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25th Apr 2018

How Street Fighter and combat sports go hand in hand for professional gamers

You might not think it, but being in shape will make you better at video games.

Wil Jones

Brought to you by Gfinity Elite Series

Street Fighter is the greatest fighting game of all time.

Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or just an occasional player, everyone knows Street Fighter. The defining 2D fighter laid the groundwork for today’s esports world. But instead of playing faceless opponents online, the fighting game community grew out of face to face competition in arcades.

We spoke to two Street Fighter V players who recently competed in the Gfinity Elite Series – Envy’s Mr Crimson and Keftaroz from Epsilon. From France and Belgium respectively, they told us about how their families got them started, the importance of physical fitness in esports, and the sense of community that defines their world.

We are heading into the SFV finals of the Elite Series Season 3 on the 28th April – you can watch the games unravel live from the arena in Fulham Broadway in London, the Gfinity esport stream or on Facebook.

Nathan ‘Mr Crimson’ Massol (Team Envyus)

When did you first play Street Fighter?

So the first time I played I was like four-years-old, with my uncle. It was Street Fighter Alpha 3 on Dreamcast. My mother was living with my grandparent and uncle when she had me, and my uncle was a big fan of video games so I was born into them.

Was your uncle a very big gamer then?

Yeah, he was always playing video games. He is still playing and he’s one of my biggest supporters, and my biggests fan. He has not yet come to see me play, but I think I will pay the travel for him to see a tournament – maybe the Gfinity finals!

I really like every type of game, [I like] Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and a lot of games, but competition will always be something special for me. And the best way to do competitions is on 1vs1 on a video games. So my love was fighting games and I tried to play fighting games competitively.

So what point did you realize that you could get to tournament level at Street Fighter?

The first tournament I went to was just for the fun. I was going there just to make friends. I wasn’t really thinking that I would be a pro player or something. But my first tournament, I almost won it. I beat the best player in Lyon, and that was a big beginning for me. I told to myself, I will travel as much as I can, but not to win tournaments – just to enjoy them and make friends, and get better. At tournament, the most important things is to speak to other players.

Street Fighter is traditionally played in arcades. Did you play in arcades much growing up?

No, I was playing on Dreamcast. My generation is more about online stuff. And so I prefer playing online, with my friends.

Does playing online damage the social aspect of the game?

The sociability is the most important thing. Playing online is a really good tool to get better, but you have to speak with other players and find your way to play. The online is like 30% of what you need to do I think, and offline is like 70%.

I watched an interview where you said you were into boxing and fitness – has boxing has influenced how you play Street Fighter and how you approach the game?

I see a lot of similar things between them. I think the most important thing in fighting games is to get up when your down, when you lose, and when it’s hard and you want to give up. I think boxing has helped me a lot for this, in my hard moments and given me the strength to continue. And you also have to work a lot in boxing – training, run everyday, practice everyday – and it’s almost the same in fighting games.

There’s obviously a stereotype of people who play a lot of video games being unhealthy – do you think being doing a lot of sport and being fit is important to be good at esports?

Yes, I think it’s really important, and a lot of players are starting to do sport now, to feel better in their mind, because the body and the mind is really close you. If you feel good in your body, it’s strange, but your mind is going to be better.

Do you still box?

No. So I do gym, but I stopped boxing because it’s hard to manage two things. I love to be at my best when I do something, to have 100% of my mind on that thing. And for the moment it is on esports, and maybe one day I will practice boxing again.

Fighting games seem to produce bigger characters than other esports – would you agree?

Yeah, probably, that’s strange. I can’t explain. I don’t know if it’s in fighting games you feel something when you are in the mind of your opponent.

Finally what makes Street Fighter the greatest fighting game, and why has it become the most popular fighting game across the world?

I think because everyone can play Street Fighter. I don’t think everyone can play other fighting games because a lot of things happen on the screen. Street Fighter is like boxing or karate. It’s really easy to understand what happened. You just look at the health bar and two characters fighting.

Anas ‘Keftaroz’ Houmaid (Team Epsilon)

When did you first play Street Fighter

I think I played for the first time in when I was very young. I was like six or seven years old, at home with my older brothers, who were already big fans of the franchise. It was Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo. We had a love for fighting games and Street Fighter was the one we liked the most.

At what point you realise you were at tournament level?

It was long ago, in the days of Street Four IV, when I met the local Belgium community. A few of them had already travelled to tournaments. I wasn’t at their level of skill. But when I realised I was a challenge to them I knew I could compete in a tournament.

At that time my brother ran a video game shop, and at that place you could play casual games, anything you want. So one day, those guys came, and I saw them playing seriously, and that got me into the competitive aspect of the game. I was 17. From that time, I went to every tournament I could, in Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, pretty much all of Europe, wherever there was a Street Fighter tournament.

Why do you play as Rashid?

He is a new character to the franchise, so it can be refreshing. His game style has good potential. He has great mobility, and he’s among the strongest characters in the game.

Do you like the challenge of having a new character?

Yeah, it’s refreshing, when you have to think differently about the gameplay, and work out new strategies. it’s interesting. It puts you in a situation where you want to go further. When the game just came out, I directly went to the new characters. I tried a bit of Rashid, and I instantly knew he was going to fit me.

The fighting game community feels different to other esports, in that it has bigger characters and feels more sociable – would you agree?

In that sense, yeah. The fact that the fighting game community is small and exclusive means that people know each other. Every player knows the other player, and that creates a link between them. Not like a big game, where there are so many players, and you can’t know everyone except for those in your team.

Do you think that comes from the history of it being played in arcades?

Yeah, it’s one of the main reasons it is sociable is that you have to play in front of your opponent. You can communicate with them directly, you can give them advice, and you create something between the players.

Does online play ruin that?

I don’t really practice online. I play offline, with my teammates, and with my brother. We play together and that’s how we make progress. I don’t enjoy the online experience for fighting games. Making the online experience the main way to play the game destroys an aspect of the community, the face to face atmosphere.

Finally what makes Street Fighter the greatest fighting game, and why has it become the most popular fighting game across the world?

Because of the level of concentration you need to react to your opponents moves, the depth of the gameplay and the strategy, and all it requires in terms of playing activities.

The Elite Series Season 3 SFV finals take place on the 28th April – watch the games unravel live from the arena in Fulham Broadway, the Gfinity esport stream or on Facebook. For more information, go to the Gfiinity website