Q&A with Doug Wreden for Tempo’s Sleepless Nights

For the past three and a half days, Tempo has been running a charity event called Sleepless Nights, a 24/7 non-stop broadcast of various Tempo players, personalities, and staff members streaming on Tempo’s official Twitch channel in an effort to raise money for charities on the front line in the fight against COVID-19.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to have a throwback to the good old days when I used to stream nearly full-time hours almost a decade ago. I decided to claim a slot in the streaming schedule for myself and ran a Q&A session with one of my good friends, Doug Wreden.

I figured that, seeing as this was on Tempo’s channel, the audience would be most interested in esports, business, and gaming media, so that’s what I made the topic of the show. But, we were just taking any questions from the chat, so we ended up getting into some very strange topics… as you can find out from the VOD below.

 

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Two more things I’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so far

At the beginning of last week, I wrote a blog post about how I discovered that I had been inadvertently selfish my entire life, and how the COVID-19 pandemic opened my eyes to empathy—not quite literally the concept itself, but rather, the fact that just because you’re aware of a concept doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve fully manifested it into your life. Since then, a whole lot more has happened.

I’m glad that people around me seem to be responding accordingly. I found out yesterday that the homeowners’ association of my condo taped a red “social distancing line” on the floor of the main entrance to protect our concierge and security staff—which was hilarious, but also gave me faith that the HOA was taking this seriously and keeping our workers safe.

Social distancing line

So, with these recent developments and stronger responses from the community, there are two more things that I learned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Apparently I’ve basically already been self-quarantining my entire life.

    It seems like everyone is complaining about having to make drastic lifestyle changes and how they are bored out of their minds… but I feel like I’m just living my normal life. I’m almost sort of jealous that people seem to be finding unity in struggling through self-isolation, while I can’t join in on the fun because this actually isn’t a struggle to me.

    I also seem to be exceptionally well-prepared for self-isolation, because I didn’t have to go out and “stock up” or “prepare” for anything. While other people are cluelessly going out to buy egregious amounts of toilet paper and bottled water, I already have a stockpile of toilet paper (I take left­over toilet paper rolls from hotels I stay at, and I travel a lot), and I already have a few extra water filters in my cabinet. The only thing I don’t have is frozen or canned food, but I have enough faith in the government that I won’t actually starve to death, and if I get close and every single grocery store and restaurant is shut down, then there will be alternative methods available to get my hands on food.

    Anyway, I keep myself busy and don’t really have free time, and it’s remained that way throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While people are sitting on their couches mind-numbingly watching hours upon hours of Netflix, I’m just continuing on with what I normally do on a regular day—just with an elimination of the very little human-to-human, in-person contact that I did get before.

    On a mildly related note, a lot of people who have a ton of extra free time now have been reaching out to me to reconnect—people who I didn’t realize even remembered that I still existed. They just assume that, because they have a lot more free time, I do too… which isn’t exactly the case. But, of course, I always say that, if you are important enough to someone, they will always make time for you, no matter how busy they are. My own philosophy is being put to the test as more and more old familiar names are popping up in my messages…

  2. Other people now understand why I take a lower paycheck to have a fun job where I can work from home.

    I’ve generally always been the type of person who hasn’t really placed “making money” at a very high priority, but when I decided on my full-time career, I decided to take a lower-paying job at a young company within an unstable and new industry just so I could do what I had fun doing. Prior to esports and gaming, I was on track to going to law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor—which, again, is one of the lower-paying legal jobs, but it still would’ve equipped me with a Juris Doctorate and made me a barred lawyer.

    Instead, I believe that doing fun work, having control over your life, and being able to work from home are extremely underrated com­po­nents of a career. I had the great fortune of finding an opportunity that provided me with all three of those—I get to work in the esports and gaming industry, I determine my own schedule, and I get to work out of my home office.

    Throughout the last five years, I’ve had people regularly question why I am doing the work that I do right now when I could instead go back to school for a few more years, then double or triple my salary. I’ve always explained to them that both the concrete (personal time and mileage ex­penses) and abstract (mental health and well-being) value derived from not having to commute to a physical location is worth far more to me, but people generally think I’m wrong.

    Now that people are forced to work from home, a few are coming back to me to let me know that they now understand why working from home is so amazing.

    I’ve seen people’s commutes range from half an hour to two hours in each direction, and if you account for how much of your life you’re losing to that, it adds up extremely quickly. Some people take public transportation, but others drive, and operating and maintaining a vehicle is usually more expensive than people think.

    Most importantly, not having to force yourself to wake up at a specific time or be bound by someone else’s commands can be a freeing and em­pow­ering experience. There’s a psychological phenomenon called reactance where you experience displeasure when other people tell you to do something, even if you were going to do that task anyway. If you’re particularly prone to reactance, you may notice situations where you were planning on doing something, but if someone happens to tell you to do that thing before you actually get around to doing it, you no longer want to do that task anymore because it feels like you’re only doing it because that other person told you to do it, rather than out of your own free will.

    Reactance can be extremely dangerous for productivity, which is why, when I lead others, I try my best to equip them with the tools and resources they need, then have them come to the conclusion as to what they need to do to achieve our goal. I may nudge them towards my task or create a situation where they will inevitably come to the conclusion that they have to do what I want to do, but the important part here is that they decide on that themselves, and they’re doing it because they want to, not because I told them to.

    If you work when you want from where you want, that’s one of the most powerful ways to increase your self-perception of self-worth, thus leading to much greater confidence. You feel like you’re in control of your life, your attitude and outlook on your future improve, you are more motivated and dedicated to your own tasks, and your productivity skyrockets. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put a concrete dollar amount or salary increase in exchange for sacrificing something like this.

    Now that other people are getting a taste of what my everyday life is like, I’ve gotten a lot more acknowledgement for my career choice. I’ve never really been someone to care too much about what others’ think, but it’s still nice to hear from people that I was right all along.

 
Stay at home.

 

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I have a burning urge to travel

If anything, for me, this COVID-19 outbreak has been an exercise in empathy.

I don’t really take “days off.” Rain or shine, sick or well, I continue on with my life. The only times I’ve taken sick days from school were when I was literally incapacitated with an inability to balance. I’ve never officially taken a sick day from work ever, in my life. (The latter isn’t quite as impressive as it may seem, because I work from home on a regular basis, so even on days when I’m sick, I can still squeeze a few hours of work in by hobbling over to my computer, or even just by bringing my laptop to bed.)

Over the past few days, I’m learning that that’s not really something to brag about, and it’s not actually really an accomplishment. The purpose of taking sick days isn’t just to take time to yourself to rest, but also to prevent spreading your illness and getting other people sick. Of course, I’ve always known that, but that’s always just been an afterthought to me—something that gets stored away in the back of my mind and not really intentfully considered.

With an academic background in sociology and psychology, at this point I sort of feel a bit silly that I was “immature” enough that I never really fully conceptualized this and applied it to my life until just now, but I guess there’s always that “one thing”—and for me, it happened to be this. I was so caught up on being an unstoppable force moving towards my goals and aspirations that I failed to see the collateral damage I was causing around me.

 
No, I don’t have COVID-19… or at least I don’t think so. But I’m actually a bit “sick” very often—I usually get sick every time I travel. I’m known among my co-workers as the guy who, upon setting foot in California, gets sick for the first few days. Consistently. Every single time. I also feel unwell shortly after going to large conventions, though I usually recover from that within a day or two. This happens so regularly that, to me, getting “sick” isn’t even a big deal.

And it still isn’t. To me, being sick probably will never be a big deal unless I am literally so sick that I am hospitalized… and even then, it will only be a big deal for the duration which I am hospitalized. Unfortunately, me being sick can be a big deal to everyone else around me.

In the past few days, a few people have accused me of being a killer—and I can’t say they’re completely wrong. I, as an explosively healthy individual, can pick up COVID-19 from somewhere and be a carrier without even realizing, especially because I am so “used to” being sick that I probably won’t even notice. In my path to recovery, I will spew the virus all over the place, potentially infecting those who are nowhere near as healthy as I am, and potentially causing their death.

Earlier today, this concept became even more salient to me as a result of an article on the Washington Post titled “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve.’” In this piece, Graphics Reporter Harry Stevens created four randomized simulations (they change each time you reload the article) for the spread of coronavirus—one each for free-for-all, attempted quarantine, moderate distancing, and extensive distancing. There are samples at the top of the article that show how the “peak” of the infection curve slowly declines based off how many people are staying put—the more distancing there is among people, the less likely it is for COVID-19 to spread.

I don’t know if this was foreshadowing, or an omen, or something else crazy that is supposed to send a clear message to me, but the random simulation I got ended up showing extensive distancing having nearly no sick people at all. This is very different than the “expected” curve, and of course this end result is very rare, but it basically shows just how well-controlled a COVID-19 outbreak would look like in the best case scenario were everyone to stay put.

 
I have a burning urge to travel right now. My brain is all about efficiency, and with airline and hotel prices at an all-time low, coupled with not many other people getting in my way, this is a perfect chance to get more for less. In fact, I think this is one of maybe a thrice-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this amount of astronomical value per dollar spent on travel.

But of course, I’ve decided against it. Because me being that one moving sick dot in the simulation passing COVID-19 to ten other people, and by proxy, hundreds more, would not be efficient at all for the rest of humanity.

I literally feel like a child first discovering that the world, in fact, does not revolve around them. I imagine that I should feel humiliated at my selfishness throughout my 20s, but I’m surprisingly not, because I feel like there are a lot of concepts that we as a society know we need to abide by, but have never truly manifested into our lives. I’m glad I’m becoming a better person, and hopefully I’ve inspired you to take a hard, matter-of-fact look at your behavior as well, in case there’s something you can improve on too, just like me.

In the meantime, I’ll be hiding out in my condo.

 

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Hello Boston

COVID-19 is definitely a thing right now, so my trip to Boston for PAX East wasn’t really that much of a “trip,” but rather, hiding indoors and away from people until I actually had to go to the Convention Center to do my panel, then scurrying to the Convention Center to speak, then running away as quickly as possible. … But it was still a nice experience.

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That picture of the Magic: The Gathering area is actually one of the very few photos I have of my PAX East experience. After my co-workers and I completed our panel, we stopped by the MTG area so a few of them could compete, and I sat down in the least-populated area possible while waiting for them to finish before going to dinner.

The panel itself turned out acceptably overall, and actually pretty well considering it was the first in-person live panel that a few of my other co-workers did. We let our Content Director take care of the logistics of the panel, and he decided to call the panel “Esports 101,” which ended up not really being that relevant of a title, but we still went over the general basics of running an esports company and finding success in the esports industry in the coming year.

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Our Senior Partnerships Manager actually did an exceptional job at answering questions, which made it a bit tougher for me, so whenever it was relevant for me to speak, I ended up going on tangents and sharing other related advice as supplemental information to the topics discussed and questions asked. I guess I’m happy it ended up that way—me going on tangents is probably the most on-brand thing that I personally could have done.

My favorite moment of the broadcast was when I was captured staring disappointingly into my microscopic water cup as I realized that I was already out of water and there was still about half an hour left to go in the panel.

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After we wrapped everything up at the Convention Center, our team dinner was at a restaurant by the water. I let our other staff members take care of pretty much all the travel logistics so I could just go from place-to-place in peace, so I don’t even know what restaurant we went to, but they had amazing lobster rolls. It also had a decent view behind us, though it was a bit too dark to actually see the rich texture and vastness of the ocean.

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These are my takeaways from Boston:

  1. It’s way too cold in the winter, and my brain literally stops working if I’m outside for more than like a minute and a half.
  2. The Boston Convention Center has quite literally the worst convention food I have ever tasted out of all the convention centers I’ve ever been in… and I’ve been to a lot of convention centers.
  3. The city feels anciently old, but it’s like a clean and well-maintained old, so it’s actually pretty pleasant. That may be surprising coming out of my mouth, because I’m someone who likes ultra-modern aesthetics. I walked through a random alleyway to go to an Uber pick-up area, and even the alley looked and smelled clean.
  4. Boston is the first big city where I haven’t seen homeless people, which is surprising because every other city of this size seems to be layered with homeless people.

With that trip complete, here is my updated travel map:

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Hello Minneapolis, except only for my layover

I’m in Boston, Massachusetts right now for PAX East because I was invited to be a panel speaker at the convention. On my way here, I took a flight that stopped at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport because a flight with one layover was substantially cheaper than a non-stop from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas to Boston Logan International Airport.

This wasn’t my first time in Minneapolis—I was there for X Games Minneapolis 2019 when Tempo Storm’s Apex Legends team competed in the EXP Invitational. To get to the event, I road tripped up with Jordan King from Lincoln, Nebraska, then road tripped back to Lincoln after the event was over. While I was in Minneapolis, I even had an opportunity to explore St. Paul, which was a unique and interesting experience.

One thing I didn’t get to do, though, was see the airport—obviously—seeing as we drove there. So, for the sake of seeing another new airport, I decided that a layover at MSP would be the best choice to keep my travels fresh.

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Even the flight up to Minneapolis itself was an interesting experience. I had never flown at such a northward vector at this time of year before, so it was intriguing seeing such harsh and barren terrain when flying over Utah and Colorado.

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I also don’t know what else I was expecting, but I was somehow slightly surprised for some reason at how much snow there was.

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It was an unusually bumpy ride considering how clear the skies looked, and I nearly spilled my Diet Coca-Cola on my sandwich. The guy sitting next to me didn’t want his fruit or yogurt for some reason, and I was seriously considering asking to confirm if he wasn’t going to eat it so I could have it instead… but then the flight attendant beat me to it and took it away.

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As we approached the airport for landing, I realized just how flat and spread out everything was. I imagine this would be a great place to drive a nice, big, lifted pickup truck.

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Then came the true fun part. After I landed and deplaned into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, I realized that it was probably one of the most unique and interesting airports I’ve ever been to. The best way for me to describe it is to call it a “lifestyle” airport, in that it was designed more as a casual get-together place than a place to efficiently move humans.

Now, my brain is all about efficiency and optimization, but I do acknowledge that different things can be “superior” for different reasons, depending on what you want to optimize for. If you want to prioritize a pleasant, comfortable, feel-good travel experience, I think MSP nailed it with their design.

The first thing I saw when I deplaned was a massive bar right in the middle of all the gates. I unfortunately didn’t capture a photo of it because I was just so confused at the fact that I had deplaned into a bar instead of a gate, but I did snap a photo later on of some interesting architectural and decorative design choices on one of the lower floors.

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My layover in MSP was short so I didn’t get to see much of it (and I had a flight delay, but they were not very communicative of expected wait time, so I just sat at my next gate instead of exploring). But, if I do ever get a chance to pick where my layover is in the future, MSP is definitely going to be at the top of my list. I feel like I could spend a good hour or so just walking around the airport and taking in the sights.

 

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Hello Disney

Apparently this comes as a shock to most people, but even after living in Southern California for over a year and going back to visit on an extremely regular basis, I have never been to Disneyland. Either that, or I might have been there when I was an infant, but I was far too young to remember… or maybe that was Universal Studios? Not sure.

I’m not really that big of a fan of amusement parks because I don’t really understand what the “magic” is behind the environment. If anything, I feel more of a dislike of that kind of environment because it feels too forced and artificial—there is insultingly joyful music, the decor on the street is un­nat­u­ral­ly colorful, and there are too many screaming infants in mouse ears. Yes, I do understand the irony of the “forced” and “artificial” statement coming from someone who lives on the Las Vegas Strip, but still.

While I was in Anaheim for DreamHack, I met up with a group of co-workers who wanted to go to the Downtown Disney District. Apparently there is a difference between Disneyland and Downtown Disney, where Disneyland is the amusement park where you have to pay an admission fee to get in, while Downtown Disney was open to the public for free.

Anaheim, CA

Downtown Disney

Our first stop was at the Ballast Point Brewery, where I got some ahi tuna poke.

Ballast Point in Downtown Disney

Ahi tuna poke

We were sitting in the outdoors area of the brewery, when Anaheim decided it would be a fantastic idea to dump a torrential downpour of rain on us. I fled back inside.

Downtown Disney

After we finished eating, we actually went back to DreamHack Anaheim to meet up with a few more staff members, and to make sure that one of our Fortnite players would make it to his press interview.

Of course, making one round trip obviously isn’t enough, so we went back to Downtown Disney again for dinner. Keep in mind that the walk from the Anaheim Convention Center to the Downtown Disney District is just shy of a mile and a half, so at this point, I’ve already walked over 3 miles back and forth and an additional 2 miles or so inside the Convention Center, and my legs are starting to hurt.

Disneyland

Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill

Dinner was either at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, or Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill. Maybe we had dinner at both? Maybe they’re the same restaurant? I never found out, but I had a Hawaiian burger with pineapples in it. It was interesting.

And of course, my co-worker and I had driven from our hotel to the Convention Center, so after dinner, we had to walk back to the Convention Center parking garage. With those two three-mile round trips, as well as all the additional walking I did in and around the Convention Center, my fitness tracker clocked in at the end of the day at 22,473 steps, equaling 10.31 miles. Apparently I set a personal one-day record for distance walked.

 

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Hello Anaheim

Yes, I literally just got back from California earlier this week, but I went back again a few days ago for DreamHack Anaheim at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Anaheim Convention Center

I originally wasn’t planning on attending, but one of my co-workers was making the drive up from San Diego, so I decided to join him at the convention. Anaheim is also far closer of a drive from Las Vegas than Beverly Hills, so I was more willing to make the trip over.

There were a few other conventions going on at the same time as DreamHack Anaheim, and the rest of the Convention Center was open to the public, so I managed to make my way up to the upper floor to get some good shots of the area.

Anaheim Convention Center

Anaheim Convention Center

Anaheim Convention Center

DreamHack Anaheim was relatively uneventful and felt the same as any other convention I’ve been to. My co-worker and I made it there early, so it actually felt a lot emptier than it probably actually was. A lot of the popular games nowadays are games that I can’t even watch due to motion sickness (I get dizzy when watching first-person shooters), so going to events and conventions has become even more unappealing to me, as if it wasn’t mo­not­o­nous enough already.

Fortnite at DreamHack Anaheim

DreamHack Anaheim BYOC

DreamHack is known for their bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) tournaments. As the name suggests, you actually literally bring your own computer into the Convention Center and use it to compete in the tournament.

Security is notoriously bad at gaming conventions and events, where it is more of a security theater than it is real security. They make you empty all your pockets, open all your bags, and go through a metal detector before you’re allowed in the secured area. This discourages already-law-abiding citizens from bringing weapons onto the convention floor, but it does nothing to actually stop someone intent on causing damage, as none of the guards were armed with lethal force to stop attackers.

What I saw at DreamHack, though, was an all-time peak in incompetency and failure. Remember the BYOC system I just told you about? Most people bring their computers, monitors, and other gaming equipment packaged in boxes. Those boxes never get opened or checked, and just get rolled through a side aisle past security. That means that someone intending on harming convention-goers can buy a BYOC admission pass, load up “computer boxes” with lethal weapons, and cause immense bodily harm.

And of course, with California gun laws, I, as an out-of-state resident, cannot carry a firearm… nor can a vast majority of in-state residents, because permits are rarely issued to begin with. Letting massive boxes of unknown equipment through security checkpoints while preventing trained individuals from carrying lethal self-defense weapons seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

🤷

DreamHack Anaheim

Luckily, things overall weren’t as terrible as I might be making it seem, because there were a lot of Tempo Storm members in attendance, so I was with pretty good company. During the time we weren’t in the Convention Center, we went to visit the Downtown Disney District, which apparently is the “other half” of Disney that you’re able to enter without having to pay an amusement park admission fee. (Photos from Disney will be in a separate post.)

 

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I’m basically a legendary sushi chef now

Back in 2017, I tried making homemade sushi, but it didn’t turn out too well—my California roll looked more like a California taco with a developmental disorder, and my salmon nigiri looked like mounds of shredded fish sitting atop globs of rice.

Well, I have fantastic news. In the past three years, I have improved substantially, especially in the design of “exotic” sushi. … More on that later.

Anyway, while the rice was being made, I got to work cutting the fish. It was a bit difficult because I went over to a friend’s place for this sushi adventure and all of their knives were very dull, but I managed to get some clean slices after putting in some good effort.

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At first, we kept it simple with just some tuna and salmon nigiri. We forgot to buy wasabi, so we used teriyaki sauce instead, which was actually sur­pris­ing­ly good.

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… Then my friends wanted to get a bit more adventurous.

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Yes, that is indeed a corn dog sushi roll.

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… And that is a sushi roll containing Pocky biscuit sticks, wafer cookies, and some other cookies, topped with more Pocky and some taro powder.

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After we were done making sushi, we taped the butcher knife to the PlayStation controller so we wouldn’t lose the controller in the couch.

 

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