Life Update Oct 2017

For the first time in a while, we have an incredibly upbeat blog post. Lots of good things are happening right now, and I’m in a good mood writing this. In my previous blog, I decided not to stray too far from esports and continue working until I found some success. In several ways, it was kind of a refocusing post…trying to put things back in order. I’m happy to say that many of the goals I set forth for myself then have been achieved, and I’m feeling pretty confident for the future.

Mental Health Update

If you know anything about me, I’m super open about my mental health because I feel like it’s important to share it, not only for myself, but for the sake of others who sit in silence trying to pretend nothing’s wrong. I believe that a more open forum about mental illness allows us to understand one another better and get any weight off our chest. The worst enemy of mental illness is silence and ignorance.

When I last posted, I was having trouble paying bills. I couldn’t find a part-time job. I was in constant worry about what the future would hold. Some of those problems have been solved (luckily), but I still struggle day to day with plenty of stress relating to money. I got an awesome job at a bbq restaurant through a friend working in the kitchen, and I’m barely able to make it through each month by the skin of my teeth—plus, I get all the free bbq I want. Still, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what I need to start paying down my debts. I still worry. My bank account actually hit 0 last week.

I have never experienced financial security in my entire life. The only time I had money with no debt was just before I decided to go back to college. I worked hard as a bus driver at the university and paid off everything, had $2000 in the bank, and could have done basically anything I wanted. I chose to go back to college because I believed the investment was worth it. Now, I see it was a mistake, and I get bothered by the idea every time I think about it. But it doesn’t help to regret. Just gotta move forward with life.

Other than physical exhaustion I get from working my day job + life as an editor/caster and a little bit of worrying, I’m doing well though. I’m content with what I’m doing, I’m somewhat financially stable, and things are unlikely to get worse at this point in time. So it’s good.

Plans and Goals Update

In my previous blog, I set out to do a couple of things: grow my YouTube and Twitch channels, work fervently on new articles, find more outlets for my editing skills, and write up a business plan for a future esports publication.

First of all, I am beyond proud to announce that I achieved partnership on YouTube in under 3 months. I still have a bit to go before I get partnered on Twitch, but I have seen immense growth on both channels.

September Goals

YouTube views: 5,734
Goal: 10,000+
YouTube followers: 68
Goal: 150
Avg concurrent Twitch views: 25
Goal: 50
Twitch followers: 549
Goal: 800

October Update

YouTube status: PARTNER
YouTube views: 12,300+ views
YouTube followers: 118
Twitch status: Affiliate
Avg concurrent Twitch views: 16
Twitch followers: 983

As you can see, I met most of my goals. The only exception is that my stream has somewhat fallen off in October due to the stress of working my day job and casting the ASL at 6am every Sun/Tues. Now that I have a base point of partner/affiliate and a decent setup, my goal is to start broadening my user base with more consistent material, better marketing, etc. As much as the revenue stream from YouTube is valuable, it’s hilariously low at only 50-60 views per video. I need something like 400+ views per video in order to earn a decent amount from YouTube.

On Twitch, most of the revenue likely comes from cheers and donations compared to subscriptions. Either way, both problems can be solved by just widening the viewer base and attracting more people to the stream. This will require me to revamp my streaming schedule, restructure my stream, and build a more positive atmosphere in the future. At this point in time, I want to refocus and achieve partnership by the end of December. No specific numbers yet.

This will also be the last month of using Patreon. I’m hugely grateful for everyone who has supported me via Patreon over the last year and also indebted to Patreon for their wonderful platform. However, as I wrote in a previous blog, I will be switching over to a direct donation format. Patreon is a long-term format of support which I don’t think gels well with my audience or the esports community at large; making a donation is unintuitive and time-consuming for most people, especially considering the per month format. In addition, posting things to Patreon and updating it became just another thing to do and was slowly driving me crazy. By removing that aspect of donations, I’ll be freer to focus on the things that matter: the stream, videos, and my writing.

I sincerely hope that everyone who has supported me in the past continues to support me. My goal is to produce the best possible content, and whether or not money is involved, I’ll be working my ass off toward that goal.

BlizzCon 2018

Finally, the most important part of this post: I WILL BE AT BLIZZCON IN FOUR DAYS.

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity from Team Liquid, and I cannot properly form the words to express my emotions. This is something I’ve been working my ass for the last two years to achieve, and to finally get a chance to fly out to LA and live the dream of being an on-site esports reporter is awesome. I have so many huge goals for this weekend, and I could not be more excited.

My primary job will be organizing coverage for LiquidHeroes, both on social media and the site itself, but I’ll also be doing some StarCraft work while I’m there. Expect some swaggg interviews, pictures, and articles from this event. It’s going to be amazing, and I can’t wait for it all to begin.

A huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and uplifted me when I’ve gotten down. You guys are spectacular. There’s no way I would have survived on my own.

The shortest retirement in esports.

Yeah, so I’m back to esports.

If you read my previous post, you probably remember my dejected outlook and how I felt forced to get a job because of finances. Well, long story short, I had a realization of where I’m at and where I want to be:

  • This is the most successful year I’ve had in esports so far (by a good margin)
  • A bunch of opportunities are just now lining up for me (casting ASL, writing for several large orgs, having the time to build an audience through broadcasting)
  • The money I would make from freelancing + working part-time somewhere would be greater than what I would make full-time in construction
  • I have an insane range of skills in video production and online publishing
  • My work cannot be separated from my self-identity
  • I will not quit until I am successful

That being said, I’m back to full-time esports while I search far and wide for a decent part-time job that will help me pay bills. I knew from the moment I accepted the job in construction that it would be a mistake, and I was right. One single day in the field was all it took for me to realize that I was missing out on a huge opportunity here. The struggle for money will always be real, but I’ll figure out a way to make it all work, even if I have to start selling off some of my belongings.

Plans and Goals

As I said, there are a bunch of opportunities opening up to me in just the next few weeks. On top of that, I have a lot of personal goals that I want to fulfill in the meantime.

  • Get partnered on BOTH YouTube and Twitch
    • Believe it or not, I’m actually about halfway there on both
    • If I keep working as hard as I have been on broadcasting, I should be able to meet this goal in 2 months
    • This would give me a more stable income than relying on Patreon, donations, or the availability of freelance work
  • Work overtime on paid articles
    • I have several opportunities available right now which I can work fervently on
  • Find a better outlet for my editing skills (and of course, keep learning)
  • Write up a business plan for a future esports publication
    • This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I’m finally starting to acquire enough skill and know enough people to make this a reality
    • This is not official or anything, but it’s something I definitely would like to bring to fruition in some way over the next 5 years

As you can see, there’s a lot to work on here. This is a lot of big picture stuff with many many intermediate steps that take time, thought, and preparation.

Twitch and YouTube

My Twitch and YouTube channels went up almost 2 years ago and remained mostly empty for a long time. Only recently have I begun to stream regularly and upload tons of videos to YouTube while keeping track of the traffic and trying to significantly improve the quality of everything.

This all started back in April when I got the opportunity to cast the Afreeca Starleague (ASL) on the ENG2 stream. I wasn’t really sure that broadcasting was the right thing for me at the time because I have horrible self-image and I lack many of the speaking skills necessary to be a good broadcaster. But it paid, and as with most things in esports, anything that pays is a great gig. To improve my skills and practice speaking, I began to cast random games and upload them to YouTube. At first, I was very shy (and very bad), but as I’ve begun to understand Brood War better and speak more clearly, I’ve found some confidence I didn’t really have before. And when I moved to my new apartment, I decided to go all-in on streaming.

YouTube views: 5,734
Goal: 10,000+
YouTube followers: 68
Goal: 150
Avg concurrent Twitch views: 25
Goal: 50
Twitch followers: 549
Goal: 800

Both my Twitch and YouTube have blown up from casting Brood War games. I had no idea that there was so much untapped potential in this game. And now, with the advent of StarCraft: Remastered, I sit at a vital crossroads between legacy BW players who have been here during the “dark ages” of StarCraft and the newer generation of players and spectators who have found interest in a game they just considered “old”. Simply put, now is the best time you could ever be involved in StarCraft: Brood War content creation and casting.

I have many many plans for improving my Twitch stream and YouTube channel, but it will be incremental and take time. One thing I can guarantee in the near future is better overlays for the stream and at least 5 custom chat emotes (because I am an affiliate). For YouTube, videos will be uploaded regularly (at least one per day, on average) with improved thumbnail artwork and an updated Endscreen (I plan to completely phase out Patreon in the next few months).

I’m constantly looking at other YouTubers and streamers, gauging what they’re doing correctly, and trying to copy them. If I can make my work even a fraction as successful as some of the top streamers, I’ll be in good shape.

Writing and Editing

I will retain my role as managing editor of LiquidHeroes, but this is probably not an effort I can sustain in the long run. As much as I love the work I do, it does not fulfill the monetary requirements I need, and I’ll probably be moving on from it at some point. In the meantime, I’m looking for a replacement…someone who can do the job and make sure the group doesn’t go under the moment I leave. But if history serves as an example, no publication can survive for long after I leave.

In any case, I’ll still be writing no matter what. I am still working for Team Liquid Pro as a liaison between the HotS team and the writers, and I’ve gotten a few offers to write for other large organizations (can’t reveal yet). None of the offers are life-changing, but they are a step in the right direction and will hopefully lead to bigger and better opportunities in the future.

My resolve to be at BlizzCon this year as a reporter is still as strong as ever, even though money is tight. It will happen.

Future Esports Publication

I’ve talked with several notable members in the HotS community about the state of esports news, and almost unanimously we all agreed on a handful of inconsistencies, inefficiencies, and weak points in current publications. In short, we can do better. Of course, putting together a project that would rival ESPN or Dot Esports is a huge task, and it’s certainly not going to happen overnight. But with the right people and decent funding, there is a possibility of actually creating something on that scale in a few years.

The real question is: will it make sense in the future landscape of esports? These are questions I have to continually ask myself as I slowly form this vague impression of a dream. What will esports look like in 5 years? Will specific esports publications become obsolete? Are minor esports ever worth covering? Where is the line between “esports” and “gaming”? Is there a line at all? This is why I propose writing up a business plan over the next couple of months and really critically thinking about the future.

Again, this is not an announcement or a call to arms. I’m just simply stating that I’ve toyed around with the idea for a long time, and I wanted to go ahead take the first step into creating something concrete. There may or may not be future updates on this idea.

Update on life, motivation, and the future.

You’ll be seeing a lot less of me over the next couple of months.

For the last two years, I’ve been trying to break into esports as a writer and editor. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, experienced deep depression, and faced tons of rejection. As much as I’ve loved writing and talking about esports and gaming, I was never able to do more than barely break even—and with $3000 of credit card debt and countless other debts (student loans, taxes, etc.), that just isn’t good enough.

I just moved out to a new place with one of my best friends, and the goal of this move was to start a new life. Originally, that meant starting up full-time streaming, getting healthier, and beginning to get back on my feet. Unfortunately, as soon as I started streaming, I began to realize that I didn’t have the funds to sustain it until I could grow my stream properly. In short: I wasn’t going to be able to pay rent next month without a “real job”. Although I have continued to search for new jobs, I have been rejected over and over as a writer/editor, and was beginning to feel like the pursuit of that career might be futile.

So I took an offer from my roommate: a free job at a local construction company he works at. I’ll be doing manual labor at a decent rate, 8 hour workdays in 90F+ heat. However, they offer benefits, and for the first time in ages, I’ll actually be able to comfortably pay rent/bills and start building up savings.

It kills me to do this.

Maybe this isn’t the end. Maybe I’ll still have enough time and energy to work on esports stuff when I get home. I don’t know. But I’m sure that I’m going to have to give up a lot of things including my role as managing editor at LiquidHeroes, my streaming, and the multitudes of commitments I have as a freelance writer. That hurts a lot because I feel like I’m right on the verge of success…but I’ve felt this way for two years straight and never gotten anywhere.

Anyways, thanks for your support. I’ll catch you later.

Why i quit using patreon.

In this day and age, marketing yourself as a content creator has become both easier and harder. On one hand, you don’t need to go out to county fairs, street corners, or make deals with coffee shops to sell your work—you can easily just tweet things out, find online marketplaces, and optimize your SEO. There’s a lot of tricks to marketing yourself without actually leaving your house. It’s a lot less about hiring people to advertise for you, and a lot more of a DIY mentality.

At the same time, marketing has become more complex in some ways. There are multitudes of skills you have to learn in order to effectively become your own creator, boss, and marketing manager. On a basic level, you have to know to properly utilize SEO, find marketing channels, and make connections with others in your field. As the realm of social media and sharing sites has grown, so have the options for getting in touch with others and building a fan base. The newest ones even have groups or private servers that allow you to build a community of individuals around your product or the subject you’re interested in.

Sound familiar?

That’s exactly what Patreon does. It’s a package designed to combine some of the marketing you need with a stripped down website, money management, and community tools. The drawback? They take $0.05 off the dollar for everything plus processing fees. For the most part, I got back about 80% of what was donated.

Honestly, that’s not a bad deal for a site that takes care of pretty much everything you need for marketing content creation, but here’s the thing that drove me up the wall: it’s yet another page I have to build with words, graphics, and a video in order to take full advantage of it. I’ve already invested into making a website and populating it with graphics and a good layout. I’ve populated my YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, etc., and I’ve even meticulously set up a Discord server to build a community and my fan base. That said, I already have a decent platform for marketing myself.

The second major point of contention is that posting things on Patreon feels like yet another thing to do. Whenever I write an article or publish a video, I’ll post it on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and Discord with varying titles and wording (because we don’t want to look like a machine, that’s important). Posting something to Patreon is just more work. Patreon can be useful for collecting a “portfolio” of sorts, but since I already have a website that I post all my work to, another portfolio seems unnecessary.

Finally—and this is the one that finally turned me off to the idea of Patreon—why am I giving up 20% of my income to Patreon? Although I do make feeble amounts of money, that’s still a pretty high percentage to lose to this service. Why don’t I just have a link directly to my PayPal? Why are people going to donate through Patreon over Paypal? The biggest difference to me is that Patreon focuses on a recurring income over time, but it’s particularly awful for one-time donations, and that’s a large majority of what I get. I know few people who are willing to give up $3/mo versus just handing over $10 directly, and I feel like the gaming/esports industry is built on one-time donations as well. Sure, it’s a little less consistent, but it seems like the work of going through the process of making a Patreon account, signing up for one month, and remembering to cancel the subscription later is more of a deterrent than anything.

(I can’t charge per item because I publish something like 1-3 items every day. I would drain the hell out of people’s wallets, even at $1 per item).

So you see, I’ve already got all of the necessary parts of successful content marketing at my disposal without Patreon: a portfolio to show off my work, a community of followers, and revenue channels. I respect what it does for many other content creators, and maybe in the future if I need more consistent income, I might look back in that direction…but for now, I think I’m better off without it.

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.


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.