When pro-gamer REO picked up his PS3 controller to play Mortal Kombat at this year's Major League Gaming Championships, no one knew that he would not only emerge victorious but he would also help his team Empire Arcadia set a world record for the most documented wins at video game tournament. REO's hand-eye coordination has brought quite a bit of attention to eSports from the mainstream and will soon be gracing the front of his very own trading card. We spoke to REO about his win and the intensity of the tournament. Check out what he had to say.
Mortal Kombat has been around for a very long time. How much did you play to get to champion level?
I love every Mortal Kombat game. There is not a single one that I will refuse to sit down and play. I've played a lot but I never looked at myself as a true "champion level" player until MK9 came out. When that was released, I knew it would be my chance to test myself with a game that is being run in major tournaments and generating the most competition Mortal Kombat has ever had. Thanks to MK9, a lot of doubt I had within myself from past Mortal Kombat games was eliminated.
In the last few moments before you won, what was going through your head?
I don't want to come off the wrong way saying this, but honestly speaking, it shouldn't have been this easy. Every now and then I'll have an off tournament, but not being sent home earlier makes me question the competition. I think I know the reason for why it happened this way but I don't want to give up that secret just yet.
Which character would you say is the toughest to beat in a competition and why?
Kabal, bar none. No other character comes close. Kabal is a character that has no known weakness. He has an advantage in every match-up. There is not one single losing match-up Kabal has to face which is why he is in a league of his own and the toughest character to beat.
What would you say are the differences between training at home and playing at the tournament? What's your comfort level like?
At home I feel I get to enjoy the game more and play around with my favorites. In tournament, everything changes. I feel like I'm forced to do what it takes to win. Ultimately, I love playing the game as much as I can. In a tournament setting, for me to play as much as I would like, I need to win so I can play more matches. This is another reason why I use the best character in the game.
At what point in your career did you realize that you had what it takes to win on a pro level?
First of all I didn't recognize that I had a pro level of play to begin with. I just knew that I was good at what I do and that is playing Mortal Kombat games. I've been playing the series going back to MK2 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. To me, I just know how to pick up and expand on the fundamental play styles of each installment and use that to win in each installment.
I first realized I had what it takes when I picked up the best character in the game. Having the best character in my hands [Kabal] has definitely given me the confidence I need in thinking I can win on a pro level. A lot of players lose because of their characters, I've seen it happen too many times and it's a problem I do not want to deal with.
How long have you been competing professionally?
I really just started playing professionally two years ago. I started with this eSports team called vVv but I quickly found out after joining them that they were not really interested in the genre of game that I compete in. It wasn't long before I ended up talking to TriForce and seeing what Empire Arcadia was about that I end up leaving vVv. I felt that EMP was a better fit for me; so far so good.
What are your thoughts on the pro gaming culture?
On a competitive level, anything can happen. It doesn't matter how good you think you are, there is always someone else out there that can beat you. If you don't treat players as a threat, then you will not be as mentally prepared. The day you start believing you are the "best", is the day you will start to slack. This is what the pro gaming culture has taught me.
On a industry level, I think that there is a super bright future for it. I think that it's the next level in competitive entertainment. With the right influence behind it, I see it one day joining the ranks of other competitive programs. The whole pro-gaming thing has grasped my interest a lot. I read about how it generally started with this guy named Walter Day. He started this company called Twin Galaxies and they do all the high scores and stuff. I look at how it went from that to community tournaments and circuits like NEC and EVO, then to national and international tournaments like Major League Gaming and The Video X Games. I'm like whoa! This whole pro gaming thing is obviously growing and working. I heard some League of Legends tournament paid out 2 million dollars for a Word Championship this year. I want Mortal Kombat or Injustice: Gods Among Us to get to that level.
How has things changed since there's more attention now?
Due to the increased attention, it's drawing in more players, more competition, and increasing the hunger for victory. I've noticed a lot of players want to win and be in the spotlight. This is what drives some of them, but for me it's the experience and the challenge to want to become better because that's what real champions do.
Is there anyone out there that you haven't played against yet that you
would love to battle with?
Yes. I'd love to battle with DoctrineDark, Mordrek, Hidan, Metzos, Moonspell, Crathen, etc. I would be here all night if I had to list everyone, so I am going to keep it reasonable for now.
What's next for you now, will you be taking a break from playing or will you be training for the next tournament?
I would like to make NEC, and of course get some training in to follow up the event. There is this 2v2 event tournament where I want to team up with Maxter who is my EMP team mate and he got 2nd at MLG with me. I think we can beat any other team at The North East Championships. It's a challenge I want to see if I can complete. It's one thing to win when you depend on yourself it is much more difficult to win as a team when you have to rely on some one else. I believe it's a lot more satisfying to win together than alone.
I would like to take the time to share this spot light opportunity with my community and supporters, OBS: The On Blast Show, VSM: Valley Stream Monsters and KN: Kombat Network. Finally I would like to thank my teammate Maxter and my gaming team and brand Empire Arcadia.