Loose Screws – Why Are We So Afraid of New Blood?

So the other day, as usual when I’m thinking of ideas for this blog, I began cruising general FGC Twitter accounts in the hopes of stumbling upon something that would be enough to rocket me into a writing frenzy. I was not disappointed!

David “UltraDavid” Graham, one of the rare non-active competitors who acts as a great elder statesman for the FGC, was lamenting a common repeated talking point for the character he plays in Injustice 2, Bane. As part of said lamenting, David took the entire NRS community to task for, at many times, avoiding technical play because it’s not necessary, while simultaneously acknowledged that the scene had gotten a lot stronger in the past five years. Not one to miss an opportunity to put his foot in his mouth, talking Venus flytrap and two-time Mortal Kombat Evo champion Carl “PerfectLegend” White quickly published his retort.

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Now, a little context is needed to understand why this is so infuriating. While Carl is a two-time MK champion, his tournament performance has steadily decreased with each new NRS release. He may place at least once every now and again, but nowhere near the level of dominance that was seen in MK. Rather than, perhaps, confront why he can’t seem to overcome his plateauing as a player, Carl is the kind of player to find any type of excuse to justify why newer games are shit and he’s still the shit. I find it particularly funny that he bemoans “being forced to play uninteresting characters” in order to win at these newer games, yet he’s a professional gamer playing what are, in his words, much simpler titles. Carl was never one to make much sense, he’s like a giant cloud of cognitive dissonance.

Unfortunately, Mr. White’s attitude isn’t an exception; it’s actually pretty damn common. Since time immemorial, the number one go-to excuse for why a player who had previously excelled at one game is not doing so hot in another is just, simply “well, this game sucks, the other one rewarded skill.” Ignoring that this is an incredibly subjective statement, it’s also pretty transparent. I’ve been a competitor; I didn’t like to lose, and in darker moments, especially when losing to a younger and less experienced player than yourself, it’s easy to justify the loss by blaming it on outside factors. Unfortunately, this doesn’t absolve you of your mistakes, and the only way to grow from a loss is to examine those mistakes so you don’t repeat them. It’s a simple concept, but so often we see that, even years after said player may have been proven to be top level, the FGC is often extremely unforgiving to newer, younger players.

There’s some recent examples that I’ll get to in a bit, but I’ll start in the past. Back in 2008, Capcom released Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix, an enhanced remake of their final Street Fighter 2 release. The crowning feature of the game was a systematic overhaul of the balance, done by David Sirlin, a former competitive player. He brought in plenty of former and current high-level players to play test the game during development, and even published extensive articles on the philosophy behind his changes to every character. ST, as it is most commonly known, has a large following and is generally considered the pinnacle of Capcom’s 2D fighters, so messing with it was bound to invite controversy. I don’t know if Sirlin and crew were prepared, however, for the response they got.

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Just when you thought the name couldn’t get any longer!

At the 2010 Evolution tournament, the second for HD Remix, primarily online player Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis stunned the audience by taking the W, beating then favorite Hung “AfroLegends” Nguyen and then DGV in the grand finals. Not only that, he did it with Zangief, who was considered to have a lot of unfavorable matchups that would prevent him from winning a tournament. Considering that previous year’s top eight consisted of legends like John Choi, Graham Wolfe, Alex Valle, and others, this was seen as an upset in many ways. Lewis had only previously attended one offline event, although he was well regarded for his skills in online sets. Unfortunately, as is now pretty common in the post SF4 era, praise of his victory was often given in a backhanded manner that implied that he was lucky to be playing a new game.

Take a look at this post from Damian “Damdai” Dailidenas, a prominent ST player. He’s referring to an article written by David Sirlin giving Lewis praise, and clearly he is “disgusted” that Sirlin had the gall, the nerve, to imply that Lewis had a better handle on the game then known Japanese legend and fellow Zangief player, Kuni Funada. Dailidena takes umbrage with the idea that it is impressive for Lewis to win with Zangief, whom he considers “fucking retarded,” stating further that “being good with Zangief in HDR is not amazing.” He finishes by, like a cool guy, stating that he does not play the game anymore and that Evolution really opened his eyes to how “intermediate friendly the game is.” His use of “baby zone” would later be used as a term by all the other bitter ST players who couldn’t stomach that HDR dared to reduce execution difficulty, which inevitably lead the way to less skilled players to find success. Naturally, Lewis was just a Johnny-come-lately who couldn’t hang with the actual good players without his precious buffed Zangief and easier game.

confused AF

As I’m sure many reading already know, this was, erm, not the case. Lewis went on to become one of the most prominent players of Street Fighter IV, and although his career in Street Fighter V has had its ups and downs, he still own victories over some of the game’s best players. It’s good that his experiences after his win didn’t scare him off, but boy does it leave an egg on the face of those who weren’t willing to give him his proper due!

I’ll go back to the NRS side of things for my next example, one that I actually linked to earlier. For a few years now, Dominique “SonicFox” McClean has ran roughshod over the tournament scene for NRS games, but it wasn’t always so. While he certainly had his share of impressive wins in Mortal Kombat, he was much younger and not prone to travel, which meant that he rarely, with exceptions, played at gatherings of all the strongest players. Even in the beginning of Injustice: Gods Among Us, his record was far spottier. It was during IGAU‘s second year that he stepped up and won Evo and several other big tournaments, which paved the way for his nearly unstoppable Mortal Kombat X run. But, much like with Darryl Lewis, McClean was often seen as an unskilled player whose gameplan revolved around gimmicks and impossible to see mixups, fortunate that the games that weren’t Mortal Kombat were run by these types of strategies and not straight up, mid-range based play. Yes, this is a stupid thing to say, but as you now no doubt know, you can’t fix stupid.

The height of this happy horseshit was at Summer Jam 9, in August of 2015. Returning goofball Carl “PerfectLegend” White saw fit to expose McClean for the fraud that he was in a first to ten series. On paper this makes sense: at the time, both men were two time Evolution champions in NRS games, and it was rare that they clashed in tournament. White’s run in MKX had been relatively unimpressive thus far, but as always, he had unfailing confidence in his own skills. You can see this in his attire, which was some choice peacocking.

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He had just arrived from an intense training session with a garden trowel and some pesky Begonias

Despite the snazzy hat, the actual match was hard to watch. White would go on to lose ten straight, before taking the live mic and declaring that he had not prepared for the matchup that he just lost ten straight. Ever the showman, McClean told him to sit back down and play a first to three against one of his other characters, which resulted in yet another clean sweep. A 13-0 loss. Perhaps it would have just been okay to admit that the kid is talented; after all, the numbers don’t lie (and they spell disaster for you, Carl).

This brings us to the present, where we are now presented with more of the same shit in a different game. As previously mentioned, Saul “MenaRD” Segundo is the reigning Capcom Cup champion for Street Fighter V. He beat the odds on favorite, Hajime “Tokido” Tanaguchi, in a spectacular comeback from the very brink of defeat, so naturally, there is a lot chatter that his win was not legit. SFV has had a pretty complicated history when it comes to how seriously the game is taken, and Segundo’s win seems to have been the height of that discourse.

In a tremendous misfire, Eventhubs.com published an article which featured the editing staff weighing in on the “legitimacy” of Segundo’s play. Aside from the absurdity of questioning the legitimacy of beating the Evolution champion from the depths of the loser’s bracket, the article, despite the authors’ intentions, give legitimacy to the idea that SFV is a game in which we must question the legitimacy of those who win because of how poorly the game rewards good play. The really fucked up part is they wouldn’t have dared to make the same article regarding Taniguchi’s Evolution win, or previous Capcom Cup winner Du “Knuckledu” Dang (who received some heat himself when he won Street Fighter x Tekken tournaments at 16-17 years old). Eventhubs often does this type of gross yellow journalism in order to drive traffic, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

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A “cornerstone of fighting games” is being diminished, but, y’know, good shit I guess

Like I said earlier: as a competitor, I understand the mentality of being really annoyed with a younger, less experienced player beating you in a game, I really do. But game after game, we see the newer generation struggle to get any sort of recognition for their accomplishments, and it’s pretty disheartening. I saw Jay “Viscant” Snyder, himself a former Evolution champion for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and a competitor as early as the mid 90’s, tweet about how the average player in 2017 is competent enough to be a serious threat, whereas it wasn’t as hard back in the days where information was tremendously limited without the internet and even moreso if you didn’t have a local scene to learn from. It’s only natural that with so much information available through YouTube match footage and forums and Twitter, the average player in any game would be far more of a threat then it would in the days of yore. But somehow, a sizable number a of the modern-day FGC refuses to move past this mentality, to its detriment, in my opinion.

It’s perfectly okay to prefer the older games to newer games. I myself am not the biggest fan of SFV or Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, and find any of the older iterations of those games to be much more fun. But just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean that it takes less skill to be good at these titles, because Lord knows with the amount of jack that these companies throw at tournaments nowadays, everyone’s gunning for that money. Again, it’s only natural in competition to downplay the accomplishments of your peers in the name of good, honest shittalk, but when someone who’s not “supposed” to win starts winning, they can barely get acknowledged as decent without some sort of backhanded compliment or snide remark about the game they play. If anything, an influx of new players insures the life of the FGC to move past the old idols, who aren’t immune to the ravages of time and growing responsibility. Unfortunately, stream chats and Twitter alike are filled with people that repeat those toxic talking points because they don’t know any better, and that’s a real shame. Young blood should be accepted and taken seriously, not discredited at every turn because they’re not “supposed” to win.

While I’m at it, one last thing, and I may have asked this in a previous article, but if you think the game is for babies and not worth playing, then how about just not playing? Or can you just at least just admit you are trying for money and failing? These questions are rhetorical, I just expect things to continue as usual until the end of time, but optimism and dreams are important!

Well, that about does her. Wraps her all up. Thanks for reading if you made it to the end. I decided to go shorter because I went so long on the last one, although as I look now, this one ended up being pretty damn long anyways! Oh well. Until next time, true believers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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