Just how many people do you know who’ve studied pathology and martial arts? And taught themselves to write music and create video games? And have enough energy to power an Iron-Man suit? Let me introduce you to a guy I got to know during the quarantine. This is worth your time, seriously. You’ll learn something and will probably want to go play his game afterwards.
Anyway, if you’ve spent any time around here at Grailrunner, you know we intentionally dig for things that are interesting, off the beaten path, often with a futuristic slant. Go watch Youtube’s original docu-series ‘The Age Of AI‘ to see our tribe. Go read something by Barrington Bayley or Jorge Luis Borges or Arthur Clarke to see our warchiefs.
And give this short interview a read too. Here’s another one of us. His name is Brock Joseph Oliverio, though we’ll call him Doc Brock because that packs a punch. And ‘packing a punch’ is something he knows well. We sat down to ask about what led him to such an interesting life, where martial arts is going, and an exciting video game with a unique and futuristic twist you need to hear him describe.
We’re months into a global pandemic, so of course you have to tell us your background and how this COVID thing has impacted your day job.
Indeed. So I am a unique sort of practical scientist. I was a Biology and Chemistry double major in college completing both in 4 years with a steep focus in molecular and cellular phenomena in the former and quantum mechanics in the latter. I also have an M.D. with broad training in psychiatry, surgery, pharmacology, and epidemiology, but I ended up specializing in microscopic medicine known to the public as Diagnostic Pathology.
I didn’t go on to research, though. I actually practiced medicine for a little over a decade where I acted as a cellular and molecular physician diagnosing people’s ailments, such as cancer and infection. My performance led to leadership roles in hospital administration including becoming President of the Medical Staff, then Laboratory Medical Director, and finally Chief of all of Diagnostic & Rehabilitative Services where I oversee 105 employees aimed at providing diagnostic and therapeutic tests for patients.
So the impact of COVID-19 on my day job has been one of training and problem solving. I am consistently tapped by employees and leaders across my organization for knowledge and solutions on how to deal with the SARS-CoV-2 virus due to my unique background. I was even one of the first laboratory leaders in my region to bring in the detection system for the virus.
So how did a guy studying pathology in West Virginia wind up pursuing martial arts?
It’s actually the other way around! When I was 5 years old, my father came to me as I was punching and kicking bad guys (i.e. pillows) and said, “Would you like to try martial arts?” For some odd reason, I said yes not quite knowing what I was getting myself into, but I just remember thinking that I had discovered something that I always knew about myself. Now, I just knew what it was called.
My first class was a disaster! I was so young and it was so intimidating being around a classroom full of not just much older kids but adults! The school was just being formed and was in an old, dusty building in the wharf district of the small college town we lived in. I had trouble staying on the practice floor because of my age-appropriate social anxiety, running back to my father in the observation area before the class was even finished.
When the next class came up, my father asked if I would like to try again. I said yes and never looked back. I’m 42 now and have been training ever since. It’s a way of life for me, but it also answers the fundamental question of why I got into it in the first place: how do you deal with another being on a physical level.
The pursuit of that question led me to want to know everything about the human body. With my aptitude and interest in science, medical school and then pathology were perfect, natural fits, and the discipline and focus I learned from martial arts gave me the ability to complete them.
What’s the future of martial arts? Where is it headed?
The future of martial arts is actually one of originality. Human beings have gradually commercialized martial arts by breaking them up into styles for easy consumption. These styles were more about what you don’t do than what you do do.
For example, I was classically trained in kung fu. I was taught amazing strikes, but any type of ground work or grappling was not only avoided but sometimes shunned or even looked down upon in my circles. As such, those fighting situations were ignored, and I had no way of dealing with someone who got past my strikes.
This, of course, was no big deal because I did not practice with anyone who did grappling. I only practiced within my kung fu class, and everyone did exactly what I did. I never had to deal with externalities not contained within my system of fighting.
Enter the Ultimate Fighting Championship. On November 12, 1993 modern martial arts was put to the ultimate scientific test when each style would start to be put up against the other. As we went from UFC 1 to 2 to 20 and beyond a pattern emerged: Brazilian jiu-jitsu was dominant.
Many thought this was the deciding experiment that finally proved which style was the best, but it turned out that it was just the martial arts community composed mainly of strikers having the same realization as I did regarding the gap in our training.
You’ll notice that as UFC went on, all of the strikers began training Brazilian jiu-jitsu and all of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters began training striking! As such, the martial arts styles that were once one and united have begun their slow trek back to originality.
I think the future of martial arts is a continuation of this phenomenon. From my perspective, I have found that the principles of fighting that apply when you are standing up apply when you are on the ground as well. Also, the human body can only move in so many ways. For example, an elbow only bends so far and a shoulder only raises so high. As such, there are only so many fighting movements possible and these movements have been possible since we became bipedal. Physics sure haven’t changed either! So the future of martial arts is getting back to basics before things were separated and approaching the problem of dealing with another being on a physical level by bringing ALL of our assets to bear in the physical universe we occupy.
Without naming them specifically, who was one person that most impacted your life in a positive way and why?
Hands down that would be my father. He is and always has been my number 1 fan. Growing up he provided unlimited encouragement and guidance in my life’s pursuits and showed me the proper attitude to have in life by example. I can say without a doubt that without him I would not be where I am today.
Sell us on Future Fighter. Why is it amazing?
Because you can finally do everything you’ve wanted to do in a fighting game but couldn’t. Future Fighter is a translation of my real-world martial arts and sparring experiences into the game world. As such, you have more control over your character and more accurate representations of true fighting movements than you have had before. Because the developer, martial artist, science expert and motion capture actor all share the same organic cephalic neural network, there is nothing lost in translation either. When you play Future Fighter, you face the mind of a martial artist in a sci-fi universe.
What’s involved in making and marketing a video game as unique as this?
Discipline. As you can imagine, I have a busy day job, so every nanosecond spent outside of that day job has to be effectively utilized and organized to make game development possible. That same discipline has to be put into getting the word out about the game so other people can discover it and play it. Overall, it means being systematic in my daily approach to both development and to updating all of my networks, customers and fans with the latest news and progress.
Skill, of course, is a big factor, too. I unwittingly started my game development journey as a musician in high school when I taught myself to play the piano after being inspired by the “Ending (Boss)” theme from Star Fox. Then, once I learned how to hook up my synthesizer to a computer in college, it was all over. I started writing songs and making sound effects for a friend’s video game in medical school who then asked me to be on his game design team. Another member of that team and I went on to form our first video game development company.
As a two-man crew, I had to start filling in the gaps for necessary skills that the company needed. It started with web programming and then game programming. My team member decided to become a full-time dad, but I decided I would continue my game development career with a solo project called Future Fighter. I picked up visual effects, motion capture, 3D art, and animation to round out my skill set.
In fact, when you play Future Fighter or interact with me online, the only content that you interact with that is not a Doc Brock original are the 3D models. Could I do those? Yes. Would I ever get as good as these amazing 3D modelers that you see in Hollywood. No. So I pay these good people to use their 3D models and then bring them to life in Future Fighter with motion capture and my own personal visual effects tweaks to match the vision in my head of that universe.
Pick one character from the game and introduce us.
That would have to be my digital doppelganger, Omega.
Omega is a curiosity in the Future Fighter verse. He seemingly has technology and abilities that no one can really explain. Personally unknown to the two main factions, the Priests and the Elites, Omega just does not fit into the current structure of humanity that our future heads to. As such, he becomes a real problem for both sides exposing a deep, dark secret about the true nature of power and freedom in the universe.
His fighting style literally is my fighting style. I have motion captured the moves that I use every week in my sparring sessions and given them to him. Also, the Shadow AI that controls him in game approaches you the same way I approach my opponents every week in my sparring matches. Tactically and technically, he is me.
It’s fun and exciting to hear your enthusiasm about the kind of stories we publish at Grailrunner. What attracts you to science fiction?
The possibilities! We all know eventually we are going to get there: teleportation, flying cars, a world without cancer, etc. The problem isn’t our lack of abilities. It’s our fear-based brains. Fear holds us back from trying new things because we’re afraid of the deleterious consequences. As a result, progress is slow — machinatiously slow. (There was not a good adjective to describe how slow I think the progress is, so I made one up.)
Science fiction gives us the ability to see the world that will be — without the limits of our fear or our finite lifetimes. In doing so, it helps us find out who we are and who we want to be. What could be better than that?
Where can we learn more about what you’re up to?
Docbrockgames.com is the place you want to be. It has all of my updates and gives you options for your favorite delivery method: social media, blog, email list and even a forum!
Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Yes. I’d like to tell you what a treat it has been getting to know you and participating in this interview. Reading the excellent sci-fi published by your website is inspiring and imaginative. I look forward to sharing it across all of my networks so that others can enjoy it, too.