On Fame, Immortality and Teaching

by casperOne 15. January 2009 01:05

Listening to the latest episode of the Street Fighter Podcast got me thinking on a few things.  In it there is a discussion between Ryan Gutierrez (a.k.a. gootecks) and Mike Ross regarding an upcoming project from Mike.

What Mike wants to do is create a series of video shorts (no doubt due to today's attention-lacking viewing audience) to tell the story behind, as he calls it, “those geeks you see playing Street Fighter IV”.  He wants to show you that playing the game is not the only thing that these players are all about.  They have families, friends and interests outside of the game.  But of course there are the equally compelling stories within that community for (and any competitive community in general).  There are allies, rivals, drama, and all the strange, wondrous and absurd events that can occur whenever people interact.

Ultimately, this is just another reality series, and as we all know I abhor reality series with a passion.  As with all things, there are exceptions, even notable ones.  It’s because most of these series capitalize on the worst aspects of humanity that become apparent in high-pressure situations.

But I digress.  As I said, there are notable exceptions.  I love “Top Chef”.  Yes, Padma Lakshmi is a goddess in every sense of the word, and one of the primary draws, but at the same time the drama due to personality clashes are kept to a minimum (the promos pretty much expose all of it, if any) and leave you for the most part with high-level competition which is then critiqued at a very high level.

Underneath all that commercial, consumerist glory lies a lesson to be taught and knowledge to be taken away (I challenge you to tell me what you learned from “Flavor of Love” or “Rock of Love”, entertaining as they might be).

Case in point.  I had a box of donuts that was absolutely inedible.  The donuts were dense and nasty, somewhere between bread and cake with a glaze that just wouldn’t set.  Solution?  Make bread pudding from them with a custard enhanced with lemon and orange zest and a hint of cardamom.  It’s quite nice, I assure you.

It was also done in Top Chef, Season One.

There was no recipe or guide, just a general concept that I was able to take away from the show which, using established fundamentals, allowed me to extend my repertoire just a little bit more.

In the end, I believe this is what Mike is trying to do, and he deserves recognition for it.  He wants to teach people outside the community about the community itself, and in the process attract more people to it.

(An interesting side note to this is that Mike came from the Marvel vs. Capcom community, which tends to be tight-lipped when it comes to sharing things about the game, while the Street Fighter community tends to be more open.  That being said, it’s interesting that Mike is reluctant to reveal much about his E. Honda play during the podcast.  To be fair though, Ryan has interviewed other Street Fighter players reluctant to delve into detailed aspects of their gameplay.)

What’s also great is that he had this conversation with Ryan, who on the “about” page of his blog states:

I’m interested in your ideas about how to reach more people with the podcast, how to help more people get better at 3rd Strike and am also available for one-on-one coaching.

Ryan desires to teach as well, and it’s apparent throughout his podcasts and his blog postings.  His postings are obviously tailored to those who are looking to disseminate information, and he consistently asks detailed questions of top-ranked players to try and expand the knowledge base of the community as a whole.

I don’t play 3rd Strike , but I find myself voraciously taking in his posts and podcasts with meticulous detail (I am more a Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix person, who will be transitioning to Street Fighter IV when it is released for consoles, but there is great discussion about the mindset of playing on a competitive level which runs through most of the Capcom fighters) because more knowledge is always a good thing.  In assimilating some of the knowledge he is trying to spread, I’m always going to be able to find things to apply to my game.

The problem that exists is that there is nothing along the lines of a structured curriculum for advancing (“leveling up”) one’s skill level.  You’ve always had to “climb the mountain” so-to-speak (even though it’s been made easier in recent years because of the Internet, which enabled things like the Shoryuken site and forums, allowing for the collaboration and archiving of information, as well as YouTube videos which allow for people to witness the execution of that information).

People like Ryan and Mike are trying to change that.

Ryan started to develop his “from scrubs to winners’ clubs”, which strikes me as an experiment of sorts, with the desire to expand it if it is successful.  From what I can tell, he is taking a non-top-ranked player, and determining if a structured learning experience (instead of “climbing the mountain”) can be successful in producing a top-ranked player.

The initial subject in this experiment is John Rog, and the established goal is to place in the top five at AI with three months of training.  The results are pretty evident:

While John placed in the top eight, it’s still a vast improvement, and shows that structured learning will work in this competitive environment.

Congratulations to both John and Ryan, with wishes for continued success.

So what does that have to do with me?

I want to do what Ryan and Mike are doing.  I want to contribute and I want people to gain from that knowledge.  It’s not completely altruistic though.  I desire fame, and I desire immortality, and teaching is a very good way of doing both.

When I was young, surprisingly, I was not the most popular child.  It’s nothing that I have issue with today, but it’s definitely something that has impacted me to this day.  Simply put, I find myself desiring attention, and I would let a lack of attention affect me in negative ways.

Needless to say, I’ve grown past that, but this desire for attention has transformed subtly into a desire for fame, specifically in the things I am passionate about.  Cooking, Street Fighter, baseball, etc, etc.

I do realize that there are limitations to my ability, and I will never get the all fame I desire.  Take baseball, for example.  I’m never going to play for the New York Yankees.  So what do I do? I  adapt.  If I can’t play for my favorite team (or one of the other 29 lesser teams), then I would find my way to the baseball diamond another way.  Umpiring.  Assuming I had the financial security to do so, I would quit my job and go to an accredited institution to lean to umpire (there is one that I know of) and then put the time in until I am tenured enough to work on the major league level.  No, I wouldn’t be the star of the game (nor do I want to be, unlike Joe West), but I would have a unique experience and perspective that I would cherish always, as well as be woven into the fabric of every game that I participated in.

What very much applies in this particular instance is rooted in the saying “those that can’t do, teach”.

There is also the death of my father to consider here.

As children, we believe that we are invulnerable.  It’s why as a child I rode my BMX bikes off ramps over garbage cans and why today I see children 1/3 my age flying off ramps and rails I’d never consider while snowboarding.

When he passed away, I realized that nothing (myself, the people and things I love) will be forever and that my time here is limited.  Because of that, immortality is more and more attractive to me.  Unfortunately, the means just isn’t there yet to allow my physical form to last forever.

But aspects of me can survive long after I am gone.  It’s one of the many reasons why I wish to have children in a timely manner.  Not only is a child literally part of me, but I can imbue them with lessons and ideals, and take pride in the contribution I’ve left to the world.

That’s for the future though.

So for now, I do things like contribute to the Shoryuken forums, contribute to newsgroups (for which I have been awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award) and places like stackoverflow.com, write a blog, etc, etc.

Yes, there is an unexpected personal gain that I get from all of this, but over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the satisfaction that is inherent in doing something for which there is no expected gain in return.  It also falls in line with my desire to produce more than I consume.  Considering that I’ve spent the majority of my life taking from the universe, it only seems right that I begin to give something back.

Fortunately, it becomes a perpetual cycle, feeding itself, I end up learning more, so I can teach more, which enables me to learn more, and so on, and so on.

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