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Samuel Franklin, Lead Editor & Founder of Games Finder – Interview Series

Samuel Franklin, Lead Editor & Founder of Games Finder - Interview Series

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Samuel Franklin, Lead Editor & Founder of Games Finder - Interview Series

Samuel Franklin, Lead Editor & Founder of Games Finder.

Throughout his career in the industry he has amassed 3+ million views on his YouTube channel, 10+ million article views on HubPages and 250k+ answer views on Quora. Samuel has also played League of Legends and Call of Duty: United Offensive competitively under the Stride and Coup de Grace clans with the gamertag “Seelyon”. During his time in the competitive Call of Duty: UO scene he also shoutcasted matches for GameStah Radio.

When did you originally discover your love of gaming?

Like many in the gaming industry I discovered my love for games early on in life and it’s stuck with me for nearly two decades now. For me this was through my uncle who was interested in technology and gaming in the late 90s and introduced me to Diablo and Dungeon Keeper (well before I was the appropriate age for either game) one afternoon from which point I was instantly hooked. Something about the ability to control the pixels on the screen and the strategic thinking required in these games made me want to learn and play more of what gaming had to offer.

As I continued to grow up I was constantly on my GameBoy playing the Pokemon franchise from Blue all the way to Crystal although always came back to PC gaming over console gaming with interest in all sorts of game genres.

You have an esports background, could you share with us how this got started?

Times have changed drastically in this space and during my stint in esports there was simply not the same level of attention or structures that exist now and it’s been fantastic to see the esports scenes around games like League of Legends, DOTA, Overwatch and CS:GO develop these things for upcoming esport gamers. Thankfully though there was still one avenue during my early esports days in Call of Duty which came through an active competitive ladder known as GameArena.

As I was a regular on the GameArena servers it wasn’t long before a clan of players reached out to me to join their team that competed and after a brief trial period I was added to their starting roster for the regular ladder matches that took place weekly. Similar to today it was all about being a consistent top performer on the game servers to get noticed by the competitive teams.

Could you share some highlights from when you used to be a semi-professional Call of Duty player?

I had three highlights during my time as a Call of Duty player with each being a highlight for different reasons. The first highlight that I particularly cherish is starting my own competitive clan under the name “Stride” which featured many of my close long time real life friends and while we only had moderate success the fun and memories from that time are some of my favorite of all my years playing Call of Duty and gaming in general.

Secondly, joining one of the top Call of Duty clans at the time (Coup de grace) after disbanding Stride where I played with eSports commentator Toby Dawson to win the grand final of the Season 4 GameArena Call of Duty ladder. Finally, was working alongside Toby Dawson as a guest esports analyst commentator for GameStah Radio who was providing shoutcasting for the Call of Duty competitive matches which is now a staple element of the esports genre.

More recently you were a competitive Fortnite player. What was your favorite part of this experience?

Stepping back into the esports scene for this brief stint was a fantastic experience and my favourite part was seeing how the structure of esports has grown from my time with Call of Duty. The number of competitions, in-game features and community as a whole was far beyond anything that was available during my earlier competitive experience and that was the main reason I wanted to explore the Fortnight competitive scene as it was rapidly growing.

You used to stream video games back in 2011 to 2013, would you do this again?

Despite having a great time with streaming and YouTube I don’t think I would do this again. I’ve always been someone who wants to play different games and is constantly trying something new which makes building a dedicated streaming or YouTube audience much harder and ultimately why I stopped in 2013. While I’d built a healthy League of Legends YouTube channel with over 3 million video views I was looking to move away from League of Legends and found it difficult to transition that community to another game.

What was the inspiration behind launching your website gameslikefinder.com?

Given I’m always looking for new video game adventures and my passion extends beyond a single genre I often found myself struggling to find similar games to those that I have previously enjoyed. When I founded Games Finder in 2013 there simply was no great recommendation system for video games so I opted to build it myself to help gamers find new gaming experiences.

Do you have a current favorite game and why does this game resonate with you?

My favorite game of all time has always been Dungeon Keeper 2 and a video game I even hold a few level speedrun records for on speedrun.com. Something about letting you play as the villain with the mixture of strategy and management has always appealed to me and I regularly return to it despite its age and the fact that I’ve played through it so many times there aren’t any surprises or challenges left. Currently though I’m mostly playing Escape From Tarkov as I find it’s mixture of loot, realism and difficulty an addicting pass time.

Do you have a favorite game genre?

These days I find that games with roguelike elements are my favorite as the threat of losing everything when you die always ensures a rush of adrenaline every time you play. Something about the gameplay loop of highs and lows as you slowly master the game mechanics is also extremely attractive to me. Lately this means playing Escape From Tarkov which is a first person shooter where a death means you lose all of your equipment while my other favorites in the genre include games like Faster Than Light and Slay the Spire.

You seem to be adventurous when it comes to trying new games and being competitive, will you be playing competitively again?

As much as I’d love to jump back into the competitive scene for a current or newly released game I don’t see this as something I’ll pursue in the future. Unfortunately, esports always has and will be a young person’s game so with every year that passes my reaction time slows and my ability to invest large amounts of time diminishes as real-life responsibilities and management of Games Finder takes over. I will however watch the esports scene continue to develop and be a long term fan to the many competitive scenes that are out there right now.

Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to find new games to fall in love with should visit Games Finder.

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Antoine Tardif is the CEO of Gaming.net, and has always had a love affair for games, and has a special fondness for anything Nintendo related.

Interviews

Neal Taparia, CEO of Solitaired – Interview Series

Neal Taparia, CEO of Solitaired - Interview Series

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Neal Taparia, CEO of Solitaired - Interview Series

Neal Taparia, is the CEO of Solitaired, a platform that offers over 500 versions of solitaire – Play Klondike Turn 1, Klondike Turn 3, Spider, Free Cell, Pyramid, and Golf Solitaire, among many other versions.

What inspired you to launch Solitaired?

There has been a more and more emphasis on mental health and how to stay mentally strong while aging. Many companies like Lumosity have sprung up to tackle concepts like brain training in a fun way. We believe this category will continue to grow as more attention is placed on mental health.

We wanted to find a unique angle to brain training, and find a way to try brain training exercises in a medium they are familiar with. We didn’t want potential consumers to learn new games. Not only would there be a learning curve, but it could hinder adoption.

So we decided to explore how classic games that people already know and love could be used as a medium for brain training. There is also the added benefit that our target market, which tends to be elderly individuals, love classic games and are interested in keeping their mental skills sharp.

Could you tell us about the different versions of games offered on Solitaired?

Right now, we offer 500 different versions of solitaire. This includes classic solitaire, often called Klondike, and popular variations like Spider Solitaire and FreeCell Solitaire.

We focused on creating high quality graphics to create a good user experience. We also have additional features like a game of the day, leaderboard, and ability to customize cards to keep users coming back to the site.

Soon, we’ll start offering features geared towards mentally challenging yourself. This includes trying to beat previous times and number of moves, and recreate an exact sequence to win a game.

Over the next year, we want to add more games, from crosswords puzzles, to Sudoku, to Majong, all designed in a way that are fun and help with brain training.

You’ve explored the link between classic games and brain training. Could you share with us how games can be used to train the brain?

Studies find that as we age, we lose cognitive abilities such as reasoning, memory, and processing speed. However, if we regularly exercise our minds, we can prevent or minimize these losses, and stay sharp. It can even help combat dementia.

Classic games like Solitaire are a great solution for this. Games that stimulate thinking are shown to improve processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making, and short-term memory.

Why is solitaire a great game for brain training?

Solitaire is a great way to cognitively push yourself. For example, trying to beat a solitaire game in the exact same sequence exercises your memory skills. There are dozens of sequential moves, and to repeat this is no easy feat. Doing so can strengthen your memory.

More broadly, games that require you to think help with your cognitive reserve which powers your ability to improvise, think on the spot, and make quick decisions. Solitaire, especially in a timed format, can strengthen this.

Lastly, novelty is important to strengthening your brain. With solitaire, there are endless decks that can be dealt of varying difficulty. Some games can’t even be won. The variability and variety of solitaire games creates a novel game play effect which is good for you cognitively.

What are some life skill sets that can be adapted from playing solitaire?

In solitaire, you might think you have successfully placed a card, only to find you need it back to unlock the game and further advance. It teaches you that sometimes, to take two steps forward, you have to take a step back. You can’t rush progress, and you need to constantly evaluate what it takes to get to your end goal.

Solitaire also teaches you how to be patient in your decision making. There are many moves that will come up where you might pass on, because moving a different card can surface more cards you can play. You have to mentally keep track of what the probability of this is, and decide if it’s worthwhile to be patient. If you’re selling your house, for example, you don’t want to bite on the first offer. Rather, you want to be patient and then make your decision.

This is your second startup, as previously you were a co-founder of EasyBib.com a company that was later acquired by Chegg. What are some of the lessons that you learned over the years about launching and successfully scaling a business?

No matter how good you think your product idea is, or how much research you’ve done, you will only truly know if it’s promising by putting a product or feature out there. I see so many entrepreneurs overthink their product, only to find out it’s a dud. Focus on getting something in the hands of your users to understand what value it brings and to learn and iterate to truly solve for their needs.

Now, instead of building out product features, we will regularly launch painted door tests. This is where we show a button to a feature, but have not built out the feature yet. To give you an example, we wanted to see if a multiplayer mode would be popular among our users. Instead of building it, we just launched a button where when clicked, it would say the feature is coming soon. We quickly learned there was little interest in it, and decided not to invest the resources in building it out.

To succeed, learn to fail fast. The faster you fail, the faster you learn and the faster you succeed.

You are also a Co-Founder of SOTA Partners, which invests, incubates, and advises companies. When it comes to gaming or VR products is there a specific type of concept or technology that you look for?

We really like identifying new ways technology can be applied. For example, we invested in TrasfrVR. With intelligent tutoring technology, they use virtual reality simulations that teach manufacturing skills. The idea is to rethink traditional education and directly teach skills needed on the job. They recently launched a partnership with the state of Alabama, and after using their technology, have placed candidates with companies like Lockheed Martin.

Classic games have also not been built for VR, and it’s something we think can become a new category.

Have you noticed any type of traffic jump since COVID-19?

We certainly saw an acceleration in our growth, and by looking at the stats of other classic gaming sites, we’ve seen the space as a whole grow. With people being stuck at home, and not venturing out, many have turned to games as an outlet. With people stressed, games are also a great way to take the edge off.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Solitaired?

Solitaire interestingly is one of the most popular and oldest games in the world. Millions of people play it today and it dates back to the 1800s!

Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Solitaired.

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David Vinokurov, President & CEO at FANDOM SPORTS Media Corp – Interview Series

David Vinokurov, President & CEO at FANDOM SPORTS Media Corp - Interview Series

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David Vinokurov, President & CEO at FANDOM SPORTS Media Corp - Interview Series

David Vinokurov,  is the President & CEO at FANDOM SPORTS Media Corp, an esports betting platform.

What is the Fandom Esports Platform?

The Fandom Esports Platform is an agnostic platform that allows esports viewers to “play along” with their favorite esports team during tournaments by making predictions in real-time as to what the pros will be doing during live gameplay either through a mobile device or embedded with any streaming platform.  Furthermore, if the players are in a licensed jurisdiction and of age they will be able to wager real money on those in-game outcomes.

What was the inspiration behind launching this network?

We saw an opportunity to develop an agnostic mobile-friendly platform that accentuated incumbent streaming platforms.  Our model is complementary to existing industry players and most importantly does not seek to remove users from a base. Our goal is to increase the stickiness of the viewing audience through hyper-gamification and increased engagement with a variety of esports regardless of the platform it is viewed on.

How big is the Esports betting industry?

In 2019, the esports wagering industry was forecast to reach USD $3billion in 2022.  Due to COVID-19, that goal has so far been reached this year.  With the absence of sports in key markets continuing at the moment, the long term potential of esports wagering is immense.  Keep in mind that Fandom has both an all-ages user aggregation model and the wagering model.  We believe that our unique proposition and technology will allow us to disrupt both verticals we are entering.

What jurisdiction are the gaming licenses held in and which licenses are held?

We have just applied for the Curacao gaming license.  We are evaluating other jurisdictions as we speak with the end goal of being able to accept wagers anywhere in the world it is legal.

What blockchain is currently being used and what are the advantages of that blockchain versus EOS, Ethereum, etc.?

We are currently using the Blaze blockchain protocol which allows for 50,000 microtransactions per second.  The advantage is the speed and cost of transactions we can enjoy relative to the competing platforms.

Which esports will players be able to bet on?

League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, hearthstone, Overwatch, Supersmash Bros, Heroes of the Storm, World of War Craft, Smite, Call of Duty, Starcraft, King Of Glory, PUBG plus more to come.

What types of bets will players be able to place?

They will be able to make wagers on in-game action, game outcomes, and other proprietary decisions that our system will generate.

Will FANCOINS be introduced to regular cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance for players to cash out or will it live exclusively on the Fandom Esports Network?

No. FanCoins are an in-game currency.

Fandom Sports has recently signed a letter of intent with the Esportz Network. Could you discuss this partnership?

Esportz network will be providing Fandom Esports platform with content from more than 90 Esports journalists globally who will be reporting on all things Esports relating to games, tournaments, teams and players.

What’s next on the agenda for Fandom Esports Platform?

Fandom is working with several potential partners for integrations that would allow their userbases to interact with game content in a whole new way.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Fandom Esports Network?

Fandom Sports is a publicly-traded company.

We trade in Canada: CSE-FDM, in the USA: OTCQB-FDMSF and in Frankfurt: TQ43.

Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit FANDOM SPORTS Media Corp.

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Riad Chikhani, Founder & CEO at GAMURS Group – Interview Series

Riad Chikhani, Founder & CEO at GAMURS Group - Interview Series

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Riad Chikhani, Founder & CEO at GAMURS Group - Interview Series

Riad Chikhani, is the Founder & CEO of GAMURS Group, leading esports media network redefining gaming media.

When did you first fall in love with gaming?

I fell in love with gaming at the age of six when my late-uncle Sam bought the first Age of Empires in 2001. I sat down with him to watch him play and try to learn myself, and I remember just being absolutely enamored by what was happening on the screen. From there, after finishing the game, he bought Breath of Fire which was pivotal for me – that’s when I fell in love with RPGs.

You founded your first company Rune Gear, an online portal for the game RuneScape at the age of 14. What was it at the time that made you choose to launch a business?

I founded Rune Gear to ultimately solve a problem I was facing. At the time I needed a place to share with my friends the milestones I was achieving in RuneScape, but couldn’t do it publicly on Facebook. I didn’t want my friends to label me a ‘nerd’ or ‘antisocial’ or anything like that, which was something I cared about at the time. So, in response, I created Rune Gear for me and my closest RuneScape friends. A year or so later it began to take off which was really exciting for me and the team.

Were your family and friends supportive of this business?

Besides the extremely long hours I was putting on my computer (12-14 hours a day), my family loved that I was pursuing my passion at such a young age. They are big believers in working towards your passions and deriving as much fulfillment out of your life, and they believed Rune Gear fell under that.

In 2014, you then went on to launch GAMURS Group, one of the leading esports media networks redefining gaming media. Could you share some of the genesis story behind launching this company?

Funnily enough, a group of friends and I actually started the GAMURS Group (at the time “Gamurs”) to offer what Rune Gear had offered, but for all games. We began by initially developing a forum with some exciting features that replicated some functionality that a traditional social network would have, and then it quickly became a social network itself. We continued working on the social network well into 2015 when we had joined the Slingshot Accelerator program and raised our first $500k seed round, until pivoting it into esports in early 2016.

GAMURS Group has a large number of websites including Dot Esports. Could you discuss what this website offers?

Dot Esports is our flagship platform. It is the leading and most authoritative publisher of esports content globally, serving over 7m unique readers a month across thousands of published articles for dozens of games. It offers readers a level of comprehensive and unbiased coverage of the esports and competitive gaming industry across our websites, apps, and social media platforms. Since bringing it under the GAMURS Group, Dot Esports has served more than 125m unique readers and over 250m website visits.

One of the more interesting offerings by GAMURS Group is Teamfind. Could you elaborate on what this is?

TeamFind was a platform we developed between November 2015 and February 2016 to provide players with a team and player finding platform. Back then, and arguably now, players relying on online gaming matchmaking services are constantly frustrated by the players the game puts on their teams. You may be matched with someone who doesn’t have a microphone, or is from a different region so your connection is weak, or just with an overall bad player. Teamfind solves that for you by allowing you to select players and teams to play with based on a set criteria of your choosing. We built it over a four month period and merged two existing websites which we had acquired to power it: Teamfind and CSGOTeamFinder.

Being so busy with the large GAMURS Group network of websites do you find time to still play games?

I think time management is something that a lot of executives need to work on, since most of us are naturally poor at it until we make an effort to fix it. Being so engrossed in the gaming industry every day of your life forces you to view games in a ‘business opportunity’ lens which takes away the appeal of gaming. The immersion in the game, the environment, the story, and the characters is what hooks you – when you’re not 100% in the game, it can lose its appeal. Nonetheless though, it’s imperative that I stay engaged in the ‘why’ of starting this company, so I regularly force myself to take time out to play something, even if it’s only 30 minutes. This could be anything from an iPhone game, to a quick match of COD or Fifa with my friends.

Another product that is offered is StatBanana, a  strategy planning tool for Dota 2 and Overwatch, which provides professional players and coaches access to the tools and resources they need to plan and prepare for their competitive matches. How popular is this platform and what type of user feedback have you received?

We acquired StatBanana in late 2018 and brought it under the GAMURS Group. At the time it only provided tools for Overwatch, so we expanded that into Dota 2 and are looking to further bolster that with LoL and Valorant. From a statistics side, I can share that it’s used by thousands of people globally and virtually every single Overwatch League team. Users love our software that we provide and also the overhead overwatch maps images we offer on site.

What’s next on the agenda for GAMURS Group?

As a business, our growth comes from multiple avenues. From a content output perspective, we’re continuing to invest in our content production where we’ve seen phenomenal results over the last three months. Our goal (as a group) is to publish north of 4,000 articles per month by 2021-end which will naturally grow our traffic as we serve our readers better. Furthermore, we’re always exploring accretive acquisitions which bring exciting and strategically linked brands under our umbrella, whether they’re websites or distribution channels. We’re also launching our agency offering shortly to provide both endemic and non-endemic brands with leading services to assist them in their business goals within the esports and competitive gaming market. Ultimately, as our organisation’s focus remains on media, we’re regularly executing upon strategic initiatives to further emphasize that offering.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about GAMURS Group? 

We’re always looking for talented individuals to join our group and for businesses which we can partner with. If you’re either one of those, please reach out at the GAMURS Group website.

Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit GAMURS Group.

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