Lai Lijuan, a 67-year-old woman, learned how to play video games from her grandchildren. She just won first place in the Ageless E-sports competition, after three months of training. In a world that rejects elders, Lai found courage and curiosity is a winning combo. Lai is a member of HK Evergreen Gaming in Taiwan, an all-senior e-sports team in Hungkuang University. Her gaming character, Morgane, has skills like burning enemies and protecting herself. But she wasn’t born with a love for gaming; in fact, Lai hated it. Her grandkids' obsession with gaming made her curious, and they ended up teaching her. When looking back at her life before gaming, Lai remembers depressing days where she should watch TV, scroll on her phone, and sleep. Today, she feels invigorated, confident, and closer to her grandchildren than ever. She feels younger, and reclaimed her value in society. Lai has found play.
India’s first transgender soccer team, YaAll, is created for trans and queer people, who feel unsafe in sports because of how binary it is. YaAll is disrupting, revolutionizing, and impacting not only soccer but India too. Can India become the world’s most inclusive sporting arena? Globally, categories in sports are still for men and women. Sadam, founder of YaAll, grew up getting bullied and harassed in sports, leading him to hide or skip games. Even still, Sadam wanted to participate in sports and not have more than safety, he wanted belonging. And with YaAll, he hopes it’s the beginning of giving this to more people: the opportunity to play openly in your gender identity. The government of India has already recognized transgender as a third category of gender, and Sadam’s hope is that India will also acknowledge transgender in sports as a different category. But his vision is larger than India, he wants this inclusivity to exist everywhere.
When Uzbekistan, considered an underdog to some, won the 44th Chessy Olympiad International Competition for the first time in history, they took the world by surprise. For the past twenty-two years, Ulugbek Tillyaev has been playing chess eight hours a day. He’s been Uzbekistan’s chess champion three times, and hopes to leave a large footprint in chess history–and his country’s. What does Ulugbek claim is most distracting for players? Chess is an intellectual, uniting, creative game–and you can be any age to play it. Ulugbek teaches his young students that it takes self-confidence to win, and more importantly: real management of your emotions. Though unavoidable, Ulugbek says emotions are distracting for chess players–regardless of how old they are. Ulugbek believes there will be more wins, and not only will they include him, they will also include his students. He wants his club to produce many famous chess players, and he wants to become an international grandmaster himself. In 2026, Uzbekistan will host the 46th Chess Olympiad, where Ulugbek hopes to represent and win.
Neighborhood Safety Companions (NSC) is an all-volunteer street patrol in Koreatown, Los Angeles. At first, some assumed they were vigilantes but NSC are just regular people doing their part to protect Asian people and neighborhoods facing violence and racism. The volunteers walk the streets in a group of five to six, wearing yellow vests. They believe their presence inhibits violence, as they watch out for anyone who seems vulnerable–single pedestrians, elderly people, vendors. They talk to store owners to learn the history of the area, if there has been any trouble, and how the community feels about their safety. If that’s not enough, NSC also provides self-defense tips. David Monkawa is one of the leaders of NSC: he moved to America when he was eight years old from Yokohama, Japan. Growing up in a poor neighborhood, he witnessed systemic racism, gentrification, and became inspired by the unity among people of color. Other NSC volunteers, like David, have felt helpless and angry with the increase of violence in Asian communities within the past two years. Now, as more and more volunteer patrol groups pop across the country, David hopes Asian resistance will be mentioned in history.
When it comes to Korean food, we all know and love bibimbap, fried chicken, and BBQ–but what else is there? SĀNG is a Korean restaurant in Australia run by a family who migrated in 1996. Here’s why. Kenny Yong Soo Son’s mom left Korea looking for freedom in life–and work. Today, she and her husband are self-taught chefs at their restaurant in Surry Hills, Sydney, while their son Kenny manages the front of house. But this family owned Korean restaurant isn’t where the others are: it’s in the vibey neighborhood of Surry Hills. One of Sydney’s most expensive areas. . This has people questioning the authenticity of SĀNG. Once you try it, questions are answered, because even though the menu is from staple dishes, the styles of food Koreans love but most others don’t know are what shine. Their goal is to show the wide range of Korean culture and cuisine–even to people who think they already know it.
In Atlanta, there’s only one place you can get late night sushi on a Thursday: Trap Sushi. Fusing Atlanta and Japanese pop culture, Trap Sushi builds community around food, music, anime, and cosplay. Founders speak on the due diligence it takes to appreciate (and not appropriate) culture. Artist Tolden Williams, aka Troop Brand, grew up in Mississippi loving Dragon Ball Z. Stephanie Lindo, an environmental scientist, first learned about manga and anime from her Vietnamese best friends. When Tolden discovered Stephanie art online, their shared love for Japanese culture fueled a project that has now become centerstage of Atlanta’s growing cosplay community. Many Black cosplayers are on the rise–and so is racism. This exists in anime communities too, where being Black means you cannot play a certain character. Trap Sushi has become the place where people of all backgrounds feel safe and accepted to tap into cosplay, anime, and community in general.