Evolution Championship series, AKA EVO, is the biggest fighting games tournament ever. It’s has been the destination for all the gamers from around the world since 2002. This year’s edition was no less than the others, with 800+ players, 2000+ attendees and over 20,000 viewers on the streams it was as epic as it gets. To get how it feels like to be a part of such an event, we had an interview with Abdullatif Alhmili, AKA Latif, a Street Fighter 4 C.Viper player from Saudi Arabia, Top 2 of 2011, one of the most recognized and prestigious players in the world today.
Behind Games: How did it all start? How would you describe video gaming presence and impact on your life?
Latif: It all started back in 2002, my cousin used to bring King of Fighters (KOF) 2000 at my place to practice and I was his sandbag pretty much. He forced me to play the game while I didn’t want to and I actually hated it back then because I did not know anything about how the system works. Fighting games are more complex than other game and the worse thing about them is basically when you play against a good opponent and he’s just beating you up while you have no clue what’s going on. After playing for a while I started to understand the game more and the more, the more I understood was the more I liked it. I continued playing KOF with my cousin for a while until we all switched to Guilty Gear Reload. We played it for a few years then I moved to the states and that’s where I met so many great friends who introduced me to the tournament scene.
Video games did not have any impact in my life, I used to play whatever game I wanted to play for fun and once I beat it, I didn’t play it again. However, fighting games was not like any other game. Because of fighting games, I got to meet so many great people from all over the world that I would never forget.
What is street fighter to you? How did you get hooked up? Why did you choose to play C.Viper?
I never got into any SF version before SF4. When SF4 first came out I did not like it at all since it was nothing like Guilty Gear, the game felt really slow and basic compared to GG. The sole reason that I got hooked up into the game was Viper, whenever I saw a viper match I was impressed by how cool her combos were and how fast she was. I decided to pick up the game and check the character out and here I am.
How did you get to your first EVO and when was it?
My first EVO was in 2008, my friends told me about the tournament and since I was living in a nearby state. I thought to myself why not check it out!
How was it? The Hype is real?
EVO is the best tournament anyone will ever go to. You get to meet so many people from all over the world and you can never get tired of it! The hype, the upsets, everything is so intense. You can never know who will take win due to the high level of competition. I only missed one EVO ever since I started attending it, despite moving back to Saudi Arabia I still went to it this year even though the flight was 20+ hours long L. I will still do my best to attend it every year.
How does it feel like to be an Arab pro gamer in a world where Arab pro gamers are considered scarce? And what do you think of the Arab gaming scene?
The gaming scene in the Middle East is not that small at all but the fighting game is unfortunately. We have our good share of players here but they are all scattered out in different Middle Eastern countries so we don’t gather a lot. I for instance only get to play once or twice a month, sometimes I only play once every two months, the last game I played was at EVO 2014. Everyone here plays FIFA/PES or FPS games but only a few people that do actually play fighting games. I believe the biggest fighting game played here is Tekken then USF4 comes next.
Going back to EVO, how would you describe this year’s production? And how would you describe your effort and performance?
This year’s production was like none other, every year I get surprised by how fast the event is growing. I did not perform as I wanted it to, but as I mentioned the competition is fierce and in a 2 out of 3 set anything can happen.
Did it suck to lose to Mike Ross? (jokingly)
Haha Mike Ross actually played really amazing against me, I think that was the best he ever played, he played smart and maxed out all of his combos. I was just upset that he lost the next match he beat me. I wanted him to make it further.
A lot of big names didn’t make it to top 8 this year, talking about Daigo Umehara, Justin Wong, Infiltration, PR_Balrog, Xian to name a few… And looking at last year’s Top 8, only sako made it… Does it mean that the Fighting Game Community (FGC) is developing a new, tougher breed of players or that some of those players are getting careless? (or in other words weaker)
The scene is just getting bigger and stronger, it wasn’t surprising for me seeing those players not making it to top 8. At this point the way this tournament is designed with a 2 out of 3 format and especially how all the players are evolving, I think that any great player has a chance of winning/ getting top 8 at EVO.
What was your most epic EVO moment? What was your worst?
Of course, my best EVO moment was getting 2nd place back in 2011 and my worst EVO moment was losing really early in pools this year, I felt that I could have done way better if I did not get out of pools from losers.
What would you like to say to Arab gamers, including myself, who are fantasizing about participating at EVO?
To anyone who plays fighting games or enjoys watching them in the Middle East, you DO NOT want to miss EVO!
Anything else you would like to add?
Just want to thank everyone who still supports me and shout outs to the whole FGC for keeping it real as always! Peace out and see ya at Shadowloo Showdown 5.
Thank you Latif for the interview and we at Behind Games wish you best of luck and hope you bring home the gold at Shadowloo Showdown 5!!