April 20th, 2014
This interview was conducted prior to the conclusion of Norcal Regionals 2014.
Christopher: Hello John. Go ahead and tell me a little bit about yourself.
John: My name is John Choi and I’ve been playing and participating in Street Fighter events for about 25 years, since the original SF2 World Warrior hit the arcades. I got into the Street Fighter scene with World Warrior much like a lot of people did at the time. Except people dropped out of the scene but I’ve just kept it up throughout the years. My main character of choice over the years has been Ryu.
Christopher: Ultra Street Fighter 4 is on the horizon, what are you excited for?
John: I’m just excited a new version is coming out to reinvigorate the scene a bit. The game seems to be trying to emphasize more fundamentals and restrict repetitive patterns so I’m excited to see how that will turn out.
Christopher: I haven’t seen you enter any majors recently, are you still competeing? What are you doing now?
John: Unfortunately the only major I’ve attended the last couple of years has been just EVO. I’ve just gotten older and developed other interests over the years. I still love SF but do not have the bandwidth to dedicate solely to it. So I just split my time among my multiple interests. I guess I treat SF kind of like a sport season. I’m active in the scene for about 4-5 months out of the year, starting up around a bit before NCR and finishing at EVO. Then the remaining summer months I get into outdoor activities and winter time I’m an avid snowboarder. My stick usually collects dust from EVO until towards the beginning of the year when I start NCR planning activities and try to enter local events to get back in touch with the scene.
Christopher: You have been running NorCal Regionals for awhile now. Tell me a little bit about the process of running a major.
John: I’ve ran NCR for over 10 years and it is a very tiring but rewarding experience. It was mainly a sole effort for most of the years but I’ve been fortunate enough to team up with Terry ‘Kineda’ Ng the last few years and things have gotten much better. Terry has an amazing eye for design and is great with online presence. The slick NCR webpages are a direct reflection of his skill and I’m glad he is part of the core NCR team. I’m also thankful for the fantastic staff and volunteers that make everything possible. It will take much too long to write up everything on running a major but it’s just a big production like planning for a concert or any other big show. Countless hours are spent planning for the event and the actual weekend of the event you will be working very long hours. It is very tiring but rewarding as I enjoy being a part of the scene somehow, if not as a competitor but as an organizer.
Christopher: Capcom recently announced the Capcom Pro Tour. What are your thoughts about the future of fighting games?
John: I’m glad that the fighting game circuit is becoming more organized and turning more into like a sports league. I still think it has a long ways to go but it is definitely headed in the right direction. It makes perfect sense that the company responsible for SF would be actively setting up such a tour.
Christopher: Norcal has some of the best players in the world. Aside from Ricky and Balrog there hasn’t been any Norcal heads in the Top 8’s for Street Fighter for the past couple majors, how can we as a region improve?
John: I think SF is just very popular these days and there are lots of good people in many regions. So it is just that much more difficult to break into the top spots. I don’t have any special advice to improve other than study and practice a lot. It’s just like anything else in life, there isn’t a magic shortcut that makes you proficient at something other than good old fashioned hard work and dedication.
Christopher: The east coast has places like Next Level and socal has Super Arcade. Do you think the lack of a centralized venue is part of the reason why Norcal hasn’t been placing well?
John: I actually think Norcal is placing well at events. We are consistently in top 8 spots and regarded as one of the best regions in America. I do think having a centralized location for players to practice can only help the scene but as Eduardo and Ricky have shown, it is definitely not a requirement. There have been lots of events spread throughout the bay at multiple days of the week giving players an opportunity to practice. I also personally think that having focused long sessions with a few players at a time is more effective than going to a large gathering and playing lots of people only a few games. And you are able to do this in a personal home which happens a lot in Norcal so I think we are in okay shape in terms of training opportunities.
Christopher: We have a ton of up-and-coming players in Norcal. What advice can you give them to level up their game?
John: Nothing special other than just old fashioned hard work. All the current established top players all paid their dues the same way and did not just become good overnight. So just keep in mind that the road will be difficult and frustrating at times but that it is all a part of the process and to keep at it. Champions eat growing pains for breakfast. Also try to go to as many events as you can, watch as many videos as you can, and make friends with people in the scene that can help foster your learning and growth.
Christopher: Is there anything you want to say to the readers?
John: I thank everyone that has supported NCR/FGC as a sponsor, staff, or by just attending events. Participation by the community is the lifeblood of it all as the scene ultimately only grows with user participation. And keep in mind that although you may run into tough obstacles or negative people, that in no way represents the overall positive experience you can have with the scene. Please keep at it and have fun with all the cool and exciting people. =)
Christopher: Thanks again for your time and we hope to hear from you soon!
You can follow John at @johnchoiboy.