The Clutch Gear

I didn’t know I had the Clutch Gear until I started playing DragonBall FighterZ.

For all of the comebacks and crazy stuff I’ve been able to do this year, I kind of shift into this mode and just clutch things out.

The week before EVO, there was a tournament called Pasadena Regionals in southern California. There were a lot of good players there, and I was playing with ApologyMan and Reynald before the tournament. We were all practising for EVO, and I was reflecting a lot on how I was playing.

Generally, I was playing well, but when I wasn’t, I was very frustrated.

I could see that I wasn’t playing well and that’s part of getting better. But then, I would get annoyed by my flaws and it would affect how I played.

It goes back to one of the lessons I learned really early on in fighting games: I need to play to make the best decision, not to win.

That’s how I’ve been playing leading up to EVO: I was playing to win. But the way I was taught fighting games was to learn to play the game in a way that makes the best decision.

If you play to make the best decision, you should win by default.

If you play to win, emotions get involved. If I’m focused on trying to win, I’m trying to beat the other person. That’s not what fighting games are about. It’s much more than just beating the other guy.

It was good that I re-learned my lesson at the Pasadena Regionals. I think Dragonball FighterZ being a new game with a lot of hype, plus me being pretty good early on caused me to forget it. Every other game I’ve played, I’ve never done that well so early in the game’s era. DBFZ exploded within the first month, and I was on the map.

I went into the event with the mindset of just needing to chill, make the best decisions and believe in myself. If I’m able to be confident in something as the right decision in a situation, I shouldn’t second guess and trust myself.

When I focus on winning, I hesitate; I overanalyze on what the opponent is thinking about and then I make a guess based off of that.

I ended up winning Pasadena without losing a set. So, Leading up to EVO, I didn’t play a lot. At home, I just watched footage of other players and myself and relaxed in the days leading up to the tournament.

I had never been this nervous for EVO.

Before this, no one had ever expected anything of me. I’ve never been a name before. I’ve been in the scene for years – I’ve been coming to EVO for years and people who play games in the FGC know I’m good – but I’ve never been in the mainstream until now.

The main thing is, I have an expectation of myself because I know how well I can perform.

I’ve been placing highly at tournaments and beating people who are supposed to be better than me. I know where I am skill-wise on an international scale, so I thought about it for a couple days and I was straight up with myself:

“I believe that I can top 8 EVO.”

This was my tournament.

No matter how much prep you do, what happens in the moment is very important. There were two sets of EVO where I was really close to losing.

My opponent out of pools, Korean Wrestling Man, is the best DBFZ player from Korea. He was giving me a really tough time and absolutely destroyed me in the first game.

But I had prepared for the situation, I knew I couldn’t just coast through pools until Top 8. This was EVO, and I had to shift into the Clutch Gear. I was able to make a comeback to win the match and move on to Top 64.

I knew I was playing well. My wins were not easy – I had to clutch out a lot and spent a large part of some games getting destroyed – but I knew that I was on my game.

I faced off against GO1 in the Top 16, and he washed me in the first game. I switched from Super Saiyan Vegeta to Bardock after that, and while I lost, it was very close. I thought I had played well, but the nerves got to me in big moments of execution. I was accepting of that and moved on to Losers to face my teammate, HookGangGod.

My thought process going into the match was, “We play against each other a lot. Whoever plays better will win and I can’t be angry about that.”

Hook went to Losers super early at the hands of Acqua in Round 2 Pools. He had never been to EVO before. He was nervous, and I figured his mental was probably not too good. I threw everything that I had at him, and he wasn’t playing his game, so I snowballed him and it worked out perfectly.

I cried a bit after I beat Hook.

I was freaking out because I knew this was the closest I had ever been to a Top 8 at EVO. I broke mentally, and I had to take a moment to gather myself. I’ve been in the situation in the past, and my first thought was always, “You’re close, don’t screw it up.” 

But this time, the thought was “You can do this.

I played Alioune in the next match, and I won.

In the top 8 qualifiers, I had to play Acqua. After the match against Alioune, the only thought in my head was that I was going to beat him. As I had been playing throughout the day, I had been getting better and better.

I was hitting my stride at just the right time.

I try to play everyone like they don’t know how to play the game. Focusing on simple options until people prove to me that they know how to beat them, only then do I level up my game.

Acqua dropped a very important combo against me after I melted his first character. That’s when I knew: “He’s nervous, and I’m not. So anything I know that can work will work”. 

In the second game, he took a moment and went to character select. The whole time I was nodding and talking to myself out loud, “We won. We won. It’s over. I got this.”

The second game was more of a fight. He played a lot better, but as soon as I killed his Captain Ginyu, I knew it was done.

The moment I won, all I seemed to notice was the sound of everyone screaming. I could recognize the voices of everyone I knew and the immediate reaction was much more visible from them than it was from me.

I didn’t know what to do or say; I was just standing there looking at them.

When I saw people I knew cheering in the crowd, coming up to me and hugging me crying, it sunk in that I had finally done it.

Years of hard work had paid off.

Now, if you’re talking about the best DBFZ players in the world, you have to say my name.

Image Credit: Optic Arena & Robert Paul

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