Dit interview verscheen eerder op Jan Wichers blog, Monobrow.
Living the dream: het is maar net wat voor dromer je bent. Als je hoopt dat je op een dag een goeie accountant bent die een boel andere goeie accountants voor zich heeft werken, begrijp je Mike Ross waarschijnlijk niet. Die houdt gewoon enorm van een spelletje genaamd Street Fighter IV. En wordt ervoor betaald om het te spelen.
Jan Wicher: What happens when you take a date home for the first time and she sees these big, boldly colored sticks full of buttons and printed with cartoon characters on the sofa?
Mike: “This actually happened before and I did the first thing that felt natural to me. I replied with, what, those? That ain’t mine! Never seen those things in my life! Haha but no, I did say oh… uh… yeah, I don’t do that stuff anymore. I can’t expose myself for who I truly am! Can you blame me?”
Who doesn’t understand what you are doing?
“Anyone and everyone who isn’t doing what we’re doing in this scene. I don’t expect people, at least Americans, to understand it. In this country playing video games is viewed as the nerdiest thing ever. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to defend it and say it isn’t, haha.”
How many hours per day do you train?
“Well, when a tournament is coming up, I try to play for an hour a day. When nothing is going on, I can go days without playing the game.”
Of all the games you can play fanatically, why Street Fighter?
“I used to play Marvel vs Capcom 2 fanatically, then the scene died. I played DOTA, not fanatically, but religiously! I loved DOTA more than any other game I’ve played. Something about that 5 vs. 5 team element drew me to the game. So right now I’m playing SF4 cause it’s both fun and popular. Even though Starcraft 2 is real popular, it doesn’t deliver the same level of fun as SF4 for me.”
SF is a cultural phenomenon. Why is this?
“I think SF is so popular because everyone knows what SF is. We all remember seeing Ryu, Ken, Guile from the ol’ arcade days and now we see those same characters we grew up with rendered in these amazing 3D graphics. It will naturally draw us to play this game. Also, Capcom has done a great job promoting the game, we’ve never seen this kind of promotion for any other fighting game.”
What do you experience when playing this game? What do you like about it that makes you play it the way you do?
“I experience a tingling sensation in my… fingertips.”
“I love sitting down and getting ready to face an opponent to try and figure out how the player is going to play. Once the match begins, this is where the dance begins, each player is doing moves to feel the other player out. Winning is more than about just beating them in the game, it’s about outplaying them mentally and showing you were more prepared than they were. It’s a great feeling to win. It’s a nightmare to lose. Nothing worse than having the same nightmare over and over again!”
I have a feeling the fighting game community is different from other video game scenes. More social, less nerdy.
“Correct! For some reason Street Fighter tends to attract a different caliber of males and females. It attracts real people. I’m not saying that people that WoW aren’t real, but… you get what I’m saying.”
Yes. So about playing games on a professional level: do you fear the day your reflexes will deteriorate?
“Yes I do. That’s something I won’t be able to handle. But most likely I’ll take the professional athlete route and only play with people in my caliber (the senior citizen league) or I’ll just pick up golf.”
With athletes often ending up working for their former team one way or the other, do you have an ambition to be involved in the videogame industry after your pro career?
“Well I still don’t see myself as having a pro career because all I’m doing is just playing the game like everyone else. I’m not signed to any team or company, I’m just doing whatever I want, whenever I want. However, I know I’ll always be around the industry somehow someway.”
Klinkt als een aardige kerel, toch? Wil je meer weten over Ross en zijn straatvechtavonturen, hou dan Focus in de gaten, een documentary van Steve Hwang over Mike Ross. Volgens Mike’s twitterfeed komt die begin volgend jaar uit.