Gordon Li grew up obsessed with playing video games — maybe a bit too much, in his parents’ opinion, he says. But any parent would be proud if their kid made a career out of doing something they loved, and that’s exactly what Li has done.
Our latest Geek of the Week is a co-founder and the chief technology officer at Shotcall. The online marketplace and platform connects content creators with their fans by helping them play video games alongside each other.
“I remember being too young to actually play video games, but I still have incredibly fond memories of sitting down and watching my sister play,” Li said. “I was enthralled with the aspect of being able to live a completely new adventure.”
When he did start playing games by himself, Li began with a game called “Maplestory.” Soon enough, he wanted a new computer so he asked his father for one for Christmas.
“My dad, being an engineer himself, saw this as an opportunity, and instead of buying me a computer, he gave me a budget to build one myself,” Li said. “At the time I was 11 or 12 years old, so it felt like I was getting thrown into the ocean to learn to swim.”
Connecting with friends he made through “Maplestory” who were older and from different walks of life and different areas of the world, Li marveled at strangers who would help a random kid build his first computer.
“It was then that I fell in love not only with gaming, but also technology and the community,” he said.
Shotcall, which has 14 employees, including eight in Seattle, works by allowing content creators to set up “sessions,” which are online live events that can be setup as a queue, tournament, etc. that fans can register for and attend. Creators can also set their availability, rate, and games they play so fans can request one-on-one sessions.
Li said there are currently around 11,000 users on Shotcall and that’s growing exponentially. They’ve attracted content creators from many different platforms, including Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, Trovo, and TikTok.
When he’s not busy building his company’s gaming experience, Li still finds time to play video games, including competitive ones such as “Fortnite,” “Valorant,” and “League of Legends.” The Shotcall team also plays “Among Us” together.
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Gordon Li:
What do you do, and why do you do it? I’m currently the CTO of Shotcall, a platform that connects content creators with their fans through playing video games together. As CTO, I am in charge of development and our technology, and am also the head frontend developer of our website. My role also involves product management and feature roadmapping. I love doing what I do because I get to talk to amazing streamers and content creators to learn more about their problems and how we can solve them.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? I love the shift into mainstream culture that gaming has experienced. At Shotcall, we love that the stigma of what a “gamer” is has evolved greatly. These days, everyone is a gamer. It’s amazing seeing that gaming has become a universally loved and appreciated form of expression and community. Mainstream celebrities, A-list musicians, professional athletes, successful CEOs, and more all share passions for gaming.
Where do you find your inspiration? I find my inspiration in other people! I’ve always been pretty extroverted so going to conventions and meeting other people who share the same passions as I do, but come from different walks of life and perspectives inspires me to be different and think big.
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? My phone. I pretty much rely on my phone like it’s a vital organ. I use my phone for photography, videography, gaming, communication, etc. It’s not great that I’m so reliant on it, but it is what it is!
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? My workspace is where I spend a lot of my time, especially these days with the ongoing pandemic. I keep this area extremely organized and have a few monitors so I can be working on a few different projects at once. You can see my pride and joy of a PC under my desk and my streaming microphone as I enjoy streaming myself playing games such as “Valorant” and “Fortnite” every now and then! It’s also really important to me that I have little reminders of the things that bring me joy outside of my work in this space. I’m a huge sports fan, so I have a few framed jerseys and other memorabilia hanging on the walls.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) This seems simple, but schedule some time during the day to not work! Every day at 4:30 p.m. I have booked off to go for a run or workout to get moving. Another great piece of advice is move around where you work. Even moving from my bedroom to the kitchen table increased my productivity a ton just because it’s a breath of fresh air.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac for coding and working on the road, but I do love my gaming PC for gaming sessions!
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? I guess I’m not a true geek because I’ve never watched any of the Star Trek series — haha!
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Cloak of invisibility for sure — only because I’m a massive Potterhead!
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Well, actually a few someones gave my Shotcall co-founders Thomas Gentle and Riley Auten and me $2.2M in our seed round funding for our interactive gaming platform. Our mission for Shotcall is to get fans off the sidelines and into actually playing their favorite games with content creators.
I once waited in line for … The first generation Wii! Definitely super memorable because I was with my sister and we were both pretty young and excited to play Wii bowling.
Your role models: I would say a big role model of mine is Muhammad Ali. He was an inspirational boxer who fought not only in the ring, but also for racial and social justice. As a competitive athlete growing up, I was also super inspired by his work ethic and determination. One of the coolest stories is when a reporter asked him “How many sit ups do you do?” and he responded, “I don’t know. I don’t start counting until it hurts.” I love that this reflects how a person’s true determination and potential comes out not on the best days when they’re feeling great, but when they have an off day or need to push through struggle. I applied this throughout my training when I was younger and to this day during the ups and downs of Shotcall.
Greatest game in history: “Maplestory.”
Best gadget ever: I’ve been really enjoying using my gimbal for my camera recently! It’s amazing to see the footage you can get with a stabilizer.
First computer: Some crappy Dell laptop!
Current phone: iPhone 11.
Favorite app: Instagram.
Favorite cause: With the widespread effect of COVID-19, I have first-hand seen the impact of job loss, deaths, and general mental health. One of the most important causes to me right now is doing my part in supporting those in need due to this unprecedented pandemic. At Shotcall, we worked with the Seattle Sounders to raise money for the Sounders Relief Fund to help those who were impacted most by COVID-19.
Most important technology of 2020: Without a doubt I think the most important technology this year is COVID-19 contact tracing and vaccine development. The ongoing pandemic has taken so many lives and damaged the global economy in ways that I for one never imagined I’d see in my lifetime. The people developing technology in those areas doing truly life-changing work that will impact the entire world.
Most important technology of 2022: Looking ahead, I think the most important technologies will be related to slowing and ultimately stopping climate change. We’re about seven years away from irreversible climate change and have already seen the terrible effects it’s had on the earth – from the fires on the west coast to the melting polar ice caps to the devastating tropical storms and more.
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Don’t be afraid to be crazy! The best technology and world-altering applications were built by big thinkers. If you truly believe in a vision and have a passion for the space, you can do amazing things. I grew up loving the gaming industry and am so grateful for the opportunity to be crazy and quit a full-time software engineering job to pursue my own passion.
LinkedIn: Gordon Li