And that’s ok! I completely understand that. We try not to get in his space too much.

Luckily for him, Mom and Dad can’t pop in too often. The trek to Blizzard Arena isn’t exactly a short one, which means they only swing by when it’s really important.

We live in Minnesota right now, actually. We’ve lived all over the place, but I’m from Minnesota, so that’s where we ended up again. 
I’m from Ohio, myself. We lived overseas, and both kids graduated high school in Switzerland, so it was interesting seeing all the Swiss references here in this stage of the World Cup!

Lots of moves, living overseas… were you a military family?

No, it was just for his job, actually. Nate worked with an international insurance company that was based in Switzerland, so that’s where we spent quite a bit of time as a family. Now we’re settled in Minnesota – but it’s still worth it to fly over here and watch Grant play.
Just the atmosphere alone is worth it. It’s so crazy, so real. I think this is my third trip here, and her second. Worth it every time. 

Seeing Nate and Mimi in the stands will show you the depth of their emotion. They lean towards one another excitedly between team fights, weighing the odds, analyzing and reviewing the team’s performance in real time. When the camera is on their son, they instantly fall silent – staring upwards anxiously as they voice encouragement among themselves while moth fights on from the stage. Their investment is palpable.

How did these two learn the ropes of a hectic game like Overwatch, when so many parents often struggle with the finer points of the game? The answer, of course, was the greatest resource anyone could ever ask for – their pro player son.

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
[As for who taught us about the game,] it was all Grant. The biggest thing I remember was saying, “Grant, look. I don’t know anything about this. Can you send me some links or something?” And he sent me some really eye-opening stuff about the League, about how they’re focused on fitness and mental health, they have dietitians and coaches and therapists… the infrastructure was there.
It was a real wow moment for me. “What an incredible experience this would be,” I thought! After that, there was nothing I could do but support him. He’s done so well for himself, and he’s staying humble. That’s all I want.  

The fervor with which Mimi and Nate support their son has been infectious. Several sets of players’ parents have passed through to watch the games and show their support, just like any other sport a child might partake in. Some don’t quite get it, but they’re on the right track, at least. Even so, some parents stay away, assuming that this is just another weird nerd phase. Mimi vehemently voiced her concern with that to me, when pressed.

I can never understand that! We’re so proud, and it’s so heartwarming to see him up on stage. It’s surreal. 

While his parents have only seen moth on stage at Blizzard Arena, he’ll have his chance on an even bigger stage in November at BlizzCon itself, where the top eight teams will clash for total domination over the entire world (of competitive Overwatch). His ticket is well accounted for, but as for his parents, well…

Mimi, moth’s older brother Jack, and Nate watch a Team USA match in LA. Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
We’re trying to go, but we can’t get tickets! They’re all sold out! Like, really? 
If people have tickets they want to sell us, let us know! We’d love to be there, but jeez is it hard. 

You know what to do, guys.

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Follow me on Twitter @thibbledork! Ask me questions, or tell me how I’m doing! 
You can also message me on Discord! (thibbledork#0282)

A huge thank you to Nate and Mimi for talking with me in LA!

Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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