Leah “Gllty” Hayes is one of the midwest’s best fighting game players. She has consistently made her way to events across the world last year, showing off her patented Dhalsim to the masses. And it looks like she plans to do even more of that this year. At Frosty Faustings IX, I sat down with her to talk about her journey last year, and what she learned across her travels.
Corey “Missing Person” Lanier: So, to start things off, you had difficulty making it out of pools this time at Frosty. You lost to NuckleDu on stream, then lost losers finals off stream. What happened?
Leah “Gllty” Hayes: Well, with NuckleDu, I was able to focus and commit to a game plan that actively moved around R. Mika, which allowed me to get the first game. Sadly, I was unable to sustain my mental focus on maintaining that game plan, and he was able to beat me the next two games.
Since the latter half of last year, I’ve been trying to develop a stable style of play rather than being aggressive the whole time. I’m trying to find where everything fits together. I’m heading in the right direction, but there’s obviously going to be some hiccups for the time being.
Missing Person: How do you feel Dhalsim has held up in Season 2?
Gllty: I don’t know how it’s going to end up. Even in Season 1, we initially thought Dhalsim was really good, then he fell down the tier lists. With Season 2, there’s a lot of characters that people think will be broken. But you never really know. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think everything is played out yet. DLC characters may also affect things. Dhalsim could be found to be a natural counter to a strong DLC character, and suddenly he’s useful.
Missing Person: You hail from St. Louis, which hasn’t really adopted Street Fighter V. How do you stay sharp playing in a region with a “dead scene” for your game?
Gllty: I’ve actually been going the extra mile to rebuild the community there. When I was younger, I didn’t really make the best decisions in thinking about the community. As I’ve gotten older, I try to reach do things differently and reach out to people. I feel like people aren’t going to be that interested in a community-based phenomenon like Street Fighter unless you make it readily available and tangible to them.
Instead of just playing online with a bunch of buddies, I buy pizza for people, get drinks, and am building a stream setup. I don’t see myself as an effective streamer, but I’m moving towards that. It’s just difficult finding the balance between streaming, community, and my own personal practice for competitive play.
Missing Person: On top of all that, you traveled quite a bit in the past year. 2016 saw you in Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Canada. Has traveling outside of the US helped your play?
Gllty: I think so. But here’s the thing: Japanese players play a certain way. Korean players play a certain way. And even Americans play completely differently. When you go to Asia, they have this strong neutral game overall. They look for consistent and reliable strategies. Then you come to America where everyone just says, “Screw it, I want to go in! I’m feeling like going ham!” You have to have an understanding on how to play players from different geographical locations.
Missing Person: Do you feel like the West could do to learn a bit from the Japanese playbook?
Gllty: If you look at the most successful players–it doesn’t matter who it is–they’ve traveled everywhere. They have the different pieces of the puzzle. I think that’s what it amounts to. If you go to Asia, there’s a different piece of the puzzle than you get in America. Finding a middle ground between the two is paramount and a trial by fire.
Missing Person: There’s been a history of you being considered sort of a “troll” player. Do you think that affects people when they play against you?
Gllty: I can’t speak to it. There’s going to be people that are going to be tilted playing me by virtue of playing me. But I feel like more people are unaffected by me than there are people who are. Some people you cannot troll. But I would probably try to troll Daigo.
Missing Person: Is there anyone else on your troll play hit list?
Gllty: Well, I teabagged NuckleDu at Frosty Faustings. He ultimately returned the favor, but it was a mutual exchange.
Missing Person: Do you feel like there’s going to come a point where this behavior is taken out of competitive play, or do you feel like everyone just needs to get used to it as a part of gamesmanship?
Gllty: Do you remember the video of Justin Wong playing Mortal Kombat against that little kid? That’s just a part of gamesmanship. You can’t completely scrub and sanitize esports. The FGC is still going to stay the way it is.
Taunting is in other esports and if someone is so weak that you can mentally tilt them by taunting them, then it is what it is. If that’s the card you have in your hand to play against them, play it. If you’re taunting, then there’s actually more mental pressure for you to back it up. When I teabagged NuckleDu, I felt like there was a chance that I could get blown up for it. But I know he’s not going to take it personally, and people would be entertained by it.
It’s not so much about the destination as it is the journey. You’re going to these events repeatedly. There’s an element of repetition. You’re trying to improve over its iterations throughout the decades. You have to keep it fresh somehow, but you still have to pay homage to the old-school mindset as well. It’s something that you can take seriously while still not fully taking it seriously. It’s also a part of maintaining your own character, because whenever you play, your personality shows. Whenever you fight someone, you’re communicating parts of your personality to them. If part of your narrative in the game that you’re going to use appeals to emotion as part of your tools, then that’s that.
I know by doing this stuff that it will get visited upon me. But I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I’ve already purchased my own karmic check for it, so I’m at peace with that.
Missing Person: Have you already determined some of your travel schedule yet?
Gllty: I’m just going to do everything over again and then some. I feel like there’s more purpose at this point than there would have been last year. Last year created a situation for this year to go well, more so than last year was about last year itself.