Last year, with the help of the ESPN broadcast, LI Joe captured the hearts of FGC fans and casual observers across the world. Doing what was believed to be the impossible, Joe made his way into the Street Fighter V Top 8 as the sole American. Twitter erupted, as fans called him a real American hero; a play on his name being Joe like GI Joe. The storyline couldn’t have seemed more scripted as his dad was flown out to without his son’s knowledge to support him. And while Joe faltered and didn’t take home the crown, he was cemented as a household name.
A year later, LI Joe hasn’t been able to replicate his success but he’s still a great ambassador for the FGC. And while he may be modest about his commentating skills, listening to him and IFC Yipes be the inhouse commentators for the Street Fighter V Top 8 was pure magic. Joe and I had a brief amount of time to talk about pools, the growth of the FGC as an esport, and how he manages trying to stay competitive and keep up with his 9 to 5.
(This interview was originally published on PVP Live July 31st, 2017. PVP Live is now defunct)
I assume you entered Street Fighter V again this year, how did pools go?
Pools were okay. I got out and then I lost right after. Wasn’t the hardest road, it was actually not bad. Like, there wasn’t anyone I was too nervous about. There wasn’t anyone I thought “oh my god” about. There wasn’t a really great Japanese player or a really great American player for me to worry about. I just didn’t play my best.
During ELEAGUE I saw that you did some work on their analyst deck and I know you did some commentating during Combo Breaker this year. Is that a path you’re thinking about pursuing?
I’m not really sure about that yet. I just did it because they asked me to do it. I don’t think I’m very good at it and I’m still kind of nervous about doing doing. I know what’s going on on the screen. But portraying it is kind of tough for me. Also having to have chemistry with someone else makes it difficult for me at least.
I think during ELEAGUE you did a great job because it was less about commentating and more about giving out game knowledge.
I’m definitely better at that.
Do you think there is a space for that, having an analyst desk, at other events? Maybe not Evo because of the size of this event but at something like CEO. Especially as a measure to help new people more acclimated with the scene?
I mean, they could even do it here [Evo] if they wanted to. It takes a lot of planning and the people to do it right. I definitely think it’s doable.
After being a part of ELEAGUE and seeing more esports level production come into the FGC, what do you think of how the FGC is progressing as an esport?
I think it’s doing well. Especially in the last couple of years. Everything that we spoke about and dreamed about in 2008 is coming true. We’re playing in stadiums, there’s thousands of dollars, there’s television. It’s all here and it’s kind of sick.
I know fighting games is not your 9 to 5. How do you find time to balance real life, your job, and fighting games?
It’s difficult. It’s really hard to find time to practice and stay as good as some of these guys who play a little more. To be that good, it requires training. Just like anything you got to give a lot to it. You give a lot to it, you get a lot back. So, it’s very difficult for me but I try my best with the time I have.
I work as a manager for a furniture company. I manage close to 60, no I’m lying, more like 70 people. So when I get home I don’t really want to do anything, let alone play video games.
You said that in 2008 the prediction was that there would be more money in the FGC and that you’d all be playing in stadiums. Now, it’s 2017. What do you predict for 5 – 10 years from now?
I don’t even know. I can’t even believe this is going on. I just hope that a lot of the players, the really good guys, can make this more of a life for them. That’s all I can hope for.