If you have been around the fighting game community for a while–or have at least tuned into Next Level Battle Circuit before–you are well aware of Team Spooky’s Arturo “Sabin” Sanchez. The New York Dhalsim main has been around fighting games almost as long as the reigning Capcom Cup champion–Liquid|NuckleDu–has been alive.
Back at Frosty Faustings IX, I talked to Arturo about his unique perspective on the scene as a commentator, streamer, and player.
Corey “Missing Person” Lanier: Arturo, how many years have you been in the scene?
Arturo “Sabin” Sanchez: This year will be my 19th year. I started playing in 1998.
Missing Person: What’s the difference between the skill gap then, and skill gap now?
Sabin: You see a lot of different players traveling now as opposed to back then. As a result, you see a lot more Western players able to compete with Japanese players. There is still a gap overall, but given how big the US is and how much we depend on online, it’ll always be there. But back then, it was a lot wider.
Nowadays, information travels instantly through the internet. Whatever tech Japan learns, we learn at about the same time. So there’s not as much guesswork as there was before.
Missing Person: Having played for so long at the highest levels, do you believe that age really plays a factor in the competitive scene?
Sabin: Not really; players like NuckleDu are the exception. When you look at the highest level of play, most of the players are in their 30s. I don’t feel like I’ve slowed down any with aging.
Missing Person: You’ve stuck with your guns on Dhalsim throughout your gaming life. It was sometimes to your detriment, as in Street Fighter IV; how do you feel his skill ceiling looks in Street Fighter V?
Sabin: If Capcom doesn’t change the game now, the skill gap will be wider and wider. They have stated that the game would focus more on neutral with a lack of throw loops and jumps being less powerful, but they’re all still in the game. I feel like it’s going to reflect Season 1 where Dhalsim’s place in the meta looks good now, but later down the line, it will get worse. I could be wrong though.
Missing Person: You’ve been known to travel to Japan some. What kind of knowledge do you pick up there that you bring back to the US?
Sabin: It’s kind of strange, because when I went over there for Street Fighter V, it was the first Street Fighter title that didn’t have an arcade release in Japan before the worldwide console release. So the entire Japanese scene was going though a huge adjustment period of not going to arcades, and having to open up and go to game bars. Naturally, the players there are still good, but after going there, I realized why all the Japanese players are coming here now. Ten or fifteen years ago, everyone was wanting to go to Japan. With esports, the media attention, and all the major events in North America, everything changed a lot last year.
Missing Person: With Evo Japan, do you think a shift will happen in Japan, where they will start to host more esports-centric events?
Sabin: Yes and no. On one hand, gambling is technically illegal in Japan, and they count events with entry fees like we’re used to as gambling. I feel like that is one reason why esports isn’t as big in Japan as it is in America. But it might come to a point where Japanese companies see a benefit to sponsoring events that are free to enter.
Missing Person: With being part of the backbone of Team Spooky, running the streams for events, what duty do you feel to keep doing what you’re doing?
Sabin: There’s no one out there that can keep the East Coast going like Team Spooky, so I feel like I have to keep going for that reason. The entire brand is bigger than myself and Spooky at this point. It’s going worldwide now. The channel now has a seven-year legacy now, and it’s important to keep it alive.
Missing Person: As a veteran commentator, what are some of biggest and most common mistakes you’ve seen rookie commentators make?
Sabin: One of the biggest problems with commentary now–and this includes myself–is that they talk too much about frame data. First, it’s easy to be wrong if you’re talking in absolute numerical terms. Second, viewers who have no idea about fighting games don’t get those terms. So saying that a move is safe or unsafe is better.
Also, listening to yourself after broadcasts is a great idea. You need to study your own tendencies. You can fall into a pattern with your commentary, so just mixing it up is a great idea.
[Feature image: Arturo Sanchez (left), Tom Brady (right)]