We conducted an interview with Todd Friedman, a game competitor who holds over 100 game world records, on Sep 25, 2015 at his home in Gurnee, IL. Todd Friedman is a game competitor and competition organizer. His personal game collections consist of 2,840 games and he has been playing video games since he was five years old. His world records are recorded on the Twin Galaxies Score Database website. For the Wii DJ Hero alone he has three pages filled with records of him placing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th with songs ranging from Foo Fighters to Jackson Five. However, Todd has never worked as a full-time game competitor. Instead, he is an EDI (Electronic data interchange) analyst at HubGroup, a truck company. Generally, he arrives home from work at 4:30pm and plays games or works out with his children.
Todd has his own philosophy for life and gaming. He holds world records but has never thought of earning money from playing games or having it as a “real” job. Rather, he loves the competition itself. In his view, playing games is more like something that brings people fun and happiness, instead of a tool to make money. He also enjoys being a spectator and watching others play games. This is one of the reasons why he loves not only to participate but also to organize game competitions.
How does Todd balance his daily life with his gaming life? If you ask Todd they are one and the same. In fact, a quote of his is “Working and being father is my typical day.” He works his full time job, spends time with his family and ensures that he also spends time on his professional gaming activities. He has twins, a boy and a girl aged 9 years old that he does the normal after school activities with like, soccer, cheerleading, etc. He also loves video gaming especially with his family!
One controversial view is that coin-operated video gaming has been a target of negative perceptions. However, Todd completely discredits this argument -- that gaming is a negative influence. He credits video gaming for keeping him on a good path, away from drugs and alcohol, fueling his interest in technology, and obtaining friendships from an array of different cultures all due to being able to meet, talk and play video games with people from around the nation and around the world.
Are e-sports according to Todd a real sport? The short answer is “yes.” Todd has two favorite sports, Bowling and video gaming. He compared video game competition to bowling to how some people do not believe it is a sport by discussing hand and eye coordination, mental focus, and talent. You have to beat the other person and practice to get better at it, which is exactly like bowling or golf. According to Todd, a professional gamer, a sport consists of using your mind, practicing, and playing against someone to win. And e-sports falls within his definition.
Through the interview, we found that Todd was not in agreement with a lot of the negative stereotypes that people have about gaming, such as, video games are bad for young kids, it wastes their time, money and may have a negative effect on their behaviors and social skills. Instead, he is an average guy who has been playing games since 7 years old and it has helped to evolve him socially and as a positive role model. He credits video games to keeping him away from drugs and alcohol and is also a mechanism that helps to relieve stress. It also positively affects his relationships. He is a better friend, father, husband and co-worker because of his involvement with games.
Interview with Todd Friedman completed by Jodi Houlihan on September 25, 2015. Photographs by Xi Rao. Transcription by Jodi Houlihan, and Xi Rao. The full archive of the interview, including the complete audio file, full transcription, and additional photographs, is available through the IIT Institutional Repository.