Interview with Glenn Cravens, Author of EVO Moment 37
Interview with Glenn Cravens, Author of EVO Moment 37
Glenn Cravens, perhaps better known as his Twitter handle @gyt (or Get Your Tournament), has long been a very vocal member of the fighting game community on Twitter. For awhile, he was even offering statistics for major fighting game tournaments, things like win rates and the like for various players.
He's retired from doing so now, mostly sticking within the realm of traditional sports journalism, but his latest venture has had him taking a very deep analytic look at one of the most prolific moments in competitive gaming in a book simply known as EVO Moment 37. The book's title references the famous full parry that Daigo Umehara pulled off against Justin Wong in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike that happened at EVO 2004, so before we even get started, check out that video below in case you're not familiar with the moment.
Dustin Steiner, eSportsMax: Tell me a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing?
Glenn Cravens, Author of EVO Moment 37: Let's see, gosh, it's been like 30 years now. I started writing for one of the local newspapers here when I was 14. So now, yeah this is my 20th year. I’ve actually been writing in some form, whether it's newspaper writing, online writing, book writing, and have been at it ever since. I published my first book in 2006 and I published one a year later and then didn't write another book until I started last year. But in between, I've been writing for a newspaper. I still am today. You probably know I started my own publication in 2006. It had its highs and lows and eventually I decided to shut it down.
DS: So the publications you mentioned, you're talking about Get Your Tournament, right?
GC: Yeah. That was my main one and then I tried to start a couple other ones with fighting games, Corner Pressure. I was helping out with a couple of other guys who tried to make it and it didn't work out, but I did try something because I wanted to help.
DS: So what about Evo Moment #37 makes it so special to the FGC as a whole do you think?
GC: It was the first real moment where you could bring in someone who is not a fan of video games and get them excited, even though they had no idea of what's going on in that video. As I mentioned in the book, I had no idea that you could parry an attack. I assume that every attack you have to block it, but I didn't realize you could parry an attack and that was one of the unique things about that game and that was the first moment where it just really gets you excited about what competitive games had to offer. That was at least for me and I tried to go back and I was thinking of like other moments that were I got excited.
If you’ve ever played Dance Dance Revolution, when somebody nears a triple A on the 10 foot difficulty and it gets real close to where someone has almost achieved it, that's one of those moments you're like, "Oh, damn. This is really something." But the parry just really took everything to another level and there have been moments that have been closed, but none that had that same impact as what the parry has done.
DS: What challenges did you encounter in writing about the moment and the lead up to it?
GC: Well, the biggest challenge was getting everybody to talk about it. There were a lot of people that aren't really available and I do a lot of interviews through Skype and through the phone. I got very fortunate that I get to talk to Daigo. I'm very thankful that he saved a few minutes for me during his time there at EVO and we chatted about the moment.
There were a couple of people that declined interviews and I was really bummed out about that. Now, they weren't directly involved in the moment. Had they had said no, would the book had been basically a disaster or wouldn't have been able to write? No, but it would have been awesome if they would have been able to provide their knowledge and it just didn't work out. One of the challenges was getting everybody to talk about, because there are so many people. The next challenge was to get them to remember 10 years ago.
It's just tough to really remember what happened 10 years ago. In 2004, in my life, I can't tell you anything that was going on. The only thing I do remember: Steve Finley hits the grand slam to win the division and I was just really depressed that day and the Red Sox win. I mean that's it. I can't tell you anything else that happened 10 years ago, other than the parry. So that was a challenge in itself, to get people to kind of open up their mind and say, "Hey, can you go back in time 10 years ago and tell me what was everything like?"
And for some people, I had to actually go even farther back into 2000, 2001 and say, "Hey, what was it like back then when there were a lot of arcades and back to Battle by the Bay which is being held on arcade machines?" So that was a challenge, to get them to remember as much as possible about the past years.
DS: It sounds like it was quite the experience. So do you think that this book will be a good entry point to the fighting game culture as a whole for the non-initiated, why or why not?
GC: It's not about the culture. I mean I dropped into it for a couple of moments where I talked about the past, when tournaments were held in arcades. Well, it's not like to tell you where you have tournaments online and tournaments offline and some of those intersect and you have Evo and every tournament is a major at this point. Back then if you really want to be the best, you had to show up an arcade and you had to compete there. I think when a lot of people think of culture, they think of what was it like in that arcade and when I mean that arcade, it could be any arcade - was it clean, was it smelly, was there a girl in there or how many girls were in there, was it all guys, were they all wearing tank tops just trying to beat each other up, were there fights afterwards. I really don't get into that. I basically keep it as how the tournaments had moved from 2001 to 2004 when the big switch was made to go to console for EVO that year.
As far as people and the scene go, I really don't dive into that and that's probably because I'm not sure how much of that would have played a factor. There were people that I talked to that said that there is a lot of Romanticizing today about the past. People look at the Yipes video from long time ago and they get this picture in their head and like, "Oh, that was what it was like." This guy is just popping off on a marvel video and that's what they it must have been like. They assume that's what they were all like that's not the case. That was just a rare moment and like I said, a lot of people had talked about the romantization of arcades back then. But as far as like people culture, I don't get into that. I try to stay within the timeline of how things change tournament wise especially in the eyes of a Third Strike and Evolution, how things change in Third Strike's scene. The game was accepted for a few days, and then it wasn't, and then it was because of the ass kicking that the US took and then it became fully accepted with the parry.
DS: There’s a ton of hyped up moments across many games in competitive gaming and eSports. You touched on this briefly before, but why do you think that Evo Moment #37 stands out among all those as like one of the best moments, not just in fighting games but in competitive gaming? Do you think there is a special reason for that or is it just because it was like one of the first?
GC: Well, I think it does have something to do with being one of the first, but I think it also has something to do with what Ben did in actually designing the video and creating the video was he showed you basically everything about the moment. You get to see that Daigo had no health left and was trailing pretty big to adjust in that moment. You don't even know in the video if it's a championship moment or first round losers or an exhibition or anything about, but what you know in that video is that Daigo has no health left and just hasn't a lot of health left. In other moments, it's very tough for other games to explain that and a few people had brought up the play.
I was watching that and I just couldn't understand why it was so amazing. I mean you see in the play that there were 6000, 7000, 10,000 people that were just going nuts in that moment and I just couldn't tell you what was going on. It's just, "Hey, this one team made a good play and they're going crazy and the fans are going crazy and this other team is depressed, but I can't tell you what's going on."
There were so many people who would show me a StarCraft where this guy would 6 pool someone, but even then I can't tell you what is going on or does this lead to the end or the beginning or is it just the first play from scrims, I don't know. The Daigo video was basically the first one that was really truly easy to understand just by looking at it, because you get to look at it and you see that Daigo had no health and did this amazing move or set some moves to come back and get the win and it was right there in 57 seconds. You could see the crowd going nuts and you could obviously tell that it was just this really insane moment. I mean if you're paying attention for the first time, you could see Justin Wong going nuts once the parries are happening and then Daigo on his left. If you watch the video, you could just see how everything would makes sense to the viewer without them having to truly understand what's going on.
DS: Why do you think that the FGC had such an issue with eSports as a whole and what do you think it will take to bridge that gap between the two communities if there is a way?
GC: Well, first of all I don't like the term eSports and I have not for forever. I have always liked competitive gaming and it was funny because I remember in 2007 with one of my friends, we had a conversation about this and she said, "Well, it's eSports because that's what the Koreans say, so get used to it." I'm just like, "I can't care less or I couldn't care less," that just because one culture uses the term then I got to use it. I used competitive gaming and that's what it is. It's competitive gaming.
It's all competitive gaming, but you have this very, very vocal minority who uses the social medium of Facebook, Twitter, and all that to express their thoughts about why they don't like eSports or this eSports culture mashing with the fighting game culture because they think we're all going to have to turn into suits and we're going to show up in ties and if you don't stand up and sit with a good posture, you're going to be disqualified for your match. You know it's funny, somebody said that the fighting game community is like the punk rock of video games.
And I said, "So what's eSports? Is eSports the classical opera or what? I mean I don't know." I love competitive gaming. There would be weekends where I do watch StarCraft matches. I can't just watch League of Legends because it's just terrible. I mean I don't like it at all. I can't understand most of the games but I'll watch eSports. I kind of think of it like baseball in a way and then we were seeing it now with replay in baseball, where you have the very, very hardcore traditionalist say that this cannot happen. We cannot implement computers into a game that has not had to use computer for 135 years, at least. The guys have been around more than 110 years and they haven't had to use computers in the games.
They play in the national league, so why do we have to use replay? And you get the guys that are very traditionalist, the Bob Costas’s of the world who people still listen to today and they take their word verbatim because they have been Romanizing about the past. We can't let this new guard come in and take over our game, and that new guard is the technology and 10 years ago that new guard was Sabermetrics. So I think that's why people who don't like eSports are worried about it coming into the FGC. I think that's what that's like. They see this new guard who is trying to help, who would like to build it, take it to another level and they pushed back because we want another It’s Mahvel baby video. That's what we want. We want that.
People think that if that eSports culture comes in then now we have to wear suits. I don't think that's the case. Another thing too is that they think that eSports is just going to go throw $50,000 and leave in five days and they're not going to care about us anymore. I don't think that's the case, either. I think now it's just people who still latch on to the past who don't try to see the bigger picture.
DS: Coming from more of a traditional journalism background and since you've written for newspapers for a long time, written several books, do you think that eSports journalism has gotten to the level where you could call it professional yet, why or why not?
GC: Oh, no, we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a long way to go in terms of competitive gaming journalism to make it to the next level. You still see, to this day, a lot of funny things - the term I've always used for it is three sentences and a video.
For a long time, probably about a 3- or 4-year span, that's all you saw in all of these gaming sites was, "Blah, blah, blah, won this tournament, intro. Second sentence, here is the video, leave a comment," and you're done and that was competitive gaming journalism for four years. We're starting to see a little bit of change in that, but we still have a long way to go.
Now you're starting to see a lot of different forms of writing these days where you have reporters who are trying to write long form and that's great. We're trying to really breakdown who is this player, who is that player, what's this tournament about, here is this preview of X event, why it means so much to this community, and that's great.
I think we're moving forward but we still have a long way to go in terms of what I think would be where I can wake up every day and just go through all the news sites and say, "Hey, you know, that was great article or that's a great article and that's a great article," but right now, it's just a lot of it is still mush at this point.
The story I really like was the one about Nicholas Gonzalez when he was making this travels throughout the US, traveling to various tournaments that was on Polygon. I really love that story because I had always heard about him. He had travelled everywhere and gone from Chile but he really risked it all and I just really enjoyed reading that story. It was good writing and it wasn't “three sentences and a video”.
We're getting there. I would even suggest that I would just take every competitive gaming reporter and stick them in the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle or the Chicago Tribune and just say, "Hey, you spend a week there and just soak up all their writing knowledge from all their reporters and then go back to whatever you're doing and just become better, and be a better person."
DS: Do you have any shout-outs or anything that you would like to say to the community before we sign off here?
GC: No, I just want to thank everybody who helped me with the book. It took a year sort of to write it and put it all together. Of the three books, this is taking the longest. My first book took six months to write and actually get it published because I got it through the traditional publisher and that took several months before I got approved and then it was ready to go. This took a year and there were a lot of challenges so I thank everybody who helped out and helping me put it together because I mean it was a long journey but it was definitely worth it in the end and I hope everybody enjoys the story.