Veronica is a graphic designer and is a member of the design and marketing team at INTO THE AM. They are curators of all over print clothing, and they have a strong connection to the gaming community with their graphic tees and other core products.
Do you remember the first game that you played?
The first game I played was the original Sonic game on Sega Genesis.
When did you start getting serious about gaming?
Gaming was always something I felt dedicated to, but when Twitch and streaming games started back in 2013 this was when I started taking gaming seriously.
Can you walk us through one of your finest gaming moments?
Competitive multiplayer games can get extremely intense. Being the last person left on your team, knowing you need to get the win for everyone, and then being able to secure that victory will always be one of my greatest gaming moments.
What is one of your career highlights?
Within the gaming industry, networking is a huge part of being successful, one of my biggest highlights was being able to join the EA Game Changers Program. Being able to promote the EA brand and be seen as an Influential player for the community is something I will always honor.
What inspired you to begin streaming?
When Twitch first started, I watched other streamers get to play the games they enjoyed while providing entertainment and content for others to watch. It made me want to try and build a community of my own with gamers who enjoy the same content as me.
What are your favorite games and why?
EAsports NHL – This is the one sports game I enjoy playing the most. The 6 player team play mode is the most fun. Being able to have 6 friends play as a full team always leads to a great night of gaming.
MMO games – Massive Multiplayer Online games like Elder Scrolls Online, Bless Unleashed, Warframe let you build a guild, work together to level up for better gear, and have many different content options for group gameplay that lets you have fun spending hours to get your player to the highest level.
Competitive Team Games – First-person competitive team games like Halo, Call of Duty, Overwatch are always intense and fun when you are a part of the winning team.
How often do you play?
I play games every day. Even if I am not streaming I will still get on my Xbox and play something. On weekdays normally I will play for 4-6 hours. During the weekend it can range from 8-10 hours.
Would you join a professional esports team league or start your own?
I was part of an esports team as one of their Streamers. The name was World’s Best Gaming. They had professional players for Fortnite and Gears of War. We had discussions about starting our own NHL EA Sports team. However, at the time my schedule was not flexible for me to dedicate time to that project. That esports team no longer exists. I have thought about joining a new esports team because the people you meet within a group like that is very beneficial to helping a person grow.
I used to think about starting my own esports team, but that takes a lot of time and dedication. Which I do not feel I can commit to at this time in my life.
You are a member of the design/marketing team at INTO THE AM. Could you tell us about this company?
During Twitchcon 2017 I had the opportunity to sign up to be an affiliate for INTO THE AM. After that, I received an email telling me I was accepted and could start promoting the company. I had worked with other companies with affiliate programs and INTO THE AM was always the best when it came to communication and caring about their partners.
This made me love the brand even more, once I found out of an opportunity to join their Team I jumped at the chance. Everything I knew from the company’s great communication and respect to me as a Streamer/Gamer was the same when working in the office.
INTO THE AM has a strong connection with the gaming community and offers some cool licensed gaming content. What are some of the products that are offered?
INTO THE AM has had apparel for video games like God of War, Assassins Creed,
Smite, World of Warcraft and others. The products ranged from Pullover Hoodies, Shirts, and Blankets. They also had partnerships with Overwatch League, with products like Jerseys, Pullover Hoodies, and Blankets.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about INTO THE AM or esports?
INTO THE AM has always been about self-expression and passion. In my years of gaming and networking, I’ve learned that Content Creators and Professional esports players are extremely passionate about their work. This company is a great fit for any type of gamer.
Thank you for the interview, readers should visit at INTO THE AM to check out some of their cool gaming gear.
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?
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.
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.
Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit FANDOM SPORTS Media Corp.
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.