After dethroning Daigo Umehara who is arguably one of the best Street Fighter players in the world, Sun-Woo “Infiltration” Lee looked unstoppable. However, that was until this Swedish guy showed up at DreamHack Summer 2013 and put an end to his dominant run. In this interview, the Swedish DreamHack Summer 2013 champion Simon “Popi” Guiterrez talks about DreamHack Summer 2013, Infiltration, fighting scene within Sweden & Europe, and much more.
Were you always big time into fighting games? How did your journey into gaming begin?
My Journey into gaming began when I was a kid. My brother would always bring home new games so I would always be around all those old school Nintendo games. I kinda got into fighting games a little bit late because I was mostly playing casually. The first time I really had fun with a fighting game and my brother was playing this character E-Honda and I was like 8 years old. This was back in Argentina during a vacation and I was playing Ryu. It was so frustrating because he would continuously use the headbutt move and I couldn’t understand how to block it and he would always laugh at me. Sometime after that, I quit fighting games but 4 years back from today, I picked up fighting games again when I saw these big guys like Daigo, Justin Wong and all these guys. It made me think that maybe I could do this, so I just wanted to try it. The first competitive game for me then was BlazBlue, which was an anime fighter but I still wasn’t going to tournaments. I was just playing online and at home, just taking it easy. We then had the Swedish nationals where players from different cities came to compete with each other. Back then, I thought I was really good and could beat those guys. I got bodied so bad and it was so embarrassing but i really appreciated that experience because I finally realized the depth of the game, like the mind games, the risks one could take, etc. This guy named Luffy was the Swedish champion back then and he took me in and showed me some basic stuff. We would frequent a place called Negative Edge here in Gothenburg with those big CRT TV’s and that’s how I really got into it. It motivated me a great deal as these players told me how to have a certain mindset towards these games.
Was your family supportive of your decision to be a professional gamer when you started off? Have you managed to change their opinion about gaming and esports as a career?
My father was like “hey, you need to study hard” etc., which was totally understandable because let’s be honest you can’t really make a living out of eSports right now. Also, the competition is so hard out there so it’s very difficult to win consistently. But he always supported me and would say “do what you want, as long as you’re happy, ” Same with my mother “as long as you do something that you love and it makes you happy, I’m there for you.” However, at the same time they wanted stuff to roll out like my education and job, so I balanced it out and it’s been working pretty well so far. I’m going to start University soon because earlier, I was working a bit. I recently quit my job and I’m gonna study full time and balance it with gaming.
Would you agree that Cammy was an unusual choice as a main? Did the presence of Ryan Hart’s Sagat, Skatan’s Sakura and Momi’s Fei Long in the European scene trigger this decision?
Back then when I just started to play the game, I used to play Ryu which was just the basic character. I learned all the important stuff like spacing, throwing fireballs, footsies etc. I was also playing Fei Long on the side because I was such a big Bruce Lee fan and this was in Super. But I still thought, they weren’t exactly my style because I played a bit more aggressive and offensive style. So in AE, I switched to Yun and this character was super strong. People would say that this character is so broken and finally in 2012, it got nerfed. I was still playing him but this was the time when I was like really getting into the game so I had to make a decision – I could either stick to this character or find a new character that suited my style a bit more. In Europe, we already had plenty of Sagats, Akumas, Fei Longs and even Ryus. Every time I played Yun, they always gave me trouble because some match-ups were really hard for him. After that, at DreamHack Winter I was trying Cammy a bit and people were like “you need to drop Yun” but I was like no this character is so fun but it made me realize that in the EU competitive scene, I really couldn’t just stick to playing with one character. So I picked up Cammy and I actually started liking her. She’s such a momentum based character and has a great mix-up game. She’s really into your face if you have the correct mindset when you sit down to play along with being fun to play as a character. I learned her and looked up combos, videos and how to approach certain match-ups. She could handle Sagat, Ryu, Yun or almost any character. So yeah, since then I stuck with her.
We see Swedish teams dominating Shooting games like Counter Strike, and now even Dota 2 (Alliance). With you on the podium, has there been any serious interest in Super Street Fighter 4 or the fighting genre in general within Sweden?
Actually, the scene’s growing so fast that it’s amazing. The spectator hype that fighting game genre has to offer is like no other. The fans are literally screaming out and they’re like really into it. I think people really appreciate it and they’re like a family to each other. They go around, get to know each other and basically camaraderie is what they enjoy. It’s growing fast and I hope it gets bigger and better.
Let’s go back to DreamHack. Realistically, what were your expectations?
*Laughs* Actually, I was thinking that I could win the tournament. I usually play with Ryan Hart a lot and I know the match-up really really well, thanks to him! Every time I play Sagat, I’m super comfortable. Also, I’ve played some guys online like F-word and ProblemX before. All these guys are super good but I felt quite comfortable knowing their style along with a decent understanding of the Swedish scene. But it’s all about the mindset – it’s important to win but having fun is very important. I didn’t think that I would beat Infiltration since I had never been like a finalist, except for Sweden-only tournaments. However, I had this mindset like I’m playing vs. the world champion right now and I got really nervous. Later on though, I changed my mind and said to myself “Let’s do this. I gotta have fun you know!”
How would you describe Infiltration as an opponent?
He played me at my house just one day before. The funny part is when you see him in tournaments, he always looks like super serious and that’s how people see him all the time on live streams. But when he was at my house, we were both trolling each other with different characters and he was smiling all the time. But I realized that he switches off that side of him and becomes a machine which I feel makes him who he is – perhaps the greatest Street Fighter IV player of this time. He has won multiple tournaments with the consistency of a champion, beaten all the big names and he’s such a humble person. But he’s a friend of mine now and if he comes to DreamHack, we’re definitely gonna hang out.
When you sat down to play vs. infiltration’s Akuma, did you think he was a bit cocky in using it despite knowing about your Ultra 2 counter? Were you like I have this one in the bag?
When he picked Akuma i.e. his main character, I felt that he was showing respect to me by not picking Ryu which he usually picks vs. several other opponents. I figured out some stuff when we were playing and I adapted to his style. I had played his Akuma at DreamHack Winter 2011, so instead of going recklessly into the match I corrected the mistakes I had made back then.
In the Grand Finals he switched to Ryu. Did that put a smile on your face?
*Laughs* Actually, it was a smile but in a way not because when we were playing, I could play solid against his Akuma but I usually don’t have too many problems when I play vs. Ryu in Europe. I was really comfortable in that match-up but infiltration’s style is pretty different. His training partner Laugh (Ryan Ahn) came by and we put in like 3 straight hours into the session. He played Ryu and made it really hard for me when we were playing casuals. In my opinion, right now, Cammy easily beats Ryu because of the unblockables. Also, she can go through fireballs with her Ultra, Ryu still dominates the ground game especially if your opponent is as hard as infiltration. The guy is like a machine and apart from having really good footsies, he’s got good counters. In the next set, I decided to stop jumping and not try his reflexes *laughs*
Many fans have been vocal about nerfing Cammy. Assuming this may be a possibility in the next update, do you think Capcom should go ahead?
Yes, I think they should nerf her. But assuming they nerf her and end up buffing other characters, it’ll be very difficult to play. So the way they nerf her is very crucial. The balance can shift and I’m pretty sure the next version is gonna have its own top tier characters. But yeah talking about Cammy, I think the ex dive kick gives you a huge advantage with too many plus frames. You can mix it with other stuff to get desired results too and the stun as well as damage output should be nerfed too. They shouldn’t nerf her really hard because I’m sure people still don’t know Cammy in-depth and they think she can cross up with every dive kick. I might be wrong but at this point, I think Di3minion from the U.S. understands every match-up and this is the kind of insight many other players lack.
What changes would you like to see in the next update?
Right now, I don’t like how so many characters have unblockables and the role they play in crucial tournament victories. A friend of mine pulled 23 unblockables with Sakura while she’s already strong and she gets a 50-50 mix-up after. People really hate Akuma due to the knockdown and he has like a teleport which can be annoying. So they’ll have to be very careful about how they fix the corners and nerf/buff the characters. With Cammy for instance, if you do a dive kick on the left corner, it hits you in the front but the character lands behind. But if you do from the other corner, the character lands in the front. Other than that, I think the game is fine.
While coming up in the fighting scene, who did you look up to the most? Who did you learn the most from?
I don’t quite look up to a lot of people but I believe in motivating myself. Friends from my local scene who were like “One day, you’re gonna be a good player because you have a lot of potential”, I kind of looked up to them because they always tried to teach me new step and helped me level up my game. But there are so many incredible players out there in the game like Daigo, Ryan Hart, Justin Wong who are legends in the scene but I don’t think I looked up to someone.
A lot of Cammy players have a similar style but successful ones like yourself and Sako do things differently. Without divulging/revealing your secrets, can you tell me what sets you apart from other Cammy players?
I don’t like to do a lot of DP’s (Dragon Punch moves) and I’m also very patient. Some people just want to go in with Cammy but I like to play the footsie game, take my time, walking down to the corner and later on do damage there. That’s basically my style and I try to be as consistent as I can be with my combos. A lot of players want to maximize their damage when they pull off combos but at times, I don’t do that because I don’t want to ruin the set-up. I always go for the set-up. Players like Sako on the other hand are execution heavy players. If they connect with you, you can be sure they’ll do a ton of damage. Anyone who has watched him knows he’s the Execution God.
Do you think Daigo will be able to bounce back based on his sheer experience?
Just because he’s not been winning every tournament doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. You win some and you lose some. I think the difference is that Daigo’s Ryu is the best in the world but the character is very linear in that he shoots fireballs, he does footsies and he doesn’t have a strong mix-up game which other characters have. In that way, it makes him harder to play because everyone has played vs. Ryu a million times and everyone knows the match-up. Still, Daigo can find a way to beat you with Ryu. Infiltration does not play a vortex heavy Akuma but rather a bit more laid back Akuma like throwing fireballs, taking his time and does not rely heavily on mix-ups. I think Daigo will perhaps be top 8 at this EVO (EVO 2013) given his experience.
Let’s talk about the Asian dominance. Japanese and Korean players have dominated the scene for a long time. Is there any advice you can share with the rest of the European fighting community about how to prepare against such seasoned opponents?
First of all they need to know the opponent’s main character like how do they like to counter and not just that but research about the player as well. Try to find patterns in their game plan and level up your game accordingly. This cannot happen without confidence and newer players will get nervous when facing someone like Daigo or Infiltration, but they’re not robots and can be conquered.
The last time a player from the West won 1st place was at EVO in 2002, the first year the original tournament of “Battle by the Bay” changed its name to EVO. That was Jason Cole (AfroCole as we know him). Do you think that as the fresh champion, a lot of west’s hopes are resting on your shoulders?
I think the West can do really good. I’m think I’m a good player but there are many talented players in the western scene. But of course, the Asian scene is very strong and I don’t know how the scenes vary a lot. For example, in Europe, we share a lot of stuff that we learn. Since it’s a best of 3 set these days, the odds can shift. It’s gonna be interesting to see how everyone goes in at each other now that the game itself has evolved so much.
What is your regular training routine like? Do you do something special before major tournaments?
Before a tournament, I try to see who is coming. For something as major as EVO, you cannot really know because a lot of strong players show up. You need to be prepared for everything which is really impossible. A little bit of luck also plays in. I like to lay low, hit up the training mode and try to nail all my combos consistently maybe like 10 times each on the left and right hand side. I also go through each character and the set-ups I have. Then I like to go online and practice try to see if I can lose. You learn much more from a loss than from a win and you understand how to approach a character, for instance at corners. I look at my own replays which isn’t always fun *laughs* but it helps me analyze if I were doing the same things over and over without it working in my favor. That’s how I switch, level-up/tweak my game. Even if you’re winning, you can understand why. So yeah, that’s basically it.
The last time I heard you on LiveOnThree, you were hunting for Sponsors in order to attend EVO 2013. Now that you’re going to EVO 2013, do you have a sponsorship deal in place?
Shoutouts to Slasher and djWheat. DreamHack wanted to sponsor me just for this event (EVO 2013). I did not want to go to EVO 2013 because I had some personal stuff that I wanted to take care of. But a lot of people within Europe wanted me to go because they wanted that U.S. vs. Europe exhibition. Later on, I gave it a second thought and even though it’s a very expensive trip. Also, the money I won from DreamHack summer doesn’t come to me right away. I thought I wasn’t gonna make it. So when they reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to attend EVO 2013, I was like “Why not!” DreamHack and Rockstar (the energy drink) are the ones that sponsored me for this event and I thank them.
When you get back from EVO, are you gonna look for something long-term as far as sponsorships are concerned?
Yes, definitely. I really enjoy what I’m doing and I know I can become really good at this game. Even if we’re only playing video games, there’s a lot more going on. There are so many passionate players and nice people to meet. I enjoy the games as well as hanging out with these people from different cultures as a human being. I’m really like a social guy so I try to make people feel comfortable around me. So yeah, for me I want something long-term so that I can support the scene by actively being a part of it. Grabbing a beer with players that I don’t get to see often and enjoying their company is definitely worth it. I’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.
Thanks for this interview Simon! Do you have any special shoutouts and thanks to convey?
Shoutouts to Negative Edge, my local community, all the European guys, FGC (I cannot take a lot of names because that’ll take forever) – F-word, ProblemX, Kungster, Louffy, Ryan Hart and to all my friends from Sweden and Europe. Shoutouts to my father and mother for being so supportive. Finally, shoutouts to you for this interview!
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