April 15, 2022 | SPORTS | By Samwel Makyao | Photo Courtesy of Ai Ke Woods

Ai Ke Woods, ’23, is a music major and theatre minor who plays for the Colorado College Esports team. He is currently the Super Smash Bros Captain for the Esports team and goes by the Gamertag of Kaiba. Apart from gaming, he holds a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. We met with Ai in Tutt Library about his gaming career at CC. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Samwel Makyao: Tell us more about the CC Esports team. What made you choose Esports and why do you continue to do it here at CC?

Ai Ke Woods: There are a lot of different Esports teams that we have within Esports as a whole. However, Smash is my main game. We also have Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League, Valorant, and Apex Legends teams, and some others that I don’t remember. When I first came to CC, I didn’t even think about Esports – it wasn’t something on my radar. I played Smash occasionally until one day, I met some of the guys who were on the team at the time and played with them. When I lose at something, out of frustration, I wind up forcing myself to get good at it. And so, I worked hard on Smash and in my freshman year, we had try-outs and I made the team. I have just been practicing ever since, and this year I became the team captain.

Makyao: How does it feel to represent the Tigers?

Woods: It feels pretty cool. We haven’t done a ton of chances to do it because of COVID-19 but the few times we’ve got to go out for tournaments against other schools and compete was so much fun. We got to be with other people who enjoy the video games like we do and play. For example, we went to Texas one or two weeks ago. We got second place both in Smash and in the overall tournament. We did really well.

Makyao: Can you tell us how the Esports with other schools work?

Woods: There are different schools that participate in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Esports league, and the way it works is different for every game. For example, Smash is usually an individual tournament where players form a best of three or five sets and play against other players in similar sets, and advance through a double-elimination bracket. Every single teammate has three lives, and we play one-on-one games. Now, let’s say I eliminated the three lives of the other team first, and they took one of mine. Then I will play their next person with only two lives, and they’ll have three, and it’s whoever can eliminate the other team’s last first.

Makyao: What’s your favorite competition/league, and why?

Woods: Smash is obviously my favorite competitive game, but I also really love watching Rocket League and League of Legends. In terms of Smash, it’s my favorite but it does not really have a huge season. There are just many big annual and semi-annually recurring tournaments that people go to that we call majors. And that’s how people compete.

Makyao: What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?

Woods: This is not Esports-related, but my goal is to audition for Broadway and hopefully be on the musical side of Broadway. Additionally, I want to perform Orpheus in the musical Hadestown. I really love singing and acting, and I hope to continue doing them within the next five years. On the other hand, I plan to keep competing in Esports leagues and improve. I know I’m very solid within Colorado Springs and Colorado, but I am pretty average on the national scale. I’m hoping I can become a much stronger player within the Smash community in the next five years. Also, many states and regions have things called the power ranking, and New York has the most stacked and strong power ranked regions. I hope one day to audition and make it on to the New York PR, which would be a huge accomplishment for me.

Makyao: Who’s your role model or what inspires you to be the best and why?

Woods: One of my role models for Esports is probably TSM’s Tweek. He is a Smash player and considered either the second or third best in the world — depending on who you ask. I like the way he plays, his consistency, and how he continues to develop in many new ways. On the musical side, I have Eva Noblezada, an Asian American Broadway actress. I hope to be like her because I’m a mixed-race, half Chinese, and half white. Eva was the first representation of me I ever saw for me in the musical theater. And she is a lot of what inspired me to pursue Broadway and try to make it there.

Makyao: How do you maintain being a very good gamer?

Woods: We have three practices every week. Two of them are two hours long and the third goes for six hours with a one-hour break. Additionally, we go to tournaments either once or twice a week as a smash team to compete. They’re usually 20-30 man tournaments, and the highest placing any of us has gotten so far was second, which is pretty cool. We usually have around the fifth or fourth area. Personally, I usually come fourth, which is frustrating, but I want to do better and come at least third. Aside from that, for Smash and other Esports, one of the dangers of doing them is you can get a carpal tunnel. So I do a lot of hand stretches before I play for like 10 minutes and then after.

Makyao: If you weren’t in the Esports team, what other sports would you have participated in and why?

Woods: I’m a ski instructor, and I do decent climbing and mountain biking. So I would probably be doing outdoor activities, which I still do but not through the school. I might have done lacrosse because I played that for a while in high school, but I just didn’t want to when I came to CC. 

Makyao: Name your top three best games and why?

Woods: My first on the list will be Super Smash Bros, and Smash Ultimate is probably the game I like the most. Other games include the Pokémon series and Rocket League. I have played Rocket League once, and I am not very good at it, but it’s very cool.

Makyao: What’s your favorite soundtrack of all the games you have played?

Woods: It’s definitely Pokémon Diamond and Pearl’s Route 209. This was my first video game ever, and just the nostalgia I get every time I hear those songs is just really satisfying. I also love the Super Smash Bros Brawl soundtrack.

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