Team Du — Evo Experience
September 21 2017
There is a great responsibility that befalls The Champion. As the reigning Capcom Cup titleholder and a contender for best player in the world, Du "NuckleDu" Dang has become a representative for an entire esport. Du must uphold the unique character of FGC while promoting it as a healthy and positive competitive environment. Such a tense 1v1 game inherently creates many rivalries, but it can also create new friendships and opportunities to give back to the community.
As the biggest FGC tournament in the world, EVO is attended by more than 2000 players in Street Fighter alone. Every young Fighter dreams of making it to the main stage at EVO, and NuckleDu decided to make a few dreams come true this year.
EVO 2017 was special for many reasons, not least because NuckleDu secured a top 5 finish in an arena full of thousands of fans, broadcast live on Twitch, ESPN2, and Disney to over 200,000 spectators. While the spotlight was on the Capcom Cup champ, 4 other players competed under "Team Du"—players that NuckleDu himself (along with Team Liquid) sponsored for EVO.
NuckleDu wanted to give these up-and-coming players an opportunity to showcase their talents to the world and compete on the biggest stage. This was the first EVO experience for all four players—as you can imagine, travel expenses are often too much for unsponsored players. This struggle isn't something that NuckleDu has forgotten throughout his own meteoric rise in the FGC.
We couldn't be more proud of NuckleDu's generosity and desire to give back to the community. Du has embraced the role of champion in more than just title alone, and we will continue to support his endeavors to give back. EVO was a busy weekend and Team Du's stories may have gotten lost in the shuffle, so we reached out to Gunfight, Ice Effect, and Mizuha to tell us about their EVO experience. Without further 'a-Du', let us introduce you to Team NuckleDu, EVO2017.
[Editor's note: The fourth member of Team Du declined to be interviewed.]
Benoit "Gunfight" Arquilla isn’t a stranger you'd want to challenge. The 28 year old Frenchman—who currently lives in the fighting game capital of the world, Tokyo, Japan—works the day to day as a 3D animator and designer. As if leaving your home country to work in a foreign land isn’t hard enough, he also plays a low tier character—sorry Alex fans.
Gunfight's love for Alex came from playing Street Fighter 3 - 3rd Strike (3s), which he opted to play during the Street Fighter 4 era. He was remarkably good, qualifying in 3s for the now-defunct but fondly remembered Japanese tournament ‘Super Battle Opera’ (SBO)—an accomplishment that cannot be understated. If you can make it to SBO, you are extremely skilled.
Perhaps Gunfight's most rewarding success thus far in SFV has been uniting Alex fans across the internet. He streams on Twitch and has built an army of fans for “Alex Nation”, a community centered around fellow Alex players who are few and far between. Alex receives so little respect that NuckleDu hasn’t even purchased the character (Alex is a DLC)—because it’s not worth it to him to learn the match-up since so few players use him.
This vocal and loyal community of Alex aficionados landed Gunfight a spot on Team Du. "When Du asked on twitter about a player to pick for his EVO team, so many people recommend me (that) it reached Du's ears," Gunfight explained. NuckleDu had never heard of Gunfight before turning to twitter for player suggestions.
With passionate fans cheering him on, Gunfight went into his first EVO to not only prove himself as a player but to have an experience of a lifetime.
"This was my first EVO and the experience for me was amazing. It was also the first time I came to Las Vegas! To see so many people from around the world gather around fighting games was a blast, from amateur level to professional. The fact that everyone can come, compete, play and have fun with each other is amazing! Being a part of this really filled my heart and I am very happy to be part of this community!"
Gunfight ended up being the highest placing Alex, a very respectable 65th, just outside of top 64. He was eliminated in double jeopardy (losing to the same player twice) by FGC legend and tournament veteran Eduardo ‘PR Balrog’ Perez. That’s a rough way to exit your first EVO, but the brackets show no mercy at such stacked events.
"The tournament was a very good experience! I wanted to do better than a 65th place of course. Looking only at the result, I am disappointed in myself. I knew that it was going to be very hard since that was my first very big tournament in a long time and my experience in SFV was not enough."
While 65th at your first EVO is not something you should be disappointed in, you can tell that Gunfight has the right mindset to improve and will comeback stronger next year. “In general EVO really helped me to build my confidence," he admitted, "I was a little bit nervous when I arrived to Vegas but I managed to refocus myself and I could play my game. I grew a lot thanks to EVO.”
With a strong first performance and a good mindset towards improvement, I think it’s safe to say that Gunfight has a bright future in Street Fighter, and we wish him luck in his future endeavors.
"First I want to thank NuckleDu himself and Team Liquid for this opportunity. [Then] I want to give a very special shout out and a special thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of the Alex Nation. I received huge amounts of support from everywhere in the world everyday since I started to stream and I basically owe them my trip to EVO.”
For more Alex Nation, follow him https://twitter.com/Gunfight57 and check his live streams at twitch.tv/gunfight.
That was the single word 25 year old Atlanta native Nassi “Ice Effect” Nixon gave me when I asked about his first EVO experience. When the young Laura player elaborated, the excitement expressed was palpable.
"This was my first EVO and it was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! I was always told that it was a great experience, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would be as incredible as it was. It was truly an amazing experience to see such a diverse group of people all enjoying themselves together in Vegas.”
Ice Effect has had a different path to competitive Street Fighter than others on Team Du. "My first fighting game was Super Smash Bros. 64, but the first one that I truly took seriously was Street Fighter 4," he recounted, "I didn't know much about the competitive scene before SF4; my only knowledge was honestly the Daigo parry video on Youtube.”
After discovering SF4, Ice Effect was smitten. However, he developed his talents mostly online. "I've always been an online warrior when it comes to video games," he professed, " I feel like playing online allows you to face a wide variety of different play styles that helps you to be prepared for any possibility when it's time to enter a tournament.”
Ice Effect is a self described sports nut and stats junky. He turned this childhood obsession of memorizing team rosters and a hunger to compete towards video games as he entered his teen years. "It started with shooters such as Counter-Strike in middle school, and would continue throughout the years with activities such as raiding in World of Warcraft or reaching diamond rank in League of Legends," he recalled. It was when he discovered the openness of FGC that he decided to take things seriously.
"Once I discovered that any person could enter a FGC tournament to compete against others in your area, I immediately jumped in at the first chance I got."
While Ice Effect is relatively new to the competitive side of the FGC, starting just before the end of Ultra Street Fighter 4, his hardwork has propelled him to early success that many players never reach. Ice Effect was the top performer of the squad at EVO: an admirable 49th in his first slough through the 2600 competitors.
Along the way, Ice Effect created several memorable moments, but one match in particular stood out. "My first loss was against a Karin player named gevo. He played very, very well, and while I was upset, I had no choice but to accept that he played better than me. I ran into him again in the losers finals of my second pool, and this time I was able to pull out the victory." It was the match that elevated him to the top 64 in his very first EVO, but more than that, Ice Effect revealed that "It was satisfying to adjust and get the victory against an opponent who had previously bested me."
This tough resolve and positive attitude will help Ice Effect as he continues his pro journey. This performance also shows he is capable of adapting his play within a tournament, a skill that is absolutely necessary to go far in big events. Ultimately it was Machabo who ended his impressive first EVO bid, and Machabo is no slouch. In fact, Machabo is an EVO champion Guilty Gear player who has a wealth of experience in these high pressure situations. Falling to an EVO champion deep in a stacked event leaves little to regret.
It will be no surprise to see more and more of Ice Effect in the coming years and we wish him all the best on the grind towards glory. You can follow this young talent's journey at https://twitter.com/IceEffectFGC.
“Shoutouts to NuckleDu once again for giving me this fantastic opportunity. Thanks to his support I was able to have one of the greatest experiences in my life. If I ever get sponsored and make it big like him I will definitely do the same thing for my fellow fighting game players that he did for me and the rest of Team NuckleDu.”
Mizuha aka "YamadaTaro" is a young Japanese player hailing from Shinagawa, Japan. He plays Chun-Li and he has lofty ambitions.
“I'm not quite a pro-gamer yet, but I'm currently looking for a sponsor! The reason I'm using Chun-Li in SFV is because I wanted an image like Tokido, whom everyone associates with Akuma. Look forward to it!”
Mizuha doesn’t just want to be a great Chun-Li player; he wants to be known exclusively as ‘The’ Chun-Li player. Very few players can claim a hero as their own, in the same vein as fighting game legend and EVO 2017 winner Hajime ‘Tokido’ Taniguchi—‘The’ Akuma. That’s an impressive and formidable goal that transcends being just a top player.
However, Mizuha is well on his way towards this goal in his budding career. Mizuha won an event in Japan called the ‘Rage Master League - Suzaku Cup’ and part of his prize included a custom, one of a kind Chun-Li skin. He is literally the only player in the world with this Chun-Li costume so his efforts of becoming synonymous with Chun-Li are off to a great start.
For Mizuha, EVO was an entirely new experience in more ways than one. "This was my first EVO, the first time I boarded an airplane, and the first time I went overseas," he confessed. Adjusting to so many firsts resulted in a lot of pressure, but Mizuha still enjoyed the experience.
"This was my first international tournament, and I get pretty nervous even when I enter locals in Japan. Before I left for EVO, I was pretty concerned I'd get even more nervous than usual... I arrived 2 days before the tournament, and I was shocked at how good the food was in Vegas!"
Ultimately, those nerves got the best of Mizuha and he was unable to get out of pool play. “I really wasn't able to do my best...I made various mistakes," Mizuha confided, "I started thinking about the sheer number of people I'd have to beat to win EVO, so my heart kind of sank when I got put into losers. I stopped thinking about the immediate next steps."
The young Chun-Li player understands that mindset is just as important as practice, and he has vowed to improve in that respect. "This is why when I enter something (in the future), I (will) try to take even casual matches seriously, as if everything was a tournament.”
Still, he was in high spirits and just enjoyed the event and his first time in the US.
"I was really happy to get my first chance to play international competition! I really wanted to give it my all because it's known as the biggest fighting game tournament, and I was also invited to play. The entire experience left a strong, lasting impression on me due to the overall high level of play.”
Despite the disappointing performance, Mizuha had a wonderful time at EVO and had a ton of fun with his teammates and even received some words of wisdom from NuckleDu himself.
"Gunfight, also a member of Team NuckleDu, spoke Japanese, so I was able to communicate fairly easily. Even though he wasn't a coffee person, he went with me to Starbucks and kept me company!
When I was able to meet NuckleDu, I thanked him and gave him a gift: a T-Shirt with a shuriken design and 'Shinobi (忍)' kanji print. He thanked me in Japanese, I was really happy! He was also very attentive and showed a lot of concern when I was depressed after my losses at EVO."
With his first EVO under his belt and a wealth of new experiences to draw from, fans should keep an eye on his signature Chun-Li in Japanese tournaments. With a positive attitude and the skills to match, it won't be long until we see the name Mizuha further and further in the brackets. Keep up to date by following him at https://twitter.com/mizuha11
“My results at EVO ended up being a bit of a disappointment, but I'm still proud to have represented Team NuckleDu. Team NuckleDu is the best! I'll learn from my defeat, and come back even stronger!!”
We'd like to thank Gunfight, Ice Effect and Mizuha for sharing their experiences with us. We'd also like to thank their fans for supporting Team Du throughout EVO 2017; similarly, thank you to Team Liquid fans that cheered for them at the event. We wish them all luck in their future tournaments, and maybe we'll even see them square off against Du on stage one day.
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