I still reflect back on my experience at T12: Toronto Fighting Game Championships. As a serious fighting game player, it’s hard not to reflect back on the things that went well and the things that didn’t at the biggest tournament of my life to date. In particular, I came out of T12 really disappointed with my performance in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Sure, I got embarrassed by Chi Rithy (pictured above) on the Team Spooky stream for thousands to see, but my saltiness coming out of that event was more deeply rooted than that. Despite the fact that I’ve played over 1,000 hours of Street Fighter IV since 2009, I felt like I was one of the weakest Street Fighter competitors there based on the level of play I saw and my poor Street Fighter record on that day.
That experience was enough to reinvigorate my interest in Street Fighter IV and my desire to be the best I can be.
It was clear to me what the gap was between the competition and I. While I felt like I could go toe- to-toe with almost everyone there from a strategic or tactical perspective, my execution was clearly lacking. Almost everyone there could connect all their links for maximum damage combos, which is something I couldn’t do at all.
The big hurdle for me has been Street Fighter IV’s extremely tight timing for link combos. For years, I’ve struggled with mastering the timing involved in linking specific attacks together. Instead of taking the time to learn them, I just gave myself all sorts of excuses, such as:
– With a 1-to-2 60ths of a second window to connect most advanced links, I’ll never be able to execute them
– Links are going to require me to put in a ton of practice and I hate practice
– Links are harder when you play online and there’s lag
– Links are hard due to the input lag on my TV
– I’m too old for this
Instead of putting in the work to improve my execution, I’ve formed my play-style around simpler combos that do less damage, but that I could do every time. For the most part, this worked well for me online, where the talent pool varies wildly in skill.
However, the consequences for these excuses and this play-style hit me hard when I played at T12. When it came down to it, almost every opponent I faced was able to hit me more than I was able to hit them, not for a lack of opportunity, but simply because of my own inability to rattle off a full combo.
I felt like I was at a crossroads. I’ve gone as far as I could with my current skill-set, but I felt like I wanted to go even further. Was I going to put in the work to get better? Or was I simply going to settle with what I have and likely face the same fate if/when a T13 were to happen in 2012?
While I didn’t make up my mind right away, I eventually committed to myself that I was going to try and address my execution shortcomings head-on. I spent a lot more time in training mode to get linking and ‘plinking’ down pat. At first, I felt like I’d never be able to do this at all, but sure enough, with enough practice, I was able to execute some of the more difficult links in training mode. The video below of me training with Cammy is an example of my tight linking in action:
From there, it was about having the skill and confidence to execute these bigger combos in an actual match. It was here where I had a lot of mental hurdles to overcome, such as the fear of losing due to messing up a combo, as well as me psyching myself out over potential internet and television lag. This was a slow, and sometimes painful process, but I think it helped. I lost a lot of matches due to execution errors, but I needed to at least try them in live matches until I got it right.
Four months later, I’ve seen growth in my game. When I last peaked as a Street Fighter player, I hit just over 5,000 battle points with Akuma. Now, I have three characters well over that mark with Rose, Cammy and Fei Long. In particular, my Rose and Cammy (pictured above) crossed the 7,000 battle point milestone about a week ago. Just recently, I was able to cross the 8,000 battle point milestone with Rose and Cammy, too. That means I’m now ranked as one of the top 100 Rose and Cammy players on XBOX Live.
Going a step beyond that, as of this post, I’m currently the #2 ranked Cammy and #1 ranked Rose player in Canada. I don’t know if gaming-wise, I’ve ever been #1 in anything. Having those under my belt, even for a little while, is a testament to my work paying off.
It was a bumpy ride to get there, and I took a lot of tough losses, but there was a lot of winning against some really good players, too. I’m most proud of a few stand-out performances against some well known players and some of the highest ranked players on XBOX Live. In some of those matches, I pushed some really high-level players to the brink, while in a handful of others, I was able to secure a win.
It means a lot to me to see myself overcoming obstacles that I thought I’d never be able to. It’s a huge confidence booster to me as far as Street Fighter and in life in general to see proof of practice, dedication and hard work panning out. What’s next for me as a competitive fighting game player? More practice. With Version 2012 out now, I want to adjust to the new changes and continue to grow. While I don’t think there are any major tournaments happening in my area anytime soon, nor do I see myself making the effort to travel out of town for one, but I’d like to head out to a few local fighting game events that happen in my area for some local practice. Who knows? Maybe at T13, I’ll be pulling off the upset of the century against Daigo. Probably not, but if I can make it this far, the sky is the limit, right?