The Grind, The Game, The Goal, The Guidance

June 22 2018

When we signed Nemo and John, it was more than just a continuation of our Street Fighter team. It was an entry into an entirely new continent and culture. Both players are passionate professionals, and we knew from the start that they would tackle the CPT pre-season with aplomb. Aside from coming from a very unique culture and a mecca of gaming, both players have their own styles, identities and perspectives.

Nemo is the old guard. He came up in the Japanese arcades and has been a tournament veteran in a variety of celebrated games. Nemo is older, he’s played on the biggest stages, garnered a tremendous fanbase and has a successful career outside of competition where he still works full time while simultaneously trying to achieve his pro gaming aspirations.

John Takeuchi on the other hand is the new blood. His first fighting game is Street Fighter V and he learned the game playing with friends and duking it out in netplay. He isn’t part of the old school arcade culture and he’s never had a professional sponsor supporting him before.

Coupled with their Japanese background, Nemo and John see esports in a different light — from most esports fans, and from each other. While they've been busy on their globetrotting grind for the Capcom Pro Tour, they graced us with their fascinating insights into the grind, the game, their goals, and some guidance.

The Grind

For the uninitiated, fighting games are notoriously difficult to pick up and even harder to master. They require a healthy mix of mechanical skill and mental fortitude. Practice is essential but the methodology is player specific.

Nemo: Well since Street Fighter was originally an arcade game, I mainly practice in that setting. I like to play offline with other players. While new games have online functionalities, it’s more common for the people I play with to gather together and practice offline. I try to be efficient and use the time during my commute to work to study VODs, but my commute is only 10 minutes so it doesn’t offer me much time. After work, I usually practice offline for 2-3 hours. I will also use the time while I take a bath, or cook food, etc., to review games in my head.

John: I don’t spend a lot of time training by myself; I spend a lot of time playing with other people. I think that being there in person and being able to see your opponent's face and talk about the matches is the way to go. You can talk to people online for sure, but it's easier to do that when they’re right there, so I like offline practice better. Plus, most of the tournaments are offline so I think it's better to get used to the setting.

As mentioned before, Nemo works a full time job in addition to competing at the highest levels of Street Fighter. We don’t quite understand how he has the time or energy but we’re glad he does because he’s one of the most well respected and exciting players in the fighting game community.

Nemo: Well, first of all, I can maintain my crazy schedule because I love it. If you’re playing a game that you really love, I think it's easier to put in the time and effort it takes to be a pro. That being said, work is, of course, busy sometimes and there are times when I can’t practice because of it. I tend to believe that as long as you have a goal, and plan out what you need to do to succeed, you’ll do fine.

I utilize the PCDA (Plan Check Do Act) cycle, which is something I learned from my experience working. I apply these experiences from working my 9-5, to my goals as a pro gamer. I think that being able to utilize this process to pursue my goals is one of my biggest strengths.

The Game

Street Fighter V is a game that is constantly tweaked and updated via seasonal (roughly 1 year) updates through the addition of characters and balance changes. These changes can be wildly variable per character and the nuanced interactions between system changes, and character updates require pro players to constantly adapt to the new environment.

Nemo: I think that the current meta is good. Even the DLC characters have good balance, so I really like the meta. Having said that though, Cammy has been really strong this season and my character (Urien) is weak against her. So if they came out with a character that was strong against Cammy, I would be very happy!

John: My character Rashid was recently nerfed and while he got weaker, I think that the overall balance is good. Rashid wasn’t nerfed so bad that he is unusable, so I’m not interested in switching characters. There are clear top meta picks, like Cammy, but for now I’m going to do keep doing my best with Rashid.

As with any game, the fanbase gets pretty crazy whenever they can about anything. Whether it be a player's tournament results, a balance patch, and quite literally, anything in between. We wanted to know if our players ever, ‘read the comments’ or if they steer clear of the noise.

Nemo: As a gamer who aims to make people think “wow he has an exciting play style,” the community’s opinions are very important to me. I want to be the person who people see play and go “I want to play like that” or “I should try that playstyle.” I want to inspire.

John: I find myself only really reaching out for the community’s opinions when I’m learning about a new character. They can help show me strengths and weaknesses quickly, especially for DLC characters.

The Goal

The Capcom Pro Tour is a grueling 9 month season that has events in just about all corners of the globe. With only 31 players plus last year's champion qualifying, it’s a marathon of blood, sweat and tears. It goes without saying that every competitive player wants to win EVO and qualify for Capcom Cup but sometimes there are other motivations that can push players to reach greatness.

Nemo: I really want to win EVO this year because my company president will be traveling to Vegas to see me compete. I really want to give him a show and highlight my skill. I want him to see that my gaming is in a good place.

While the yearly goals of a competitive player remain largely the same — win majors, win EVO and qualify for Capcom Cup — the grind will eventually subside and players need to look to the future. It’s refreshing to know that our players have their ‘endgame’ figured out.

Nemo: In terms of my career as a pro gamer, I really want to compete at the global level and leave my mark as a player. After succeeding in gaming, I want to bring those experiences into my work for Square-Enix. Once I have accomplished my personal goals, I want to focus my attention on others. I want to support the pro gaming scene in any way I can after I retire from gaming. I’d like to assist in creating a cycle where older ex-pros help young up-and-comers get into gaming and succeed in this industry.

John: As a pro my number one goal is to win a Capcom Cup and become the strongest Street Fighter player in the world. After I’m done competing, I would love to stay in the gaming industry. I’d like to learn as many games as I can and get a job translating for game studios. I’ve also thought about supporting the next generation of players by working for a team or assisting in anyway I can. Outside of gaming, I really enjoy drawing and creating art so I’ve considered going to school to become a designer.

The Guidance

This is the first time in Team Liquid history that we have multiple members on our Street Fighter squad. Similar to StarCraft, most competitions are 1v1 so our players won’t play as a ‘team’ very often. This creates an interesting dynamic as your teammate is also your opponent. However, even with that ‘frenemy’ dynamic, Nemo is always willing to pass on his sage advice to the young Takeuchi.

Nemo: Personally, I haven’t been able to attend many tournaments so I hope that John can go to a lot of tournaments and create a lot of memories and experiences. Something I would like to see him recognize is that his first year is a year for learning. In his second year, I would like to see him take that knowledge and turn it into successes. Though he isn’t ranked high this year and he may not make it far in every tournament as the competition is fierce and the top 8s are usually the same players. He needs to understand that at the high level, his opponents will rarely make mistakes. The best way to learn this will be to travel and compete as often as he can.

Also, regarding making mistakes, every pro makes mistakes and misses combos. Even the best of the best make will a mistake so you are bound to as well. The important thing I want John to take to heart is that it's not the mistake's fault you lost. Your opponent was stronger than you — that is why you lost.

While Nemo didn’t hold back with the ‘real talk’, John did not have advice to reciprocate for Nemo. Not because John sees him as a foe, but because he has enormous respect for Nemo, who John views as the older and more established player. The two players have been developing a healthy relationship as they travel and compete around the world, and all of their fans are hopeful that John will be able to learn more than a few tricks from his elder teammate.

Writer // Jeff Anderson
Interviewer and Translator // Sarah Enders

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