Express Yourself

Elias Gasper
Street Fighter 5 is a game where anyone can beat anyone. I have a lot of respect for the great players, but I’m not the type of person to compare myself to others. I just want to be number one; I don’t care about number 2 or number 3.

I’d rather be a consistent player than just win one random event though. The end goal is always to qualify for Capcom Cup at the end of the year. Anyone can win an event with a good run but you have to get to the big competitions first, so I’m focusing on making sure that I remain a consistent player and keep placing high at events.

The number one thing that’s holding me back right now is my mental fortitude. A full tournament day can be so mentally exhausting, just constantly playing back to back through the whole weekend. When you finally get to the top eight, I feel like I’m almost on the brink already; I feel like I just want to go home.

Sometimes, when I make it into the top eight, I actually think to myself “ok, this is good enough, even if I lose now it’s fine” – I don’t like that I think that way. I guess I think that way because making it that far in a tournament means that I’ve proven to myself and to other players that I am good enough to be there.

It’s almost like I feel like I’m ready to travel to the next tournament, and that if the current tournament run is ending, then it’s not the end of the world. It’s obviously good when you look back as you can be happy with your placement, but in the moment, it can hurt you.

I think a lot of players think like that. After you finish a tournament you talk to other players about how many Capcom Pro Tour points you got, and whether you got 90, or 20, or 10, you can always say “well, that’s not too bad”. 

That’s where the best players separate themselves; a major trait of those players is that they don’t think that way. They are never satisfied during or after the tournament run unless they win it. That is the mindset that I am aiming for, but it takes work and a lot of experience.

I remember when I beat one of those players for the first time. It was MOV, at Dreamhack Summer 2016. We both played Chun-Li back then, so it was a mirror match. I had been trucking through the losers bracket and suddenly MOV was next to me.

It was very weird. I remember that the game wasn’t on stream, so when I won I looked around and there was just one guy behind me cheering. Marco, his name was – I looked at him and just shouted “YO!”.

Dreamhack Summer 2016 is where I learned how to play this game at a competitive level. Rather than just playing each match as it came, I actively started trying to adapt to each individual player. I realized that Street Fighter 5 is a completely different game from Street Fighter 4 and that’s when I started putting in the work to really improve myself.

Two years later and I’m signed to Nordavind, competing at events around the world. It’s different now because I have to take it seriously, and I do, but I still feel that it’s important for me to express myself. I’m a very outgoing person. Something I love about the FGC is that people are so different and everyone is their true, genuine self, so it makes me comfortable to act like myself as well.

Because we play right next to each other, the other player can still see me in the corner of their eye, so when I’m acting a little bit cocky during the game it absolutely gives me an advantage, especially against people who don’t have the best mental fortitude. It’s not the main objective to get into their head, I’m just trying to have fun.

I think the line is pretty far out for me. If you personally insult someone and it’s not just “banter” or a joke then you crossed the line, but everyone as a player has the right to behave how they want. You need to show your personality too because there are more factors in this industry than just being a good player. Organizations want to sign players with personality.

Maybe if you’re the best of the best, you can get away with being boring. Everyone else has to find a way to differentiate themselves. I like to play for the cameras. Of course, it doesn’t mean that I don’t respect my opponent, it’s more about me than it is about them actually.

I always try to gather a picture of how they play before the game starts. What do they like to do on offense, what about defense? It all feeds into the gameplan that I will try to execute against them. If I can throw them off their game whilst also enjoying myself then I see no down-side, but it’s not something I plan out or anything.

I can see why some people say that I’m a disrespectful player. Both in terms of my playful attitude but also my in-game strategies. I believe your opponent will never be truly scared unless you show them that you don’t care. When they’re scared they will start to 2nd guess themselves and maybe back off or jump back instead of trying to go in. Once they do that, the game is probably already over.

It’s kind of hard for me to describe my thought process during a game. I always go into a match with a game-plan, and I try my best to execute it, but I go into the zone I guess. I don’t really think about what I’m doing, I just do it.

I’m always a little nervous. I’ve been playing for so long that you kind of get used to a high-pressure situation, but never completely. You might have seen me on stream slapping my hands actually because sometimes I get so nervous that my hands are shaking. It’s a habit that I picked up recently. 

If I have to act a little ‘silly’ on stream to calm myself down or make sure that I’m still enjoying myself, then I’m okay with that. If anything, it makes the whole thing more entertaining for the viewers.

Recently there’s been some debate about how the FGC and Street Fighter should present itself as the esports scene becomes more and more professional. I try not to get involved with this discussion. To be frank, I think it’s kind of stupid. It’s nice to have more prize money and better production at events, but that doesn’t mean players need to become robots.

Although it’s become a job now for me and other players, I still think you need to have some fun with it, otherwise, it gets boring. I’m glad that people laugh when I’m jumping up and shouting, or wearing my sunglasses indoors, or making funny faces. It’s very important to me that people can express themselves when they are playing this game. It is a competition, but what’s the point if we can’t have a little fun?

Image Credit: Joe Brady for Gfinity / Stephanie Lindgren

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