Blog

#4 We are starting an esports team!

7.3.18

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We are excited to announce the next steps in the growth of The Game Gym. First, we are starting an esports team! The Game Gym Astrodons will be competing locally and online in a variety of different esports. Second, we are excited to announce that we are now opening our program to 14-18 year old competitors.

Our younger ‘Dons are focused on learning the basics of the games. They will be introduced to a variety of games until they find the esport that suits them. With our younger ‘Dons, we put an emphasis on learning the games, but also how to balance life and gaming.

Our older ‘Dons are focused on working on skills that will help them exceed at local and national tournaments. In addition to preparing for competition, our older ‘Dons are introduced to the ecosystem of esports and gaming so that they can explore their passions wherever they may take them.

We felt it was very important to first establish that we were a place to come and play games IN PERSON. We are not robots. We are real people, with a real training center where you can come a play. Now that people know what we are and what we do, we are shifting our focus from “the Gym” to “the team.” Through these changes, we are excited to create avenues for as many people in our community to explore esports and all of their passions.

Wait…why Astrodons? The Astrodon is a real dinosaur that roamed the Maryland area during the Cretaceous Period. It is also the state Dinosaur of Maryland! Who knew we had a state dinosaur?! 

Peace and Love,

ExtraBarbecue


#3 Understanding the Desensitization in Video Games

6.14.18 - by Coach Josh

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Yesterday, The Today Show in Australia posted a god-awful segment about how it is proven that games like Fortnite increases lack of empathy and aggressive behavior. THIS IS NOT TRUE.  Be wary, with the emergence of esports and gaming on the global stage, there will be "experts" and other sorts that promote all kinds of ideas and agendas. Additionally, many people will use the violence in gaming as an excuse for other issues. After the Marjory Stoneman shooting, Donald Trump tried to distract us from the gun debate by shifting the focus to games. Trump's brother, Robert, sits on the board of ZeniMax Media, one of the largest video game developers and publishers in the world. Trump knows this and that video games are not the issue. He just chose to use video games as a scapegoat instead of focusing on guns. Long story short, be wary and find trusted sources. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there.

Today, I would like to tackle one of the issues brought up in the Today Show video, desensitization.

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I always shied away from violent things. I don’t like guns. I was never one to get into a fight, and I don’t like war movies, war games, etc. So, I didn’t play too many violent video games growing up. It was not until I was in my late 20s that I started to play Wolfenstein, DOOM, and the more aggressive shooting games. As I said, they are not my cup of tea, but they were the games I was assigned to work on, so I had to dive in. I remember the first time I played Wolfenstein; I was such a baby. At first, the violence was jarring and made me feel uncomfortable, I had to play small sections at a time, but as I played more, I stopped seeing the enemy as "people," but more as an “obstacles” that I had to navigate around. The more I played these types of games, the more I cared less about what I was shooting, and I became more focused on objectives. Many shooting games have the same goal; you must clear a room of enemies to progress or win the game. Over time, if you play enough games, you do the same thing again and again. Clear the room and advance, clear the room and advance. The more games you play, the more shapes enemies take (Aliens, Nazis, and Zombies are common), but the objective remains the same. What became clear to me is that over time, it wasn’t about Nazis, Aliens, or Zombies, those were just what the developers chose to create as my obstacle, it was about clearing the room to advance. I can see how someone who has never played games before can watch a kid play Call of Duty and repeatedly shoot “people” and feel as though they are desensitized to violence. However, in reality, it is merely that the kid has a deeper understanding of the process. While the parent or game novice sees just the violence on the surface, the gamer is looking past the violence and is focused on completing the objective and progressing.

One of my biggest issues with the Today Show segment was how they used kids as props while the adults talked. This is one of my most significant problems. TALK TO YOUR KIDS. ASK THEM QUESTIONS. I have been to a number of seminars where desperate parents attempt to understand their kids by asking an "expert" what they should do...TALK TO YOUR KIDS. ASK THEM QUESTIONS. You may not understand video games, but if you ask good questions, you may be able to understand the larger picture.  

Peace and Love,

ExtraBarbecue

Would love your thoughts! 


 #2 Stigma and the Learning Process

6.7.18 - By Coach Josh

Currently, I am learning how to play Super Smash Bros 4 and the guitar. I find it fascinating how learning an instrument is generally looked at positively, and learning a new game is usually viewed as a waste of time. Gaming and music have many similarities. Both music and gaming can lead to harmful and dangerous lifestyles. Both can lead to playing in groups or playing in isolation, both require the same kind of brain to fingertip learning, but yet one is deemed worthwhile, and the other is a waste. 

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As I've learned both, I realized how similar they are. Input creates output. Plucking a string produces a sound, clicking a key creates action on the screen. Strumming a collection of strings at a specific time in a certain way creates a chord, hitting a button and moving the joystick at a particular time unleashes a super move. Input creates output. The learning process is the same, the neuropathways from the brain to the fingertips need to be created and deepened. The same kind of learning can be associated with typing. How many times did you repeat, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" as you were learning how to type. If you practiced enough, you can now probably type without looking at the keyboard. Those pathways are deep after years and years of typing. The same connection can be made to a guitar player not looking at their hands or a gamer not looking at their controller while playing. The learning process is the same, but the stigma is very different. If you were to take guitar or typing classes, you are looking to better yourself. If you take classes to learn a new video game, you are wasting your time.

Unfortunately, the negative stigma around video games rooted deeply within our culture. Video games are associated with poor health, school shootings, and isolationism. While those things may sometimes hold true, that is only a small part of the reality. It is the equivalent of taking a massive industry like traditional sports and saying, "All football players beat their wives, all cyclists cheat and do steroids, and all baseball and basketball players gamble on their sport. While those things are true in many cases, it is not a blanket statement one can assign to all of “sports.” Signing your kid up for football does not mean he will grow up to be a wifebeater in the same way that signing your kid up to learn a new game will not transform them into a school shooter. Video games are closely associated with their darkest moments while other industries are not. That is the main issue and stigma I hope to fight.

Learning is good for us. Learning how to learn is a skill that must be exercised. At The Game Gym, we believe that learning a new game, learning how to draw, and learning the guitar, are all beneficial because we are learning how to learn. Throughout life, we will have to master programs, policies, procedures, and skill sets that will require this type of learning. The more practice we have at it, the better learners we can become. The quicker and more effectively you learn, the more productive you are, and so on. We must shift our focus away from the stigma and towards the process. We think that if we can do that, with the right coaches and structure, we can make playing video games a productive way to practice learning.

Has this article made you aware of any biases that you have against gaming? What do you think about the connection between learning music and video games? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Peace and Love,

ExtraBarbecue


#1 The beginnings of the blog

6.7.18 - by Coach Josh  

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When I first developed the idea of The Game Gym, I thought that the public was more aware of the world of competitive video gaming or esports. The E-League is now on TBS on Friday nights, Ninja and Fortnite are household names, and Shaq, Alex Rodriguez, and Tiesto are all esports team owners. I thought that I would be introducing the concept of “the swim team” (The Game Gym) to people who know what the “pool” (esports) is. After several public events and open houses, I realized that many parents and the general public, have no idea what esports are and why and their value. I realized that I am not attempting to introduce a competitive aspect to something that is generally understood, but I am introducing a totally new concept altogether. We are not introducing the swim team to people already at the pool. We have to introduce the idea of "the pool" to people who have never seen one before. Through interactions with parents in our community, I realized that before I can introduce benefits of esports, I have to help my community rethink how we talk and think about video games.

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Before I go further, let me give you a little background…my name is Josh Hafkin, and before I defined myself as a gamer or marketer, I was an athlete. I played all forms of sports growing up, basketball, soccer, karate, lacrosse, but eventually gravitated towards swimming. Over the course of a decade, I trained, raced, and coached thousands of times all over the world. It was through training and competition that I learned about myself and how much I did not know about my limits. It was through coaching that I found my purpose. I found that it gave me so much joy to help people achieve their goals. I found that so many people felt uninspired and that they just needed a spark or a push. I realized that the spark that burns within me, could be transferred to others, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently, and it was my duty as a coach to figure out how to make the transfer. One of the things that I found I had a knack for was helping people understand a new concept. I tried to make a connection that the athlete understood. If that didn't work, I attempted another connection, and another, until not only the technique but the purpose of the method was digested.

Through this section, I hope to put my skills as a coach to work and make connections between esports/gaming to things we all understand. I believe that esports need coaches and brand ambassadors out in the community if we are going to see the industry growth that is projected. We have to break outside of our silos and help others understand what we are doing and why it is important. It is my goal that you share these articles with people who are less familiar with the esports industry. Share these with your friends or family as a tool to help them understand. If I share my spark and those people get energized, and they share their spark and get other excited, we can help a lot of people navigate and understand this new world of esports and video games.

Peace & Love,

ExtraBarbecue