[This article was originally published on Medium on July 24, 2018.]
Let’s say you woke up today and spent a little extra time — maybe 10 minutes — doing something with your hair, just to mix it up a little. Gel, mousse, wax, hairspray, blow-drying, straightening, curling, whatever. You go through your day and run into that person who you think is pretty cute and want to impress. They take one look at you and screw up their face into a dismayed expression: “Uh, what happened to your hair?”
Depending on your mood and self-esteem, you might respond in one of several ways:
A. Laugh it off — “Yeah, haha, guess I went overboard with the gel this morning.”
B. Stammer and run away — “Ummmm … SEEYOULATER!”
C. Fake it and slink away — “Heh, yeah, guess I … forgot to blow dry … gotta go now … ”
D. Ain’t no thang — “Oh, you know, just something I’m trying out. What do you think?”
Each response has psychological consequences that interact with a concept named “emotional resilience.”
Today I was a featured guest on WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show out of Connecticut for their esports episode. I talked about the origins of pro esports in South Korea, StarCraft at the Pyeongchang Olympics, diversity and inclusivity in the Super Smash Bros. Melee competitive community, matchfixing in esports, sports investment in the Overwatch League, and more. I spoke alongside T.L. Taylor (MIT & AnyKey) and Michael Brooks (National Association of Collegiate Esports). Check it out!
[This article was originally published in the Aikido Journalin January 2018.]
We are in the middle of a very interesting time in human history. It’s true that violence overall has declined massively from the days of human sacrifice and laws that enshrined dueling to the death as a legitimate way to resolve grievances. However, we still find ourselves in a world where it seems harder and harder to communicate and collaborate with people who don’t share our views, and where people can still become victims through no fault of their own via terrorist attacks or bombs that were not carefully deployed in wars.
The human race desperately needs a philosophy that can teach us empathy for each other and demonstrates that even adversaries can work together for a greater good. In other words, it’s the perfect time for aikido to shine.
[This article was originally published on ESPN.com/esports on January 12, 2017.]
The year is 2008, and the world is suddenly not what it was.
You are in Seoul, South Korea, in a small television studio, giggling teens play hooky on a weekday afternoon. There’s a stage a few feet in front of them with a TV desk framed by two glass-enclosed booths, each large enough to fit a single person sitting down.
The house lights dim, the cameras start rolling, the announcers take their places at the desk, and two quiet-looking young men in racing-style jerseys enter each booth after shaking hands. An enormous screen above the stage comes to life.
The screen shows scenes of an alien landscape, but to those in attendance, it is as familiar as a map of their own neighborhood. It’s StarCraft, a popular computer game that has entertained players for years across the world. But here, those who came to fill the studio’s stands are not playing right now – they’re watching. And the intense faces of the men on stage clearly show that this is not just for fun.
For a first-time observer, the experience would be akin to a casual pickup basketball player watching an NBA game for the first time and being treated to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James’ mastery of the ball and the court. Teens gasp and cheer as the announcers in suits shout unabashedly as if calling the blow-by-blow of a title fight.
They won’t believe you back at home. But that’s OK, because you’ve just seen the future, and it’s going to be the coolest thing ever.
It’s match point at the grand finals of a huge StarCraft II tournament. One player booth contains a professional Zerg player complete with massive headphones and stoic concentration. The other booth is … empty. After Zerg wins in the late game with an unexpected tech switch to infestor/broodlord, the crowd goes wild. The pro player comes out on stage and accepts a huge trophy. They are proud not only of winning, but of dealing a blow to their opponent the likes of which could contribute to technology benefiting millions of people worldwide.
At BlizzCon earlier this month in Anaheim, California, Blizzard announced an ambitious new project in collaboration with DeepMind, a leading artificial intelligence research company acquired by Google in 2014. After creating the AlphaGo AI that bested the world’s top Go player earlier this year, DeepMind’s next groundbreaking challenge will be StarCraft II. If DeepMind is able to build an AI that could learn how to beat top players such as Byun “ByuN” Hyun Woo in the complex real-time strategy, tactics and resource management of this game, it would be a giant step forward in AI research. And with DeepMind’s interest in using its research to solve hard problems in areas such as healthcareand energy efficiency on a massive scale, this Starcraft II project could impact the whole world.
Sitting in the audience at the San Jose Civic Center on the last day of Genesis 3, I could feel the crowd settling down a bit after watching a nail-biting best of five between C9.Mango and Liquid`Hungrybox in the losers bracket finals (or “alternative bracket to success finals”) of melee singles. A fellow behind me suddenly yelled, “Get f*cked, Hungrybox!” I wasn’t sure how to react, but before I could decide, the person next to me turned around in his seat to face the guy who yelled. “That wasn’t very nice,” he commented, firmly but not antagonistically. “Yeah,” I bandwagoned, turning around slightly myself. And … that was it. There was no argument about who was right, no defensiveness or insults, no protests about whether or not Hungrybox deserved it. The yeller accepted the rebuke and didn’t do it again.
What’s the magic formula for creating a winning eSports team for team games like MOBAs and some FPSes? If you go by season preview articles or “meet the team” video interviews that pop up around large tournaments, the recipe sounds pretty similar for everyone: you win at the game by optimizing the way the players, individually and as a group, interact with the game.
The thing is, if all of these teams are basically approaching this question in the same way, then tournaments might as well be a craps shoot (or go to the team that has the most money to pay top players). How do organizations like Dignitas, Team Liquid, Na`Vi, Fnatic, or Team Vitality find the edge that distinguishes them and translates into consistently stellar track records?
Fnatic’s new League of Legends roster. Source: Fnatic.com.
TL; DR – This year might be the beginning of the end of StarCraft as a dominant eSports scene, or it could lead to a thousand pylons blooming all over the world as the Korean juggernaut is reined in. Maybe both. It’ll be an exciting year.
Tomorrow, at CES in Las Vegas, Turner Sports and WME/IMG will be hosting a $50K Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Championship. It’s not a bad chunk of change for the teams that battled their way from a pool of 1,100 in the qualifiers in Dec 2015 (although it’s a far cry from the prize pools in top-tier professional DotA and League of Legends tournaments), but the more exciting part of the championship is the opportunity to take part in TBS’s brand new televised CS: GO tournament. There will be two 10-week tournaments in 2016 in what TBS is calling the ELeague, with a combined prize pool of $2.4M. Tournament content will be mostly available online but some will be televised as well. Check out more details here: http://fortune.com/2015/12/17/turner-esports-ces-2016/. The finals of the Championship, Lounge Gaming vs. OpTic Gaming, will be broadcast on FACEIT’s Twitch channel: http://www.twitch.tv/faceittv.