I’m Just Getting Started

Shivan Dass
I didn’t even get into Street Fighter until I was 19 years old.

I was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. After 11 years there, my parents and I made the move to England.

I really didn’t even play video games when I was younger. School in Trinidad and Tobago was so demanding that I didn’t have time, to be honest.

You’d wake up at about 5AM, get to school by 7, and then you’re there until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Going home doesn’t even give you a break, the amount of homework over there was crazy.

We ended up moving because my parents thought our lifestyle would be better in the UK. The crime in Trinidad and Tobago is bad at the moment, so it was a pretty easy decision once the opportunity came up. 

When we moved, I was put straight into secondary school, and even that was infinitely more relaxed than primary school in Trinidad and Tobago. It gave me time to chill out and find my own interests.

I only started playing Street Fighter because it gave me something to do while I was at university. Going down to the locals and playing against the same people every week made it fun to try and get good to beat them consistently.

It’s funny because none of my friends played the game at all, so I had to go and make friends with the people in the UK scene. That’s how I met Shakz.

Shakz and I are really good friends now, we travel together to tournaments a lot and practice against each other, but back when I was just starting out, he used to beat me senseless…in the game obviously.

He helped me improve so much at the start.

There were times when he would find something I wasn’t good at, and just exploit it over and over again, which forced me to improve at whatever that thing may be. He gave me a helping hand in Street Fighter 4, and it meant that when Street Fighter 5 came out, I was able to start on an almost even footing with everyone else.

When the Gfinity Elite Series was announced I got picked up by Prophecy to join their roster. It was my first ever sponsorship as a player and the first time I was even getting paid to play the game.

Although it’s been good in getting sponsorships and exposure to some lesser-known players, it’s also given us some insight into the problems with the UK fighting game community.

Take Japan, the best country in the world at fighting games. They have such a large player base that there are enough players at each level for everyone to train with. In the UK we don’t necessarily have that. Some of the newer guys can have a harder time getting to that next level.

It’s also not easy to make a living from Street Fighter, it never has been really. In Europe, the players who make enough from the game have been playing for upwards of 10 years.

I’ve been doing pretty well since I started competing, but it isn’t and likely won’t be a guaranteed income or career for a long time. Because of that, I started my masters degree in Digital Marketing. I want to make sure I have a backup plan if Street Fighter doesn’t work out.

I’m still only 22 years old, which gives me some assurance that I’m not in a critical phase of my “career” where I need to be making big money. Compared to the big guys of the scene, I’m just a baby. It’s my third year of competing, and I think I’ve done pretty well so far.

I always remind myself that life can change at any time though.

If it doesn’t work out for me in the next few years then maybe I’ll have to let go of the dream of being “professional” at Street Fighter, but there’s still plenty of time for me to see if I can reach that level. 

Most of the players I know in the UK scene are similar in that sense.

No one is really out here putting everything they have in the Street Fighter dream. We’ve all got back up plans. We’ve all got jobs, or school, or other commitments. There’s really only a select couple who can afford to dedicate everything to the game at the moment.

This version of the game is a lot easier than Street Fighter 4, you don’t need to grind as much. So it’s not as bad. If you can put in a few hours a week you should be able to maintain a decent level at the very least.

Nowadays you even get sponsors for players who would not have had financial backing a few years ago. Maybe you’re not getting a full-time salary or even a good part-time salary, but you’re at least going to get sent to an event or two in Europe. That’s when you have to take your chances and prove that you deserve even more backing.

If you travel on your own money it’s a slightly different story.

Going to an event in the U.S from England can set you back hundreds or thousands. If you spend all that money just to get 0-2’d in the pool it can be extremely disheartening.

It gets to the point where it affects your mentality within the game itself. Instead of playing your usual game, you start to doubt yourself and play just that little bit safer.

No one wants to get knocked out because they tried something risky, but that is amplified massively when your own money is on the line.

In some cases, because of the nature of the game, you have £2000 riding on a 50/50.

It’s worth it though if you can do it. My favourite is EVO, it’s such a fantastic tournament to attend. You get to play against so many different people and so many different styles. The amount you can learn at EVO is unmatched at any other event.

I think the only problem with not having that financial support is the lack of events that you actually get to play. Of course, any player can have a “break out” tournament, but if you’re only able to travel every few months or a couple of times a year, you won’t improve consistently enough.

I personally struggle with that myself. If I string together a run of events, the nerves fade away and I win the mental battle. But if it’s been a few months, I will be feeling the pressure at the next event.

This season I played in four or five CPT events, and they were spread pretty far apart. It meant that in each of them, all I could think about was the fact that my next event was months away, so I had to place well here.

But truly, I could have done more. 

That’s what it comes down to. I could have found a part-time job, or saved my money, or worked harder to find a sponsor.

Sometimes you do get caught in the vortex, but everyone has it in them to do more.

Images: Joe Brady and Gfinity

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