Image courtesy of Robert Paul for Evo Championship Series
Benjamin “ProblemX” Simon has been living up to his handle lately by causing no end of problems for his opponents. The UK-based Street Fighter V pro has been putting up strong finishes across the Capcom Pro Tour in Season 3. He’s currently ranked 13th in the world, and also made a deep run in ELEAGUE’s second Street Fighter V invitational. After sending the likes of Luffy (21st) and Fujimura (1st) to losers, Problem X enters Evo’s Top 8 on Winner’s side.
GINX Esports TV: You made it out of your pools on Winner’s side. Was there anyone, looking at your pools, you were worried about or did you just think, “If I just play my game I’m gonna be fine”?
ProblemX: Yeah I mean I wasn’t really worried about anybody. Happy Medicine was probably the most “known” player I had in my pool, but because he plays Bison – and I play Bison – I know what the character can do. But I had to be on my game. But I believe if I’d played correctly I should’ve won.
As a player from the UK… there aren’t that many UK premiers. So with the new structure for the Capcom Cup you kind of have to travel a lot to get those ranking points. How does that affect you physically and mentally to have to basically grind and travel as much as you have to?
It can definitely be tiring, because to come to America from the UK it’s usually like, a seven, eight hour flight, if not more. But I find it kind of gives me like a drive. ‘Cause it’s like, I’m coming to an area where people don’t play me all the time, so all my like, tricks and gimmicks and stuff, I can now use again. Whereas when I play people I play all the time, they know what you like to do, so you have to play differently. But I feel like when I’m coming here, it’s like, I can do everything again. So I quite like it!
One of the things that I have learned from talking to foreign players is that they tend to get bodied by the food a lot when they come to the States. ‘Cause our food is a bit different than even UK food. How do you stay healthy when you’re on the grind?
Well, things like water – that’s not different anywhere you go, it’s the same thing. I usually stick to franchise food prior to the tournament; then I might try some of the local cuisine after. But your things like, y’know, your Pizza Hunts, your Subways, things that you know are generally the same. That’s probably the best thing to do. But I’m quite used to American food, now, so it’s okay.
What is a ProblemX training day like? Do you get up, play Street Fighter, eat once, play more Street Fighter… Or do you have a set routine; do you treat it more like a job?
I do treat it like a job, but I don’t have a set schedule. I more practice based on what happened at the tournament, how I lost. When I play sets with people, what seemed difficult? And I’ll go research those things in particular. But yeah, I probably play about six, seven hours a day.
When you look at a bracket, are the players you look at and you’re like, “Aww man, how did I get this guy?” And are the players you look at and think, “Ahh, well at least I’ll get that guy next.”
When I come to a tournament and I’ve trained correctly, I’m here to win. So whoever you play is who you play. Currently the only character I hate in this game is Guile. Daigo, in particular. That’s the only guy – I played him at ELEAGUE, and he completely destroyed me. That’s the only guy that I didn’t have the answers for. But I’ve practiced since, so if I run into him again it’ll be a different game plan. But that’s the only guy that’s really knocked me back, made me think, “OK, maybe I should reassess”. But everyone else it’s like, “I could have won that”.
Is there anyone you think is free?
I think certain matchups are kind of free. I won’t lose to any Zangief player. But in this game you can’t really say anyone’s free. Stuff’s happening, I mean already, Nuckledu losers, Sako Losers, NL losers. Already. Like, we haven’t even finished day one of pools. And the pools were seeded very well, so I don’t know who they lost to. I know Valle, Alex Valle, Blankas. So things like that, you just don’t want to play characters like that. No one knows the matchup yet, you just don’t want to play it – and he’s good. Yeah, no one’s free.
So every region is very different. The Korean playstyle is very different from the Japanese playstyle is very different from the American playstyle is very different from the UK playstyle. What would you say represents the UK scene as far as playstyle goes. Is it is aggressive, is it more defensive, is it more mixup oriented?
I’d say it’s more aggressive and mixup based, and they challenge quite a lot on defence. Like, they will press the buttons even when you’re plus in case you do, like, a delayed normal or something and then they can hit you, so they challenge a lot. Whereas a lot of Japanese players – from what I’ve seen – when you’re at an advantage they tend to not challenge so much. Europe, in general, challenge quite a lot.
Other than being sponsored, what pushes you to stay as a competitive player? ‘Cause with fighting games, the esports grind isn’t always that great, so what makes you stay in this as opposed to getting a nine-to-five, or doing something else?
I like games. Period. Also, I like being able to put my time into something and see how that reflects, based on other people who are also putting time into the same thing as you. And I like winning, so if I put the time in and I get the win it feels really good. Whereas in a standard job, unless you own the company or you’re doing something innovative, you’re just following the program, and I believe I have a lot more to offer than to follow the blueprint of somebody else. So I like being able to innovate.
So let’s say the end of EVO Capcom says there’s no more pro tour. Is there a Plan B?
Yeah I’ll probably just play MK, when that comes out! Or I’ll play another game. But nah, I’ve got qualifications, I can get standard work. That’s how I started out: I had to pay for my travel before Mousports would, so year. That’s like the fallback-fallback, though, so if Capcom went down or stopped doing a tour, I’d just go to another game.
We’re in a fighting games resurgence right now. We have the standard ones, right: Street Fighter, Tekken… But now we have Dragonball, we have Soul Calibur 6 coming out, we have Dead or Alive 6 come out… Is there a game you’ve considered putting energy into, maybe becoming a two game player like Momochi, like Punk, like Sonic Fox.
Yeah, Mortal Kombat.
When the new one comes out?
Yeah, I’ll definitely play it. I wanna see if I put time into that game how I do against, like Sonix Fox. I’m interested to see. I don’t think any Street Fighter player has stepped into the NRS scene, and no Japanese players ever play the NRS games. So I’d like to see how my mind can compare.
Why not Injustice then?
Oh, ’cause one it’s too late now – the game’s kind of wrapping up in terms of tour, and it’s a lot smaller this year than last year, and I’ve got Foxxy playing Injustice so it’s fine – but Mortal Kombat I like the characters more, the storyline more and I think the game is more fighting game based. Injustice has too many things like Clash, things that I’ve never seen in a fighting game before.
A lot of players have been very outspoken, especially before Season 3, about the direction they felt Street Fighter was going in. And some of those players have gotten a little bit more quiet during Season 3 because it seems like Capcom’s been listening. Do you think the way game’s progressing is in a positive direction, or do you think Capcom is either already at a good place or do you think they could be doing more?
I think it’s going in a good direction. There’s always more that could be done. I feel that they need to tone down some of the original cast, like your Guiles, Menat, all the current S-tiers, to make other characters be played. I don’t think there’s terrible characters in the game, it’s just in comparison to like, a Guile, why would you play Ryu. So I want them kind of neutralised so there is a reason to play Ryu. If you’re a Dhalsim player, there’s no reason to play Dhalsim – you should just play Menat because there’s nothing Dhalsim offers. There should be something that each character offers to tempt players. So I think it’s about toning down the five or six characters that are really up there. And then you’ve got the game in the good place.
This final question is for Americans, who maybe don’t know your scene very well. Are there any UK players here this weekend that we should be looking out for?
Yeah. Hurricane is here. You have Shakz, who’s gone down to Losers but he’s still in. There’s a bunch of UK players. You’ve got JeSTeRPoWeR, JoKeR JoKeZ. I believe Infexious is here, somewhere, I haven’t seen him. Yeah, so just those main guys. Mainly the guys from the WSO sessions. There’s quite a few of us here.