This article is an unedited version of a piece written by Zombie Dredd and published in the Tech Magazine: Issue 50 October 2017.
As esports continues its manic gallop towards an unknown finish line, it can sometimes be forgotten that there is more to the scene than the team-based titles like Dota 2, Call of Duty and Counter-Strike.
Perhaps – and particularly in a South African context – genres like virtual sports and fighting games are the ones that will appeal on a broader level. It’s also a space where individual skill (and maybe a little luck) stands tall.
To be the best, you need to beat the best, and currently Brandon ‘Sho Kahn’ Jacob is the local champion when it comes to Injustice 2. In the recent Injustice 2 SA Cup, he took the R20,000 cash first prize and a slot at the VS Fighting tournament in Birmingham. This was all decided after a gruelling online tournament that culminated in a live event extravaganza in front of around 2,000 spectators.
This has followed what might seem like a short career in the scene compared to many of his fellow competitors. I caught up with him to find out more about his fighting games history and his hopes for the local fighting game scene.
What made you decide that fighting games was the genre for you?
I just love the whole idea of playing against someone competitively. One against one to see who is the better fighter. The battle is a test to see who is more technical and who can make the better decisions to come out on top.
What was your first competitive fighting game?
I started with Mortal Kombat X on console. I participated in the Mortal Kombat cup at the time and won a fair amount of local tournaments. With Injustice 2’s release, I started competing from the start in the ACGL Injustice 2 SA Cup and have remained undefeated since the second heat of the tournament.
In the competitive scene do you feel it’s best to focus on a specialist title?
I do play other games. However, some games just come more naturally to me and are those are the games I am more comfortable competing in. I tend to find it is the games that motivate me to get better that I gravitate towards. I think if you really want to play and excel in multiple games at a high level you absolutely can. You just need to have the time to practice them all equally.
Do you prefer a controller over fightsticks?
For me, it’s a controller all the way. I love the D-pad while other players prefer fightsticks. It’s each to their own I guess, and it all just depends on which you are more comfortable on. For me, my comfort zone is the controller.
Will you be focusing only on specific characters to use for the VS Fighting tournament?
Unfortunately, I was given bad news that my visa won’t arrive on time and I will be missing the tournament in the UK. However, in my preparation I did focus on a core team of ‘main characters’ to ensure that I could have a character option to counter my opponent’s choice as much as possible. Most competitive fighters will have a back-up character or two – you need to add a ‘wildcard’ into the mix every now and then.
Do you think that fighting games has the ability to reach a wider audience in South Africa than ‘traditional’ esports titles like CS:GO and Dota 2?
Absolutely. Fighting games are amazing to compete in and exciting to watch. There is nothing like the rush of playing in a high pressured competitive setting, with spectators watching you and the commentators pointing out both your successes and errors in a match. The local fighting game community is consistently growing with more people getting into it daily. As it gets more attention and hype around it, it will definitely become an access point for a wider audience. CS:GO and Dota 2 have been getting a lot of love recently, which is great, but there’s this whole other world out there. Fighting games are another amazing beast entirely, filled with technical and mental elements.
Do you think we have the talent locally to make waves internationally?
Yes. We definitely do have the talent locally. There are some truly amazing players out here, and if we had the opportunities similar to those the players overseas do, we would be able to achieve great things in fighting games. There are also some great players in Africa that most people don’t even know about who could also make a serious impact internationally.
If you could control the South African roadmap, where would you hope to see the local fighting games scene in five years’ time?
I would love to see fighting games get more recognition generally. Internationally, fighting game tournaments are major events on the calendar and locally that would be something I would love to see too. More opportunities for the players to compete both in local tournaments and international events would also help lift both the profile and competitive levels in the scene. And we also need to ensure that we include the strong players throughout Africa in as much of what we do as possible.
- Locally, the fighting games community plays a variety of titles that include Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Injustice, King of Fighters, Tekken and more.
- Internationally, the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) in 2017 handed out over $250,000 in prizes across nine titles. There were over 10,000 competitors.
- Locally, the Injustice 2 SA Cup handed out R60,000 in cash.
- During the Injustice 2 SA Cup, Brandon’s main characters were Deadshot, Supergirl and Red Hood. However, he won the tournament playing as Black Adam.
- The VS Fighting tournament in Birmingham would’ve actually been Brandon’s second international event, having attended a Mortal Kombat X tournament in Sweden previously.
Fight Games South Africa: https://www.facebook.com/groups/208490182832151/
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