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Gaming Interviews

Inside The Screen With Jon Koob

SteelSeries is one of the well-known brands in the gaming industry. The Frederiksberg, Denmark based company makes several devices and equipment, the company has more than solidified its name in the game space. The company makes products for consoles, such as headsets, mice keyboards, mousepads, and controllers.

Last month, SteelSeries introduced the Arctis 7X wireless headset just in time for the release of the Xbox Series X the next generation of gaming. SteelSeries Global Director of Social Media, Jon Koob recently joined Inside the Screen with ONE37pm’s Aaron Dukes.

Dukes: How has 2020 been for you when it comes to creativeness?

Koob:  It all depends on your perspective on how you look at it and how you frame this year. It has been a year where I have recognized my privilege more than ever. I have been more in tune with things that I care about and the people I care about more than ever. 

Getting down to what matters to me helped me have freedom during my day job or daily interactions with people—being confident and understanding of what I want to be doing with my life and how I enjoy helping others in my life. 

It allows me to have a little more creative freedom to make a piece of content, send an email, and reply to a text. With everything that is happening, you do your best to help people, contribute to causes that want to contribute to, and have your voice heard in ways that you can make it heard. In all of that, you started to become more confident in yourself; at least, I become more confident in myself in my daily routine. 

DukesWhen you talk to your team about mistakes, what do you share with them?

Koob: If we are not making mistakes, we are not moving at the pace that we need to be. We need to be moving so fast or that we mess up every once in awhile, and we must be okay with that. The more transparent we are with our community when we mess up, the more freedom to give them content at scale.

Dukes: How do you get a job in the esports/Gaming industry?

Koob: When they ask me that question, the first thing I tell people has nothing to do with the type of education or the degree courses. I say go to Angel. Co and find a startup to work for because there are tons of esports startups.

You might not get paid the best but find a paid position. Sometimes there are some circumstances but find a paid job and work for a startup. But, working for a startup, especially in the game industry, you will feel so much pressure coming at you in so many ways that you will find out if that part of the industry is right for you, whether your work is right for you.

Because you are put in those pressure situations and cannot be comfortable, you cannot be content in your day to day work. If you expect to get a raise, grow, and expand your professional well-being. When you work for a startup, you are forced to do a lot of that. I experienced a lot of that. “Oh damn, I was going to get fired type of mindset into companies that I worked for in the past.

When I came into SteelSeries, I knew more about social [media] than anyone else in the company, and I knew that right away. I was able to take reigns right away, and I was off; that is because of the people who trusted me.

Dukes: What are your thoughts on TikTok because I feel it has not tapped into its real power?

Koob: It super green and young right now. The app still somehow has not gotten completely disgusting with ads. Somehow it has not been completely taken over by ads. They could easily have an ad after two to three swipes, and people would still be on it. There would not be any incriminating damage to retention or growth, in my opinion. It is the most addictive app and the way to consume content right now.

 

I knew [about] Musical.ly, which is more in my head of what TikTok is now. Musical.ly people are dancing and lip-synching, and it is for young girls that was essentially the stigma. There were a lot of people from Musical.ly that carried over to TikTok, but a lot of industries late into last year were relevant to TikTok.

It was not on my radar as something I should be on as a professional. We launched the SteelSeries account in December or January but did not start posting content heavily until late February or early March. We are already at 720k, and we did not have the Steel Series handle. We had to be RealSteelSeries because something else had the account. We were able to get that worked out and got verified. The amount of brand that we built through TikTok over the past ten months, we are reaching a demo that we are not organically reaching on any other platform.

Dukes: Do you think TikTok has impacted your platform more than other platforms [Instagram and Twitter]?

Koob: I’ll do a lot of mini-tests with TikTok specifically in terms of giving away things to drive people to other platforms or putting something in the comment section of someone else’s video. Go check something else out on our Instagram and say “Go comment X” on our last post on another’s influencer’s account from the Steel Series account. I will make it related to the video. Then see all the comments people are making from a comment we made on someone else’s page. Another thing we might do is put a 5% discount code in another TikTok bio that we do not promote anywhere else. 

With a bright mind and future, Jon Koob is sure to do big things in gaming. You can follow Koob on Instagram and Twitter.

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Gaming Interviews

BigCheese: The Legend Continues to Grow

If you don’t already know the name Big Cheese, then in the words of Chris Tucker in Friday: You better remember it, write it down, and take a picture because his legacy is just getting started. A Twitch ambassador and a 2x award-winning entertainer featured on CBS, ABC, Comedy Central, and G4TV,  Big Cheese (who also refers to himself as BigCheeseKIT) is known for his ability to bring the hype, entertainment, and comedy to everything he does. With over 60,000 followers across all his social platforms (Twitch, Twitter, and Instagram), Big Cheese has begun to capture the attention of gaming fans worldwide. In this week’s episode of One More Game, the rising star spoke with host Aaron “Don” Dukes and co-host Warlock Rackaul and RedinFamy about his plan for domination.

For starters, Big Cheese divides his journey into two parts—life before and after Twitch.

“When I started, it was all the way back in 2006. I started my journey creating content for YouTube. I was in the midst of a ‘console war’ with another gamer by the name of Chad Warden. For him (Chad), it was all about the PlayStation 3 or the PSTriple; with me, it was all about the Xbox. We were just having fun, but then people started telling us that we started the console wars. So I was like, wait a minute, maybe we did start them because nobody was really doing that on YouTube before us.

After that, I continued making more videos, and I was into music as well. I was making what I called ‘Cheese Mixes,’ where I was putting my own spin on songs. I also started doing parodies, and my first one was called ‘Get That Bacon.’ It blew up, and it was being shown everywhere. It was great!”

BigCheeseKIT

After his newfound success with parodies and being featured nationally on networks like Comedy Central, “Uncle Cheese” decided that it was time to go back to his first love—gaming. 

“The parodies were a great thing to do, but I wanted to get back into what I loved to do, which was video games. So in 2013, I began streaming on Twitch. When I first started steaming, I was like, there’s only two people here! Slowly I started growing, and I ended up getting partnered [with Twitch] the following year (2014). That had its ups and downs and struggles, but 2017 is when I really started taking things seriously. I was like this is my brand, this is who I am, and I want to make people know that I am going to change the game and break barriers.”

Breaking barriers is definitely something that Big Cheese has had to do in his career so far as a young African-American in the world of esports. Throughout his early career, “Cheese” had to fight to get his name out there during a period where the recognition wasn’t always coming his way.

“My experience with Twitch, in the beginning, was a little wishy-washy. It was Twitch’s idea to come up with the ‘Black Creators Program’ where they would dedicate an hour to Black creators. It was a great program, and I felt like it was a good start, but I wondered if that one hour would work, especially for those of us that were already pulling in a certain amount of numbers already. I felt like I was successful in the program; others felt it needed more improvement.”

For those that have known Big Cheese for years (such as One More Game co-host RedinFamy), success has been a long time coming. So when the iconic rapper T-Pain and legendary streamer Markiplier scooped him up, the gaming community was thrilled to finally see “Uncle Cheese” take his talents to the next level. While the young streamer and entertainer is just getting started, he has enjoyed quite a bit of growth and success so far, including being named a 2020 Twitch Ambassador and garnering a nomination for Gamesradar’s ‘Best New Streamer’ at the 2020 Golden Joystick Awards (which airs November 24th).

I never thought I would be nominated for anything, especially after what happened in July. I had a lot of goals this year that I didn’t get to accomplish. So what’s happening now is amazing. To win an award would be crazy!

“It was July 27th. I was walking around, and my body just collapsed. I couldn’t move. My wife was sleeping, and I woke her up and asked her to take me to the hospital. She couldn’t even be in there with me because of Covid rules. So I went to the hospital, and afterward, they told me that I’d had a dietary stroke. It wasn’t a regular stroke—I wasn’t stressed about anything. The next day the nurse was trying to help me walk around, and my right side just gave up. I kept receiving all these messages and DM’s from people telling me that they needed me. I received a call from T-Pain. I was just trying to get myself together. A stroke is no joke.”

Being the fighter that he is, Big Cheese thankfully recovered, and as 2020 enters the home stretch, his focus continues to be growing and getting better. In fact, growth is a part of his “three keys to success.”

Consistency. Work on yourself and work on your craft. Work on things that make you who you are. That’s what people come to your channel for. Learn how to interact with people and chat with them, and always make sure you don’t violate any laws. You know, once you go to the dark side, there’s no coming back!

Sound advice from a legend in the making. For the full convo, make you sure you watch this latest episode of One More Game above and be sure to follow Big Cheese on Instagram and Twitter.

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Gaming Interviews

Meet Apazo: The Man Behind the Scenes Making it Happen

Life is about perseverance. It’s also about taking the things that could be considered a “negative” and turning it into a positive. That mindset is one that Apazo has had for his entire seventeen years on this planet. Now the editor/channel manager for Bugha, Clix, and the Sentinels, Apazo already has quite the resume and spoke with ONE37pm’s Aaron “Don” Dukes about navigating the other side of esports.

Apazo
Apazo’s Home Set Up

“I’ve always been a fan of video games. For those that don’t know, I have a disability—I’m in a wheelchair, and I always wanted to play sports. So I realized video games were something I could do. I used to make Minecraft videos, and at first it was really bad. I continued on with editing videos separately, and a friend of mine suggested I combine my edits with gameplay videos. I didn’t really know you could do that. So I went on Twitch and found a random person, and worked with him for about six months.”

“After that, I worked for free because I was really trying to find what I was looking for and what I wanted. I met Bugha who was this really talented player. At the time he only had about 10,000 followers. So after we talked, I was waiting to hear back from him, and I just ended up making a video and sending it to him. He liked it and we started working together.”

Bugha’s popularity started exploding soon after, and so did Apazo’s. This popularity surge was a turning point in his young career. 

“After I started working with Bugha, all of his stuff just blew up. At the time I was also running his Instagram and Twitter. Eventually, he got a team and they stepped in, but Bugha still wanted me to be a part of his team. So we kept working together, and now of course he is with VaynerGaming. I’m actually a freelance editor for Vayner now too.”

In addition to Bugha, Apazo works heavily with Clix, another esports heavyweight, and also does media work for the Sentinels.

“So my two biggest clients are Bugha and Clix—Clix is popping on every platform and he’s doing big numbers as well. I also work as an editor for the Sentinels, and now I’m starting my own media company.”

That media company is named Motional, and Apazo plans on making it one of the world’s premier media companies.

“Around March I launched Motional, which is a media development company that I am currently running for Fortnite and Valorant. I’m doing more than just editing, and my goal is for Motional to be more than just a media company. I wanted it to be focused on business strategies, and I want it to be a brand where we can also combine and focus on music and apparel. Sort of like with 100 Thieves where they also have their apparel on the side. I would like for Motional to blend.”

Apazo was dealt a hand that could have been considered a challenge, but instead, he flipped his experience and used it to create something positive. Now he is on his way to becoming a power figure for esports, and he wants you to know that everybody else can do the same thing too, no matter what obstacles life throws your way.

Use your disadvantages and turn them into your strength. Look at your obstacles in a different way. Learn and create content, and always try to take the positives from things.

Solid advice from a pro. Be sure to follow Apazo on his Instagram and Twitter for more cool content.

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Gaming Interviews

How MonsterDface is Taking Over the Game

There’s an age-old saying you might be familiar with, “jack of all trades, but master of none.” Well, this doesn’t apply to the man known in the esports community as “MonsterDface.” An artist, analyst, commentator, and content creator, this 27- year-old from the Bronx is becoming a major force in the gaming world. With esports transitioning to a fully remote environment this past year, MonsterDface has gone through a period of reinvention. With previous roots as an influencer and content creator, “Dface” has successfully been able to adapt to these changes while continuing to build a fanbase. The “legend in the making” discussed his gaming journey on the most recent episode of One More Game, with host Aaron “Don” Dukes, and co-hosts RedinFamy and Warlock Rackaul.

When you talk to MonsterDface, it’s easy to understand why he’s become so successful in the gaming industry. Dface has a certain “it-factor,” and his personality has been a driving force in his career, especially in his roles as a commentator and content creator. Despite being very young, Dface already has an extensive gaming resume consisting of Fortnite, Practice Servers, and OpenScrims.

“Covid in a lot of ways obviously hurt businesses, but it amplified mine because there was a big silver lining. November 2019, I launched my own production business because I’ve always been the type to boss up. So I have always been like, okay, what if this happens, or what if somebody doesn’t need me. How do I put myself in a position where I can put the chess pieces in order and bring in talent. So I launched my own business with a practice server because I also run the largest competitive ecosystem in Fortnite. I realized all these players were building content off of what I basically run right now, so I was like, why don’t I build content and then hire people in? When Covid hit and everything started getting wiped out, I was like I’m ahead of the curve!”

Being two steps ahead of the game is an important part of running any business. It could literally be the difference between whether or not your business/brand can survive anything thrown its way over a short or long term period (and that includes an unexpected pandemic). That foresight continues to be one of the many things that sets MonsterDface apart from his peers, as he stands firm in his beliefs of “going against the grain.”

“First let me backtrack. It’s not that Epic doesn’t necessarily believe that they don’t want to run the most competitive events, it’s the way that they’re doing it isn’t something that’s traditional or orthodox in what people believe esports to be up to this point. I love their approach. They don’t feed the rich—they allow the competitive space to be open for people like myself to step up to take advantage. There’s no other esports league out there like that, and for that I genuinely do love their approach. As far as whether or not I can do this—I’ve always just been the kind of person where I don’t necessarily think as much. I’m the type to acquire a skill that can no longer be taken from me so that I can do everything. I’m literally a 360 service.”

From taking the reins over his career, to fighting for gamers to get paid, Dface has always used his voice. As a young man from the Bronx who has had to battle discrimination as well as poverty, speaking up for what he believes in is a way of life. It also fuels his creativity. The same creativity that has led him to be a bright spot in the Fortnite community. With so many talents, and the ability to diversify his craft, the future is bright for both esports, and Dface himself. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to do so (expand into other leagues), but I’ve chosen to stay in Fortnite for my brand. I really want to niche down and be the face so that if there’s ever a major, I’m there. Esports is the “Wild Wild West” right now. You don’t need a degree to make it to where I am. If you want to break into this, all you gotta do is know how “to talk the talk.” I think esports is going to have a huge run in this industry. One of my biggest assets is getting things in motion. As an influencer, I know how to move the chips”

Dface himself said it best, he’s not only on-air talent, but he also puts talent on air. For more on MonsterDface, be sure to check out the whole episode of One More Game above.  

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Gaming Interviews

How Arpit “Paradox” Manaktala is Taking Over PC Building

What is the meaning of the word Paradox? According to the Oxford Dictionary, a paradox is a “situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.” A paradox can also refer to an alternate dimension, and in the world of “alternate” realities, when a paradox occurs, there has to be a law behind it. If there is no law behind it, the whole universe could, in turn, crash, therefore ending reality. 

Those characteristics of a paradox are the same ones that have allowed PC Builder Arpit “Paradox” Manaktala to become successful. The rising star from New York is laid back, but a beast in PC building. He’s also spent his life defying the odds, quitting his job as a technical consultant (a job with a great salary) to start Paradox Customs. While the decision was a bold move, it has definitely worked in his favor.

With Bronny James officially joining the esports community by becoming a member of Faze Clan, Paradox had the career opportunity of a lifetime building “FaZe Bronny” his own custom PC. With a high IQ and a pulse on all things gaming, Paradox proves us right in becoming one of the next big personalities in the gaming scene with value and substance to match. Paradox’s journey to success proves that there isn’t necessarily one path in the gaming world. Sometimes it just takes that leap of faith.

Paradox
A Paradox exclusive PC

“I’m gonna keep it real. I did have a head start with CWL Open Events experience. Through playing, I was able to build a good reputation, and I developed a lot of connections in the community. I was also able to get a following that way. However, I did have other jobs, and they were stable in the sense that I knew I would always have an income. So to leave that was a step of faith for sure. I didn’t know how it would turn out, and I didn’t expect for things to happen so soon. It’s a perfect time, actually!”

Things certainly did happen for the 24-year-old relatively fast, especially considering that he didn’t build his first PC until he was 21.

“Yeah, I actually didn’t build my first PC until three years ago, so I was 21. I built my first PC for my cousin. He was trying to save some money, so I went to all these different stores and started buying all the parts I needed. It was an adventure—I had to return parts and find new ones, but I did it! I ended up saving him a lot of money, and I went back and told some of my CWL teammates that I could build their PC’s for them, and save them a ton!”

Fast forward three years later, and now Paradox is on his way to being a power player in the industry. His recent work for Bronny James this past week has turned his world upside down.

“Building the PC for Bronny was extremely intense. His birthday was October 6th, and I was running behind on the build. My plan was to get the PC to him last week, but I ran into some technical issues with parts not being in, and other problems. Fast forward to this past weekend; I was really pressed for time because I still didn’t have it done. I ended up building it Monday morning! So I built it and ran all the tests before the 6 pm UPS deadline. I got it done, shipped it out with One Day Air, and the PC was at Faze Tuesday morning. Zeno (the head of athlete relations for FazeFacetimed me while they were setting it up. It was really cool!”

In the 48 hours since Paradox has experienced a whirlwind of DM’s and messages. Some of those messages are job inquiries, and with demand for his skills increasing, the guy who wanted absolutely nothing to do with business is now suddenly a businessman. Through it all though, Paradox stays true to himself, believing that is the ice breaker to everything.

Paradox
Paradox

“I’m just myself in everything that I do. Sometimes before important business calls and things like that, I will be nervous, but then I’ll be like ‘Yooooo Wassup!’ That always ends up breaking the ice, and you can see the energy shift. People relax, their shoulders drop, and the vibe changes. Even when I’m filming my videos, I’m very interactive and personal. I don’t have this expensive camera—I use my iPhone. My setup isn’t anything too fancy—I like for everything to feel natural. I never want for anything to feel forced. Anytime anything has felt forced, I’ve walked away from it.

As far as the business side of things goes, right now, I’ve only hired people close to me, people, that I trust dearly. At the same time, though, I understand that I am building a business and trying to grow an infrastructure. There’s already been a huge demand in business, and we will be going full force. For me, trust is a big factor, and the people I hire have got to have the same passion as me. In all honesty, I’m still not that comfortable with being a ‘businessman.’ My brother used to do my taxes in the past. I just wanted nothing to do with it. It’s been fun learning, though!”

With big gaming launches in the near future and things slowly returning to normal in the gaming community, Paradox’s plate is full as there has been an increase in the demand for PCs. Time has slowly proven that PCs are better than consoles performance-wise for competitive gaming, which is why we see the shift. With more successes along the way, humility remains the most important thing for the rising star.

“This business has a lot of ups and downs. It’s been stressful times, and a lot of tears shed. I’ve lost gigs, there have been things that I have regretted, but through it all, I love what I do. I’m looking forward to growing the business, and giving more people opportunities in gaming.”

The great Jay-Z once said, “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business man.” One thing’s for sure; Paradox is definitely about his business. For future PC and gaming needs, be sure to follow Paradox on Instagram and Twitter

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Gaming Interviews

The Kansas City Pioneers are the Next ‘Rocket League’ Team to Watch Out For

In recent years, esports has become a billion-dollar entity. With competitions amongst various leagues, esports continues to thrive. Over the past couple of years, Kansas City has begun to establish a legitimate presence in the sports world (a guy by the name of Patrick Mahomes might have something to do with that), and now the Kansas City Pioneers, the city’s Rocket League team, are making their presence known with a vengeance as well. In this episode of One More Game, host Aaron “Don” Dukes and co-hosts Warlock Rakaul and Redinfamy spoke with Sam Kulikov (the chief creative of the Pioneers), Pioneers star Michael “Memory” Loss, and head coach JG7, about all things gaming.

Don kicked off the conversation with a discussion on how we’ve seen the growth of the Pioneers and Rocket League over these last several months in particular.

Sam: “I think it’s performing well, if we didn’t perform well in Rocket League, there would be nothing really to brag home about. So that’s one major thing. We want games to know that we are able to facilitate anything that they want/need to happen. There are so many little pieces, and to keep having James (JG7) and the team show improvement week after week, people pay attention and lock into that. They become fans instantly.”

Another factor in the organization’s success has been Rocket League now being free to play.

JG7: “I’m actually a full-time streamer in Rocket League, so I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, Epic Games is massive, and Fortnite has huge viewership numbers in terms of Twitch and YouTube. I think Rocket League is a game that has a lot of potential. Especially for the younger audience Twitch and YouTube tends to cater for. I think Rocket League could be up next. It’s so easy to learn—it’s exciting to learn, and fun to struggle. I honestly could see it blowing up.”

Memory: We’ve even seen the start of that with Liquidpedia. People have been looking up pro player controls and settings for the game. I think it was number one on the trending pages for the Wiki.”

In every sport, there is an “underdog.” A talented team with a lot of potential that for some odd reason is slept on. Some teams like the “underdog” label, while others hate it. Either way, the title is fuel to the fire, adding even more motivation for those teams to succeed. The Pioneers are no different.”

JG7: “So the top six teams with the most points from NA (North America) make Worlds, and we see ourselves as well on our way. In North America there’s a top-four: Spacestation, G2, Envy, and RG—I think we are about to make it a top five. We are on the level of those teams, and we still have so much to improve on, which is actually scary. I always say that the top teams don’t have as much to improve on as we do, and yet we are taking them on. Last weekend we came top four in regionals, but we still have so much to improve on. We haven’t even been playing that well, to be honest.”

Like with every sport, esports has had to adapt to the changes the Coronavirus pandemic has presented in terms of transitioning from a LAN setting to online. Don asked the group how that transition has been, and thoughts on a potential “bubble” environment.

Memory: “For me, it’s been a bit rough. I really loved going to the LAN’s. That was a big part of competing for me, and with all of it being online, it doesn’t ruin it, it just changes the dynamic a lot. Some of the tournaments we would’ve had that are notorious for being very hype and exciting, got canceled. It’s been different, but it’s still good.”

JG7: “It stinks because we’ve had internet problems with some of our players. It just stinks. We can’t even boot camp with our players or any of that.”

Sam: “Logistically a bubble sounds like just a quarantine system, but at the same time, I just don’t think that Rocket League and Epic want to even worry about that with those logistics. I’m not an expert at the logistics of all that, but I do know that everyone is coming from different cities, and they can’t just stay there for a long time because the season is pretty long. I don’t think logistically it can play out.”

While times are still tough right now, we also know that tough times don’t last forever. With Memory’s growing leadership, and a bright future for the Pioneers (and Rocket League all together). There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

Memory: “It’s kind of weird because I came after Beastmode (the fifteen-year-old Pioneers rookie). A lot of the work over these past few months has been trying to help Beastmode develop into the player we know he can be.”

JG7: “There aren’t very many players who have been in the game as long as Memory. I feel like Memory is one of the best of the original players that are still around. It’s honestly been great for me coming in because I don’t have the experience that Memory and Rapid (another Pioneers team leader) have. So it’s been great watching them develop their leadership skills.”

That growth and leadership will certainly prove helpful as Kansas City continues to excel.

Rocket League is a sport, and it’s bigger than all of the 2Ks and the Maddens. We could have a partnership down the line with professional Futbol soccer teams. Obviously, the World Cup is like the biggest sport in the world. So Rocket League has the opportunity to become the biggest game in the world. It feels like there’s no limit.”

Sam: “The Pioneers know how to adapt. We know how to pivot, we know how to engage authentically, and we know how to be ourselves. Whether that’s us playing Rocket League, or is pumping out content, it doesn’t matter what situation you put us in, we are gonna use it to capitalize on whatever we can.”

The sky’s the limit for the Kansas City Pioneers and Rocket League, and their future success is highly anticipated. For now, you can watch the full episode in the video above.

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Gaming Interviews

HDBeenDope is Changing the Way Music is Being Consumed in the Video Game World

As everyone knows, video games have been dominating the entertainment industry for a variety of reasons. Not only do your favorite pop figures play it, but it has also turned into a money streaming business that lets gamers get paid to stream on platforms like Twitch as well as be apart of professional eSports teams. With all this success, it only seems natural that they are about to have a significant impact on another area as well: Music.

Over the years, video games and hip-hop music have been a match made in pop culture heaven. Thanks to the genius idea of pioneers like Ronnie 2K, companies granted hip hop giants like Jay-Z the opportunity to curate music for the popular NBA2K video game series. But it’s looking like EASports is trying to gain a bigger edge in the battle of mixing in upcoming hip-hop talents with vets with their video game soundtrack back when they use to dominate in the early 2000s thanks to Fight Night, NBA Live 2003, and Madden NFL 2004.

Leading the charge for the new school of video game anthems is Brooklyn bred emcee, HDBeenDope.

This East Flatbush native has been attracting new fans to his music ever since his groundbreaking project, Broken Dreams. Now the 25-year-old lyrical prodigy is ready to take over the video game world with two monster songs appearing on two different video games. 

Top” is quickly becoming a fan favorite song on the hard-hitting latest edition of Madden NFL 21. But this is nothing new to Darius, as he told Associate Editor Omari White.

During the development process, EASports reached out to him, seeing if he would be interested in having a song appear on the historic game franchise’s next soundtrack. This request came after producers heard his song “Bands 2,” on the soundtrack of UFC4, gaining massive popularity with MMA fans and gamers alike.

Omari: So take us through your creative process in making a hit song. Like I know you had a background of becoming a producer before you took rap seriously. Do you step into your “producer bag” to find the inspiration from a sample, or do you just go about it by rapping about what’s on your mind at the time being?

HDBeenDope: So let’s use something like “Top,” for example, right. Cause that song I dropped last month, and I feel like that’s probably like my most like hit sounding record, you know what I mean?

I got an email basically saying like— Oh, Madden is looking for some horns for the soundtrack. And I’m just like, “okay, cool, like I know Madden.” And like, I just hear horns. That’s the first thing I’m hearing. So, I made this beat and I like cooked up these horns and it was a dope beat.

And then as soon as I hear like the baseline of the track, then I try and come up with a hook. So I came up with a hook and it was like, all right, this sounds good. I added some drums. And I was like, alright, this is cool. But it wasn’t, it like, it didn’t sound like it. So I was like, you know what, I need to go back in and like, try to just make something else.

I was just sifting through samples and I just randomly came across the top sample and I heard that and I was like, “Oh shit, this, this sounds like I can hear this in the stadium.” This is kind of like that. You know what I mean? So from there, it’s just me just pulling up the voice memo on my phone and seeing if I could come up with some type of hook. It’s crazy. Cause I was actually looking through my voice memos today, just searching through. Cause I just got mad ideas in there. So like in there when I’m kind of like running out ideas and I was hearing the original for top and it was like very wild to hear where it was. 

Omari: So you can see your progression and say “oh I did that.”

HDBeenDope: Yeah, exactly. But yeah, but that’s where it starts for me. It’s like, it really just starts with the instruments of the track. And then if I can come up with a hook, then I’m like, “alright, bet I know there’s something to this.” But if I lay down the instruments and I feel like I can’t get a hook, then I probably just end up putting it on the back burner until the inspiration sparks later.

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Gaming Interviews

Meet Jason Lake, the Mastermind Behind Complexity

Meet Jason Lake, the founder and CEO of Complexity, one of the world’s premier gaming organizations. Lake founded the company in 2003, and is personally responsible for some of the greatest teams and gamers we have seen over the past decade. Complexity’s gamers have been featured in outlets such as The New York Times and Sports Illustrated. Every story has a beginning, and Lake spoke about his journey in this industry with host Aaron “The Don” Dukes and his two cohosts REDinFamy and Warlock Rackaul in the latest episode of Good Game. “I started Complexity seventeen years ago so I’m kind of an old timer. I’ve lived through different waves and iterations of this business as we’ve tried different things. From the old days living in mom’s basement, through days of feast and famine, to now in this investor fueled era where there’s much more serious business going on.”

Lake describes Complexity as his “third child,” noting the business has grown along with his children. A major turning point for Complexity was the decision to create some valuable partnerships. “In 2017, we made a major leap in our evolution to partner with Jerry Jones of The Dallas Cowboys, and real estate investor John Goff. They actually bought majority control of our organization, and we relocated all of our employees to Frisco, Texas, where we built the GameStop Performing Center (the campus of The Cowboys).”

The reinvention of the company has led to the beginning stages of esports 3.0, a program dedicated to the well being of gamers. For those that know Jason Lake personally, this next step is no surprise. Lake has always been incredibly dedicated to his gamers, and the gaming community as a whole. “We want to extend a gamers lifespan. It’s a selfish purpose because we are investing a lot of money in these gamers, but most importantly, it’s the right thing to do. It gives them a more pleasant experience.”

Lucrative business decisions aside, everything comes back to the love of the game. That passion is what fuels Lake day in and day out, and what he looks for when selecting his players. “Growing up, I was a bit of a nerd and a bit of a jock, so my love of competition and sports led to the finding of esports. When I found esports, it was like a counter strike — the marriage of my two passions.”

In addition to the esports 3.0 project, Lake has also been busy with his new Valorant team. “Selecting a game/team is much more of an art form than a science. We look for so many things, such as the lifespan of a game, the potential economic revenue etc. Some games we believe in and invest in at different levels. Right now Valorant is an early beta, but we’ve put together a team that we think has a great upside potential.”

While Complexity continues to make advancements, it’s not lost on Lake that the gaming community has been mostly male dominated. Lake is looking to change that. “I have a sixteen year old daughter who’s grown up around Complexity and gaming. Quite frankly, I’ve limited her game time in the past more than my son because I know how vicious it is for women in gaming. We do our best to make sure many women are included — we have many women across our staff. At Complexity, we feel we aren’t balanced without the addition of women, and we want to continue our part to change that.”

Life is about transitions, and with more time at home due to Covid-19, Jason Lake has found himself creating a YouTube channel for people hoping to follow his career path. While there’s been a lot of successes in his career, there have also been some mistakes. “ I tell everyone nobody has made more mistakes in esports than myself. But if you learn from that mistake with a positive attitude, you grow and become better at what you do.”

After seventeen years in this business, Jason Lake continues to get better. If you want to hear more about Lake’s journey through this game we call life, check out the full episode of Good Game at the link above.

Categories
Gaming Interviews

Bugha Talks About His Multi-Sport Ambitions With Gary Vee

Even if you’re not a serious gamer, chances are you’ve heard of Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf. The seventeen-year-old has taken the world by storm since becoming the first-ever Fortnite World Cup champion in 2019, beating 40 million competitors and taking home a prize of $3,000,000 at the age of 16. That win not only propelled Bugha into stardom (As of today, Bugha has 15.4 million followers across all platforms), but his dominance also captured the eye of Gary Vee.

Bugha joined Gary on episode eleven of his Marketing For The Now show to talk about his success & the life of a world-class esports athlete. In this episode, the two dive into what gamers really do behind the scenes, the newer generation of Fortnite players, and being able to dominate multiple esports in the vein of Shotzzy, Bo Jackson, and Deion Sanders.

To kick off the convo, Gary gave a quick nod to Bugha’s VaynerSports hoodie he was rockin’, before asking Bugha about some of the things fans may not know about the life of a professional gamer. Bugha made it clear that there’s way more to gamer life than “playing games and eating snacks all day.” The World Champ is always on his grind, looking for ways to get better daily.

People think that all gamers are nerds and play the game 24/7. But that’s not true. At least not for me.

Part of getting better each day also means studying your opponents. When asked by Gary about the upcoming Fortnite gamers, Bugha surprised viewers by revealing that he’s actually considered to be a “middle-aged” player at seventeen (yes, you read that correctly).

This new generation of Fortnite pros are between thirteen and fourteen, and Bugha noted that the new crop of players are constantly evolving, and are more mechanical in the way they are approaching the game.

Players are evolving all the time. The younger ones (thirteen to fourteen) are kind of coming and pushing the older ones out because they are so much more mechanical in their fighting style. I’m seventeen, so I’m actually considered middle-aged in the Fortnite scene. It’s kind of crazy!

Getty Images
Bugha winning the ‘Fortnite’ World Cup in 2019

The final question Gary Vee had for the Fortnite World Cup champ was whether or not he planned to expand his talents. The answer to that question was an immediate & emphatic, YES. Bugha told Gary that while being a multi-game player isn’t for everyone, he believes he has the mental drive to learn and dominate more than one game on a world-class level. If there’s one thing that the young champion does not lack, it’s confidence, and rightfully so.

Any game I’m going to, I’m always trying to get really good at. That’s just my competitive drive. 

It’s certainly been fun watching Bugha’s success over the past year, and we are definitely looking forward to following along as his career continues to evolve.

Categories
Gaming Interviews

How To Become A Game Tester

In the realm of “dream jobs,” getting paid to play video games all day may seem as far-fetched as becoming an astronaut or a Men In Black agent. But landing a gig as a professional video game tester isn’t nearly as out of reach as you’d expect. The gaming industry, which this year is predicted to rake in nearly $160 billion, is rapidly expanding (set to surpass $200 billion in revenue by 2023) which means that there are more openings in the field than ever before. Video game testing is one of the best ways to break into the biz and earn a not half-bad living while you’re at it. According to Glassdoor, the average base salary of a games tester is around $55K a year – with room for growth.

  • Step 1: Understand The Job
  • Step 2: Play Video Games!
  • Step 3: Study Up
  • Step 4: Hone Your Skills
  • Step 5: Research Companies
  • Step 6: Look for Listings
  • Step 7: Land The Job

Like any career, it requires knowledge, passion, plenty of studying, and a dedication to getting into the field. Don’t know where to start? Read on for our step-by-step guide, along with advice from real gaming professionals.

Step 1: Understand The Job
Glassdoor

Before you start daydreaming, it’s important to understand what video game testers (known in the industry as QA, or Quality Assurance, testers) really do. For the record, they don’t actually just play around all day. The job is about finding and documenting bugs in software that’s usually under construction and perhaps not “playable” in the sense that you’re used to as a consumer. It also involves troubleshooting, testing functionality, analyzing data content, and rating the performance of games. 

“A big misconception that I see new testers have and a lot of Game companies perpetuate is that ‘wow you get to play games for a living’ and it’s not that easy,” says Kristen Dealy, a senior QA Tester at Activision Blizzard (whose opinions are her own and do not reflect Activision). “We don’t play games for fun but to break them. Every day testers are running through every aspect of the game to make sure it is functional. It’s a lot of doing the same thing every day. Then if you do find a bug you have to be able to deduce the exact steps and then document it for the developers to fix.”

According to Jonas Kopka, a QA Lead at Kolibri Games, based in Berlin, QA testers “spend a lot of time manually testing our game so we know it inside out, but at least as much time is spent preparing test maps to find and cover all the edge cases… Another similar amount of time is spent in meetings to plan our sprints, iterate over our workflows and processes, and align and decide on the actual implementations.”

Step 2: Play Video Games!

You’ve probably got this part covered if you’re interested in a career as a games tester, but it’s worth pointing out that, like any profession, some general knowledge can be a big help when you’re starting out. While “a longtime passion” isn’t quite required, says Remy Ripple, a general software QA tester who has previously done QA testing at Activision, “definitely having some kind of knowledge in games helps. The games I tested were never the kind I’d sit down and play myself, like first-person shooters, so I was at a little bit of a handicap at first, but having general knowledge about them helped.” For a leg up, it would be useful to start playing the types of games you usually don’t have in your rotation to broaden your range of experience; if you’re used to first-person shooters, for example, try switching it up to a story-driven RPG. Here’s your excuse to splurge on more titles and spend even more time with your console!

Step 3: Study Up
Activision

While you don’t necessarily need a formal education in gaming to land a job as a QA tester, having a grip on the technical side of things is an obvious plus and a degree always helps, especially in a field this competitive (sorry, but you’re probably not the only one reading this article right now). If you’re entering or are still in school, look into college courses centering on digital media, programming, or software design and development. 

Dealy, for example, studied Game Design and Development-Art with a concentration in 2D Art, while Ripple has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. “I majored in Web and Multimedia (basically a catch-all for digital media studies),” he says. “Since I already had an interest in games and making games, breaking into the industry especially from a mainly art/design perspective can be hard so games QA was a nice adjacent position to what I wanted.”

For gaming hopefuls who have long since graduated, all hope is hardly lost. There are plenty of online degree or certificate courses to help you add some extra oomph to your resume. Gaming Industry Career Guide has a searchable map of related program offerings in your area.

From an entry-level standpoint, QA testing is a great way to get started in the gaming industry, and since it serves as an intersection of so many disciplines, Kopka assures that “any extra skill or experience you have from other areas can be applied in one way or another to QA, so never stop learning!”

Step 4: Hone Your Skills

Speaking of skills, which kinds are video game companies looking for in QA testers specifically? Well, you might be surprised. Kopka, for one, cites three main skill requirements for any successful game tester:

Communication: “We work on a 40 person game team and very closely with devs, designers, product managers. There’s no time for vagueness and misunderstandings.” Written communication skills are also valued, as testers must be able to describe the route to a glitch clearly and concisely to developers.

Teamwork: “We have no place for big egos, it’s about delivering an awesome experience for our players, and that only works if we all pull together.”

Puzzling: “Deconstructing a feature into its parts and finding in which ways you can fit them together is essential to find all the interesting ways it might break.” 

The role also requires a sharp eye for detail – after all, a big part of your job would be to pick up even the smallest bugs – along with plenty of patience and a tolerance for repetition (you’ll likely be required to repeat actions many, many times).

Step 5: Research Companies
Microsoft

When seeking to enter any industry, it’s important to familiarize yourself with all the major players (um, no pun intended). There are hundreds of game companies across the world, ranging from large studios to indie startups, so you’ll have to consider what you’re looking for in a potential employer. Would you prefer a work environment that’s swanky corporate or scrappy startup? Would you consider relocating? Do you want a stable work-life balance or a stable salary?

Glassdoor is an excellent resource for seeking honest, behind-the-scenes reports straight from current and past employees. To get you started, here’s an overview of some of the best-ranked video game companies to work for:

  • Activision Blizzard: Based in Santa Monica, California. Known for Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, World of Warcraft. Employees say, “Not for the faint-hearted but the strong can thrive.”
  • Valve Corporation: Based in Bellevue, Washington. Known for Half-life, Portal, DOTA 2, Left 4 Dead, Steam. Employees say, “Awesome company with good perks.”
  • Riot Games: Based in Los Angeles, California. Known for League of Legends. Employees say, “The best career decision I ever made.”
  • Naughty Dog: Based in Santa Monica, California. Known for Uncharted, The Last of Us, Crash Bandicoot. Employees say, “Very talented team. Amazing tools. Treated well.”
  • Electronic Arts Inc.: Based in Redwood City, California. Known for Battlefield, Need for Speed, The Sims, Dragon Age, Star Wars, Madden. Employees say, “Big corporate with all the pros and cons.”
  • Epic Games: Based in Cary, North Carolina. Known for Fortnite, Unreal, Gears of War, Infinity Blade. Employees say, “Incredible growth opportunity.”
  • Take-Two Interactive: Based in New York, New York. Known for BioShock, Borderlands, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead, NBA 2K. Employees say, “Great culture and place to work.”
  • Bungie: Based in Bellevue, Washington. Known for Halo, Destiny. Employees say, “People are great, work-life balance is challenging.”
  • Nintendo: Based in Kyoto, Japan. Known for (do we even need to say this?) Mario, Zelda, Pokémon. Employees say, “Best Place EVER to work.”
  • And if you happen to be interested in moving to Germany, Kopka describes Kolibri Games as a 105-person powerhouse that boasts a “very open culture where cross-team collaboration is common and appreciated.” Sounds like a stamp of approval to us.
Step 6: Look for Listings

Once you’re finally ready to dive into the actual job search, your best bet is to look for job listings on sites including Indeed, Glassdoor, and Gaming Industry Career Guide, or on the company websites themselves. Keep in mind that not all QA positions are salaried or full time. A company may hire temporary or part-time testers, meaning that you’d be paid hourly as a contract worker (on the plus side, that means the potential for lots of overtime pay).

Nevertheless, according to Ripple, “a lot of major studios have massive QA departments in the sheer number of the lowest rung QA testers,” so there tends to be plenty of openings for QA roles. And don’t be afraid to start somewhere, whether that’s an internship or a peripheral role. 

In college, Dealy says she “did an internship at iDTech as an instructor where I taught kids how to 3D model and create video games [and] ended up working again at iDTech before I graduated as a Lead Instructor.” Then she found a job opening at Activision. Kopka got his start doing SEO, copywriting and localization at a startup – and now he’s the QA Lead at Kolibri! 

As Ripple says, “I think anyone that wants to get into QA can find that this is actually a pretty large field with a lot of crossover between different disciplines. QA in games, in software, even in mechanical stuff are out there and anyone that likes understanding how systems work and how things fit together in even the most abstract way I think can find a place here even if it isn’t with their dream company or if QA isn’t even their end dream position.”

Another insider tip? “Get into mobile games,” says Kopka. “The market is much larger and most things are very similar compared to console and PC games.”

Step 7: Land The Job

You’ve sent your resume out there, consistently applied to openings, and finally got called in for an interview – congrats! Here’s your chance to show off all the knowledge you’ve gleaned preparing for this role and actually land the job. So what should you expect from the interview? In addition to general questions about which games you typically play or have experience with, interviewers may ask things such as, “How do you assess the quality and difficulty of a game?”, “What techniques do you use to find all the bugs and glitches in a game?”, and “What skills do you think Video Game Testers need to be successful?” (luckily, we went over those!). You also might be given a test to assess that eye for detail we mentioned.

On a more practical level, Ripple notes that, “public transport is possible out to the office but in the interview, they usually request that you have reliable transport due to expected overtime.” Depending on where you are, that might mean having to get a car. 

As for whether or not all this prep for your “dream job” is actually worth it? Well, it might not be all fun and games, but Kopka maintains that the career pays off. “There are so many amazing people working in games, and they bring so much passion to work every day. Also, working on products that just want to bring positivity and joy to the world is incredibly rewarding. It’s surreal and deeply touching seeing your game being played in the subway by a random stranger, or when your friends confess they’ve been playing for a while!”