The fighting game community (FGC) has grown from holding local events to smaller venues to occupying ballrooms at four-star establishments with talent from all across the globe attending. Major sponsors such as Capcom, Namco Bandai, and others are responsible for the development of some of the world’s most famous franchises in gaming, and are showcased at a central tournament featuring the top fighting talent from across the world. With major prize pools, fighting games are now reaching a platform that can be compared to traditional eSports.
Each week, I’ll be posting interviews I’ve had the pleasure of conducting with members of the fighting game community. The interviews will touch upon their history in the FGC, where they got their start, and what they’d like to see from video games in general.
This week’s guest is a jack of all trades as he hosts his own 24/7 lobby and events around Super Street Fighter 4 on his personal stream, a tournament organizer and also a player, Jonathon Oudthone aka SolidxPanda.
Kash: Thank you for joining me today, please introduce yourself to the Broken Joysticks readers.
Panda: Hey guys, first I want to say thanks to Kash for taking the time and interest to cover this story. It makes me happy knowing people are interested in my life/views XD. Anyways, my name is Jonathon Oudthone aka ”solidxpanda” or ”PxG Live Stream” as some would say. I’m a tournament organizer in Central Arkansas who also runs the 24/7 Super Street Fighter IV stream on TwitchTv under PandaxGaming. I do all of this while maintaining a full time job and supporting my family!
Kash: A fighter’s tag is like their identity. Some would rather use their name and some nicknames; how did you decide what yours will be?
Panda: Funny story and it goes back way before my FGC roots started. Back in the day while I was in junior high school, me and my buddies Connor Brogan and Matt Puckett would draw comics in class rather than study. The characters in our comics were based off of us, but took on adventures we could only dream of. These comics were ripoffs of the Metal Gear Solid and Dragonball Z series, lol. My particular characters name was ”Solid Panda”, so I went with that as a tag for anything I ever had to put a tag name under. I think I added the ”x” later because I ran into a place where Solid Panda was already used. I think Xbox Live actually. So that’s kind of how that came to be.
Kash: So we both have mentioned earlier how diverse your position is in the FGC so lets start first with one end of the spectrum. When exactly would you say was your first time competing in the FGC?
Panda: The very first tournament I ever entered was ”Arkansas Regional Knockouts” back in April of 2010. I’m what you call an ”09er”, which is a term for someone who started playing fighters in 2009 when Street Fighter 4 was released. I played nothing but Street Fighter 4 and used Balrog exclusively. Though I did scrape a win in that tournament against Rawkus using Sagat lol. From there I found my passion for competition and was driven to travel and compete in local tournaments and eventually started traveling out of state supporting events such as Absolute Battle, Upper Cut Circuit, Texas Bar Fights and various other events. As the years passed I found myself with a family and less time to compete, so I slowed down a bit and focused more on keeping the scene alive in Central Arkansas.
Kash: Now going to the other side of the spectrum, what was the first ever event you organized and any specific reason that would lead you to try organizing an event? Do you also compete at events that you’re also organizing?
Panda: Well, I got started helping my buddy ”SmokeMaxX” with brackets during a few ARK tournaments. From there I gained experience with how tournaments were ran and slowly picked up my own series called ‘Barcade Edition” which ended up being a successful monthly circuit in which I featured games such as Super Street Fighter 4, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 9, Call of Duty and other popular games at the time. I ran nothing but Barcade Edition for a while and it was a ton of fun and kept the community alive. My main goal was to keep something that I enjoyed quite a bit alive in my area. There aren’t many TO’s in this state so it’s up to a select amount of people to keep competitive gaming alive here. These days it’s strictly me in Central Arkansas, so I’ve inherited quite a bit of responsibility. My hobby outside of work and family is fighting games and I enjoy revolving my life around this scene and the people I’ve met through it. I don’t even talk to my non-FG friends anymore lol. The FGC is all I have and I want to keep that passion alive. Of course I enter my tournaments though. I’m one of the top SSF4 players in Arkansas, so I gotta defend my crown! These days you can see me running my monthly tournament series called ”Arkansas Battle Circuit” in which players can attend and get ranked in their favorite games against all of the local competition. And of course, I stream these events as well with the aid of PxG|GBS Giovanni.
Kash: Online play is something that many of the top players in the FGC prefer not to do or do it in secret. You host your own 24/7 Lobby and host a bi-weekly online show where players compete. Do you feel online play is good and some players just don’t take advantage or do you think online play teaches too many bad habits that won’t help in a tournament setting?
Panda: Well, I believe it can go both ways honestly. Me personally, I do nothing but troll online because I have no real intentions of becoming a better competitive player anymore. I just like to play for fun. But for others this is not the case. I feel that playing online can allow you to learn common tendencies of foreign players. You can learn matchups through online play that you wouldn’t be exposed to in your local scene. And this has a lot to do with the game modes you’re playing in. In ranked, people just don’t care. They will go ham on some mashing and do anything to scrape that single game win. If you were to play long sets in Endless Battle you can learn a lot about the matchup and the player in general. Further strengthening your ability to learn a player’s style and adjusting to certain situations. But you can also develop bad tendencies. These tendencies can be caused by bad connections. Players tend to adjust to online lag and hit their combos based off of that timing, which can be extremely bad in a live tournament setting. I think if you play the right people with a good connection, you can generally get some good training in. Street Fighter 4 has one of the better netcodes out there and you can’t deny that.
Kash: Which game(s) are you most known for playing and what character(s) do you use?
Panda: Obviously I’m most known for Super Street Fighter 4. It’s really the only fighting game I play consistently. And as far as characters go, I play everyone just as much. If I had to pick a character that I use most in a tournament setting I’d probably go with the lord himself, M.Bison. Mostly because he’s easy to use and I can get some easy wins with him. But for the most part, I enjoy playing everyone.
Kash: Do you think other people in the FGC like their characters because they like them, or because they need to use them based on the current tiers and meta game?
Panda: I don’t want to call anyone out, but I’ll say yes. Lots of players like to use certain characters because they are overpowered and provide them with easier wins at high level. It’s obvious there are characters in this game that dominate most of the cast. But that’s not to say some of these players play ‘top tier characters’ because they are strong. Sometimes those players really love that character and it’s not their fault their character ended up on the high side of the tier list. I’ve been guilty of picking top tier in certain matchups so I can’t really say much lol.
Kash: As of late there’s been this push to get the FGC to eSports level. The community has a variety of colorful personalities as well as hype moments at events. What do you think is currently holding us back?
Panda: To set the record straight, I’m all for going eSports. I know there are some who frown against it, but I think it’s a good step in the right direction. Now as how we will reach eSports status, that’s a little trickier. We have to make ourselves presentable to a larger market. Companies don’t want to shell out money to something they won’t see a return in. I think the FGC has some tuning up to do, but I don’t think that tuning up should involve changing what makes us unique as compared to other gaming communities. I think the hype we bring can shine even brighter in an environment where crowds are large, stages are larger and production values are more professional. We are still learning and growing and we are getting closer to that idea. I think a few things that are holding us back are certain companies not willing to support us. I don’t want to call anyone out, but if we had more support, it would be much easier to reach this goal that some might have. It’s also unfortunate that we receive bad publicity for certain things through large gaming news sites. They fail to recognize and expose the good qualities about our scene and that probably has a lot to do with why larger companies are skeptical on supporting us. I don’t think the FGC ”needs” eSports. I just think it would make things better for us and allow us to open the door for more opportunities.
Kash: When it’s time for patches in fighters, it’s seems there’s never a middle ground. Taking Injustice: Gods Among Us for instance, the game is relatively new and just hit version 1.05. The constant cry is to nerf a top character. As both a player and a tournament organizer, what is your stand with patching fighting games?
Panda: Oh boy, this is something I’ve been struggling with for the past couple of months. I think patching games is amazing and it can lead to a lot of happy gamers. I fully support patches and what not, but what I find stressful right now is updating my fleet of consoles every 2 weeks because NetherRealm wants to release a patch for their game lol. I would rather them let glitches ride so more glitches can be weeded out and then make a larger patch. But I understand the game has lots of DLC so patches are necessary and I respect their attention and concern for the players. It just kind of sucks having to update so regularly when I have a lot of consoles to do that on. For instance, at CEO this past weekend I heard one or two of the setups weren’t patched with the latest update, so people were getting bodied by Scorpion. That probably slipped and wasn’t intentional as it can be easy to not notice something like that. I’ve had it happen in my tournaments and it really sucks. But it’s really in the developers hands as to when they want to release those patches.
Kash: The current tournament life for both Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Super Street Fighter 4 seem to be similar. Both are about equally popular, both have their top player everyone wants to beat, the only difference is the more character variety on screen in SSF4. SSF4 is getting a patch soon (version 2013) while Marvel is not for reasons unknown. Are you excited or scared for what may be coming for the game? And if Marvel got patched, how drastic do you think things will get?
Panda: I don’t think we will ever see a patch for Marvel 3. It’s seen its last update and will have to ride as is. I’m fine with that as I don’t play Marvel, but I do enjoy watching all the broken stuff that happens in it. As for SSF4, I’m super stoked for the update. Mostly because it’s going to bring life and interest back into the game. I could care less how many over powered characters are in the game, because I’ll still play it. Most of the characters I hate playing aren’t even top tier. But I have a good feeling about the 2013 update. I feel the balance is going to be the best we’ve seen in the series.
Kash: How difficult do you think it is for a new person to enter the community and feel welcomed?
Panda: I think one of the best traits in the FGC is the fact that people are welcomed much easier. Nobody really judges anyone for the most part and everyone is treated equal, at least in my experiences. I’ve seen many people enter the community only to be welcomed with open arms. One of the biggest things I strive to do is supply a place for players to log online and hang out with people who share their common interest. My 24/7 stream is more than a constant stream of video. It’s mostly about the community. I have people who show up EVERY day in my chat room and talk with people who are there just as much about anything and everything. Then there are constantly newcomers coming through asking questions about the game and they are kindly answered. I keep my stream up for the community and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Most 24/7 streamers wouldn’t dare sticking to a game that’s as old as SSF4 because viewer count won’t stay as high. I have stuck with this game because the people I’ve revolved my life around are important enough to continue doing this completely free service. If that doesn’t say anything about the people in my community, then I don’t know what to say. Streaming 24/7 while maintaining a full time job and family isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
Kash: How nervous do you get during a tournament match? Likewise how nervous are you during your hosting/streaming duties at events?
Panda: I don’t really get nervous during tournament matches as I have different intentions going into it. It’s either a) troll the hell out of my opponent or b) have as much fun as I can. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win, it just doesn’t upset me if I lose. I’ve done enough events that I’m not as nervous, but it’s more nerve stressful than anything. A lot can and will go wrong during an event and you have to be prepared to make a split second decision on what to do. As far as streaming goes, it’s stressful but not as stressful. I’ve found myself streaming and running brackets at some of the tournaments I’ve streamed. I don’t mind helping when I can because I’ve seen the situation many times and the more experienced people involved the faster a tournament can run. But for the most part, streaming is easy. I prefer getting in on everything though rather than just sitting at my computer the entire time lol. I’m pretty good at multitasking and I get bored easily. One thing I did find interesting, at Midwest Championships 2 weekends ago, Twitch was having problems with their chat log. I couldn’t log into chat nor see the chat for that matter. That actually helped me in a way that I wasn’t constantly reading the streams criticism and I think that made for a more stress free event.
Kash: This is a question I’ve started asking many of my guests but this will be the first time I can get the opinion from a organizer also. While it’s something that’s been going on for a while, what’s your take on pot splitting? Should there be ramifications for doing it? Do you believe players are insulting fans, their previous opponents, their sponsors and the organizer in doing so?
Panda: I think pot splitting is pretty lame to be honest. You can’t really stop it because players these days hide it decently. But it definitely exist and it happens at many majors today. My only concern with pot splitting is when players purposely throw matches. Thousands of viewers tune in to see those players give their all and hope to see nothing but high level play. When you tune in only to see players using sub characters or trolling during their match that’s a complete let down. As a TO I try to ensure that doesn’t happen, but as I said it’s pretty hard to keep it from happening. But I definitely think it’s more of a ”screw you fans, I want my money” type of message. That’s when we lose touch with what we are really there for: the game.
Kash: Other than fighting games, what other styles of games do you play?
Panda: I was pretty big into FPS games before playing fighting games. I dabbled a lot with COD and CS back in the day. I even played a hell of a lot of Starcraft during my schooling days. Staying up till 6 am playing ladder matches and fast maps lol those were the days.
Kash: E3 has come and gone, and even past the week information with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 has been coming, almost dividing the once one sided playfield. Considering the now discarded idea of Xbox One becoming essentially “Steam in a console form”, do you think like fighters, consumers didn’t take time to adapt and quickly asked for it to be nerfed? Also what will be your console choice, as well as what you think will become the tournament standard?
Panda: I think Xbox One had a lot of potential to take gaming to the next level. I would have liked for them to stick with their original plan, but obviously the gaming community wasn’t ready for their changes and I agree with their decision. As of right now, PlayStation has my money. I’ve always been a PlayStation fan mostly because of the titles but have recently stuck with Xbox because of the netcode. It’s too hard to tell what’s going to be tournament standard. If I had to put my money on it, I’d say PlayStation 4 solely for the fact that it’s cheaper. But hopefully the frame differences between fighting games gets fixed. But we will never know until we have them in our living rooms!
Kash: Outside of the console wars, was there any games you saw at E3 that you felt you needed to own ASAP? Any that you would consider showing on stream on a off day?
Panda: METAL GEAR!!!!!
Kash: If you could grab any character from one game and put them in any other game, who would you pick, where would you place them and why?
Panda: I’d like to see Cloud from Final Fantasy VII in Street Fighter 4. He’s one of my favorite gaming characters ever, hence why I named my son Cloud. Yes, I really named my son Cloud.
Kash: If you could challenge anyone in the FGC past or present, who would it be, in what game and why? Also if you could get any two guys to play on your stream in a first to ten, past or present, who would it be?
Panda: I’d love to play against Daigo. Mostly because he’s the most influential fighting game player on the planet. I’d love to see Daigo face off in a first to ten against Infiltration though. Maybe a possible UFN main event in the future?
Kash: Super Smash Brothers 3Ds/Wii U revealed to us the Villager from Animal Crossing, Wii Fit Trainer from Wii Fit and a guest character, Classic Megaman which we all know from the NES Megaman titles. Seeing how Nintendo can grab any character and turn them into a fighter, is there anyone you’d like for them to add both 1st party or 3rd party?
Panda: Hmm, to be honest I think it would be cool to see a Street Fighter character like Ryu or Chun-Li make it into that game. That would be pretty interesting!
Kash: Any upcoming tournaments that you’ll be attending to play and/or stream and what is the address to your twitch channel if your readers would love to tune in?
Panda: Yeah, I try to travel as much as I can as I meet lots of people that way. I’ll be at The Upper Cut Championship’s in Dallas, Texas next which takes place August 16th. I’ll be the main stream for that event. I’ll be streaming Memphis Bawse Battles the weekend after that in Memphis, Tennessee and later this year Absolute Battle as the main stream again. Everyone can watch those tournaments LIVE on www.twitch.tv/pandaxgaming.
Kash: Any last words for the Broken Joysticks reader as well as any way for them to contact you with any questions they might have?
Panda: I’d like to thank everyone for reading this interview. Hopefully it was entertaining and informative. If you guys would like to watch some 24/7 Street Fighter action tune into my stream at anytime of the day! And if you’d like to keep up to date with me or the channel follow me on Twitter which is also a great place to ask me questions!