Nicholas 'Avi' Bashore

As senior community manager for Skillshot Media, UT alumnus Nicholas "Avi" Bashore is a “jack of all trades,” handling events, social media, community engagement and more. 

To many people, home is somewhere reliable and consistent—somewhere you can always return to for stability. That wasn’t the case for Nicholas Bashore growing up. He was used to his home changing drastically and often, as his family moved around.

Bashore found stability in something else: video games. He became an avid gamer at a young age thanks to the influences of his grandfather, who introduced him to PC-game classics like Doom and Wolfenstein.

“Those are the two biggest ones,” Bashore said. “I remember Wolfenstein like it was yesterday because of the corridors, and I remember shooting Hitler. I didn’t even know who Hitler was.”

Now, Bashore—who is also known by his gaming alias ‘Avialence,’ or Avi for short—has turned that passion for gaming into a career. As senior community manager for Skillshot Media, Bashore is a “jack of all trades,” handling events, social media, community engagement and more.

A fairly new company, Skillshot Media is a subsidiary of Hi-Rez Studios, the developer of popular video games like Smite and Paladins. Skillshot’s primary role is to organize esports leagues, or competitive gaming leagues, for these games, similar to how Major League Baseball organizes a league for baseball. Esports leagues are still emerging and growing in popularity, but with millions of viewers and billions of dollars in revenue, it’s clear that they aren’t going anywhere.

However, Bashore wasn’t always interested in esports, and, at one point, was embarrassed to even admit he played video games because they weren’t as widespread, popular and accepted as they are now.

Growing up gaming

Bashore’s elementary years were spent in Richmond, Virginia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Because of his father’s human resources job with Alcoa, the Bashores found themselves moving often. Eventually, the family ended up in Knoxville as Nicholas began middle school.

Video games were especially appealing during these years, because Bashore could immerse himself in other worlds even as his world changed constantly. Around this time, Bashore saw a magazine showcasing the newly-released World of Warcraft—the massively popular online game from Blizzard Entertainment.

Curious, he bought the magazine, went home, and used the “demo disc” included with the magazine to try the game. Bashore was hooked instantly.

“I would go to school, do all my homework really fast, make sure I was doing everything so that I could play [World of Warcraft],” Bashore said. “It sounds weird, but gaming was definitely an addiction when I was young. It was like, ‘I don't want to be in the real world, so I'm going to prioritize being in these other worlds instead.’”

Bashore was so enthralled by the game that he would stay up as late as possible at night to play. Even after his parents would send him to bed, he would sneak out of his room and log back on to the computer to continue playing. Eventually, Bashore’s late night gaming would lead to him falling asleep in class, and he became unable to keep up with assignments. At this point, his parents stepped in and limited his access to the game.

“My dad would tape my controllers to the ceiling in my closet so I couldn't reach them. He would password lock the computer every other day so that I couldn't play [World of Warcraft] even if I snuck down,” Bashore said. “In hindsight, I really appreciate that, because someone had to do it.”

Around the same time, Bashore moved again, this time to Cleveland, Ohio. In Cleveland, he met two classmates, Jacob and Jared, who shared his love of gaming.

“That's when I learned playing [World of Warcraft] can be cool, and it's okay if you know everything about Fallout 3,” Bashore said. “I started to realize I can be whoever I want, and who cares what people think? So I started wearing all my gaming shirts.”

Bashore went out more to spend time with his new friends. Even when Bashore, Jacob and Jared weren’t hanging out together in person, they would be hanging out together online. In fact, Jacob and Jared eventually reintroduced Bashore to World of Warcraft, which he continues to play to this day (in a much healthier way). He’s also still friends with both.

Casual gamer turned content creator

Inspired by the content he had seen on YouTube, Bashore decided to make short guide videos about various parts of World of Warcraft. To his surprise, the videos became fairly popular, so he made more and more as he finished high school.

Bashore’s videos caught the attention of Gamers Weekly, a gaming website, and he began producing articles for the website. To learn to be a better content creator and writer, Bashore decided to study communication at Pellissippi State Community College before transferring to UT's School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

“To be honest with you, I had no real idea what I wanted to do [at UT],” Bashore said. “I was just like, ‘They told me writing is cool; I like writing.’”

While at UT, Bashore expanded his content creation skills even further by trying live-streaming on Twitch, a popular website where viewers can watch and interact with people playing games. Like with his YouTube videos, he was surprised when his channel became popular. His role with Gamers Weekly began to expand too, as he began to visit and cover major gaming events and conventions like the Rooster Teeth Expo.

Bashore would help run Knoxville gaming events, too. As a broadcast assistant, he was the person making sure everything wasn’t falling apart.

“It was really hard to afford actual nice cameras. So [the organizers] used security cameras, which is really funny,” Bashore said. “We would tape up PVC pipe, because we could make it high enough to go behind the monitors, and then we would zip tie the security cameras to the PVC pipe.”

During long broadcasts, Bashore would have to run around replacing the zip-ties as they broke or slipped.

“We did that hundreds of times,” Bashore said. “It was hilarious, man. But it was a lot of fun.”

Finding a career in gaming

Bashore’s biggest break would come from his UT classes, when professor Melanie Faizer invited Hannah Margaret Allen, a UT journalism alumna, to talk about a new website called Inverse that she was involved with. Faizer gave Bashore the alumnus’ contact info, and he was eventually offered an internship to build Inverse’s gaming column. Bashore’s column became so successful that the website eventually hired an entire writing staff to cover gaming.

As a games journalist with Inverse (and previously Gamers Weekly), Bashore had the opportunity to meet the people who developed massively popular game series like Halo and Call of Duty. He also was introduced to figures like Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, who hosts “The Titan Games,” a series developed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on NBC.

After Bashore graduated from UT, he began to write full-time for the website. However, the website had high expectations, and eventually most of the gaming staff was laid off. Bashore survived, but was left with the content expectations formerly fulfilled by an entire team.

Around the same time, a friend he had met in Knoxville reached out about a position at Hi-Rez Studios in Atlanta. He decided to interview with them for a community manager position. Hi-Rez hired him, and since then he has worked his way up. At first, his junior-level role was focused on gaming, but he eventually moved into a more senior position in esports.

“I could have never imagined being in esports, I'm not going to lie,” Bashore said. “But it was this really cool combination of community, and really bringing all these technical skills and stuff, not just to pro players or clients, but also to the general public through charity events and partnerships. That's what really sold me.”

Encouragement goes a long way

One thing about Bashore’s experience at UT stands out to him, or more specifically, one person.

“Melanie Faizer is by far one of the people who has had the most influence on my life and my career,” Bashore said. “A lot of people would tell me... if you want to do journalism, you have to do news anchor, or newspaper. Bare minimum—online stuff. So that was the core focus there.

“But Melanie was the first person to tell me, like, ‘You want to do video game journalism? Hell yeah. How can I help?’”

Reflecting on his experience at UT, Bashore encourages students to use the resources at their disposal to create connections.

“College is the bare minimum now. A lot of people go into college and they say, ‘Alright, well, if I get a degree, I'll get a job,’ and that's just not the way it works,” Bashore said. “The only reason I am where I am today is because of connections.”

Accepting himself

While he once was worried it would make him a social outcast, gaming has served as an important outlet for Bashore, and has helped him build the connections that have been crucial to building his career. Although he kept his love for gaming secret for much of his childhood years, Bashore now wears his love for games on his sleeve—literally.

“One of the big milestones for me with my social anxiety was getting video game tattoos. That sounds so stupid to I'm sure a lot of people, right? But it's one of those things where. . . a t-shirt, I can take off. A gaming hat, I can twist backwards or whatever, but tattoos are on my body forever,” Bashore said. “So when I sat down and I said, ‘I'm getting Charmander on my left bicep for the rest of my life,’ it was kind of one of those moments where I busted out of that obstacle, and I was like, ‘Hey. I'm here; I'm a nerd; I'm proud. I love Pokemon. I'll be 80 and love Pokemon.’”

Now that he’s established himself in the industry, Bashore has truly found a home in gaming. Bashore’s passion for gaming drives him to work hard to grow the industry.

“Turning my hobby of gaming into a career, it was probably the scariest thing I've ever done, because when you turn something into your career, you ruin it for yourself,” Bashore said. “But I firmly believe in making a difference, and I think about that every day. I'll walk out of work, I'm like, ‘Did I make a difference today?’

“People pour their hearts and souls into these games. . . I want to share the stories behind them.”

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