October 18th Edition~
What do you wanna be when you grow up?
*I told myself once when I was young that, no matter what, no matter where I went, who I met, I was only going to do what I loved for the rest of my life. No other job is worth it if I don’t love it. Looking back at it, can I say I’ve followed that to a T?
The short answer is yes.
When I first got into fighting games in 2008, I realized this is what I wanna do with my life. Not learn guitar, not be an artist, but this right here. My abilities were barnone in a medium of competitive sport that I could have a ton of fun with while also bettering myself as a person. Sure, for the longest time I’ve only ever known the basics of fighting games. Cr. MK into Hadoken is a combo, you use grabs to open up defensive opponents, your fireball is punishable by jump-ins, really basic stuff when I got started, but I learned more over time, picking up little things like how to set up hard to block situations or how to bait out reactions and punish them accordingly. As I grew, I became a better person for it. I learned how to apply simple mind games to other aspects of life and other video games, how to see things from other perspectives. Fighting Games helped me mature, helped me grow.
But I still wasn’t very good at them.
When I met the In brothers I had my cold reality of thinking I was great knocked down several pegs. I learned that there are people who are far greater than you who will beat you furiously into the ground without any mercy whatsoever. Not because they want to destroy you, but because they know that if you want to succeed, you have to realize what its like playing against the strongest players. Real pros won’t show you any mercy, because they’re not there to hold your hand, they’re there to win. However, they want you to be a good player too, to validate that win. I learned, slowly, that I wasn’t that good, and I won’t be that good for a long time.
I cried a lot. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I’d lose horribly, realize I just sucked, and that I wasn’t even improving. I’d go match after match getting my ass kicked, losing tournament after tournament, my money slipping away, my morale fading, it was awful. I hated it. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. I loved competing too much, I loved the friends I made, I loved everything about the games I played. I just loved fighting games.
Street Fighter X Tekken was released in March of 2012, my friend Travis and I picked it up the moment it released and played the hell out of it well into the night. I was still on a school schedule so I conked out early on while Travis kept playing. My goal in that game was to play Hwoarang and Jin, not just because they seemed strong with their Mix-Ups and spacial traps, but because I loved those two characters. They had this burning eternal rivalry between one another that struck me as a motivating point for becoming the best at this game. I would study match ups, learn frame data, explore options, try new combos, new mixups, slowly improve as time went on and even though I lost a lot of critical battles, Dan and I teamed up and put our abilities together to triumph at a Team tournament, and as a result, it provided me with my 1st Tournament Victory. I was proud of myself, proud of what I’d managed to accomplish with my friend, and best of all, proud of the fact that all of my hard work had finally paid off.
I still wasn’t that strong yet.
When I first met CORN | Sethlolol, it was at a tournament in Mishiwaka, Indiana that my friend had thrown. We ran casuals and, at first, I was winning the first couple games we played. After that, Seth found out my gameplan and took the remaining games. When the tournament itself started, I wound up losing to Seth but winning against another strong player from Detroit, CORN | Tha’Alucard. Ultimately I wound up placing 3rd in that tournament as Seth would wind up taking the whole thing. At first I thought Seth was just a pretty good player. It wasn’t until I saw him again at Michigan Masters that I saw Dan take him on again that I really realized Seth’s potential. He wasn’t just a good player, he was the best. When he went to the Street Fighter 25th and ran a train on the Evil Genius’ team, I believed it too. For the longest time I rooted for Seth, wanting him to do good, wanting him to beat Infiltration and prove once and for all that he was the greatest at the game. You can only imagine my excitement when I saw him face off against Infiltration yet again at Final Round only to take the game from him and practically solidify his position as best in the world. To me, Seth was this pillar of hope, that you ‘can’ come from absolutely nothing and no sponsors to become so good at a game that everyone you face worries about you or whispers your name among themselves.
I talked to him, learned his name was Sareth Sok, wanted to get his insights, his mentality going into the game. Obviously someone so good must be passionate about the game, right?
He told me that this was ‘Just a Hobby’ and that he was going to go to EVO to prove that he ‘can’ win at the game, after that, he’d quit and focus on his work and schooling. According to him ‘It’s fun fighting for the top, but defending that position sucks. So I’ll win, then quit, so nobody can ever challenge me.’
I couldn’t fathom that. I hated him so much when he said that to me. I kept hating him well until EVO rolled around. I made sure that, no matter what, I was going to make it to EVO and stop Sareth from winning. He wasn’t allowed to. Not in my mind anyway. He had become this great bastion of power that I drew from as inspiration to keep pressing on, to prove that ‘if he can do it, so can I’ and that no matter what happened, no matter who I faced, I’d become as good as Sareth. I threw that mentality out the window. I didn’t want to be as good as Sareth. I hated Sareth. I wanted to beat him.
Up until that time, I played my best against everyone I could play against. I beat strong players like Noel Brown, TA Moons, Ranmasama, Viscant, and even when I finally got to EVO, I took on Gouki FaFa, Ricky Ortiz, and even Arturo Sanchez. My passion for this game was strong, and everyone who knew me was silently cheering me on. I felt like goku, drawing energy from the planet to try and defeat a great evil. So when I finally faced off against M.O.V. and dropped out of Winners side to go to Losers, I felt a sadness in my chest. I just lost my shot at Top 8 through a sloppy play, because I didn’t know the potential of whiff punishing at that time, I’d defeated myself through a stupid move and it cost me the game. So going into Losers side, I tried not to make that same mistake. I told myself to forgive myself for what had happened, and that I’d see M.O.V. again. I just knew I would.
Waiting for me at the other side of Loser’s Bracket was Justin Wong. I’d never played against him though I’d met him in the past. Justin was kind of like the ultimate guardian of the EVO Top 8, and to me he was the greatest challenge I needed to overcome in order to defeat Sareth. I was ecstatic, I wanted to fight Justin and prove that I was like Sareth, that I was just as good as him, if not better, that I can play with the big boys just like everyone else.
But Justin told me something that kept me from feeling discouraged. He said ‘You earned this spot. You earned this opportunity.’ And looking around me, at the hundreds of players that had come out for this event, that all signed up for the same game, that I had over come, that I had triumphed over to get to where I was… I didn’t feel so weak. I felt like, even though I wasn’t going on to fight for the top 8 spot of EVO, that, yes, I had finally become strong. So what if I wasn’t going to stop Sareth, so what if he quit the game. I didn’t care. I’d proven to myself that I can do it. I can be as good as any of the tournament players, I can overcome any obstacle, any opponent, to get where I need to go in order to become a better player.
I felt strong.
Later I learned that Sareth had been knocked out of the tournament earlier than I had been, and that technically made me the strongest player in Michigan. This was exciting to hear, but I didn’t believe it. Sareth is still stronger than I am, I know it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying to overcome him. Over anyone else for that matter. I didn’t hate anyone anymore. I just wanted to prove that I was strong.
And I did.*