Head2Head – Talking Tekken and Trash with Mark “MarkMan” Julio

By on May 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Mark “MarkMan23” Julio is an omnipresent force in fighting games: players can find him, or the products of his labor, at every tournament, meetup, and session. From his home base in San Diego, Julio has found a way to influence the lives of competitors for more than a decade, starting with his early beginnings as a local tournament organizer and creating SDTekken.com, to his current globe-trotting work with Mad Catz.

It’s not often you get to talk to Julio about more than his Mad Catz work, though. I sat down with MarkMan at NorCal Regionals in late April to talk more about his real love, Tekken, his history in fighting games, and why San Diego is not part of SoCal.

Julio (left) with Team Spooky’s Victor “Spooky” Fontanez

Paul Dziuba: Let’s start with the basics: When did you start playing fighting games?

Mark Julio: Oh god, okay…you told me we were gonna sell stuff [laughs]. Alright.

PD: I didn’t!

MJ: Okay, I first started playing fighting games, uh, probably back in ’92 or ’93, right in the transition phase between World Warrior and Champion Edition. So I remember distinctly the first time I went to the Del Mar Fair, which is now known as the San Diego County Fair, they had a little arcade in there. My experience during the time was like, for arcade games, was mostly the side-scroller, beat-’em-up, Magic Sword, Prisoner of War, stuff like that, but then I saw a big crowd of people around this fighting game, which I didn’t know was a fighting game at the time–I don’t think they had a term for it yet–but it was Street Fighter II: World Warrior.

I remember now, just seeing the arcade machine and just remembering the image of what it looks like, and then actually seeing them in more and more places because I didn’t notice them before when I was younger, but then I would see them at Pizza Hut, I’d see them at 7-11, I’d see them at gas stations and stuff like that. And then it was like a short time after that that I saw there was a new version, Champion Edition, which was just down the street from my house. So that was pretty awesome…when I was a kid, I mean I was like probably…9 or 10, I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

PD: You started with Street Fighter II, and you’re associated with Street Fighter now because of Mad Catz and the work you do with the [fighting] sticks and the community, but you’ve always been more of a Tekken guy yourself.

MJ: I’ve always…yeah, well, I wasn’t always a Tekken guy. Tekken obviously is my true love for fighting games. Tekken to me is the best as far as gameplay, community, strategy, and stuff like that. I really love Tekken above all, but I wasn’t always a Tekken fan. I played Tekken 1 and 2, I thought they were cool, but it wasn’t ’til Tekken 3 that I really grew to like it and actually tried to seek out more information on the game through the Internet and meet-ups like message boards.

There was this thing way back in the day called Tekken.net, and there was the early days of Tekken Zaibatsu, there was IRC. Once I got exposed to that while I was around, probably around 14 or 15, I started learning more about the culture behind the fighting game community. [laughs] I don’t think we called it a community back then, but it was just like, I guess like meet-up for people to play against some…We heard legends, and we heard a lot of myths about, like, these unbeatable players up north in Los Angeles.

So, I think I was 16 at the time, and me and my friends went out there, and this was just right after Tekken Tag first came out, so we were big on Tekken 3. We were playing that on console all the time, me and my crew of friends, and then we finally decided that we’re going to go up to Southern Hills Golfland to test our strength against the LA players and, [laughs] it was a memorable experience, we ditched school on a Friday to go.

PD: How did that trip end up going for you guys?

MJ: Ugh. We went up there, and I just remembered hearing the kinds of things that the players were talking about over there, it was like a foreign language almost. Because, I mean, we knew things as “square-square-triangle,” the move names and stuff like that…it sounded like a bunch of math jargon to me. They were like “one plus two,” “three plus four,” “forward forward two” and we’re like, “What the hell are they talking about?” And then I was like “OH, I know this stuff! This is the, uh, what they use on the Internet [laughs] to describe Tekken moves.”

So this was a period of time before Tekken kind of evolved, like when the world tournament happened or when the nationals happened, where we saw the international players, what the Koreans and the Japanese players were doing, where there was like wave-dashing, backdash canceling, and all that stuff. So this was a time where Tekken really was you learn it yourself and you find out you don’t know how to play the game. [laughs]

PD: So, that puts this time period around 2000-ish? Because you said Tag 1…

MJ: This was in like ’99-2000. God, this was like way back, so I was…actually around that time I was like 17-18 when we started going to Golfland more, and the first time we went I remember well because we did not win a single match. And the one guy that [eventually] did win a match from our crew, I remember people in the back at Golfland complaining that he “plays by the book,” like he just does the move list stuff.

It was so funny and it was just heart-breaking to me because like, man, we’re supposed to be like the best guys in San Diego and we can’t, we can’t beat the scrubs there. And I remember asking like some dude there, “Hey, are you so-and-so?” and he’s like, “Nah, man, he’s way better than me,” and we’re like “Oh shit.” It was an experience, to say the least.

PD: That was your awakening to what the competitive scene could be, so when did you guys start getting more into Tekken Zaibatsu?

MJ: Yeah, I think towards the end of Tekken Tag and when Tekken Tag started coming out on console that’s really when the community started migrating over towards Tekken Zaibatsu. So there was a phase where really there wasn’t a place: there was Tekkentagtournament.com, there was CatLord’s website, there was also Tekken Zaibatsu.

So I mean…and GameFAQs at the time too, I mean there was a lot of places where people would talk about competitive Tekken, and me being so new to it I tried to learn as much about the game, the system, and just I guess all the cool things that you can do in the game. Compared to my knowledge of Street Fighter, I honestly felt Street Fighter was very shallow compared to Tekken Tag at the time. Obviously, I didn’t have the same exposure to high-level Street Fighter play like I did to Tekken.

It was such an eye-opening experience, such a time sink for us as kids that we just nerded out on going up and just playing Tekken all the time. And then eventually we started being more involved with the online community and trying to make names for ourselves, trying to build a, I guess–we didn’t know it at the time, but–build a community in San Diego where we would encourage others to try to learn at the level we were learning at, and experience the kinds of things that we were experiencing.

PD: Where did “MarkMan23” come from?

MJ: That was easy. Back when, I guess when I first got a computer that had the ability to go online–had, what was it, a 28k modem or something–I had to pick an email address, right? So I was like thinking, “What am I going to do?” So, I just thought I would go with MarkMan because, I mean, I dunno, it kinda came naturally. I didn’t think of why, I just…alright, I’m gonna put MarkMan.

But that’s not the first name I had, cause I was gonna do MarkMan but then I spelled it wrong. I wasn’t like proficient at typing yet, so it was M-A-K-M-A-N, it was “MakMan23.” So that was like my handle for a year, and then I was like “Man, how do you change it?” I didn’t know how to change it after you made it so I thought I was stuck with it, and then I found out you could uh, change [laughs] it later on so a year later it became MarkMan23, and I started using either MarkMan or MarkMan23 on all the other message boards online too. And “23” just because I like Michael Jordan a lot, I grew up in the era where he was actually playing so, yeah.

PD: When did SDTekken, San Diego Tekken, the website start? Where did that come from?

MJ: SDTekken…okay. So, first there was this group, me and my friends that played Tekken when we went up to Golfland and stuff, that was a separate group before SDTekken started. SDTekken didn’t really start until the very end of Tekken Tag, right before Tekken 4 came out. Me and my group of friends we were called “Mark Club,” because–I don’t think I’ve told this story to you but–me and my four best friends were all named Mark. So, I’m MarkMan23; there’s a MarkMan182, there’s a MarkMan3, and there’s a MarkMan45, just so you know! So, there was four of us playing Tekken pretty regularly…

PD: Is the “45” also a Michael Jordan reference?

MJ: Yes, we were all basketball fans. Yeah, I’m not the only MarkMan that’s out there, there’s other ones out there. But I’m probably the most notorious one as far as fighting games go. There was our group of friends and then we eventually decided that we’re gonna build a crew and we’re gonna represent San Diego because…I mean, you hear it often, a lot of people refer to [L.A.] as SoCal, right? But the reason why there was a distinction and a separation of San Diego being different from SoCal is because San Diego sucked in comparison to LA.

PD: You became the younger sibling nobody wanted?

MJ: Yes, whenever we would go up there and we would do our amazing losing streaks [laughs], people were like, “Yeah, these guys are from San Diego, they’re not part of us.” And that’s what, I mean, that’s how it filtered out online as well. As much as those guys liked to help and teach, there were also a group a of guys that would be like, “Man those San Diego guys suck.”

When we actually first made trips up there as an entire crew it wasn’t until the first big Tekken 4 tournament, which I believe was either TZ1 or it was either the L.A. regionals for the national tournament, it was either one of those, I forgot which one, but we mobbed deep. We all went up there, like six in the morning we left San Diego, we got there around 8 AM. The tournament itself didn’t start ’til like nine, but we were all there early. There was 20 of us from San Diego, and that’s a lot of us; it was like a bunch of carloads.

And we thought we were doing a great job, we were representing, and then one of our female players–“Weird Gonzo,” who is [USMC] Ogre’s wife–she ended up placing the highest in the tournament out of all the San Diego people. And, I mean we were proud of her but the Internet demons at the time turned it into, “Oh, San Diego’s best player is a girl!” And I know that’s probably not the coolest thing to say, but this was back in the day. You guys gotta remember that this was like 2000…shit, I don’t remember, 2002? 2003? Something like that.

We got clowned on for not having skilled players and again that furthered the separation between San Diego and Los Angeles. And it was a running joke I guess until we actually matured as a group and we started having our own sessions. We stopped going to L.A. We focused on our level of play, because we felt we couldn’t compete with them yet.

So, what we did is we played. I organized a tournament every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, so we had tournaments three days a week. They were free entry, and the sole purpose was to let people get used to tournaments and introduce them to different playstyles. Our top players would always use different characters, we would reference TZ all the time, watch videos from all over the Internet–this was back then when there was no YouTube, so this was like when people had to like, put them up somewhere where you could download them.

We had to download match videos, we studied all this stuff, and it was cool because it helped a lot of our top players learn how to teach people. Thankfully, most of them knew how to teach well, even if it was like tough love kind of teaching where it was like, “Man, you suck, do this instead.” I mean it still worked; we were able to actually go up to L.A. and start beating people.

The next tournament we went up there was…I want to say it was for the regional qualifiers. We had our guys actually go up to some of the other qualifiers in Seattle, in NorCal and stuff like that, and our guys they placed very high; high enough to be able to represent our city well enough that they got some notoriety and some fans, I guess.

PD: And the website sort of evolved out of that?

MJ: Yeah, we actually made a website. We were so hype that one of our guys made it to Tekken 4 Nationals. We had one guy in Tekken 4 Nationals, he went up to Seattle, he used Hwoarang. He beat…he got third place, he didn’t even win the Seattle qualifier, and all 20 of us went to Las Vegas to cheer him on. And he lost first round, but we were so proud of him. [laughs]

That’s how it really started. We got really hype and excited about that kind of stuff, and we grew as a community, and we continued to play, uh, fairly heavily throughout Tekken 4’s lifespan. I mean, Tekken 4 isn’t looked at as the best competitive Tekken game out there, but to us it is the one that built our communities so we love the game. And we knew it was a piece of shit game, but I mean so was Tekken 5.0 when it first came out.

PD: I don’t know what you’re talking about, that game is the best.

MJ: Well it was the best, because we were so into the game and this was like, our OGs, our founding fathers of our group, we started getting jobs. I mean, I had a kid, my kid was like two or three years old at the time when Tekken 5 came out. Is that right? Yeah. She was three years old at the time, I couldn’t go to the arcades as often as I wanted, so we all chipped in money and we bought ourselves a Tekken 5 board. That’s how we trained, because we all couldn’t meet up at the arcades like we used to back when we were kids and have tournaments every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. That was our choice, and we decided to level up our group that way.

It was pretty crazy at the time, but, yeah, it worked out and our guys in 5.0 were able to hang with everyone else in the US. We had four guys, I believe, qualified for nationals, we had multiples guys get top placings at the Evo regional events when they had Evo West and stuff like that, so it was a good feeling.

PD: It’s funny that you mention that you couldn’t go to the arcade, and this was already 2005. Right now, we still don’t have arcades, and we can’t all get together and buy a board because everything in the arcade these days is online?

MJ: It sucks, ’cause I mean when Tekken 6 was coming out, we were thinking about the same thing and buying a board and stuff like that, but it was online-only at first. So we gave up on that fact and we just waited until console came out. We experienced that first-hand: “If we don’t go to the arcades, we have really no other option now.”

I think that’s the turning point, after Tekken 5 and Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, is when Tekken really died in San Diego. And it wasn’t until recently, when Tekken Tag Tournament 2 came out, that things started picking up again. So there was a gap, and it sucks man, because I mean people grow up but they still love the game and they just can’t play it like they used to.

And that’s like really the role I’m in right now, as I love Tekken so much, I would give my life for it to have the spotlight, but I can’t really play it. So it kind of sucks, but whatever, as long as it’s there and I see people enjoying it I’m happy with that, as fairy tale as that may sound.

PD: Going back a step, you mentioned having a daughter who was already three by Tekken 5…How did you juggle not only your daughter and trying to play games, but also community organizing at the time?

MJ: Well, for Tekken 5 I was still pretty big as far as our web presence and helping out with Tekken Zaibatsu and just the community in general, and updating our website. I think SDTekken’s site grew from just being a local community site to more of a news site. And, at the time, I know [Tekken Zaibatsu administrator] Castel was really busy with real life, and he didn’t update Tekken Zaibatsu with content as much as he would have liked to at the time. So, I took it upon myself to give out more news and more information to the community, help more as a resource, translate stuff like frame data or the ways ranking worked in the arcade.

I had a good team of people to help me with that, so I had Nasty Nate, “N8nMonster,” he helped me with a lot of things and he didn’t really have those responsibilities that I had–he didn’t have a kid, he probably never will have a girlfriend [laughs]. He picked up the reins and helped run events and tournaments when I couldn’t. A lot of love to “Nasty Nate,” even though I’ll never give him love in real life.

I get a lot of praise for being a leader for my community, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without people that understood it, and that were able to help me with it. That’s what it really is all about, I mean you could have great leaders for whatever, but unless you have the help or the resources or the people in the community that understand what you’re trying to do, it’s really hard to do it on your own.

And that’s why I think a lot of communities fail or fade. Because they don’t have that drive, they don’t have the resources that are available…that’s why we see people fade from the community, they either give up or real life kicks in and starts taking priority. For me, I’ve been lucky that real life obviously has taken a priority for me, but I’m still in a position where I can do things to help; like obviously Mad Catz, my day job, helps me give back to fighting games and things I like.

It may not be 100 percent Tekken, which I would love and everything, but it has to make business sense and luckily the decisions I make still kind of make business sense, just to show that our brand cares. But really, I mean, it comes from the person that’s doing it and it shows, I hope it shows that I care about it a lot.

Julio, with his daughter and brother

PD: How did you end up working for Mad Catz?

MJ: Oh man, it was an accident, dude. I’m going to tell you straight up–and the guys at Mad Catz know this–Mad Catz has not had the best name in making accessories way back in the day, especially back in the day like the PS2; prior to like I guess PS3 and 360 days, so way back I’m talking about way back. So Mad Catz was always considered as the knock-off, the cheap controller, pretty much associated with complaints. [After] we announced we had the license to make Street Fighter stuff, you would see in the comments on different websites: “Oh no, Mad Catz is making Street Fighter stuff!”

Just to put a long story short, I got involved with it. I was in a different department at Mad Catz at the time, and I didn’t tell anyone I worked at Mad Catz; I was embarrassed to say I worked at Mad Catz. So my day at Mad Catz was just to do my job…during lunch breaks, I had a friend that worked there that I knew from fighting games. I would bring my arcade stick to work and we would play Tekken 5.0 for an hour at lunch. And people noticed that at work, because you’re playing a fighting game on an arcade stick, you’re making loud noises in the break room like, “What’s going on? What is this? No one plays games here at Mad Catz!”

They see that and they’re like, “You like arcade sticks?” “Yeah.” “You like fighting games?” “Yeah.” “Well, tell us more about arcade sticks.” So I told these guys what I knew. The director of product development at the time–his name is Chris, he’s my current boss–I schooled him, I told him straight up: “Dude, I know everything about arcade sticks.” This was at the time when I considered myself one of the more knowledgeable people within the Tech Talk community on SRK. I was just a big collector, I nerded out on arcade sticks.

I used that knowledge to let him know that this is how arcade stick stuff is now, because if you look at all the American-made company arcade sticks that came out, like the ShadowBlade, the weird ones that Pelican did and stuff, I mean, they had a good understanding of how it should be, but the execution as far as parts and layouts and viability and stuff like that, it wasn’t there.

They asked me to put a proposal together on what an arcade stick should be. So I wrote a paper, which I thought was going to be really short, and it ended up being like a 15-page-long paper just on arcade sticks and different parts that you should be able to use in making arcade sticks that people would actually buy and use. And then I found myself a week later in charge of the project. [laughs]

PD: So you fell backwards into a better position?

MJ: Yes, so I went from one department to another and I found myself doing more and more stuff for the company involved with product design and product development. At first I was doing like weird stuff, like making stuff for the [Nintendo] DSi. The DSi was the first Nintendo handheld console where I was manager of the entire range of products. So aside from the fighting game stuff, which was really a small part of our business at the time, I started doing licensed products. I did Call of Duty stuff for the company, I worked on the MLG stuff, but eventually I would be in charge of not just the fighting game stuff but the community behind it and a lot of the support that actually went into the fighting game community.

I’m going to tell you straight up: A lot of the stuff that we did was an accident. Okay, making the stick and making it really good was not an accident; the stuff leading up to me being part of the team, that was I think, I felt like that was an accident. But as far as us sponsoring and being more a part of the community, that was a big accident.

I went to, I don’t know if you were there. Were you at NorCal StrongStyle 4?

PD: Yes I was. I was there with the St. Louis guys.

MJ: I was there and we sponsored the tournament. This was the first tournament that we sponsored; I had no idea what I was doing there. I was there on my own dime first, right? I asked my web team, “Hey can I get a promo code put together, and we’re going to advertise it on the stream and talk about like ,’Hey you could get a deal on these new Mad Catz sticks.'”

We looked at the sales results, and we had this huge spike over the weekend, and we’re like, “Whoa we actually made some money from supporting this event.” And I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this is cool, I should go tell my boss.” We made a ton of money just pushing our product. I mean, we didn’t have a problem selling it, really, just because Street Fighter was doing so well. And it was kind of weird because it was a Tekken tournament where we were advertising our arcade sticks, but it was the first time we actually supported an event.

We did that, we noticed the promo codes were getting used, everyone wanted arcade sticks, and then I told my boss about that and then he told our CEO, and they’re like, “Hey, you should do this more.” And I was like, “Really? I don’t think I can afford going to all the tournaments.” [laughs] And they were like, “No no no, we’ll pay for it,” and I’m like, “Oh really? Okay, cool.”

It went from me going to like one event every three months, to me going to every single event in the US, and I did that probably for about two years. And then we thought, “Hey this is pretty cool, we’re able to make it self-sustaining, we’re able to support an event and have the amount of revenue we generate equal to that or if not make more money than the amount we put in.”

It’d be great even if we just break even, the fact that we’re able to build our brand and show off that we’re doing all this cool stuff for the community. I think that was the real goal there and it ended up being a crazy ride for, I guess, the next four years.

PD: You were probably getting on a plane every two weeks?

MJ: At first it was at least once a month, sometimes twice depending on how many tournaments there are. But then in 2012 and 2013, I was…I remember I was only home for about 10 weekends a year.

PD: How does your business not become your life at that point?

MJ: It was, [laughs] it was. That’s more of a personal problem. I think the problem I have is I don’t have an off switch as far as business goes. I’m always thinking about how we can improve the business; I’m always thinking about how we could do things differently to help either make more money or benefit the community better; and ultimately making the company look better. So, I don’t have an off switch and I didn’t think it was a problem at first until people started telling me it was.

PD: When you’re already a community leader and then you become a business leader it can be pretty similar if you want the same things. But…when you’re a community leader you can say certain things and you can vent; in your position you can’t really do that.

MJ: Nah, if anyone knows me personally, they know that there is “Mad Catz Man” and there is “MarkMan.” Obviously there’s a lot of things I can’t say, there’s a lot of things I can’t blow up, but I think the messaging is always going to be the same: I want the best for the community. And I’m vocal at times on Twitter and on Facebook or whatever, but there are just some times where I can’t say anything. It’s just, I think, the nature of the beast.

If I were to comment and represent my company in a certain light, it would be not only bad for my company but it would make people think…it would just be that guilty by association thing. It just sucks, but I think I’ve been around the block enough to know what I should say and what I shouldn’t say, because for the most part I don’t say that many stupid things.

But, there are a lot of stupid people out there so I can never put it past them…for some reason, people think stream viewers are not part of the community, they think I said that. Well, obviously it’s taken out of context where I said stream monsters aren’t a part of the fighting game community. And by stream monsters I mean the vile people that make those nasty comments that are either racist, sexist, or just hurtful in stream chats that actually don’t add to the viewing experience.

Because those people aren’t part of the community. As much as grassroots and as uncensored and wild this community is, all my life growing up in this community I’ve never thought of it being a negative thing like that. That’s why I firmly believe that those people are not part of the community.

PD: Speaking of vile comments, you’re very active in social media and there are a lot of messages that, even though they are targeted at your professional profile, they can affect your personal life. How do you deal with that?

MJ: It’s very simple: you got to have…I didn’t always have thick skin, and I think it helps that I’m fat. [laughs] But really, you have to be able weed out the people that matter and the people that don’t, because if you see someone online just talking mad shit to you, and you check his Twitter profile and you see he’s talking mad shit to everyone else then you can easily assume man this guy’s just bored. This guy’s bored and he’s just talking shit to people all day.

Then if it comes from someone that you obviously respect, or someone in the community that their opinion you actually value, then it’s a different story. But, for the most part, you have to be able to filter that kind of stuff out. And even if it does, I mean, get to you, and even if it is from someone you respect or someone whose opinion you value, you have to learn to deal with it. It’s just going to come, people have opinions, you have to learn to deal with those opinions.

I don’t agree with everyone, not everyone will always agree with me, but I shouldn’t let it bother me. If I have a plan, I should go with my plan. Otherwise, what’s the point, you know? Another way I deal with that kind of stuff is, it’s online. If anyone ever insults me through stream chat I try to play along with it. Thank god I have the banhammer in most places, so I can easily not read it if I want to, but you got to be able to roll with the punches.

I’ve never had anyone go up to me in real life and say this stuff and I hope that never happens, because I would hate to be that person. But hey, open challenge for anyone that goes to Evo this year, come visit us at our Mad Catz booth.

PD: Mad Catz has obviously grown in its presence within the community by the company going to tournaments all the time. Now that you can bring more people with you, do you actually get any more free time now, or is it still nose to the grindstone?

MJ: What a lot of people don’t know is, fighting games and fighting game community stuff, the interactions, all that stuff that we do, is a very small part of our gaming industry business. It’s a very, very small part. And a lot of the time that you guys see us spending with it is really time that we spend after our normal job.

PD: So you’re here because you want to be here.

MJ: That’s a big part of it, because if I didn’t want to be here I wouldn’t be here. And…it’s Sacramento. [laughs]

Okay, one thing that my coworkers don’t understand is that when we go to events it’s not an eight-hour work day, you’re there from 8 AM until whenever the tournament ends. And traditionally it’s 8 AM to midnight, like let’s say in the case of Evo. When I explained to my coworkers that weren’t really, you know, fighting game fans or whatever when we have staff over for events, it’s not going to be like E3, we’re not going to be here from 11 AM ’til 6 PM. We’re going to be here from 8 AM, bright and early, until midnight; you get one break.

People dropped out of the show the next year, they did not want to help at Evo anymore. They’re like, “I’m cool, I’m good,” so it was just me and the normal…the Mad Catz guys that you see at events, those are the guys that you’ll probably see at all the other events in the future, especially the fighting game events, because you gotta like this stuff to be into it so much. It sucks that not everyone can be, but I tip my hat to anyone that is able to because it’s not easy.

Anyone that thinks the kind of support we give the fighting game community is easy, or any of these companies, these sponsors, these vendors, I mean they all stay to the very end too and I got to respect that.

Julio and the Mad Catz crew at Tokyo Game Show 2013
Julio and the Mad Catz crew at Tokyo Game Show 2013

PD: There have been a couple good announcements lately for Tekken fans; one that wasn’t so good was you losing to Mr. Wizard on stream, that was really embarrassing…

MJ: [laughs] I don’t know if that was really an announcement but…

PD: But Tekken is going to be at Evo this year, and StrongStyle is coming back for the fifth and perhaps final time. There will be no stream for StrongStyle. How do you feel about that?

MJ: Okay, I always think about things with a business mind, right, and even though I think it is a poor decision for them not to stream the event I can understand where they’re coming from. And that’s not going to change the fact that I would [not] miss out on the event, I’m going to still go to the event no matter what. But I just think it would benefit not only Tekken but also their event more if it were to be streamed.

I’ve talked to Bronson [Tran, StrongStyle organizer] about it, and I think that’s just a difference of opinion or a difference in philosophy. I just hope that there is some way that people can be able to experience it, either through YouTube or something later on down the road. It just sucks that…well, hopefully it will encourage people to actually go to the event.

PD: Are you going to play at StrongStyle?

MJ: My current goal is yes, I will play at StrongStyle.

PD: That sounds pretty timid and noncommittal.

MJ: Yeah, well, some days I’ll play Tekken two days in a row, right? Some days I’ll play two in a row and I’ll feel good. Then I won’t be able to play for like a week just because of work or stuff at home or whatever, and…that sucks. You want to be able to play and feel at your best all the time, but I dunno, what kind of player are you? Are you the kind that needs to play all the time?

PD: Yeah, all the time, or I lose it.

MJ: Yeah, I lose it just…I lose it no matter what. [laughs]

PD: It just goes away?

MJ: It just goes away. It just goes away, so I gotta be focused all the time and I can’t do that. And if I could, that’d be great…I’d probably lose my job.

PD: Are you not allowed to compete as part of Mad Catz, or is it just not possible?

MJ: No, I can compete as long as I’m working, but I don’t–personally I don’t want to compete unless I’m at the level I want to be; it’s just a personal thing for me. I don’t want to be a pot monster.

PD: Do you miss being able to play all the time?

MJ: Yeah, of course. I mean, I personally haven’t been able to play at any given time since my daughter was very young so it’s been a long time. When a new Tekken game will come out or let’s say I’m on a business trip in Japan, I’ll spend a day playing Tekken in arcades. And as much as I love that, I also hate it because I want to go back and get better but I can’t. So it’s a double-edged sword. Guys, if you’re listening or if this is in print later on, this is the power of growing up: you suck at video games. It just happens.

PD: Pat Miller had an article about that, about growing out of playing games, because whether it’s just responsibilities or you get a family, it becomes hard to juggle it. And more and more, the amount of time people put into games is just huge.

MJ: Yeah. And you and I both know Tekken isn’t one of those games where you just pick up and play. It can be, but you probably won’t win as much as you want to.

PD: And Tekken is a frustrating game.

MJ: Yeah, man, why do they have all those characters, it’s stupid. [laughs]

Speaking of which: Tekken at Evo. That’s something that I’m not only very proud of but I’m very excited for and I really have to thank–this might sound really corporate, but–I really have to thank the guys at Evo and I have to thank the guys at Namco Bandai for helping make it possible.

PD: That was pretty corporate, but I think most people will understand where you’re coming from on that.

MJ: Okay, cool. Tekken at Evo, good shit.

PD: Wrapping up, what do you think you’ve taken away from your years in the fighting game community that makes or would make the community better?

MJ: I will say I’m glad–this might sound really bad but–I’m glad bad things happen within the fighting game community.

PD: Why is that?

MJ: Because we learn from them. For the most part we learn from them. Whenever a big blowup happens, whether it’s Cross Assault, whether it’s sponsors dropping players, whether it’s rigging brackets or collusion, there is action to be had after that. Unless we don’t really care, then we don’t really care.

But it seems like we do care enough to make improvements within the community, and I’m glad — even though there may be bias or Illuminati looming in the background that help make these things happen. I’m glad that we are enough of a community that we can come to some kind of understanding with either the tournament organizers, the players, or whatever that we’re able to find some kind of resolve and move forward because I mean, let’s be real here, if a lot of that bad stuff happened and we allowed it to happen, it would kill the community.

I’m glad that we’re able to move on and move forward, and that’s all we can do. I don’t think we’re big enough yet to be able to have more stability or more systematic things…like, I mean, this right now, the Capcom Pro Tour, this league thing that we’re doing, this is first time that we’re doing something really like this that’s not like a grassroots, APEX-style thing. This is the real deal right now for a lot of these players and you see, obviously, the players that have the support, that have the sponsorship, they are the ones that are really at the top of the leaderboards. They are the ones that are really getting all the exposure and all the shine from this.

And if you’re not part of that, it’s just really gonna suck because this is where Street Fighter is going now, this is what’s taking over not only the industry events it’s also taking over the community events now. So you see Capcom Pro Tour, it’s not only at PAX, it’s not only at E3, it’s not only at Tokyo Game Show, or wherever, it’s at your Final Round, it’s at your NCR. It’s in your backyard now; you have to be part of it if you want to be anything in Street Fighter nowadays.

PD: When can we get a professional part-timers league?

MJ: That would be sick! A retirement league, holy shit. I’d be down for that, but then you’re going to have people that are jobbers for that and they’ll be like, “Hey, this guy’s not retired! This guy’s not a part-time player!” I don’t know, that’s something else. Maybe senior-citizens…

PD: Yeah, the over 30 club?

MJ: The over 30 club would probably be more appropriate, but whatever.


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