How I (Accidentally) Became a Sports Fan

When I was young, I used to watch the football games with my dad every Sunday night. I didn’t know what was going on, but I had nothing better to do and it was a good chance to spend some time with the people I found interesting at the time. I even played some baseball and soccer in rec leagues until I was about 13. But as I grew older and drifted away from my parents, I also drifted away from sports; I just didn’t derive any particular enjoyment from watching a guy throw a ball to another guy, and I didn’t get the frenetic energy sports fan got when “their” team won. I just preferred to play games and study music.

So you imagine my surprise when I suddenly realized, sitting alone watching the finals of the Mid-Season Brawl on mute using library wifi, that I had become a sports fan…just not the type I had always imagined in my head.

Everyone knows that guy who insists on going to a bar for lunch so he can “watch the game” or that person who plans out epic Superbowl parties or the person who listens to the ball game on the radio during their commute back home at night. We all know those people who thrive on competition and bracketeering and meticulously tracking stats and arguing with co-workers over who the greatest quarterback of all time is. I never saw myself as one of those people and I never understood their obsessive need to be involved with the sport constantly (especially if they didn’t play it themselves), but in the arena of esports, I’m beginning to realize I’m exactly like those people. I am those people.

During the Mid-Season Brawl, I technically had no work to do outside of keeping up with the LiquidHeroes bingo and tweeting out any boxes we had checked off. I had no obligation to watch all the games, but I did anyway. I followed the games religiously, kept notes wherever possible, and paid attention to the drafts of each team and how the metagame was evolving. Unfortunately, I had to miss at least two full days driving my mother back and forth between the house she’s fixing up and home (a two hour round trip, and up to five or six hours in between transit), but it didn’t stop me from trying to get all the information I could.

I checked Twitter and Discord constantly for hints about what was going on. I didn’t have the data (or battery power) to stream everything from my phone, so I had to rely on wifi wherever I could get it, so I drove to libraries, coffee shops, Waffle Houses, etc. And for the first time, I noticed that I was moving outside the realm of pure analysis and self-improvement to actual fandom; I suddenly understood all of those crazy emotions people went through watching a football or soccer game.

Esports is all about the competition and the storylines. It’s about the underdog slaying the giant. It’s about meaningless but thoroughly entertaining games. And it’s about building a community of people that will stick together because of this one random thing they all have in common.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened. I remember watching LoL Worlds in the university library while studying journalism last year. I remember staying up ultra late just to watch Korean SC2 players play the most epic GSL finals of all time. I’ve experienced it all, even in games I didn’t play. But that moment watching the Mid-Season Brawl was a wake-up call. It turns out I have a lot more in common with sports fans than I thought.

The verge of success.

More of a personal blog.

For the last two years, I have been on a constant grind toward trying to be successful. I’ve had some success, but at the current time of writing, I’m again without a job and struggling to pay bills. I’ve learned a lot over the last two years and have significantly improved in several areas, but it is somewhat demoralizing to find myself in almost the same situation as when I started. Ego aside, I think my resume is starting to finally shape up, and my skills speak for themselves. But I keep on getting rejected over and over and over by companies and organizations I know I could thrive in.

I know that rejection is a basic part of life and professional success—but goddamnit, it hurts like hell.

Watching all of the HGC teams this week that tried their absolute hardest and failed is heart-wrenching for me because I know exactly what it feels like to put all of your hopes and dreams and ideas and effort into something, work as hard as possible, and still fail. I know exactly how shitty that feels.

For a long time, I’ve felt like I’m standing on the edge of a precipice, wondering what it would feel like to fall and lose everything. I feel so close to success yet so close to complete and abject failure…it doesn’t feel like a straight line. I have actually stood on the edge of a cliff, on the top of a building, and wondered what it would be like to fall. It has been a sickeningly dark thought that has followed me around constantly in the last two years: that fear (and curiosity) of losing everything.

Still, I try to stick to what I know, and what I know is that I will be successful in some measure if I just keep trying. I hope.

Practice Habits, The “Problem With NA”

Continuing my trend of sitting down and writing daily (I did write some between blog posts, they’ve just been scattered around or remain unpublished for the moment), I wanted to talk today about poor practice habits and what I see as the “problem with NA”.

Consistency and quality are the building blocks of greatness; you can’t have only one and still become the best of the best. In everything that I do, from writing articles to blog posts to making videos, etc, I try to make sure I’m following that mantra: consistency and quality above all else. Sometimes this makes work tedious and pedantic, but I know the end result will be something good.

The same goes for competition. The best competitors are ones who practice not only improving the quality of their play but also their consistency. You can be the most talented, most skilled player in the world, but if you can’t play your best game every game, then you will never be a great player. That’s the cold, hard truth, and it’s one that I don’t think many progamers in North America have quite taken to heart. In fact, I think the region is so steeped in bad practice habits that the idea of systematically building quality and consistency has been completely lost in the fray of constantly grinding. It’s common for competitors (or artists or really anyone) to get caught up in mindlessly grinding and failing to improve, but it is especially prevalent in the NA scene, and it’s evident if you look at the results for most esports competitions.

It’s important to note that I’m not making a blanket statement about ALL players. In my opinion, there are quite a few standout players in the Heroes scene like Glaurung, Fury, and Fan who are relentlessly critical of themselves and constantly in search of areas to improve. If you watched the recent scrims with Team 8 and Dyrus, you’re probably aware of how insanely positive Glaurung is for his teammates and how much he takes the blame on himself. Not only is this admirable in the sense of putting the team before himself, but it shows that he is never happy with his play just being “good enough”. The goal of performance should be perfection, even if you never achieve it.

Still, the few standout players can’t redeem the region as a whole. I’ve talked with quite a few people about what the “problem” is, and far too often we come to the conclusion that it’s some sort of cultural problem. Maybe the US (and/or Canada) is far too forgiving of mistakes, maybe we’re not taught to pursue perfection the same way as other countries, maybe we’re just not dedicated to practice, etc. I can’t speak for what the exact reason is, but one thing I know for sure is that players and teams often have very bad practice habits which prevent them from improving at the same rate as other regions.

Last year, I sat in on a scrim session with Astral Authority (the Gust or Bust team, not the Murloc Geniuses team) and realized that they were getting almost nothing out of it. For almost six hours, one player experimented with drafts while the rest of the team just played through the game. There was little talk about why strategies or drafts worked or didn’t work, and for the most part, they seemed completely unconcerned with the outcome of their scrims (final result was 1-5, I believe).

In the final game, they drafted a complete troll comp and just played around and fed. I was trying out for coach, so I asked them a bit about their practice regiment and whether they were concerned about the results, and they told me that “other people don’t get their practice habits” and that they didn’t want to take scrims too seriously and get burnt out.

This is purely anecdotal evidence of one scrim for one team, but I get the creeping suspicion that the lassaiz-faire attitude is common among a lot of the teams in North America. To be clear, I’m not advocating that practice should be super serious at all times; in fact, it’s really important to make games out of all practice of any kind to keep yourself engaged. However, goal-setting has to underline all practice habits or else you are learning nothing and stagnating.

Consistency is a big problem in North America too. During this season of HGC, only Tempo Storm has fared well in terms of consistency, and even then, they did have a few days where their drafting and in-game performance wasn’t quite on par with their usual.

Everyone else was a trainwreck. Team 8 was very consistent for the first half of the season, but once April rolled around, their play fell apart and they suffered three crushing defeats in a row against teams that they should have been able to beat (some of this has been blamed on scheduling and scrim time, but I don’t believe those factors alone contributed to the overall drop in play). Naventic and No Tomorrow got dumpstered on all season, but on good days, they were able to beat or go even with some of the teams in the region. And don’t even get me started on GFE….

Compare that to Europe. Fnatic and Dignitas were absolutely solid throughout the entire season, and although Liquid had a bit of an issue in the second half, they were very consistent overall. Team expert, Playing Ducks, and Tricked had widely varying levels of play, but for the most part they beat the teams they were supposed to beat (Synergy/beGenius). There are no examples of the last place team beating the first place team (Gale Force eSports vs No Tomorrow).

Again, the lack of consistency comes with bad practice habits, in my opinion. A strict practice schedule and clearly defined goals eliminate the possibility of “being out of practice” or unclipping your mind and muscles from the actions they’re supposed to do automatically. Quality of play will always vary, especially in a team environment, but the standard deviation should be minimal. You cannot become the best team in the world or even the region without a high level of consistency.

Mary Oliver, a famous poet, once wrote that in order to find inspiration, you had to cultivate it with daily practice; in other words, sitting down and thinking seriously about your work every day. Even if the result doesn’t feel inspired, you will eventually train yourself to call on that inspiration at will.

What I DON’T think the problem is is ego. No one goes 0-3 and thinks “I’m still the best player in the world, no one can touch me”, at least no sane person. North American players are well known to make excuses and play the blame game, and I honestly don’t believe that’s a product of arrogance as much as it’s not being able to locate problems in their practice habits. The game is incredibly complex, and there are a lot of reasons why people win or lose. If you don’t have a habit of being relentlessly critical of yourself, it’s very easy to overlook your own play and blame another player or team. Sometimes the reasons are even murkier, and a frustrated player will lash out to the nearest reason like a bad draft or a bad bracket.

It’s hard to pinpoint mistakes…that’s honestly a skill all its own, but it’s one that separates decent players from great players, and it’s built through having lots of targeted practice. Think about a choral master who, after years of practice finding his own voice and listening to others, can find a single wrong note in a chorus of 100 people. That’s the level to aim for.

The Spectator-Analyst, Qualified Opinions

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down at my computer every day and made a concerted effort to write something. For whatever reason, I guess I felt like regressing to that “writing only as inspiration comes” method would somehow serve me better. Consider this post the first of what will probably eventually become a failed attempt at consistency.

It’s easy to talk about myself and how I have problems, etc., etc., but I’m going to try and focus on a more analytical approach to a random subject and try to get some ideas that I’ve had in my head out and onto the page. Today’s topic: the spectator-analyst and the hoax of qualified opinions.

The Spectator-Analyst

In short, the spectator-analyst is the person who watches the game from afar without the burden of actually playing. A more direct definition: a backseat driver.

We’ve all seen it a thousand times. Zuna tries to make a huge play and ends up finding himself caught in the middle of the opposing team with no support. “ZunaFeed” and “LUL” fill the Twitch chat as the viewers work themselves into a frenzy over what appears to be the dumbest play ever, and Reddit posts immediately crop up criticizing the player for his poor choices and/or his mechanical errors. The casters try to make sense of it, but the one story on everyone’s mind is how “retarded” you have to be to make a play like that. If you’ve found yourself saying the same things, don’t worry—you’re not alone.

I’m just using Zuna as an example here, but this sort of thing happens to even the most consistent players in almost any competitive scene. Whether you play Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends, basketball, or badminton, there will always be mobs of people trying to tear down your play and explain the what the proper decision was.

But is that okay?

Let’s be real. The skill range of Twitch chat is comprised scores of Bronze-Plat players, quite a few Diamond/Masters players, and maybe a handful of Grandmasters. So it’s impossible to tell exactly who has an well-informed opinion on the subject unless you recognize the name. Still, all fall prey to the same pitfall: they all have the luxury of observing the game without having to go through the mental and physical rigor of actually playing it and worrying about the outcome. Spectator-analysts are movie-goers at a dollar theater with overpriced popcorn, worried only about the entertainment at hand and typically very little invested into the actual outcome of the match. They do not need to predict the movements of the players or make decisions themselves; they can simply sit back and watch the show.

This is the difficulty of being a spectator-analyst: knowing that you have full information of the game and a much clearer view of what either play should or should not have done in order to achieve the best outcome. While a player is juggling a multitude of things on top of the pressure of performance, the spectator can focus in on a single asset and analyze it well after the play occurred. They don’t have to keep up morale or make the next call.

That said, opinions from spectators with full vision and time to focus on the gameplay are not necessarily bad. An analyst almost always has full knowledge of the games he or she is studying, and their opinion can be valuable feedback from time to time; at the very least, it is good discussion for the fans and fanatics who make up a sports/esports fan base. The player themselves typically know what they did wrong (hindsight is 20/20), usually better than the majority of viewers. In the case of Zuna or other top tier players, the levels of decision making are usually far beyond the average spectator.

The Hoax of Qualified Opinions

Which brings me to my next point: everyone is still free to have an opinion. When Reddit blows up with bronze-level spectator-analysts trying to shove their way into the conversation and say something intelligent, it’s easy to call them out on their skill level on the basis that “they don’t know what they’re talking about”. In fact, this idea gets blown out of proportion to the degree that some will say only pros can realistically comment on other pros’ play, and sometimes even less successful pros get shit on for giving their opinions on top tier Korean players. It becomes a weird metagame of opinion-shaming those who are opinion-shaming pros by method of opinion.

This is unfair and unfounded. The best coaches and analysts in the world are nowhere near the level of their players. The best coaches in StarCraft and League of Legends were never the best players of all time, and some of them never even really played professionally at all—Coach Park of SKT1 and later CJ Entus comes to mind. As I suspected (and the Internet confirmed), there are many football coaches who have never even played organized football as well. Though it definitely helps to have a certain level of skill, understanding of the game comes in many shapes, and it’s not hard to put two and two together sometimes.

Therefore, I think it’s important to base your criticism of opinions on the merit of the argument rather than the player. One word posts that say “ZunaFeed” are poor excuses for actual analysis and can be ignored. However, even if someone is low ranked or not quite at the same level as the player they are criticizing, it is the value of their explanation that matters most. A logical rationale and thoughtful response demands some respect. If some of the details are wrong, feel free to set the record straight, but don’t be that person who assumed you have to be somehow qualified to have a good opinion.

TL;DR Be aware of your position as a spectator-analyst and have mercy on the players when they do what appears to be “stupid”. Criticism and discussion is warranted where necessary, but there is no such thing as a “qualified opinion”, only a good or bad one.


Anyhow, I have ranted for a bit. I haven’t slept in a while, so I’m going to try and sleep now haha. This post was inspired in part by Frictional Games’ developer blog, which I always enjoy reading.

Monthly Update – May 2017

Hey there, I’m back with another monthly update! Heads up, this one is a little heavier than the last one.

My last update happened to coincide with a change of tides and an optimistic outlook, so it naturally took on a good-natured and work-oriented tone. However, I want to delve a little bit deeper into my mind this month and explain exactly what’s going on in my brain because…it’s not that easy. You can say you want to do this and that or have aspirations or some grand plans, but it’s simply not that easy to make it a reality.

If you’d rather skip over my personal problems and get right into my work, just scroll down to the first heading.

So, if you follow my work, you will probably remember my unbelievably depressing New Year’s post. Admittedly, these are ghosts I walk around with all the time—will I ever be good enough? Am I inherently flawed? Why can’t I just work a job like a normal person? These nagging thoughts bite away and me and weaken my will to do work and create things, even during the best of times.

I also struggle a lot with self-image. I’ve never been particularly skinny, and I’ve always battled with obesity and healthy eating habits. A few years ago, I managed to whip myself into shape, lose 80 lbs, and get on a full vegetarian diet, but I have regressed almost completely since then. This is the particular reason why I struggle to do videos like the HotS Thoughts series, even though they are by far the easiest medium to work with. I just can’t look back at these videos with any sense of satisfaction because I hate my voice, I hate my face, and I honestly wouldn’t listen to me either. The ruthlessness with which I attack myself is something that I think drives a lot of my improvement in writing (and long ago, in music), but it certainly has some drawbacks in places where I have to show my face.

A few days ago, I grew restless at 3am and decided to go out for a drive. It’s the sort of restlessness you get from being idle, from feeling like you’re not moving or going anywhere worthwhile. This uneasy feeling visits me often at night. I ended up driving out to one of the parking decks on campus and going to the top level.

Before we go any further, I want to assure everyone that this isn’t a near-suicide story; I have had some terrible and strange thoughts, but I’ve never had a crystallized view of killing myself. You do not need to be frightened or worried for me.

As I stood at the top of the deck looking out across the athletic fields, I decided, at the very least, to do some walking across the deck from one side to the other. Inevitably, that turned into a bit of jogging and running. But by the third lap back, I could already feel my muscles start to fail, my breathing becoming heavy, and my heart pounding in my chest. Nauseous, I collapsed on the ground and tried to control my breathing and avoid throwing up.

It was in this moment that I sort of floated outside my body, and the words of Shane Koyczan came to me: “Know that now is only a moment, and that if today is as bad as it gets, understand that by tomorrow, today will have ended.” And for a moment, I had a sort of out-of-body experience—this, of course, may have just been a minor hallucination due to lack of oxygen to my brain—where I could see myself lying on the ground pitifully trying not to throw up and thinking, “Remember this. Remember this moment and know that tomorrow you will be, by whatever small margin, better than this.”

So I’ve been working on my fitness levels again. And though it’s only been a few days, I’m hoping that again I can continue to rally and press forward each and every day. It’s important to remember my weak moments and use them as motivation to move me ahead, however marginally, toward my goals and the things that I want in life. I will struggle, and some days will be bad, but I’m hoping that I can continue to move forward through that stress and strain into better pastures.

For a long time, I’ve been feeling like I’m standing on the precipice of a valley and intertwined are the mixed feelings of fear that I’m going to fall and wondering if I have the strength to make it to the top. It is a precarious balance that keeps me awake at night far longer than I should be awake, feverishly working on some project trying to bring it to fruition; and at the same time, the slow deprivation of energy that robs me of all will to do anything at all. I recently heard that the original StarCraft team worked crunch time for 8 months; I understand that completely because I’ve been working crunch time for two years straight trying to find a “finished product”. I have no idea if I’m close or not, but I try to tell myself that I’m in the home stretch every day.

Anyway.

Plans for May

After losing my only steady job at Inven Global last month, I’ve been desperately trying to search for a new job that’s right for me. Unfortunately, I’ve either heard absolutely nothing from the people I’ve tried contacting or I’ve been turned down for whatever reason. Rejection obviously sucks.

On the bright side, various opportunities have arisen out of seemingly nowhere. For instance, I was asked to start casting the Afreeca Starleague (ASL) with a friend, and it turns out that’s actually a paying gig! It’s still pocket change compared to what I need to pay the bills, but it’s a start. I’ve also been contacted by a few organizations for an opportunity as managing editor, which is the dream job (if it pays).

My new logo has given me a bit of a credibility boost, but I still need to stay diligent with my work. Aside from my day to day work at LiquidHeroes (yes, I read and edit ALL of the recaps and articles that get published), I’ve just been trying to find the right angle for my next project. I have a lot of ideas, but I’m not sure which medium I want to use. There are so many cool ideas that fit better into video, but as mentioned earlier, I have a very difficult time motivating myself to sit in front of a camera and speak, so I may end up just writing some stuff down.

I want to continue doing a variety of Heroes content, from basic guides and articles to feature pieces and interviews. Right now, many of the pros are unbelievably busy with playoffs coming up, but afterwards I would really like to get in touch with people and do a lot of interviews during the off season. (I’ve got my eye on Dyrus if he decides to actually switch to HotS as a progamer).

I’ve been spending most of my time playing StarCraft: Brood War recently. Even though I’m still a D- scrub, I think I’m improving fairly quickly, and I hope to start working on some educational content and/or game analysis. My knowledge from StarCraft 2 carries over only insomuch as being able to watch other people play and figure things out, but I feel like that’s enough to properly create content that is both intelligent and engaging. Fun fact: before I switched to HotS, I wanted to be a SC2 version of Day9.

Although I rarely play or watch Warcraft III and Battlerite, I am still an avid supporter of their esports, and I’ll continue to at least give everyone updates on that scene.

Other than the nebulous goal of “make more stuff”, I will be working hard to post a little bit more regularly on my Discord and create positive discussion. I’m a big fan of building communities, and even though I get literally nothing out of it, I want to create a place where people can talk about games, daily life, and progress in a healthy environment.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in June!

P.S. This is the month I have to evaluate my financial situation and make a decision on whether or not I can move to California in the fall. I will post an update on whatever I decide.

Monthly Update – April 2017

I’ve been working on building my brand for awhile, including blogging, but I have always had trouble writing consistently. A few months ago when I launched my Patreon, I swore to do weekly updates with what I was working on, my thoughts on the previous week, etc., but it never really materialized the way I wanted it to. However, I’m still dedicated to doing that sort of thing, so I decided to start up monthly updates available to everyone (not just patrons).

First of all, the Inven Global job is RIP. Today is my last day, and I’ll be pursuing other avenues for future articles. It was an executive decision from Inven to let me go, but it ended mutually, as I was already looking for other jobs. They’ve been nothing but kind to me but, for lack of a better phrase, it just wasn’t a great fit. I’ll still be doing primarily Heroes of the Storm coverage as well as StarCraft: Brood War and a few other minor titles. Not sure exactly where I’ll end up right now, but I’ve received a few offers and I’m actively searching for more.

Second, I have a TON of personal projects that I’ve put aside so that I could write elsewhere, so I’ll be picking up those again during this lull between jobs. I just recently got a new logo (courtesy of @TraZZZZZZ), and I’ll be revamping my site/Patreon/etc. with the new branding. Super excited about all of that!

I still have a lot of big plans, and I want to continue to improve. If you see any job postings, interesting articles, etc., send them my way!

Hopefully I’ll stay consistent with these blog posts and keep everyone up to speed on what I’m doing. If a particularly important series of events happens, I may blog more often. It just depends.

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @EsportsJohn or support my Patreon. <3.

HeroesHearth launches a new HotS only social media site

As of today, HeroesHearth is officially online. Touted as a Heroes of the Storm-exclusive social media network, HeroesHearth offers several standard networking features alongside some unique game-specific tools.

HeroesHearth is a social media site like Facebook or Twitter with one small twist: it’s designed entirely around the Heroes of the Storm community. Think about your Facebook account—now imagine your friends list with only people interested in talking about HotS instead of all of your relatives and friends from high school you never talk to anymore.

Formerly TheNexusGG, the site has undergone a complete makeover since the server crash three months ago. In addition to standard features like like status updates, likes, and comments, it also includes several tools specific to Heroes of the Storm including a blog tool, a build publisher, a tier list creator, and a LFG finder.

What makes this different from the Heroes subreddit or any other forum? HeroesHearth is a one-stop shop for all things Heroes-related. If you want to chat with James “Bakery” Baker—the real one—you can easily strike up a conversation or read his latest blog on how pro players aren’t necessarily great balance designers. If you’re looking for a group of similarly skilled friends to queue up Team League with, you can find them. If you want to show off a cool new build you just discovered on Gazlowe, go for it!

The site itself is sleek, modern, and professional. The main page is a standard news feed with a sidebar of recent blog posts, trending tags, Reddit history, and a list of streamers. Some of the controls aren’t very intuitive, but it doesn’t take long to figure out what all of the buttons do. Also, night mode is available, which is always a plus.

Unfortunately, the site does contain some ads, but according to the HeroesHearth Patreon, the site will be become self-sufficient at their first goal of $500 per month.

It’s not clear if the site will be self-sustaining in the long run, but it’s an interesting take on a classic idea in an effort to build a close-knit community of like-minded fans. At the very least, it’s worth signing up and trying it out.

For more updates, you can also follow HeroesHearth on Twitter.

Protests and the post-modern world.

I’m not really a political person. I’ve never really cared about the studied games of politics or social change, but the last election has got me thinking quite a bit. To some degree, I think that’s also the result of getting into journalism: it awakens a relentless search for the truth within you. It’s not okay to see what’s going on and ignore it or stay confused by it; it’s important to be informed, well-studied, and open to the possibility that things aren’t what they appear to be.

There are three simple parts to current politics in the US:

  • Trump is not qualified to be the president
  • The political agenda of the right wing is worrying on many levels
  • The left is not doing a great idea of getting their ideas across

The election and inauguration of Trump is unusual and deeply disturbing on many levels. Worldwide, we took it as a joke for a very long time, but now that things are becoming real, there’s more and more cause for worry. Ignoring the fact that Hilary Clinton was running against Trump, there is no doubt that he should have never been elected as president. He has no (read that as 0) experience in government and governmental planning and is not equipped to play the political mind games in Washington. He has a short fuse and often slips with incredibly offensive and nasty remarks. He has several conflicts of interest while in office, especially regarding his properties and business around the world. He is currently, right now this second, embroiled in several unresolved legal cases. These are just a few of the reasons why he is not qualified.

The executive branch is not the only Republican-owned branch of law, the legislative and even the judicial branches are securely in control of those in charge of conservative policy makers. The laws enacted and enforced over the next four years will stick much harder than those that faced violent opposition from an opposing party. The right wing agenda is straight up scary for a number of reasons. We’ve made a lot of progress socially and environmentally over the last fifteen years, and that is being threatened right now.

Perhaps the biggest and most important issue that is that of climate change. Increasing restrictions placed on businesses and factories worldwide in the last decade or so are super important for slowing (and eventually reversing) the problems of climate change. There is literally nothing more important in the entire world. If we do not fix things now, the entire human race will die out. That’s not a panic statement; it’s a fact. Like we work hard to make money so that our children can have a better future, we should be looking to lower our greenhouse emissions for the benefit of our offspring. The world won’t end in 10 or 20 years, not even for a hundred, but greenhouse gases can reach a critical tipping point where we can’t save the world, so we need to start now. The push for deregulation and the removal of environmental strictures from the right wing is incredibly dangerous, as the US is one of the world leaders in emissions and energy conservation. Analogy: just like a bad team in Heroes of the Storm, one bad teammate can drag the entire team down.

Other issues like women’s reproductive rights, healthcare, and racism are also important. There is a lot of law already in motion to undo a lot of the progress we’ve made and return us to a previous time. Humanity is, essentially, moving backwards in a modern, global culture. We live in a world society in the modern world; you can tune into happenings on the other side of the world as if it’s in your living room—and it is. Now, more than ever, we are all interconnected and intertwined in the strangest and closest ways. The actions of anyone, individual or government, has far-reaching effects on the entire world.

Right wing agenda has told us that it’s important to serve ourselves first and place importance on our needs before those of others. Make America Great Again.

But it’s not a war of us vs them. Nationalism is a thing of the past, extinct the moment we were able to reach out across the endless sea of darkness and speak directly to someone just like us who has feels fear, joy, disappointment, motivation. We no longer live in a world where somehow the people on the other side of an invisible line are dumb creatures we can’t possibly understand. We can relate to one another.

And yet, this is where the left has failed pretty hard in the last few months. For those that don’t understand why people are protesting: it’s because they’re angry and afraid of losing their rights and want their voice to be heard. I feel like this hasn’t been clearly articulated, but it’s evident from how many people care. On the other side, there are hard-working individuals who support Trump and truly and desperately want what’s best for the country. There is middle ground between the parties, even though we don’t like to admit it. Our approaches and even our solutions may differ widely, but we can still take comfort in assuaging each other’s worries and finding some compromise that will work for all of us.

“Punching a Nazi” is not a compromise, it is an exercise in futility. Violence begets violence, and does not create a middle ground which allows us to understand and work with one another.

There is no doubt that great changes will happen in this age. This era of social change was long overdue, and it is only beginning. I never thought I would see the government use tear gas and flashbangs on civilians in my lifetime, but it’s happening and it will continue to happen. There have been several protests, riots, and social media Tweetstorms over the last few months, and there will be many more. Voices will find ways to be heard; my only plea is that we attempt to find a middle ground.

Warcraft 3 is actually amazing.

A few days ago, I was turned onto the Grand Finals of this tournament by RallyJaffa via Twitter, and I have been obsessive about it ever since. I was aware that WC3 was still alive in China, and I knew names like 120, TH000, and Lyn, but I didn’t really give it much attention until recently. I didn’t realize how godlike 120 was or the extreme skill it took to play this game until I looked at it from a fresh perspective.

Warcraft 3 was my first real Blizzard game, and I played it all the way through middle and high school. I never got much into competitive or paid attention to the pro scene (though I had arbitrarily decided that I admired SK.insomnia and hated SK.Madfrog); at the time, I was pretty vaguely aware of what “good” and “bad” play was. Plateauing at around level 20, I was pretty much a scrub with very poor mechanics. It wasn’t until I started to play StarCraft II that I got much much better at gaming and started to appreciate esports more.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched the occasional WC3 stream, especially Grubby. It’s so fascinating to watch how he seemingly knows everything that’s happening without seeing a single unit; that sort of mastery comes from years and years of experience. Even so, watching this Chinese tournament has lit a fire underneath me. I really want to play and watch some WC3 now.

I reinstalled WC3 and began to play a few games against the AI for practice. My mechanics from SC2/BW have carried over pretty nicely, but I’m still having trouble aligning my builds perfectly and I know basically nothing about the maps. I’m going to be playing a bit over the next few weeks and maybe even stream some of my cringe-worthy play. Really excited to load up this game again. It’s a breath of fresh air after all the frustration I’ve faced while playing Heroes of the Storm recently.

P.S. Watch Game 5 of the Grand Finals between 120 and Lyn on Ancient Isles. You will not be disappointed.

Plans for 2017 and learning how to move forward.

A little over a week ago, I began the new year with a rather bleak summation of my progress in 2016. Nonetheless, my eyes are set forward and I have lot of plans for this year. I wanted to share some of my personal goals so that I can be kept accountable for my work.

Branding

Branding is a big part of my plans for 2017. My reputation, website, YouTube, Patreon, etc. have all been pretty miserable failures overall, and a lot of that has to do with my failure to represent myself well.

As of today, I finally secured @EsportsJohn on Twitter as well as got my name changed on Team Liquid. I plan on spending a lot of time cleaning up my website, YouTube, and Patreon and creating proper graphics and a logo for all of them. It will take a lot of time to learn the necessary skills and adjust everything to my liking, but I plan to put a huge emphasis on branding this year.

I will also finally invest in a domain name for my website so I no longer have to deal with the WordPress URL. I didn’t have any money to spend last year, but I think it’s an important part of my success to invest some money into my name this year.

Writing

I bounced around between several companies last year trying to find some semblance of stability doing something I enjoyed. It was a year of growing pains, and I think I’m the better for it.

Inven Global
In November, I began working as a copyeditor at Inven Global and have since been promoted to an editor of sorts. For the first time in a long time, I have a stable job that pays nicely, and I intend on keeping it for the duration of 2017. My focus at Inven is primarily news articles; currently I have the goal of writing at least one news article per day for a total of over 300 by year’s end. So far I’ve kept pretty close to that standard, and I’m hoping that no sudden depression will suppress me anytime soon.

LiquidHeroes
also joined back up with LiquidHeroes. It’s hard to describe exactly how I feel about the organization, but it’s sort of like my personal project. When I first came on board in late 2014, I didn’t expect to do much other than write a few guides for Heroes of the Storm since my interest in StarCraft II was waning, but it quickly grew into a lot more than that. Fueled by the passion from my co-editor Vaalia, I spurred on ahead and attempted to really make something out of the section. From July to December, our news coverage and feature article numbers more than doubled, and we were actually one of the top sources for Heroes of the Storm alongside GosuGamers and even The Score.

When I split from the org in March, we were commissioned by Blizzard to write all of the HGC coverage, and we received numerous invitations and paid trips to championships around the world. In short: we were the real deal. The material and organization of the group fell off the face of the earth after I left, and LiquidHeroes pretty much died. Coming back to the organization, it’s my hope that we can regain our previous standing and push things even further than before. If nothing else, I want to prove that I can run a group of writers and create a successful publication. My work there is primarily the work of a head editor, but I do plan on writing a few feature pieces for them.

Blogs
When I first opened this site, I told myself that I would write a blog post once every week at minimum, but I’ve published almost nothing. This year, that’s going to change. I’m not a very interesting person, I think, and most of my thoughts revolve around gaming; nonetheless, I really want to make a positive effort to write more often, even if it’s just a paragraph dealing with frustration or boredom.

There is no specific amount of posts I’m aiming for; this is more of a self-motivation thing.

Video

I originally opened a YouTube channel so I could just post things occasionally for articles, but at some point in 2015 I ended up getting caught up in several mediocre podcasts and eventually doing my own personal videos. As mentioned above, my YouTube was a complete failure. I put very little effort into the videos, and I got very little out of them. Both of the podcasts (Strat Chat and Nexus Nights) are now defunct, but at least I learned some valuable skills from them.

HotS Thoughts
The original thought process behind creating this was to educate people with informational videos that drew deeply on my own analytical knowledge of the game and statistics—basically, I wanted to be like a Day9 figure for Heroes of the Storm. Unfortunately, I think that train derailed at some point, and I got more and more complacent with the videos. On top of my insecurity about my weight and my self-image, the videos were very sporadic, often going several months before the next release.

My goal this year is to re-purpose this series and use it more for my personal branding. Video time lengths are getting seriously shortened, from 15-30 minutes down to about 5-8 minutes. Subjects will be straightforward and to the point without preamble or announcements or anything of the sort. I will include overlays as well to make it look a lot better. Release dates may still not be regular; it’s something I’m still working on.

Heroes History
Heroes History is a new video series I’m looking at creating. The idea is to discuss one specific event or set of events in Heroes history alongside a “guest historian”, which would be a pro player or a caster. The show will be tight, only around 3-8 minutes, and will include a lot of detailed facts and video clips. Again, I will also create a nice overlay so that things look professional.

Personal stuff

There are a million things I need to improve on personally…self-image, eating choices, work motivation, time management, etc., etc. The biggest ones (pun not intended) on my mind are losing weight and protecting my mental health. I’ve gained back a lot of weight in 2016, and it’s very disheartening trying to work it off, but I’m making an effort to walk/run or do some parkour every day. Physical well being is the first step to mental well being.

Mentally, I’m doing my best to avoid stressing myself out. After a year of examining my condition, I think I can generally recognize when my brain is speeding up or slowing down; by compensating and finding ways to reduce my stress levels, I will hopefully avoid severe bouts of depression in the future and maintain my workflow at a steady rate. Some days I’m itching to do more and more and more, but I have to force myself to hold back, and that’s very difficult.

At the end of July, my lease is up, and I’m moving from Georgia to California (Sacramento). I am still quite poor with a lot of debts that need to be paid off, but I believe if I put my mind to it, I can afford the move. Going to California will be a huge shift in lifestyle, but I’m hoping that getting away from all the stuff here and being on my own helps me focus on my work and improve. It will also be a huge boon for me when I want to go to esports events since California is chock full of them.

Last, I will end up at BlizzCon 2017 as a reporter. Whether I make enough money to move to California or not, I will be at BlizzCon. I am absolutely determined in this resolve.