Alex “Vansilli” Nguyen chats with esports.gg ahead of his participation in the 2023 Red Bull Campus Clutch VALORANT finals.
Red Bull Campus Clutch brings the best collegiate VALORANT teams from around the world together. The massive tournament is considered a premier collegiate event. And back on the casting desk for another year at Campus Clutch is Alex "Vansilli" Nguyen.
Vansilli has been an esports caster for a long time, and has recently become a father. Congratulations to him and his wife, and a huge thank you to him for taking the time to speak to us. Fatherhood hasn't halted his grind in preparation of Red Bull Campus Clutch 2023.
With the 2023 tournament being in Istanbul, we chatted with Vansilli before he heads out to the competition. He spoke about the importance of Red Bull Campus Clutch in the grand scheme of competitive VALORANT, what it means to be a part of it, and more.
Vansilli talks everything Red Bull Campus Clutch
"Having been a part of 2021 and 2022, what about this event keeps you coming back as a caster year after year?"
Vansilli: "I like to call it the Red Bull experience. The production is great, and as a caster, I feel like this is very well and professionally ran. Anything that's outside of the event in itself, but still being involved at Red Bull, really makes you feel like you're in a cool spot. It's like how people say it's cool that a company or a brand treats you like royalty, but for me it really feels like Red Bull treats you like family.
"You come out of this event talking to all the players that have been participating in Red Bull Campus Clutch throughout the three or four days from group stages to the finals. And they come out even if they lost with a huge smile on their faces because they've had a great experience. They had a hands-on experience of what it's like to play on a big stage. They get to travel for the first time outside of their country, maybe some of them never got on a plane before.
"And most importantly too, is that they're able to make good friendships with other people from around the world, being united under the same umbrella of competition, playing video games, and having fun in the end. Sorry, you know me, I'm always very long-winded with answers. I remember in Madrid, there were pictures coming out from Team Canada and Team USA, hanging out with Team Korea . It wouldn't be possible without Red Bull."
"How did the 2022 year improve upon the event from 2021?"
Vansilli: "The most obvious one for sure is being able to see more and more crowd members trickle in. In 2021, right in the middle of COVID, it was very difficult for us to have experiences with the fans that were there in Madrid. They were able to only have a few people coming in after some extensive screening and whatnot, but they were still very separated from the players and everybody else involved around the production.
"In 2022 in Brazil, it was even cooler because now the stage was even bigger. For me, it felt that there were more players involved as well. The setups that they have, they keep one-upping each other, in terms Red Bull hosting the events. And even if you're looking at 2023 now, we're going to be in the Volkswagen Arena. So, that's already a one-up from everything else that I've been a part of, personally as talent and caster so far within VALORANT. I'm expecting a lot of people to watch this at the venue.
"Experiences outside of the events, but still under the Red Bull umbrella is what touched me more than it did for the other year. When we were in Brazil, because they are able to have you absorb the culture of the countries you're able to go to. It was the first year where they were like, 'Hey, we want to give you a little bit of the Brazilian taste.' So we actually went out with Red Bull, the other talent, and players as well. And we got to do some Capoeira. We got to learn a little bit about the Brazilian culture. We went to graffiti alley and did some graffiti with some local artists.
"They don't go cheap when it comes down to really experiencing not only culture, but what Red Bull is all about. And to see the Capoeira moment and to be involved in that, I had honestly tears in my eyes. I was ready to cry. I went up to Iain Chambers, I was like, 'Bro, I am overwhelmed with how cool this experience has been and I need to let a couple of tears out, man, if you don't mind.' So, yeah, I think that always has me wanting to come back to just continue to experience life in a positive way with Red Bull."
"You mentioned the locations. Campus Clutch has been held in Spain, Brazil, and will be in Turkey this year. We've seen VALORANT Champions there in Istanbul, and now the Campus Clutch finals. What do you think it is about Istanbul that makes it such a great hub for these important VALORANT esports events?"
Vansilli: "Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to do Champions in 2022, but I got to watch it from home, of course. And to see the crowd that was fully packed in the arena over there. It confirms what we're trying to build as esports back then. And I'm talking about we as in me when I was casting audio only in like 2003, but when other competitive shooters came out, there were some players that were well-known within the Turkey scene.
"I'm going to say specifically with CS:GO, this area must have a great tactical FPS community. So, after seeing how Champions is built up and you're looking at teams like FUT Esports right now that are actually qualifying into these Champions events. It goes to show for me how people want to be so involved within this community, within the scene for tactical shooters, especially for VALORANT. That's also something that I give credit to Riot and to Red Bull in this case too. They're always able to promote community around their product.
"More of the years that are going by within VALORANT, you're starting to see the community continue to grow and grow and grow. When I think about maybe a couple of hundreds back in the day versus a couple of thousands now, you can definitely see that community around VALORANT. And I think that's why it's just an obvious choice that you have to do it at the Volkswagen Arena where Champs was. I've seen those watch parties from FUT . Sometimes you don't even need players on the stage and you could fill up an arena. So, I'm looking forward to really experience that at the venue."
"There's just so much competitive VALORANT happening at this point in the game's life. Tell me about the impact collegiate VALORANT has and how it stands out compared to the likes of Challengers and the VCT."
Vansilli: "I've had the privilege of doing Red Bull for the past couple of years, but when I'm looking at what's been going on in North America. And having the opportunity to cast CVAL for example, I think this is always a great stepping stone for those that want to experience and that aspire to be a part of the VCT as a pro player. Red Bull Campus Clutch is the next big thing, right? If you're not part of the VCT and you can't play Game Changers, you still have an opportunity to play on the big stage and at high level competition with the Red Bull Campus Clutch.
"You're also allowing other avenues and opportunities for these players, because now that we've entered the partnership era with VALORANT, the VCT and Challengers is very restricted. Trying to get into Challengers, with this new announcement that came out, that's going to be fed from Premier and you have to be a certain rank and whatnot,, you're also closing a lot of these opportunities for these players to get their names out. There are no more open qualifier opportunities where you could have that David versus Goliath, that diamond in the rough type of superstar find. So, having the Red Bull Campus Clutch allows you, as a player, to have more avenues to get scouted.
"Collegiate for me, I personally am a person that hasn't graduated. I dropped out of university, but I only had like eight classes left, and that's me due to me being lazy, but also due to me living this pipe dream that I could make it into esports for the past 20 years. And I always wanted to push into that. Since I was one of the first that was part of this, I could probably still do it with the experience that I have, but it's always very important to have a plan B. And what is your plan B? If it's not going to be becoming a pro gamer, and if you can't become a pro gamer, even if you're aspiring to be one, it's nice to have that education in your background.
"Having collegiate available for these competitors is also very cool because now you have the opportunity to aspire to what you want to be, which is a pro player, but if you can't make it, then at least you have a great plan B with education, with a diploma that's going get you a nine-to-five that could still help you reach to your passion. That's how I saw it. I got to a point where I was 27, and I wasn't making any money casting video games. I needed to find ways to put food on the table. So I actually started a career job. Thankfully, even without the education, I was still able to have a really good job as a sales rep for a top Fortune 500 company.
"That was still a nine-to-five for me to feed into my passion, though. So when I clock out of the nine-to-five, what do I do? I'm casting games online, so there's still ways to get to where you want to be. You just need to have that backup plan, and that collegiate, the sponsorship ride that you can have with that too, it just goes hand in hand. It's a no brainer for you to want to do that. That gives you a safe cushion to be able to compete in a better mental state as well."
"We've touched on how you've been at this casting thing for quite some time. With the previous Campus Clutch events under your belt, where would you rank it in terms of presentation, excitement, and competition when matched up with other esports and events you've worked?"
Vansilli: "I think the level of excitement is definitely right up there with the VCT. When I don't have an opportunity in VCT, I am looking to forward to do the Red Bull Campus Clutch. We always call it the off-season. I kind of wish it wasn't during the off-season, because it feels as awesome doing this. The hype around that is always super fun. I still get DMs and conversations from the players that played in the previous years, who qualified to this year, saying, 'Yo, are you going to be there this year? I'm looking forward to hearing you cast my games. I'm looking forward to meeting Iain Chambers or JessGOAT.'
So, in terms of talent that Red Bull brings for the Campus Clutch, it's always top tier talent. Not talking about myself, I'm just a fly on the wall. I just absorb all the other talent that's there and I'm just riding the wave. The talent is top notch, production is also top notch. We've had Sam Deans. I had an opportunity to work with him last year, and he's also going to be producing this year. This guy, he has a pedigree of amazing events under his belt, and knows everything from A to Z.
"There's no stone that's left unturned when it comes down to the whole setup for the Red Bull Campus Clutch. Everything is top notch to make sure that you're giving the competitors the best overall experience that they could have. What it could be like playing in the VCT. And that's why I love everything that goes into it.
"You know, we just came out from a production meeting with Red Bull. We've done a whole run of the show, talking about item one to item 600. There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and they put a lot of effort. Which is the same effort that we all put in to a Riot production andsanctioned events in the VCT.
"So, I think it's already up there as a 10/10. They've already told us that there's going to be some surprises going on, showmatches, and stuff like that. So you could definitely see there's always these one-ups every single year. To make sure that you're going to come out of this event wanting to talk about Red Bull Campus Clutch throughout the whole year, so you can get ready for 2024."
"Lastly, a question more about yourself. Describe to me the passion and energy you're ready to bring to the Campus Clutch broadcast."
Vansilli: "I know this is going to come out as a written interview, but you're already hearing my excitement with the lack of sleep with the new kid. So, I think on a personal note as a caster, I've for fun even looked back at my broadcasts. You know, the infamous Subroza spot on Ascent when he gets an Ace against Immortals there.
"And I'm like, dude, to hear myself in 2020 and to hear myself in 2022 or 2023, it's a night and day kind of thing where I'm like, 'How the hell? I never did this when I was like casting CS back then.' I never wanted to try to one-up myself. I've started to bring a little bit more in my preparation ever since VALORANT came out, to make sure that I one-up myself every single year and every single cast.
"Even this year with the VCT, I felt like from week one into the LCQ that there's been a net improvement in my casting style. And I hope to be able to continue to bring that and more for Turkey. This is an important international event. I still put a lot of importance into this event and what I want to bring.
"I want to make sure that I represent the product very well and that I represent Red Bull very well. So, my level of excitement is probably going to be at 110%. While also working hard to continue to bring out the best of my casting, so that I have an opportunity to hopefully bring this to the community in 2024 for a VCT and hopefully even a VCT Masters. That's still in the sights for 2024."