Thought I’d take a more autobiographical angle with this blog, for a change.
I’ve been playing fighting games for about 13 years, which is a pretty long time! My competitive desire has come and gone several times during those 13 years, but the fact is that I’ve never been anything close to top player status. So I don’t have a list of competitive accolades (I’ve only ever won one tournament, and it was a shitty 3s tournament at an anime convention). Instead, I have a list of Notable People I’ve Lost To, and I think that’s actually kind of a neat collection of memories.
Most of my formative fighting game years were spent at the UC Berkeley BEARcade (RIP), which was the hot spot for East Bay fighting game action for a while. Lots of notable people came through there — Ricky Ortiz took our money on a regular basis, OGs like John Choi and the Wolfe brothers would come by every now and then, and we even had Japanese MVC2 player LiquidMetal come out for a weekly once (I think he got second place).
UltraDavid actually went to UCB for undergrad, but he didn’t really talk to anyone. And if you remember William Hung, the fobby Asian guy who sang “She Bangs” really poorly on American Idol — well, he actually stopped by to play CVS2 every now and then, though he mostly just mashed buttons and consulted the crumpled-up GameFAQs printouts he carried with him.
First time I ever got money back from a tournament was at a CVS2 tournament at the BEARcade; I was set to play John Choi in winner’s semis, and the cabinet froze right when the round started, basically killing the tournament since we didn’t have the key for it. So we all got our entry fee back plus like three bucks. MY FIGHT MONEY
My first Evo was in 2003, which was the last year we still played on arcade cabinets. I lost to Ricky first round, which was kind of lame because I lost to him on pretty much a weekly basis, then I beat a few folks before narrowly losing to FloE.
I went again in 2004; highlights included losing in CVS2 qualifying pools to Alex Valle, Apoc, and a really good CVS2 player named Dan from Japan; almost qualifying for a GGXX team tournament (I think it was WC/EC?) before losing to Andry “MAGUS1234” Kane; and, of course, being there for Evo Moment #37.
Around that time I was playing a lot of Guilty Gear; mostly marathon overnight sessions at Tragic’s Japantown apartment and lots of Chipp mirrors against David Sirlin. Tragic beat me 30 games in a row with his Eddie; I beat him one game by time out and he threw his stick. (Pretty much anyone who plays with Tragic has a similar story.) First time I met up with Sirlin, he locked himself out of his house, and we had to borrow a ladder from a maintenance golf cart to get back in — I still remember how uncomfortable he looked at the idea of just taking the ladder without permission.
I went down to SoCal for undergrad, and I picked my college in part because it was reasonably close to a few arcades (Arcade Infinity, James Games, and Super Arcade). I’d bike out to James Games every now and then but it wasn’t really that active, so I got most of my games in at AI. Super wasn’t a big fighting game destination at the time; I went there once, just because they were the first arcade to get Capcom Fighting Evolution (sigh…), but the sticks were kind of messed up and the game itself was ass.
I spent a semester in Tokyo towards the end of undergrad. I spent most of my weekends bumming around MORE getting scraped in CVS2 by anyone and everyone; I do remember running into David “Gunter” Dial there once, which was unexpected. I went back to Japan for a year after finishing school; met Azrael-sama at an SF4 loketest in Nagoya (he’s the guy with all the great English teacher stories), got bodied by Mago and many other Nagoya players a whole bunch once the game came out, and got to play Daigo once in an arcade in Tokyo. I took a round off him and almost took the second (with my scrubby ass SF4 Blanka); I’ll treasure that until the day I die.
When I came back to the US, Street Fighter IV hadn’t been released yet, so I had a head start on everyone in NorCal. First tournament was at SJSU; I ended up placing third, losing to Andry’s Blanka and Anthony “Crackfiend” Nguyen’s Balrog. Highlight of that tournament was beating Ricky in what I’m pretty sure was his first-ever day of playing SF4; I picked Rufus, and this was back when no one knew how to deal with Rufus. (I still haven’t played Ricky again in SF4, heh.) I remember afterwards overhearing him say “This game is trash — just look at who placed top 3!” <3)
GameSpot hosted a SF4 and HDR tournament with a $1000 payout shortly after the games were released; I think I lost to Andry again. Crackfiend ended up losing to a Blanka cosplayer. That was six years ago, but I’m never going to let him live that down.
I won’t name names, but I do remember going to an evening SF4 get-together in San Francisco and seeing some people eagerly taking mushrooms, only to find that they were the type best eaten in a salad, which was hilarious.
I went to E3 for the first time in 2011, I think, and SFxT was still in development. I remember winning a game at the demo station against Justin Wong and Mike Ross, who were switching off each round. (I also played in an IPL community event for Starcraft 2, where ROOT|Drewbie coached me against a Zerg player who was coached by ROOT|CatZ, and won a best-2-of-3 set for $250 in GameStop credit. Best E3 ever.)
I’m sure I’ve got other stories somewhere, but those are the ones I remember best. This is fighting game community, to me; competition isn’t just about winning (as I certainly don’t do a whole lot of it), but about getting us all together to make some memories.