Ever since the beginning of fighting games, Western Wolves' Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart has been a solid member of the professional gaming scene. His first tournament placings date back all the way to 1995, and since then he's been feared and known as one of the most successful and best players to ever exist amongst fighting game specialists.
Nowadays, he represents both Mad Catz and Western Wolves at various events. Let's kick off this interview with a small introduction from the man himself.
Western Wolves: Hey Ryan! Thanks for taking your time to answer to this interview. Let's head straight into our first question. A girl walks up to you in a bar, and asks you what you do for a living and how on earth you got to be as successful and handsome as you are today. What's your answer?
Ryan Hart: I usually tell them that I won so many modeling contests that it paid for my travel before I could get sponsored. Then they usually ask how I got into modeling, I reply that I needed a lot of money and that was the quickest legal way that I knew. I had to basically make enough to travel, pay for hotels and pay for players to lose to me in tournaments. This was all part of a simple one step process to get me to the top basically.
WW: So you've practically been gaming your entire life. If you had to recommend one thing to our younger talented players, who have the potential to grow into a professional electronic sports career, what would it be?
RH: Yes I’ve played games since I was 10, games like Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Crime Fighters, and other stuff on arcade and console. I entered my first tournament when I was 14, won my first tournament when I was 16 then won my first world title in Japan when I was 18. I’ve always valued knowledge and still of course went to school then college during my gaming evenings and weekends. So what I would say is well, firstly I’d say study hard, go to college or university and major in something whilst playing games on the side. A good education is the best foundation for any gamer for many different reasons and I support that theory 100%. After that I’d say that they should focus on the competitive game/s they enjoy playing the most, this is where they will be most fruitful in their progress. Stay with it and set targets for improvement. Mix in with the community to understand how communities work, what benefits you can share and what you can do to grow together.
WW: What's your most successful achievement so far (in terms of gaming and offline performances). When, where, and why?
RH: I can’t label a single most successful achievement as they are all so different for me. My three Guinness World Records are a very unique achievement for me and kind of consolidate my work as a whole, over my decades of playing. Having been world champion on various Tekken games, King of Fighters '98, winning tournaments all over Europe and then in Japan and USA, then of course becoming European champion on Tekken, Virtua Fighter, various Street Fighter games is really nice for me as it’s a great testament to my longevity and adaptation skills as a player over a lengthy period of time. Also having won EVO twice is a great success for me too as EVO is the pinnacle of the Fighting Games tournament world.
SKIP THE BASICS, ONTO EVENTS
WW: Now that we've gone through our first and most standard questions, let's move onto a more actual subject. You placed first in DreamHack: Valencia after what seemed like a very solid and easy run. You were joined by your partner in crime Femi “F-Word” Adeboye and both of you managed to reach Top 3. How did you experience the event?
RH:Well I knew that I’d be meeting Luffy along the way and based most of my preparation on that. Out of all tournament players currently active in Europe, he is easily my biggest threat. He has a unique way of maximizing very few tools and this is both commendable and mind boggling.
I decided I would use my cast efficiency to my advantage this time, this is one skill that I have over Luffy as a player; the ability to manipulate a large number of the cast to a high level. However despite the fact that hardly any tournaments operate on a character lock system, due to modern day mentality on fighting games, we are shoehorned into a system of choosing only one main.
There are many reasons people use this system but one form of logic behind that system is that it is the most efficient way, to cover all the necessary bases with minimum input. Anyway, I had run through a number of potential characters, but due to condition, training status, experience and other key factors I decided to go with Ryu.
When I and F-Word reached the top 3 stage, we talked about his upcoming match with Luffy and it was looking good as F-Word had beaten Luffy in a money match just minutes before, it was a solid 5-2 at that! When they started the loser’s final match, Luffy appeared to play very different and to my surprise, managed to win 3-0 against F-Word. I couldn’t believe it; I had never seen F-Word struggle so much against Rose.
WW: What was your favourite matchup during this tournament? Must've been awkward to face Femi that early on, or are you both used to facing each other?
RH: My favourite may have been Perplex vs Problem X as both players played very well making it interesting to watch.
Playing F-Word used to be totally fine for me when we were both going back and forth at Winner Stays On weekly with Sagat vs Ibuki. As of more recently it’s slightly awkward as I’ve been able to maintain a solid tournament win streak with Yun.
This is not only awkward because he is a team mate, but more importantly because he is a very good friend of mine and I wish for him to prosper in competition also. But he is a professional and we always keep it inside the sport. In hindsight, fighting the great fight with Sagat then narrowly losing only to donate memories to everyone’s hippocampi labeled “the time when Ryan almost won” never really did me any favors either. Ok, maybe I got an extra pat on the back or a “Don’t worry, you’ll get him next time,” but all that just never quite equals up to actually winning for some reason.
WW: Earlier last month you performed mediocre at EVO2013, again joined by both Femi and this time Andreas “Premium Hands” Demetriou as well. What went wrong, was it a lack of preparation, being unlucky or simply being outplayed by stronger opponents?
RH: I’ll be totally honest and say that due to a hectic year of problems, I was in no condition to win EVO 2013. In fact I think my performance last year was a lot better which makes no sense since I am stronger now and more knowledgeable now too. It also is not case of brackets either as I had a much easier ride this year when compared with last year when I had bracket of death which included current World Champion DM.MCZ Xian, Kindevu from Japan, myself, and Filipino Man. I got out of this bracket and defeated numerous opponents to reach just outside of top 16.
My bracket was easier this year but my tournament was harder because of my issues. Things are much better now though so hopefully this will shine through in my performances.
The opponents I lost to at EVO 2013 were not stronger than me as players in general in my opinion; they were stronger than me on the day though. They played better than me in that particular tournament set and that is what counts. I feel my loss was mostly based on my personal condition in life, nothing to do with the game itself. I, of course, held no grudges and wished my victorious opponent’s good luck in the rest of the tournament.
WW: When you see both of your teammates underperform, do you feel like it's your job as a team captain to give them a necessary boost? Or do you simply let them do their own thing?
RH: Understanding your teammates condition is vital. I am always open when they need me for something and they know they can ask me for anything anytime. I do try to give my thoughts where necessary and this is always productive, sometimes it’s not the spoken content, but the suggestion of support which helps. There are times where they need time to figure things out for themselves though, like just after a loss and stuff.
In the second half of the interview, Ryan shares his thoughts on the UK fighting game scene, what it’s like to battle the World Champion Xian, and which games hopeful pro gamers should be playing. Check back next week for the conclusion of our chat with Ryan Hart!