Mike Ross became known across the country when he placed 2nd in the Gamestop Street Fighter 4 National Tournament. Since then he’s continued to dominate the tournament scene in his hometown of L.A. and wherever there is a major Street Fighter 4 tournament. I talked to Mike about his start in fighting games, his run in the Gamestop Tournament, and what he’s hoping for in Super Street Fighter 4. Here's an excerpt of the interview.
O.G.: What was your first video game competition?
Mike: When I was 12, Blockbuster had a multigame tournament which I ended up coming in 2nd place for. I had to play Virtua Racing, NBA Jam, and Sonic and Knuckles. I’ve been hooked to competitive gaming ever since. It wasn’t until high school when I started playing the fighting games every, going to the arcades playing the great players around town.
O.G.: Was that Street Fighter 2?
Mike: Actually the first game I got serious with was Marvel vs. Capcom 2 back in 2000. I started competing in it back in 2001 at Southern Hill Golf Land. I would do only do ok because they would have 128 people at those tournaments.
O.G.: How was the scene of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 prior to the release of Street Fighter 4?
Mike: It was a huge back then with websites like shoryuken.com where we could communicate with one another online. Tournaments were also huge, especially when out-of-towners would come in to compete. If you beat someone from out –of-town, you were just praised. It seemed big but compared to now, everything changed. We laugh at it now with how a 128 tournament was thought of to be big but now with Evo, we have 1000 man tournament.
Mike: The scene itself, it was pretty divided. Of the people showing up the tournament for MvC 2, everyone had their own cliques and groups of a few to several people that would only associate with each other. It’s different with SF4 because everyone talks with everyone and they’re cool with each other. It was very closed off with MvC2.
O.G.: Prior to the release of SF4, when the buzz started happening for SF4?
Mike: When I first saw the screenshots, I was pumped up for the game. I started with MvC2, but in 2005, I played Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo when the anniversary edition came out. I’d play it every day, all day, and I loved the depth of it. My friend and I would say to each other why they haven’t released a new SF4. Then I saw the screenshot and trailer, I was hyped. They had it at Evo in 2008, and I only could play it one time real quick. It was a little weird but I couldn’t make that much of a judgment call in the few minutes I had to play it.
O.G.: What was your first time that you actually started to being learning SF4?
Mike: It’s a good thing you asked that because I have a story about it. A place called Super Arcade was the first arcade in the U.S. to get the game and that was 3 miles away from my house. When I got there to play it, there was a line an hour and a half long, and didn’t want to play it then. The next day, I got there early and put my token to play when there were only several people in line waiting to play. I went to play MvC2, got on this huge win streak and over an hour had passed. I decided to get up and go play SF4. Some dude was there and told me I wasn’t next, and that I wasn’t on the list. Apparently this guy had a notepad with 16 names on there, but I didn’t care I had put my token down before any of them showed up.
O.G.: What the hell, was there like a velvet rope for the game?
Mike: Right, that’s what I’m saying. I’ve been going to that arcade for ten years and I didn’t recognize any of their faces. I waited an hour so it was my turn. I got on, beat the guy who was playing, beat the next, guy and the guy who was keeping the list was on next. He beat me, and kind of gave me that look. So what I did, I set my alarm to 9 in the morning, before anyone got there, and played against the computer to learn the mechanics. I did this several days straight. Of course now, I’ve played that guy many times since then and he’s never beat me.
O.G.: The character you’re known for using is E. Honda. How did you end up choosing that fighter?
Mike: I used E. Honda back in SSF2T, so I knew how he played. I started off with Guile, then Zangief, and then Balrog but he was a little boring. I was looking at other characters and noticed that no one was picking E. Honda. When I started playing with Honda, I was beating people with the most basic things. People like to jump and Honda is good to stop people jumping. But the more I played the game, the more I realized I should have picked someone else.
O.G.: With the release of SF4 on the console, what was the feeling when the Gamestop tournament was announced for you guys who have been playing it in the arcades for some time already?
Mike: I’m not going to lie, when that was announced, I said that I’m probably going to face Justin Wong in the finals.
O.G.: No you didn’t. Cause that’s what happened, no way you did it.
Mike: Yes I did. In So.Cal, we decided that since we have several heavy hitters, we would go to different regions and all qualify, then we could all make it down to the finals and have a good time. What had happened, people were getting knocked out. I just happened to be the last survivor of So.Cal. I knew from the start I was going to play against Justin. I didn’t realize that I would lose that bad.
O.G.: How was that feeling that after the tournament, people across the country knew who you were now?
Mike: It’s good you brought that up because again, MvC 2 had a 100 players in a tournament, SF4 had a 1000. MvC2 had 1000 spectators, SF4 had 100,000. It’s unbelievable to me that people know me from playing the game. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in a museum in another county not to close to home, and I was walking around and somebody recognized me. I would never thought in a million years that this would happen in video games?
O.G.: So what happened to you after the tournament, what did you do?
Mike: After the tournament, I was flown out to New York for a tournament in New Jersey, East Coast Throwdown. People only knew me from the tournament video, so they were shouting at me saying “This isn’t Gamestop” and “Welcome to the East Coast!” I let that get to me like an amateur so I had lost my first match. The next day, I started from scratch in the losers bracket. I played this guy who I beat in the Gamestop tournament, and he had been talking smack that I got lucky. Well I beat him, and then a crazy number of players one right after another. I made my way back to the top 8, only to lose to Gootecks which sucked because he was my traveling partner. The rollercoaster kept on going after that.
O.G.: So with Evo 2k9, how was that for you?
Mike: Evo was not the best experience for me. Let’s just say I didn’t go in with the right mindset. I wasn’t clearheaded because I was bringing a lot of unnecessary drama with me. I wish I could go again without that, but we all make mistakes. I didn’t get to put my all into it.
O.G.: Have any of the new SSF4 characters make you want to drop Honda yet?
Mike: No not yet. There are some interesting characters, but nothing to make me stop playing Honda.
O.G.: What’s the first thing you’re going to do with SSF4?
Mike: I heard a couple of changes about Honda, but I can’t say what they are yet.
O.G.: What is there a NDA on Honda? Did Capcom make you sign something??
Mike: I’ll just say that I’ve spent time complaining about Honda and how they need to add more stuff. I think Capcom, as a practical joke on me, decided to make him worse. He got a decent second ultra, but nothing else. I’m going to spend two minutes to Honda to learn about anything, and then jump over to T. Hawk and learn him. The Street Fighter 3 and Alpha characters don’t excite me because I never played those series.
O.G.: So what’s in store for mike Ross?
Mike: Right now I’m trying to get pass all the non-sense and stupid drama, because it’s still there. There have been some talks going on for possible plans with a new crew getting stuff started with Street Fighter. That’s all talks, nothing for sure yet. People right now are in a grace period waiting for SSF4 to come out. When it comes out, you’re not going to hear anything from the pros who will be in the “lab” working on things. Don’t get me wrong, there is stuff in store, some possible big events happening that we’re looking forward to.
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Follow Mike Ross on twitter, @ThatMikeRossGuy.
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