Written By: Steve Vegvari
Ryan Lau is a long time FGC member. From the early days of Street Fighter II, to now competing in Pokken Tournament in EVO 2017. He lives and breathes fighting games and eSports.
The Southern California player is a competitive fighter by nature, and is very active as a commentator whenever possible. His incredibly positive spirit and determination to better himself on the stage shows just by talking to him. 2017 was a good year for him and it wont stop there.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: My name is Ryan Lau, I’m a 30 year old SoCal native. My passions include video gaming; both competing and commentary, tabletop gaming, comic book/graphic novel reading and collecting.
Q: When did you first start playing games?
A: Being born during the late 80s, I remember having a NES and loving Super Mario Bros. Although, I’d say my most clear memory of my early days of gaming came with the SNES. My mother took my brother and me to a restaurant while my family at home surprised us by setting up a brand new SNES for us to come home too. We played Super Mario World and Super Mario Kart until we had to go to sleep for school.
Q: How did you get involved with eSports?
A: This is one of my favorite questions. When I was 11 or so, my family entered the age of the internet. At this time, I was already so enamored of the Street Fighter II series, namely the SEGA Genesis version of Champion Edition. My love for the game turned into an obsession by the time I was 14 or 15. I started finding out everything I could about Street Fighter, fighting games, and the community behind them.
I entered my first tournament at a nearby local arcade in Lakewood, CA. Naturally, I was crushed, of course. I had trouble preparing for these tournaments, because online play was not so readily available just yet, and my time to practice on an arcade control scheme was so limited. That’s when I eventually stumbled onto SmashBoards. I found out that people were playing the Super Smash Bros. series competitively! This became much more reasonable for me. Everyone used the same controller, and many of the gamers were closer to my age. I started meeting up with players in the nearby area, and soon became a reasonably known player in SoCal.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve hit the point of calling competing a profession?
A: When I was 15 playing Melee and a plethora of Capcom fighters, I wanted so very badly to become a professional gamer. As you can imagine, very few people believed this was a viable path. Today however, yes. I feel like competing in many ways has become a profession. The fighting game community is still going through so many growing pains. We are the definition of “grassroots” and any time big companies come in, trying to direct our path, it understandably creates a lot of friction.
Q: What is it about Pokken Tournament that caught your attention?
A: When I first heard about Pokken Tournament from my usual FGC sources, my initial thought was, “A Pokemon themed Tekken?! This sounds awesome!” Regardless of the interest behind that though, I honestly do not think I would have dove head first into the game as much as I did if it weren’t for my friend; Cody. He attended all the location tests that he could for the game out here in SoCal. He was so excited, hyped up and overjoyed with the game, that I just had to pick up a Wii U to play this game/
Many Pokken Tournament players are HUGE fans of Pokemon. Admittedly, I am a fan of Pokemon, but I only ever played and completed the first generation. The bigger attraction simply stemmed from my love of fighting games.
Q: Last year, you competed in EVO. Can you walk us through that experience?
A: What an experience! I had been watching Evo for years the moment I could download archives, but I started attending in 2012. Last year’s experience was one I will never forget because I finally went from spectator, from going 0-2 in pools, to competitor.
We had around 40 of the best players sign up for this tournament. Every bracket and every match up was set to be a nail biter. Players from all over the USA, and even a player from Japan. I was of course nervous, as I felt I had not practiced or prepared enough for such tough competition.
My first bracket match in winners was versus Allister, my “bracket demon.” We have played each other in probably three previous tournaments, and he would take the win each time. This was no different, as Allister won 2-0 over me. I was bummed out, but still happy about my current path. At this point, additional wins were simply the cherry on top. I had to play a SoCal runback match against WonderChef, the local Suicune. It came down to the wire, but I won 2-1. We hugged it out and I immediately looked at my upcoming match. I had to play KOJI KOG next, the Charizard king from Japan!
The match started. Charizard is such a powerhouse, that intimidation is difficult to ignore. I did my best to feel out whether KOJI KOG would play very risky, or calculate every situation. Soon I noticed he had an excellent ability to take risks at the right time, yet remain completely patient when need be. I found myself winning the first match.
The second match, KOJI KOG took it very convincingly. Instead of letting it get into my head, I hyped myself up and said, “Winning game one has given me one more chance!” The last match came down to the last round, Charizard had his super primed and ready to go. When I realized I had won, I jumped out of my seat, screaming, “YES! YES! YES!” I was literally hopping around the venue. I could not stop showing my excitement, it was one of the most amazing feelings I had ever experienced.
Afterwards, I faced Allister in losers finals, my true challenge. I managed to take all the energy and motivation from my previous win, and I won 3-0 over Allister. Finally, grand finals. I faced SuiMaster, probably the best player in the USA at the time. It was just another day for him, as he won 3-0. However this did not remove the smile from my face. Standing in the Top 8 line up, and receiving a medal for second place at Evolution 2017. I could not have been happier. I will never forget that experience.
Q: What do you see the future of Pokken Tournament being in the eSports space?
A: Often, I compare Pokken Tournament’s scene to Super Smash Bros. Outside of worlds tournaments, it felt that if we wanted to get anywhere it would require all the effort and love from the community and the community alone. Many players began to fear that our game would become stale and numbers dwindle. This was true for a while, as players left the game for other ventures.
After much discussion about the state of the game, players began to take it upon themselves to keep the game alive. While we are still a growing community, our players are passionate and invest themselves to create quality tournaments, locals and events. Now, five months after Worlds, Nintendo has blown us away with the DX port and the recent announcement of the Battle Pack DLC. We already have established majors running Pokken events with the help of the right members, locals picking up in numbers again, and the meta getting a fresh coat of paint. I think we are in a fantastic place at this moment.
Q: Is there a character you find yourself maining? Any particular reason?
A: From the beginning I have mained Pikachu Libre. I quickly discovered the Pikachu Libre was quite a powerhouse, and a fan favorite. Not to mention all her tools, including a command throw, a flashy counter attack special, and high burst damage are highly effective.
Q: What is something you did not expect when pursuing a path in eSports?
A: The people. Easily, the people. You do not realize or appreciate just how many people make eSports possible. On the spectator side, you see all the big name players and brands. You see familiar faces in top 8, grand finals, and commentators. Nor do you see all the players that attend every local and major eSports event. You do not see the people working lighting, the stream, running the bracket, setting up the venue, paying out of pocket to support these events.
Most importantly I did not expect to make so many wonderful and close friends. The people, the community, make the scene. It’s more than just the competitive gaming. You discover so many people, young people, have such incredible talent. They help you grow as a person, not just a player. I have never experienced anything like this before. Because of all these amazing people I have met, I was fortunate enough to chase so many opportunities.
Q: Any tips for enthusiasts who may be looking to get into eSports?
A: I think there are two extremely important things I’ve learned involving myself with eSports. The social aspect and the competitive mentality.
As I have previously mentioned, the people and the community are what drive the industry. Branch out. Network. Be a social butterfly. The relationships you build here is the life and growth of the scene. We strengthen each other by creating bigger and better events. Help each other practice our favorite games and combine our talents to create amazing opportunities for everyone.
Lastly, the competitive mentality. Before you get into eSports, you have to tell yourself, “I am one of thousands of players trying to win.” This is daunting, and may seem counterintuitive. However, this was the most important aspect of competing that I’ve learned. Everyone wants to win, and everyone is playing to win. This means you have got to play, train and learn more than you even think you’re capable of. Gaming is a wonderful and fun hobby, however like anything that requires practice. It can become a chore or job when competition is involved. Winning tournaments, making a name for yourself, and proving you can be the best, is the second wind you get when you’re pushing yourself to earn the victories.
Q: What can everyone expect to see from you in the coming months?
A: Fighting games have hit an all time high. We have so many legacy fighters out there such as Tekken, Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros., and more taking the main stage again. You can expect me to put in work especially for Pokken Tournament DX, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. I also plan on commentating as much as I can any time I am at an event, as it’s something I love to do. I even plan on getting into commentating for Super Smash Bros. Wii U, as I still love the series very much.
Q: Where can people follow you online?
A: I am extremely active on Twitter! Follow me on Twitter.com/superturboryan. Drop by and say hi! Thanks!
Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His enthusiasm and adoration of the video game industry go back to the days of SNES. Find him on Twitter and join in on the escapades.