Fireside 2.1 (https://fireside.fm) Esports Network Podcast Blog https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles Wed, 01 May 2019 12:00:00 -0700 Esports Network Podcast Blog en-us Media Training in Esports with Orai https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles/media-training-in-esports Wed, 01 May 2019 12:00:00 -0700 mthimmig@esportznetwork.com 39bb68be-82e6-411c-8fa9-6a42876ae0e5 Esportz Pro is using state-of-the-art techniques to deliver media training to esports players. Effective communication. That simple phrase can mean so many things given various situations. In relationships, it means being open with your partner. In business meetings, it means capturing the attention and minds of your audience. But for professional athletes and esports players, effective communication can be the difference between being a good player and being a superstar.

Traditional sports athletes have largely figured this out. While you still have athletes like Russell Westbrook incessantly answering report questions with “Next question.” Many other athletes have risen above their skill level by being an interesting and unique quote. There are ten players like Nick Young in the NBA, but only one Swaggy P. That comes down to effective communication.

In esports, there is a disconnect. Many players face a language barrier, but even more have no interest in talking with the media. That means that most times we hear esports players voices, it is coming through Twitch clips, and very rarely is that in a positive connotation.

At Esportz Network we are building a media training curriculum for collegiate esports programs called Esportz Pro. The goal of the curriculum is to help prospective esports players improve their communication before they move forward with their career. One core tenant of the program is Orai. A communications coach app, Orai uses artificial intelligence to improve communication in a variety of ways.

“If you’ve won a big competition, the next step is telling your story, crafting your narrative,” said Danish Dhamani, the founder and CEO of Orai. “There will be a bunch of interviewers who come up to your doorstep and they will want to know all about you. If you can articulate yourself in a confident and executive manner you are set up for growth. That is what Orai teaches.”

In esports, many kids are flung into the spotlight. In traditional sports, there is a steady path through high school media, college media and finally the pros. In esports, players are basically unknown before they get thrust onto the biggest stages. That means many don’t know where to start with media relations.

Orai helps by taking away a lot of the pressure associated with traditional media interactions. At a podium with a microphone in your face, it is natural to be thrown off a bit. In-person media training can build out practice scenarios but Orai is the consistent coaching and experience people need to succeed. Plus, by having players seek out the training in their own time, they are a more engaged audience.

“This is something that has traditionally been done in a classroom,” Dhamani explained. “With the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning has allowed us to actually understand and comprehend human speech. The outcome is helping people become more confident and more effective communicators.”
So why is it important to communicate with the media?

In short, money. Having a well-timed feature piece could bring a new esports organization to your door. Or entice a brand to want to sign you to an endorsement deal. Brands want players who are effective and good communicators, who also won’t place the brand in a bad light.

Being a good quote who appears in headlines drives up your value, but one misstep and that comes tumbling down. Many esports players avoid talking to the media because they see more negatives than positives. That opens the door for confident communicators to become media darlings and reap the rewards.

We have seen it in traditional sports constantly, but esports is still working towards that point. With more tools like Orai and more esports organizations and colleges putting an increased focus on improving media relations, future stars will be borne behind the podium.

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Esports Medicine with Dr. Todd Sontag https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles/sports-medicine-with-drtodd-sontag Tue, 30 Apr 2019 11:00:00 -0700 mthimmig@esportznetwork.com 532ac149-6fbb-40b5-a8be-77d7d6f27f5b Dr. Todd Sontag of Orlando Health gives professional health care for professional gamers. “Carpal Tunnel, Carpal Tunnel, a-a-a-ah,” was Kyle’s reaction to a hand injury in the infamous World of Warcraft South Park episode. “Quick we need BENGAY,” says Cartman as he lumbers over to the counter.

While that moment made for a hilarious scene in an episode that still fuels gamer stereotypes to this day, it also made carpal tunnel the go-to meme when talking about gaming injuries. But carpal tunnel is no joke. According to Dr. Todd Sontag from Orlando Health who is working on the care team for Magic Gaming, sometimes the injury can even require surgery.

“Carpal tunnel is a pinched nerve in the finger,” said Sontag. “It starts with numbness or a tingling feeling, then it progresses to pain and if it goes untreated it can become a major injury that sometimes needs surgery.”

But carpal tunnel is only one aspect of the care Sontag is providing for Magic Gaming, the Orlando Magic’s NBA 2K League affiliate. For the Magic Gaming’s players, he is making sure they focus on their cores. Playing video games in a stressful situation for 8-10 hours a day can take a toll on your posture, which affects your performance.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a professional gamer or a professional football player,” Sontag said. “If you are not strengthening those muscles that are required to game for nine hours, it’s going to catch up to you. Endurance is important. Strength training is important. It can’t just be sitting down and playing video games.”

Sontag is part of an increasing focus on players health and wellness in esports. Partnerships with traditional sports teams have helped bring over practices common in physical arenas. Traditional sports owners are buying teams, traditional sports athletes are streaming on Twitch, and traditional sports arenas are carving out space for esports.

This increased professionalization of esports has brought with it mainstream brands and deals on cable TV, but it has also brought on increased pressure. The majority of professional esports players are 18-22 years old. They go immediately from streaming on Twitch and dominating leaderboards to suddenly representing massive organizations in front of sold-out crowds.

For many, it can be a lot. So for Sontag, physical health is important, but mental health is really the area that poses the most concern.

“You always see professional athletes where something gets in their head and they can’t get over it. Even when they have all the skill in the world, sometimes it’s their brain that holds them back,” Sontag said. “In esports, these kids are young and it is a rapid rise from unknown to celebrity.”

Right now, esports has a burnout problem. While professional sports athletes can play until their mid to late 30s before retiring, very few esports players make it past their late 20s. Considering esports take less of a physical toll on your body than traditional sports, that discrepancy seems counter-intuitive.

There are a couple main reasons for esports burnout. To start, most competitive games are heavily weighted on reaction, one of the first things that begin deteriorating with age. Second, esports are often grueling. Before this ongoing professionalization, the standard thought process was that players need to be grinding for over 12 hours a day to succeed. Coupled with that, team houses used to be a common practice, and sometimes still are, making players days be all esports, all the time.

The third reason is the allure of a lucrative streaming career. Why would players continue grinding absurd hours when more money and the ability to set their own schedules was an option through Twitch?

All those are key reasons, and they are all being addressed more in recent years. Team houses are becoming more rare as esports organizations see the importance of work-life balance. Professional contracts are becoming more lucrative making the financial difference between streaming and professional play less impactful.

But reaction time is still going to keep being a problem. Sontag says keeping your reactions keen is one of the key benefits of bringing in care teams to esports.

“Your reactions when you are 29 are not going to be the same as your reactions when you are 19, that’s just science,” said Sontag. “But keeping the players cross-trained, keeping them physically fit and engaged, providing those extra resources will do nothing but help.”

To hear the full conversation with Dr. Sontag with expanded thoughts on mental and physical health be sure to listen to the podcast on EsportzNetworkPodcast.com. The podcast can be found on all the major streaming platforms as well.

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Athletes Invested In Esports https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles/athletes-invested-in-esports Mon, 15 Apr 2019 12:00:00 -0700 mthimmig@esportznetwork.com 81116b27-1be1-4cae-97b1-373b38bb7fce Some of the biggest names in traditional sports have put money into esports investments. In the past couple of years, a lot of money has entered esports. The industry is growing at an exponential rate in terms of revenue and will top $1 billion in 2020 according to projections by Newzoo.

With numbers constantly on the rise, investors have been eager to get their money into various facets of the industry. A lot of that money has come from traditional sports. Half the teams in League of Legends’ LCS are owned by NBA owners.

Athletes from all the major sports have invested in esports. Some have just put a bit of money in, but some have gone as far as starting entire esports organizations that are now internationally renowned.

Here are some of the most notable traditional sports athletes who have invested in esports.

Rick Fox

The Los Angeles Laker, turned actor, turned esports organization owner is the most interesting example of an athlete who went all in on esports. While a lot of money has entered the industry in the past years, Fox was a trendsetter.

In 2015, he bought the LCS spot of Gravity Gaming for $1 million. For an example of esports meteoric rise, the Philadelphia 76ers owner bought a majority stake in the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming for a price that puts the evaluation of a team spot in the LCS at $30 million. (Did I mention there is a lot of NBA presence in the LCS?)

Fox started it all. As the owner of Echo Fox he has built the organization into the fourth most valuable esports organization in the world according to Forbes. The organization is valued at $150 million because they own a coveted LCS spot and the most dominant esports organization in the fighting game community (FGC).

Fox also was a co-founder of Vision Venture Partners, an esports/gaming investment firm.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Kevin Durant

These two very different superstars are lumped together because they invested in the same company at the same time. That company is Rick Fox’s Vision Venture Partners.

With an initial investment by the New York Yankees and a follow-up investment by Durant, Beckham and the St. Louis Cardinals, VVP has touched three different sports in massive funding rounds. That funding round added $38 million in capital to VVP.

While neither Durant nor Beckham Jr. were quoted on why they put money into Vision, they both let their millions do the talking. For Durant, VVP is just another asset in a rapidly growing investment portfolio. The Durant Company claims to have early-stage investments ranging from 250,000 to $1 million in about 30 companies as of May, 2018.

Michael Jordan

The best basketball player of all time became a business mogul after he finally left the league. He is currently worth $1.9 billion according to an article in March of 2019 by Business Insider.

When Jordan does something, he wants to be the best at it. So it is no surprise that he invested in the parent company of the most valuable esports organization in the world.

Team Liquid is the most expansive and successful esports organization at the moment and aXiomatic, Liquid’s parent company, is a who’s who of old sports money. aXiomatic has four co-chairmen, three own sports franchises: Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, and Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik.

But it probably wasn’t them who attracted Jordan’s attention. The only other NBA player who can contend with Jordan as the best superstar turned businessman is Magic Johnson, a co-owner of aXiomatic.

The NRG Esports Investment board

When talking about big names invested in esports, you could impress the casual sports fan with only the list of names invested in NRG esports. NRG didn’t even crack the top 12 most valuable esports franchises, but the organization still has money from a bunch of hall of famers.

The NRG investment board includes Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Strahan, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.

They also have mainstream celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and EDM artist Tiësto.

NRG esports is another organization entrenched in traditional sports. The two co-founders, Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, are also minority partners in ownership of the Sacramento Kings. Shaq is also a minority owner of the Kings under the majority stake of Vivek Ranadivé.

Rodger Saffold

So far this article has been very NBA heavy, and for good reason, the NBA more than most other leagues has truly embraced esports. But there are still pioneers in other leagues that have led the way for athletic investment.

The Los Angeles Rams starting Left Guard in the Super Bowl, Saffold is the only other professional athlete to create their own esports organization from the ground up.

Saffold founded Rise Nation, an esports organization primarily focused on first-person shooters. Rise certainly isn’t to the caliber that Echo Fox has reached, but the organization has had some moments of brilliance.

They no longer field a Call of Duty team, but Rise Nation in 2018 was dominant. They entered the Call of Duty Pro League (CWL) on a tear winning 13/14 of their games. They took that momentum in CWL Atlanta and won the double elimination tournament without taking a loss.

After the Call of Duty team disbanded, Rise Nation’s website was non-existent and the Twitter account was inactive. Many people feared the worst for the organization but on April 8th they unveiled a new website and showcased their teams in Rainbow Six: Siege, Gears of War, and Fortnite.


### **Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Steve Young**

What do these three bay area legends have in common? They have all helped bring multiple championships to the San Francisco area, and they were all part of the same $37 million investment round in Swift. 

Swift is the parent company of Team SoloMid, the second most valuable esports organization at $250 million according to Forbes. 

Bessemer Venture Partners, who contributed $25 million, led the majority of that investment round, but Bessemer also reached out to Curry, Iguodala and Young to get their support as well. 

 Much like Durant, Curry also has an ever-growing portfolio of investments. That is one of the key reasons why Durant went to Golden State and both NBA superstars are following the blueprint laid out by Jordan and Magic Johnson. 


If you want more information about these different investments, be sure to listen to the podcast I produced on this topic. In there, I go over a bunch more names who have invested in the esports industry and even get a little off topic talking about traditional sports owners, the way these investments are often covered in the media and much more. 
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An Interview with WSOE's Christian Bishop https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles/christian-bishop-wsoe-interview Fri, 12 Apr 2019 15:00:00 -0700 mthimmig@esportznetwork.com 182f7b10-b935-4c77-8f27-c208c20da05d The World Showdown of Esports's Commissioner Christian Bishop joins Mitch on the Esportz Network Podcast. The World Showdown of Esports - which goes by the acronym WSOE - introduced a new format to the world of esports competitions.

They award a championship belt for each of the games they hold competitions in. So far the WSOE has held five events in four different games. This interview was recorded before that fifth event so I apologize for that incongruity.

In the interview we talk about the inspirations for the WSOE, how Bishop runs the ship and what esports we can look forward to in future WSOE events.
Now, onto the interview…
Mitch: I've got Christian Bishop, the commissioner of the WSOE who is joining me on this podcast. Welcome in Christian.

Christian: Thanks so much for having me Mitch, glad to be here.

Mitch: So I've already done a quick introduction of the WSOE format, but I was hoping we could start with your elevator pitch of the WSOE. What is it and what makes it unique?

Christian: Absolutely. We are the World Showdown of Esports; we look to do what UFC did for MMA, but for gaming. So we need to focus on the most relevant games, teams, players, influencers, and supporting the communities that love them.

Mitch: Awesome. I love it. I always ask for elevator pitches and they're usually not actually fit for elevators. So that was, that was good. So what did you feel about the WWE format that would translate well to esports?

Christian: We wanted a feature match component where we crowned a champion. That champion has an opportunity to continue to defend their title and you have a story telling element to it where people are challenging them, calling them out saying, hey look, I want an opportunity to go after that crown. And we know we wanted to really have fun with it and challenge our winners.

Mitch: Yeah. What's the response been from community members? Cause this is not like anything esports has ever done before. This is very new. When I was first introduced to it, I was like, Oh, a championship belt in esports. Interesting. What have you heard back from people who have now become fans of the WSOE?

Christian: Yeah, look, it's always super delicate because esports has been around for a bit and you traditional organizers like ESL and Star Ladder that have been doing it a certain way for a while. We knew that in order to do something different we had to innovate, and we had the push the envelope a bit. I think the communities that we’re supporting because we’re investing heavily in these games and these tournaments and these matches have welcomed it. And then, of course, there are a couple of people that are a little bit confused by it initially and I think we've done a good job to try to explain that and introduce people to the brand.

Mitch: Yeah. That education is crucial when you're doing a whole new format like this. So looking at it right now, WSOE 5 is this weekend up to here, you've had four different events obviously, and they've been in four different games. Do you have an amount of games or esports that you would like WSOE to compete in? I know you said it's the, it's the trendiest the name brand esports. Is there anything on your wish list for future WSOE events?

Christian: The number you will see us supporting is 6-8 games a year, running two matches per game, we like to crown a champion in our initial tournament structure, then giving them a chance to defend themselves throughout the year. There are definitely a lot of games that we're excited about. I think when you look at what the kind of response, EA is having with Apex [Legends], with Respawn (the game's developer) that's a really exciting game to be a part of and a community that I think is right for an event structure like ours. These new games come out man, and you see it just as well as I do that was everybody's wondering what's going to happen with the pro scene, when, what's going to go down here. And I think we step in nicely because we were able to move very quickly in these situations to provide some infrastructure.

Mitch: Yeah, that definitely helps. Esports just sort of come and they go quickly. So the first four events, it was Dota 2 #1, Hearthstone #3, then Rocket League and Fortnite I can't remember which one was three and which one was four, is that correct?

Christian: Yeah, Fortnite was three in December; we had that right before the New Year and then Rocket League in January.

Mitch: Awesome. I loved that rocket league event. I'm a huge Rocket League esports guy and that was really fun to watch.

Christian: I appreciate that. Yeah, there were some really exciting matches there towards the end. It was great. We really love the community.

Speaker 1:
So this weekend is WSOE 5 and this will be airing for our listeners will be airing after the event happens. So I'll be splicing in the result of that competition, in post, but right now we're recording this before the event takes place.

WSOE five is the first title defense. It's the second Hearthstone competition. So Christian, what changes on your end for a title defense versus an initial competition?

Christian: For me, my number one priority was to celebrate our champion and then that was a big deal, right? We've got, Jia who has an incredible story and a body of work in Hearthstone, as a caster and as a player and kind of her journey.
So we wanted to make sure that we were to doing a good job to tell her story and give people an opportunity to get to know her and see a different side of her because everyone's used to her being a caster and on-camera talent, they just don't know how great of a player she is.
So that was a big deal for us. We also wanted to make sure she was taken care of, right? So we got her first class, gift bags, she had an awesome dinner with all of her friends; a private driver picked her up from the airport. So we wanted to give her that champion experience and we look to do that for all of our winters.

CUT IN

Mitch: Yeah, I saw that, that swag bag you said to her, that looks pretty awesome. What were some of the highlights in that?

Christian: Airpods and some different gift cards, they don't know yet, but we got some makeup bags from Dose of Colors. There are good partners of ours at a pretty high value as well. So there's a variety of things man, that I wish I had.

Mitch: Yeah. I'm still waiting on my Airpods; I guess I got to get better video games or something. So looking at the WSOE format, I'm really curious about undercards right now. You've been doing a lot of show matches, but do you see different esports, as almost like different weight classes were eventually WSOE events might hold competitions in different games on the same card or on the same weekend?

Christian: Funny enough, I think we've been evaluating mobile - mobile games, mobile series - some of the other games just because of formatting and structure. With PC games like Dota it's tough to really schedule the timing on that. And if you're going through like five matches, you really need all the time you can get because our tournament is run on Saturdays or Sundays it would be tough to work through a whole bracket or a tournament structure with a variety of games. Mobile, we may be able to do that.

Mitch: That's really interesting. Yeah, that does pose some logistical problems for sure, like the Caster desk, like this weekend you have four big names in the Hearthstone community coming in, but if you want to do a Fortnite event at the same time, I don't know if Firebat (Hearthstone's first world champion and a caster at WSOE 5) would be able to commentate on a Fortnite game in the same way he can break down, a Hearthstone competition.

Christian: Yeah man. Absolutely. Think of the difference in terms of staging. Supporting a 1v1 based game to now having a Battle Royale All the infrastructure, you certainly have to have a different set up of on camera talent that actually knows the game and can provide that color commentary. The list goes on and on, and frankly, I don't know how many games companies actually want to be on the same title card with other games. I think they tend to like being focused; they kind of want their own tournament.

Mitch: The game publishers are kind of finicky. They're a little uptight about their titles. Has it been hard as a third party tournament organizer getting game publisher support for your series?

Christian:
I always say 'it's there sandbox, we're just playing in it.' It's our communities, we're looking to just add value and be good partners to them. Fortunately for us, I think we've done a very good job to date fostering these relationships and really making sure we cross the t's and dot the i's right. Like we really take care of our players. We take care of our talent. Our prize payouts are super timely; everything we do is above board. So I think as we've established a brand in the space and built these relationships, it's gotten easier and I think, I think it could definitely be a challenge and people don't realize how hard it is.
Mitch: Yeah. It seems like you've done pretty well, pretty consistent events and some of the biggest titles. Dota, I mean Valve is tough to communicate with, but they do sort of license out the Dota thing to other people. What games do you think are never going to happen? Like League of legends probably not in the cards for a WSOE event?

Christian: Some games are more difficult to get licensing for. Especially because, they don't even want to cannibalize their core, pro team strategy or their league or infrastructure. So it's definitely difficult with League, but I think it is possible.
We're evaluating and doing some stuff with some of the most prominent influencers in the world and their championship series. Wink, wink, wink, if you can read between the lines on that Mitch, we may produce that and take that over.
(Note: I have been asked not to say explicitly what I believe that is referencing, but I will say that the Championship Series has nothing to do with the LCS)
I think there are also other opportunities with things like the All Stars matches. I think they'd be open to, celebrity influencer style thing. It's difficult with the pros. I don't know if you'll ever see an Overwatch kind of thing from us either. Some esports are easier than others.

Mitch: Overwatch and League with the franchise models. I appreciate the wink wink; by the way, I won't spoil what I believe you're talking about their here, without your permission. Overwatch and League with the franchised leagues, they're very, very controlling, very protective. I shouldn't say controlling. They are very protective of their IP (intellectual property) and what they're doing there.

Christian: We can debate that. We can look at how League started, right. They were relying on third party tournament organizing, and then they went through a shift themselves.

Mitch: Yeah. It's, I mean when you look at like CS:GO for an example and the way that they have been built off of community tournaments. IEM Katowice was just the most watched CS:GO tournament of all time and Valve has done that in this way. And it's interesting to see publishers like Blizzard and Riot and how they've chosen to run their game's esports scenes and it is different than the previous esports model. And now here you guys are doing it and another completely new model. So it's just always changing in esports.

Christian: Yeah I think that if you really want to push the scene you have to innovate. We can't be like everybody else.

Mitch: So you said six-eight games you want to have in WSOE. This past weekend was WSOE 5 but it was a repeat of Hearthstone and WSOE 6 will be another Dota competition. We've talked about two games that might not be included Overwatch and League. What are some games that are coming? Is that under embargo or are their negotiations right now?

Christian: I can tell you that if you look at the top ten esports titles globally in terms of the amount of events that are ran, we look to support, that scene in particular. In addition to up and coming games like Apex Legends I mentioned before. Otherwise, I'd look at the top ten, scratch out some IP you know isn't accessible and you can narrow in your focus.

Mitch: Awesome. Awesome. So that's all the questions I had for you, Christian. I really appreciate you taking the time. Is there anything I didn't ask you about the WSOE event?

Christian: One thing you can look forward to from us is we are going to try it. We are going to try new things and innovate. In addition to the championship belt we have a sub brand, which is called WSOE Presents, which is what we're running those other fun, exciting matches. Whether or not it's an influencer led online tournament, whether or not it's something with, Dr. DisRespect, there are these different things we're going to do under our brand. So we're always looking to say 'Hey, what's new, what's exciting in gaming, that's really fun that we can be a part of.' I think that is a big thing to keep in mind when you think of the WSOE.

Mitch: Cool. Absolutely. You guys have done a great job to have some of the biggest names in your respective games for your events and that's crucial in esports. It really is an influencer led industry. So it's awesome to hear there'll be more events like that in the future.

Outro: That was Christian Bishop the Commissioner of the WSOE. I hope you enjoyed learning more about the WSOE format and what makes it unique.

All WSOE events are held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the PokerGO Studio and I am hoping to make the trip down there at some point to see the event in person.

Now looking at some of the games, we danced around what games we think may or may not be suitable for upcoming WSOE events. While he doesn’t want me to share anything about the “Wink, wink” section because they are currently in negotiations and nothing is finalized, we can use the top ten game list to try to pinpoint some titles that make sense for future WSOE events.

That could be games like CS:GO, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm or Rainbow Six: Siege. Call of Duty is in that top ten but they also fall under the Activision Blizzard IP umbrella so that is unlikely for the WSOE. Heroes of the Storm is also a Blizzard game but they recently disbanded the esports division for that game so it is ripe for a third-party tournament.

There are so many esports out there it is hard to judge. You have games like Apex Legends that were released in February 2019 that seem to be scheduled for upcoming WSOE events so everything can change quickly in esports.

It will be interesting to see how the WSOE develops. We have UFC cards in the 200s now and you could look back on this podcast with WSOE on its 70th event and it would be cool to see how the tournament has developed.

That wraps up this podcast. Thanks for listening. This was a feature presentation of the Esportz Minute, by the Esportz Network. For all the up to date news on esports, everything you need to know, visit EsportzNetwork.com. And you’re probably already here but check out EsportzNetworkPodcast.com for longer versions of the esports podcast.

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Women in Esports https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles/womeninesports Tue, 26 Mar 2019 17:00:00 -0700 mthimmig@esportznetwork.com 453a0d43-8622-4058-8b78-1b3e1df06d74 Five women who have proven themselves as elite esports competitors. One of the beautiful things about esports is that competitive video games are a fair and level playing field between genders. Even though the majority of esports competitors at the highest level are male, there are some women who are competing in the top leagues of their respective games.

Here are five women who have proven themselves as elite competitors:

5. Jamie “Karma” Bickford

Karma is a Rocket League player who currently completes for Splyce. She has been playing Rocket League competitive since 2016 and joined Splyce in June of 2017.

Because Splyce was a new organization to Rocket League, they needed to work their way up through the ranks up to the Rocket League Championship Series – or RLCS - through the Rocket League Rival Series better known as RLRS.

After each season the top two finishers in the RLRS play against the bottom two finishers in the RLCS to try to move up to the top league.

In Season 5, Karma and Splyce finished 6th in the RLRS and didn’t have a chance to rank up, but in Season 6, which just wrapped up last fall, they dominated the competition throughout the season and in the promotion playoffs to secure a spot in RLCS Season 7.

The new season begins on April 6th and Karma will be the first woman to compete for an RLCS team when that season begins.

  1. Jin-u “Bai-Za” Wang

Bai-Za is a Chinese Hearthstone player who is one of the top players in the world. Hearthstone is a digital card game from Blizzard, and like all card games it comes with some random elements.

Still, there are a group of players who have proven that they can navigate that randomness better than anyone else, and Bai-Za is one of those players.

She rose to the world Stage in 2017 when she qualified for the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) Summer Championship.

She experienced an unlucky draw and was matched up against Pavel, the defending world champion – and the player with the all-time highest competitive win rate.
She nearly pulled the upset winning two of the first three games in the best of five series. Unfortunately the cards weren’t in her favor the last two games and Pavel took the series 3-2. Regardless, a nail-biting series against the best player in the world is nothing to be ashamed of.

3 Ricki Ortiz

Also known as HelloKittyRicki, Ortiz is one of the pioneers in the Fighting Game Community.

Her first recorded competitive result is in 2003 when she finished second in the Evolution Championship Series.

Her career has been amazingly successful and she has been a top player in Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom titles. Unfortunately though she never took home a major win, despite a ton of runner-up finishes.

Her most recent heartbreak came at one of the FGC’s most respected events: The Capcom Cup.

Competing for Evil Geniuses, the esports organization that signed her way back in 2010, Ortiz dominated the 2016 Capcom Cup to reach the finals.

There she was matched up against fighting game legend NuckleDu. The entire bracket at the Capcom Cup was stacked and she had to defeat plenty of amazing players to reach that point, but NuckleDu proved to be too much as he won the final series 3-1.

Ortiz still took home a payday of $60,000 and she is widely respected as one of the best Fighting Game players on the planet.

2 Katherine “Mystik” Gunn

Mystik’s path to being a successful gamer was different from most people on this list. She isn’t an esports player persay but she was still one of the first women to take home a major gaming title.

Mystik won season two of the WCG Ultimate Gamer, a reality show that combined gaming and physical tasks.

The show ran two seasons in 2009 and 2010, and Mystik was the winner of the $100,000 prize for the second season.

Back in 2010, esports weren’t to the level they are today, and there weren’t nearly the same opportunities for people to become professional gamers.

At the time, the $100,000 prize was one of the highest ever awarded to a single gaming competitor.

In the show, which is available on Amazon Prime, gamers had to compete in games across a bunch of different genres. The final series came down to three games: Rock Band, BlazBlu an arcade style Fighting Game and Halo: Reach.

Mystik lost in Rock Band but won BlazBlu 5-0. The final came down to Halo: Reach where the first player to 15 kills would win the championship. She dominated, destroying her opponent so bad that if they were playing in a house he probably would have unplugged the console.

Here’s a clip from the end of the game where she hits a beautiful snipe for her 14th kill:

1 Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim

Geguri is a 19-year-old Tank-main for the Shanghai Dragons in the Overwatch League. While this list wasn’t necessarily a ranking by any metric, Geguri is the only woman playing in one of the most prominent esports leagues on the planet.

The Overwatch League has entered its second season and slots for expansion teams reportedly cost as much as $40 million. They have franchises all over the globe and Geguri competes for one of the four Chinese teams.

Shanghai set records in the first season… but not the good kind. Somehow the team went 0-40 over the entire season, a feat never before achieved in sports or esports. That wasn’t Geguri’s fault however; she didn’t join the team until a quarter of the way through the season, when they had already lost their first twenty games.

In Season 2, Shanghai has done better as they finished a respectable 3-4 in the first stage.

Geguri’s start in competitive Overwatch began with controversy. In a situation all-too-familiar to female gamers, men in the Overwatch scene didn’t believe she could be as good as she is without cheating. At the time, she had the highest winrate with Zarya (her main character) and an absurd Kill – Death ratio (K/D)

To prove her results were legit, she played multiple matches in a controlled setting with a camera recording her movements with the mouse. Geguri’s accusers said they would quit playing Overwatch if she proved them wrong and two players did actually quit the game when Blizzard confirmed that she wasn’t hacking.

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Google Announces New Gaming Platform “Stadia” https://www.esportznetworkpodcast.com/articles/thesportzminutep1 Fri, 22 Mar 2019 17:00:00 -0700 mthimmig@esportznetwork.com e9f4c8b1-4538-4f97-8b6b-49988c34cb3f Mitch Google made waves in the gaming industry with the companies’ announcement of its new gaming platform “Stadia.” The platform is not a console and it doesn’t come in a box—as all the Google promotional material will be quick to tell you.

Stadia is a subscription-based service—with an unannounced price—that allows people to jump into games immediately without purchasing or downloading the game. This is a potentially revolutionary concept that shakes up the previous model of hardware-based video games. Instead of requiring a console or computer to render games, Stadia’s games would be rendered on the Google Cloud.

The concept immediately shook the console giants as both Sony and Nintendo took about a 3% stock hit in the wake of the announcement.

In a one hour and eighteen minute live stream at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) on March 19th; Google representatives demonstrated Stadia’s features by jumping directly from a YouTube stream into a game. YouTube is a key component of Stadia. Google is trying to connect with the massive gaming audience on YouTube by making it incredibly easy to go from watching a video to playing a game.

Once in a game, Stadia users will be able to move from platform to platform without dropping their game. Google showed a player moving from their Chromebook to a Google Pixel and picking up Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey right where they left off.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey currently makes up half of the Stadia archive with DOOM Eternal being the only other game currently confirmed, but that list will obviously lengthen before the platform launches later in 2019.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Introducing <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Stadia?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Stadia</a>, an all-new way to play from Google. Coming in 2019 → <a href="https://t.co/k04HS5hrVw">https://t.co/k04HS5hrVw</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GDC19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GDC19</a> <a href="https://t.co/UQvD3m4jkJ">pic.twitter.com/UQvD3m4jkJ</a></p>&mdash; Google (@Google) <a href="https://twitter.com/Google/status/1108077174399995904?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 19, 2019</a></blockquote>

Google also released a new controller that will be paired with Stadia but made it clear that USB controllers from PlayStation and Xbox both will work with the platform as well. The Stadia controller closely resembles their established counterparts but does come with two new unique buttons.

A “capture” button takes your gameplay and shares it back with YouTube, where you can keep it private or publish it as a video. A “Google Assistant” button allows you to ask the controller for help during difficult parts of an in-game mission. The back of the controller features the “Konami Code” one of the first cheat codes ever placed in a game. This purely aesthetic choice is just a cool nod to old-school gamers.

According to Google, the platform can run games on 4k at 60 FPS and switch seamlessly between platforms. If that doesn’t make you pause, it should. The bandwidth required to run open-world games like the two above is immense. No matter what new features Stadia introduces, if gamers are experiencing input lag and latency, the platform will never get off the ground.

To Google’s credit, the company does have one of the most expansive server farms in the entire world. Close proximity to servers will help reduce those issues somewhat. Still, personal Internet connections could pose problems with Stadia’s stated goals. With Google Fiber nowhere to be seen, Stadia’s future could rely on the Internet connections provided by giants Verizon and AT&T.

According to hands-on reviewers from Tech Radar at GDC, the platform easily handled Assassin’s Creed at 1080p with 60 FPS but reviewers weren’t able to test the platform at 4K or 120 FPS.

The consensus of most reviews from people who were able to try the console is that it sounds amazing… on paper. It’s an entirely new model never before seen in gaming, and it is difficult to judge something like that based on one keynote and a short game session.

With unknowns still lingering in the price of the service, the amount of games available and the platform’s ability to run on a standard home Internet connection, the jury is still out on Stadia.

To see crucial moments of the keynote presentation by Google, Tech Insider released the five-minute video below showing key components of Stadia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SOS-a4ks7s

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