My tour of the Blizzard Arena in Burbank

This post is over 5 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.

This past weekend, Blizzard and their Heroes of the Storm team invited me out to do press/media coverage for Heroes of the Dorm, an annual collegiate tournament where teams from colleges and universities across the United States and Canada compete to crown a champion who will receive tuition for their college careers.

Last year, Heroes of the Dorm was at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, but since then, Blizzard set up the Blizzard Arena, their own studio in Burbank, CA near Hollywood. The Blizzard Arena is a full-blown production studio and stadium, and part of the media day leading into Heroes of the Dorm was an Arena tour.

The Arena was actually pretty amazing, and people who actually know me well know that I don’t really give out compliments too often, and even when I do, the word “amazing” usually doesn’t get thrown around too often. The media group got to see all the behind-the-scenes production rooms and equipment, as well as the different stages used for different games. Luckily, I had clearance to take photographs of everything.

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena - Skybox

(Full 2018 Heroes of the Dorm album:




I’m still probably the world’s unluckiest traveler

This post is over 5 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.

I have notoriously bad travel experiences that you’ve probably heard about if you’ve read my blog before. Pretty much every time I leave my home and go to the airport to go to an event, something ridiculous happens after a culmination of misfortune.

This past weekend, I went to Burbank, CA for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament, Heroes of the Dorm. Blizzard flew me out to do press and media coverage, and they offered travel and lodging, so I still accepted and attended the event, even though I’m not a huge fan of traveling.

When I received a link to book my flight, the travel overlords noticed that I was about to travel again, and began their wrath.

It started out pretty simple – the travel agency’s website stopped working and gave me an error message that I couldn’t get around. So, instead of booking my flight normally, I had to speak with a customer service representative at the agency to get my flight booked. That was fine, though – I’m pretty experienced with travel, and I was able to find a good Southwest Airlines flight non-stop from Las Vegas to Hollywood Burbank that our travel agent was able to book for me.

Surprisingly, the flight to Burbank was pretty decent. This was my first time on Southwest Airlines, and although the cabin of their planes wasn’t really that great, I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness and efficiency of their open seating policy. Instead of picking a seat prior to my flight, I had to stand in line to get on the plane, then seating was done on a first-come first-served basis. Apparently nobody wanted the exit row seat, so I literally got a seat where there was no seat in front of me. It was literally the most leg room I’ve ever had on a flight.

Once I arrived in Burbank, I discovered that my shuttle wasn’t there. Apparently, the travel agency only had shuttles available at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (because that’s the airport to which everyone else was flying), and not at Burbank (which is a smaller airport that doesn’t service as many other airlines). So, instead of making a huge deal out of it, I just called my own Uber to the hotel, as I didn’t want to add extra work to the travel coordinator who was already running all over LAX to organize rides.

In the process of figuring this out, the travel agency found out that my shuttle had not been booked properly, and they ensured me that I would have a ride provided to me from my hotel to Hollywood Burbank Airport on my way back home. I told them it wasn’t a big deal at all, as I’m very familiar with travel logistics (seeing as I usually tend to book my own travel due to my preference of customization), but told them I appreciate the ride they will organize. Not long later, I received an email letting me know that a shuttle will arrive at 10:30 AM at the hotel to take me to the airport.

After the conclusion of the event, Sunday came around and it was time to go home. I had everything packed up and ready to go at 10:20 AM and I was outside the hotel where the shuttle had picked us up the two prior days to take us to the Arena – I figured that was just the designated pick-up spot, and thought it would be the best place to wait. Unfortunately, the shuttle never showed up.

About 15 minutes after the expected arrival time of the shuttle, I went into the group Discord server for Heroes of the Dorm travel logistics and asked what was going on. A different member of the press let me know that the 10:30 AM shuttle was actually at the Hilton hotel, which was several hundred feet away from the Marriott where I was saying. I thanked him for the information and started walking over when I realized I should probably check the shuttle’s destination – I asked again where that particular 10:30 AM shuttle was headed… and he said it was going to LAX. So, that wasn’t actually my shuttle.

I walked back to the Marriott and checked in with the travel agency one more time before just calling my own Uber, when a representative told me to stay waiting at the Marriott because she was calling me an Uber. I stood and waited for another 10-15 minutes when the agent let me know that a Honda was at the front door waiting to get me.

I roamed around the hotel for a while looking for this Honda, but couldn’t find it; I messaged back in the group chat that unless this particular Honda had a Kia badge (which was the only other car at the front of this hotel), the Uber was not in fact ready to pick me up. I checked in with her to make sure she had sent the Uber to the correct hotel, and… you guessed it, she sent the Uber to the Hilton instead of the Marriott.

I quickly messaged back letting her know that it was no problem, the Hilton was close by in walking distance, and I would jog over there to catch the Uber. However, the agent told me that she would contact the driver to head to the correct hotel, and before I could stop her, she had already let the driver know of the new pick-up address. I planted my feet and waited some more.

The Hilton is literally a block or so away from the Marriott – literally joggable in about a minute. The Uber must’ve gotten catastrophically lost, because he didn’t show up for 8 minutes. But, he ended up making it – after 8 minutes, the Honda showed up at the front of the Marriott.

I got in and let him know that I was headed to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport… upon which he informed me that he had to cancel the ride because he doesn’t have his permit to conduct rides to and from the airport. If you’re not familiar with Uber, rides to and from the airport are regulated more strictly and require the driver to pass a quiz to earn a permit, and they’re also more expensive due to extra airport fees and taxes. Apparently this guy had already passed his quiz, which is why Uber put him into the pool of airport-eligible drivers, but he hadn’t actually received his airport permit sticker in the mail yet, so he couldn’t conduct airport rides yet.

I exploded and told him not to cancel the ride, because I had a flight to catch and I had already gone through the absurd trouble of even getting a ride at all. Because I travel to Burbank a lot for Blizzard and ESL events, I’m actually quite familiar with the area. I told him that we’re going to change the destination – we are no longer going to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport, but to Panda Express.

At first he looked a little confused, but after I explained that Panda Express is nearby the airport and I can just walk the remaining third of a mile or so to my terminal, he caught on. He successfully drove me to Panda Express, I walked into the airport, and I successfully caught and boarded my flight. No exit row seat this time though, unfortunately.

The plane departed Burbank and made it to Las Vegas. As we were approaching McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, I looked out the window and spotted my apartment complex. We were a little too high for comfort, though – my apartment is only about 10 miles away from the airport, but our altitude didn’t really seem like we were about to land in 10 miles. Moments later, we flew right past McCarran International Airport and continued southeast.

We kept flying quite literally to the edge of Henderson, nearly to Boulder City. I clearly wasn’t the only person who was this confused, as other passengers were staring out the windows with puzzled looks on their faces. Once we were nearly 30 miles out… the pilot decided to do a 180-degree turn straight back to the airport.

Yes, I understand that landing order and directional runways are a thing – we sometimes have to wait for different planes to land first, and sometimes runways are shut down for one reason or another and we need to land from a certain approach angle. What I’m particularly curious about is why we ended up flying an extra 30 miles off into the corner of the city, only to turn around sharply as if we only had 1 mile of turning space.

I get motion sickness pretty easily on planes and cars, but I managed to avoid motion sickness on that flight.

Until that point.

My head felt like it was about to explode, and I nearly vomited.

I’m alive, safe, and back home now. The tournament was great, the Blizzard Arena was awesome, and the event itself was excellent. It’s pretty rare that I actually give out generous compliments like this, but I actually really think that the Blizzard Arena is one of the best studios I’ve been in. I watched some games from the stands, and although I think the lighting and immersion could use a bit of extra work, it felt like a real stadium experience. The behind-the-scenes of the Arena is intense, and the tour I got of the production rooms was intriguing and insightful.

I just can’t wait for esports to eventually move to Las Vegas as a main hub so I don’t have to get on another unlucky plane ride.




Heroes of the Dorm 2017

This post is over 7 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.

After our filling dinner from last night at the Cleo in SLS Las Vegas, we woke up nice and early to head to the Cox Pavilion for Heroes of the Dorm 2017. Heroes of the Dorm is a collegiate Heroes of the Storm tournament where the top university and college teams across America compete to get their tuition covered by Blizzard. The four best teams came to Las Vegas to compete in person for the championship.

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

Because I was part of the press/media team, I arrived earlier before the regular spectators. I was able to get a shot up from the media balcony looking down at the empty stadium that was about to be filled with a sold out crowd, plus stand at the front entrance of the Cox Pavilion and get a shot of the line of attendees waiting to get into the venue.

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

For a few hours before doors opened to the public, we were able to get ourselves set up in preparation for covering the event. We also got to interview the four teams competing; I attended the interview and transcribed everything for content to go out on later.

Ever since Blizzard changed the format of professional Heroes of the Storm from a tournament-based format to an online league format, there haven’t really been many live Heroes of the Storm events, so the turnout for Heroes of the Dorm was pretty huge. When doors opened to the public, people started flowing into the stadium after checking out the other stuff Blizzard had set up (mainly a merch area and a photo spot).

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

All the series were one-sided – LSU defeated Kentucky 2-0 in the semifinals, UT Arlington defeated UC Irvine 2-0 in the second semifinal series, and UT Arlington defeated LSU 3-0 in the finals. That resulted in a much shorter day of games than anticipated.

Heroes of the Dorm 2017




Through the eyes of a social psychologist: Lessons from Astral Authority’s HotS disqualification

This post is over 7 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.

Last night, one of my good friends Mellina Kong, manager of Astral Authority’s professional Heroes of the Storm roster, posted an update on Twitter about how her players had their dreams crushed. Curious as to what was happening, I looked into it.

Apparently, Astral Authority had qualified for the HGC Fall 2016 NA Regional, happening in early August. The winner of this regional will qualify for BlizzCon 2016 to take their shot at proving themselves to be the best team in the world, on the grandest stage of them all. Not long after, Astral Authority was notified that their qualification had been revoked and their team was disqualified due to bug abuse.

Tyrael has a bug with his trait where selecting a particular sequence of talents and inputting a series of key presses with the right timing will cause his Archangel’s Wrath to deal an unintentionally high amount of damage. According to investigations conducted by ESL and Blizzard, a player on Astral Authority was abusing this exploit to gain an unfair advantage in their games, and consequently, the team was disqualified.

Drama began to explode, with some members of the community and other professional players directing the hatred of 10,000 years at ESL, Blizzard, and Astral Authority’s opponents. People attempted to justify Astral Authority’s behavior by bringing up evidence of other teams using the exploit, claiming ignorance, and just spewing hatred to get the frustration out of their bodies.

What’s done is done. ESL disqualified Astral Authority from the tournament and are scheduling a match to determine their replacement. No matter how vocal Astral Authority fans get, I highly doubt that ESL will reverse their decision by reinstating Astral Authority or revoking the match offer they gave to the runner-up teams.

Having an educational and professional background in sociology and psychology, with a specialization in criminal psychology, I decided to write this piece to help explain this whole fiasco, and nudge the community in the right direction – away from drama, and towards a thirst for learning.

There are some valuable lessons we can learn from this situation about how life works.

  1. Just because you work hard for something doesn’t mean you get it.
  2. People will break rules.
  3. Not everyone gets punished for wrongdoing.
  4. Don’t get caught off guard by Schadenfreude.


Just because you work hard for it doesn’t mean you get it.

If you truly believe that you can try your best at something and get guaranteed results, you are terribly mistaken. The key to success is not to chase your passion and give it your all. The key to success is to chase opportunity and be smart about it.

Sometimes, you suck at your passion.

If your passion is painting, and you’ve been dedicated to becoming a better painter for the past ten years, but your products look worse than something I painted with my foot, you should probably give up painting. No matter how passionate you are about painting, it’s just not your thing.

There is no doubt that the members of Astral Authority worked hard to qualify for the North American regional. However, just because you work hard doesn’t mean you have the necessary skill. Just because you work hard doesn’t entitle you to results.

A Korean streamer by the name of chu8 threw together a random team to compete in the qualifier. Even though they didn’t put any effort into it, they had the skill to win and get far in the qualifier bracket – and ultimately, that’s what matters in life.

It really sucks that Astral Authority ended up getting disqualified out of the third and final opportunity to qualify for the regional. But if they were actually so good that they deserved a spot in the regional … Unfortunately, there’s no denying that they already failed to qualify twice.


People will break rules.

A psychologist by the name of Lawrence Kohlberg created a theory called the Stages of Moral Development. This theory states that, as people grow older, they shift from ethics based on simply avoiding punishment, to ethics based on societal well-being.

These are his stages:

  1. Obedience and punishment (“How can I avoid punishment?”)
  2. Self-interest (“What’s in it for me?”)
  3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (“I want to act in a way that makes people like me.”)
  4. Maintaining social order (“I have to follow the law.”)
  5. Social contract (“I need to serve the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”)
  6. Universal ethical principles (“I must use abstract reasoning to determine the best way for humans to exist.”)

The stage at which someone exists is the stage that best describes the primary reasoning behind a majority of their decisions. For example, if someone regularly shoplifts and focuses on not getting caught, they are at Stage 1. Just because this individual sometimes thinks about how society can help the homeless population does not put them at Stage 5.

Unsurprisingly, most people hit a ceiling at Stage 4. Adolescents and young adults – the demographic that best describes esports athletes and viewers – linger around Stages 1-3, before some of them mature into Stage 4.

What’s the point of going over the stages of moral development?

It shows that the young and fresh minds in esports still focus on avoiding punishment and acquiring personal gain. As long as they can make sure they’re subtle about their wrongdoing, and they can reap the benefits, it’s likely they will engage in the unethical act – especially when the punishment is abstract instead of concrete (“do not exploit bugs” vs. “Tyrael is banned”).

If you’re an Astral Authority fan, there’s no reason to be upset at the player who used the bug. This is the kind of behavior that a vast majority of people his age exhibit, and that’s just how life is.


Not everyone gets punished for wrongdoing.

I’d like to make a comparison here between Astral Authority’s disqualification and driving over the speed limit.

Driving over the speed limit Astral Authority’s use of the Tyrael bug
  • Driving at or under the speed limit is the law.
  • Not abusing bugs is the rule.
  • Many people drive over the speed limit.
  • More teams other than Astral Authority abused the bug.
  • Not all speeders get a speeding ticket.
  • Only Astral Authority got punished.
  • Telling the police officer to chase after someone else will not get you out of your ticket.
  • Telling ESL and Blizzard to punish other teams will not change Astral Authority’s punishment.
  • Speeding just a few kilometers per hour over the speed limit doesn’t get you a speeding ticket. There are too many variables that could account for going a few KPH over the limit.
  • Teams that only abused the bug mildly did not get punished. Those teams could claim the bug abuse as a mistake, and it would be difficult to disprove otherwise.
  • You will probably only get a ticket if you are going 20+ KPH over the speed limit.
  • ESL and Blizzard determined that Astral Authority’s abuse of the bug was intentful and severe.
  • Just because you didn’t know the speed limit doesn’t mean you don’t get a speeding ticket.
  • Just because Astral Authority claims they were not familiar with the bug does not excuse them from punishment.
  • If people call the police to report a particular car and license plate number for reckless driving, they are more likely to get punished.
  • Members of the community called out Astral Authority publicly, which increased the likelihood of them receiving punishment.

If ESL and Blizzard’s investigations were 100% accurate and Astral Authority did indeed intentionally abuse the Tyrael bug, does Astral Authority deserve to be punished? Yes.

Do the other teams that intentionally abused the Tyrael bug deserve to be punished? Yes.

Do all wrongdoers always get punished? As we saw by the “driving over the speed limit” example, unfortunately, no.

And that’s just how life is.


Don’t get caught off guard by Schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

This phenomenon is based on social comparison theory, where we feel better about ourselves when others around us have bad luck.

The bigger you are, the larger the target on your back.

Astral Authority has made a decent name for themselves so far. The one big instance I remember from Astral Authority is when one of their staff members chose one day to randomly publicly insult those with mental illnesses. The CEO stepped in within half an hour and fired the imbecile. This established the brand’s mission as one that cares about its fans, and the community in general.

Just because you’re building up a good reputation doesn’t mean everyone likes you. As your fan base increases, so does the number of people who dislike you – people who will gain pleasure from your misfortune.

This is why public figures need to be particularly careful about what they say – not only because they are a role model to many, but also because there are people waiting to pounce on all their wrongdoings. Don’t get caught off guard by Schadenfreude.

That’s just how life is.




Group stage of the ESL HGC Summer 2016 NA Regional begins

This post is over 7 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.

One of the biggest complaints I had for previous Heroes of the Storm tournaments was the fact that everything was packed into two days. Luckily, for this tournament, they split it up into three days so the broadcast personalities and production crew wouldn’t have to work 14-hour-long work days.

Unfortunately, Blizzard wasn’t able to provide enough money for ESL to do an official broadcast and open stage for a three-day broadcast, so the first day of group stage (which was today) happened behind-the-scenes.

Tempo Storm’s first matchup was against Naventic, the team expected to win the whole tournament. At approximately 9:30 AM PDT, the players got everything set up in the game room, and began reporting audio issues to the ESL admins.

The ESL admins promptly contacted some techs to get our audio problems resolved, but nothing seemed to be working. Some players had audio input and output problems, some players were hearing static, and some players’ white noise wasn’t working.

(For those who are not familiar with the tournament setup, the players wear earbuds for voice communication and in-game sounds, and headphones on top of their earbuds with white noise to block out outside noise.)

For over an hour, ESL techs went in and out of the game room trying to fix our problems. At one point, Tomster nearly had his eardrums blown up when a tech said all the audio problems should be resolved, but then proceeded to transmit a brain-bustingly loud crackling noise through his earbuds. After a massive delay, ESL finally got around to fixing everything.

This is where the real clown fiesta begins.

Because we don’t have a real draft built into the custom game interface in Heroes of the Storm, we have to use a third-party website to do our draft. Unfortunately, this website doesn’t really work properly, and the players have to constantly spam Refresh in order to see when picks and bans are locked in. Every several seconds, the whole thing would stop loading. At one point, for a little while, Zixz only had access to picking 10 heroes in the draft screen.

Once we finally get the draft website working, we discover that our observer had sent the wrong draft link, with only one ban instead of two. We obviously have to remake the draft lobby.

Then, the observer proceeds to send Tempo Storm one link and Naventic another link. Both teams im­me­di­ately ready up, then sit and wait for the other team. After the countdown timer went down by a cou­ple hundred seconds, I got suspicious and went over to the other side of the curtain to see what was going on with Naventic, when I found out that we were waiting for them, and they were waiting for us.

The observer finally sent both teams the same link, and we got started. The problems still weren’t entirely fixed, though, as the website continued to stop loading once in a while, and Tomster’s draft randomly crashed and gave 502 Bad Gateway errors. At one point, the drafting website force-picked Nova for Tempo Storm when we wanted to pick Uther.

Eventually, we ditched the website and did the draft in the lobby, which helped us make some real progress towards playing the game.

Unfortunately, Tempo Storm HotS dropped the series 0-2 to Naventic, but had some decently close games. This will place us in the lower bracket tomorrow, facing off against Panda Global in the second series of the day. If we rise victorious in this series, we will face the loser of Naventic vs. Astral Authority to decide who moves on to the semifinals on Sunday morning.