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I'm Washed Up (Street Fighter is a Young Man's Game)


Hey there, those who stopped to read this. I'm washed up. I'm 31 years old, my hairline is receding, and I'm starting to look like Stannis Baratheon (Before his hair grayed out. I guess I'm not THAT old yet.) I have kids, get frustrated with modern pop music and eat my multivitamins daily.

Many years ago, and I mean many I used to stand in line at the local arcade at my mall and put my qaurter up on the counter panel for Street Fighter II. I was so short (I'm still short btw) I could barely see over the panel. But I was the best kid my friends knew at Street Fighter. I would whoop some of those older, high school kids asses. An obsession had started. I was too young still to care about serious competitive play.

Fast forward some years later to Street Fighter III. I had both Double Impact and Third Strike on the Dreamcast, and the (now dying) local arcade had Double Impact. I'm a teenager at this point, think I've got the world figured out, even though I still haven't gotten more than a few gropings and some heavy petting on a real life woman yet. But I did know one thing pretty damn well, Street Fighter. I was old enough now to truly understand things like frame data, frame advantage, footsies, etc. I was good, damned good actually. I started to take the game as a bit more than just a simple hobby for fun in my spare time while not flunking school or getting rejected by girls.

There really wasn't too much of a local scene where I'm from (The mid-West) but there were a few guys who shared my passion and we rocked the fuck out of Street Fighter III. I attended a few small-scale local tournaments, usually held in dusty arcades or someone's basement even. Sometimes a little more upscale complete with a few people actually watching, cheering, booing. It's cliche, but completely true when I say that I improved from every loss I got. I would study my bad match ups, learn what I was doing wrong and then work hours in training to correct it. My love for the game grew even more, as did my passion. But I was broke, had no car and was still in High School...so my tournament play was strictly limited to my surrounding areas.

We'll take another time leap here. This one a little closer. Street Fighter 4 came out, and with it internet play. A close friend and I (whom I later met in one of my art classes) took the game pretty seriously. We sparred constantly and were always trying and learning new tech. Suddenly, my lacking local scene didn't matter quite so much because there was stiff compitition everywhere online. I was finally realizing I could actually be someone within this scene. I rose through the ranks online.

Not long after this release, in traditional Capcom fashion, Super Street Fighter 4 launched. And with it's release I accidentally stumbled on a group of people via a forum who completely changed the game for me. Some of these guys made my passion for the game like trivial and childish. There were pro players here, semi-pros, up and comers, like  myself and even plenty of casuals. We all shared a passion though, and we all strove to get better. Pros played with casuals, up and comers played with pros, it didn't matter. No one judged you. I was in love. I'd found the tool I needed to truly improve.

And I did, drastically. I found a mentor in fact. I'd taken up Blanka full-time (Could you have guessed that from my avatar on here?). I'd made a simple post asking for some advice on air-to-air Blanka tech, and found the number one ranked Blanka player in the US. His answer changed everything. "Just come meet me online, I'll show you everything."

He did. I trained with this particular fellow and several of his friends for months, several hours a day. It was all I did in my free time. (I somehow still managed to hang onto my now wife, then fiancee and a handful of friends.) But I was absorbed in this new world of serious, competitive play. No matter how good I got this guy was still always several steps ahead of me. I idolized him, but yet he was completely humble about it. He introduced me to several other guys, some on my level, some far above, a few below. I met some good people, a few of them still active competitively today! EVO was coming up, and we were gonna make a splash, as best we could. I had been introduced to a fellow from New York whom I won't name, but he was one of those up and comers at the time. He made it, he went to EVO...we didn't, unfortunately.

But there were some serious seeding tournies online, one in particular God's Garden. I participated in many of them and even did fairly well in some. I was getting a real taste of actual competitive Street Fighter, not the amateur league stuff anymore, but the real thing. Again some of these guys lived this game, made my passion for the game look like child's play. Was I somebody? I wouldn't say so, but some of them knew me as just "That guy that plays Blanka and El Fuerte on a fucking pad!" Yes, despite starting my Street Fighter career as a kid on an arcade, I played full-time (still do) on a controller. An odd feat in serious competitive play (though not unheard of...Luffy won EVO last year on a pad.)

Things were looking good. I was making a splah, even if not at EVO. I had a great mentor, was playing on the regular with some pretty legit players from around the world. But somewhere amongst this real life came in to say hi. I got married to a wonderful woman and eventually we had a son. That kind of put a wrench into serious Street Fighter time. I unfortunately lost contact with most of those guys I mentioned. And now a few short years later, here we are. Losing my hair, sitting here on a laptop with my son watching Sesame Street in the background. I don't regret this life change, at all. But I do miss it all sometimes. I was right on the cusp of possibly going pro, it was very exciting, even exhilerating at times.

I don't have the time anymore to devote to Street Fighter, though I still keep up, I still play, though a lot more casually, and I still watch. I still know frame data charts like a second alphabet, I still know match up data like a constitution. I lived the scene, I breathed it, I was there. It was great. But now...now I'm washed up. This is a young man's game. The blood, sweat and tears put into it are legit, and it's still exciting to fondly recall those glory days not even THAT long ago spent in it all.

If you're reading this and you've still got some youth on your side, if you're in your late teens or early twenties, seize the day. If you're passionate about something, don't write it off as a dream. Live it, be it, take it. You don't want to end up old, washed up and simply wishing you'd taken it. Do you?

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About Xeoone of us since 1:36 AM on 02.21.2011