Esports.gg sits down with Red Bull Kumite competitor Big Bird to talk about SFV, invitationals in the FGC, and the future of SFV.
While Adel “Big Bird” Anouche may have been knocked out of Red Bull Kumite in groups, he planted himself and made his opponents drag him kicking and screaming out of the tournament. He finished 3-5 in Group D, tied for 3rd, perhaps the most competitive group in the event.
However, he is one of the most well-known players coming out of the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East scene. Recently, he's competed in the Street Fighter League, 1st in the Middle East regional finals in the Intel World Open. He also made a huge name for himself back in 2019 with wins at Capcom Cup Europe, EGX 2019, and a 2nd place finish at Evo 2019.
We caught up with Big Bird on Friday before the event kicked off where he gave us his thoughts on being invited to Red Bull Kumite, invitationals vs open bracket events, and the concerning trend of the FGC shrinking a bit back home.
Dustin Steiner, Americas Editor, Esports.gg: So obviously we’re here at Caesar’s Palace, what does being at an event like this mean to you?
Adel “Big Bird” Anouche, NASR/Red Bull: Red Bull Kumite always means a lot to me because when I went to 2016, I was kinda like, not well known. Winning the LCQ there and playing the main event, that kind of like kickstarted my esports career and partly played a big part of where I am today. So I owe a lot to Red Bull Kumite, on top of that it’s one of my favorite events to watch and to play in. So I’m very excited to be back here again for the second time as an invited player.
Steiner: Okay, this event, it’s one of the first events we’ve had since COVID, being back in person and everything. What does being back on LAN mean to you, since you’ve had to deal with online and all that stuff?
Big Bird: So I’ve been lucky enough to experience offline more than once since the pandemic. I played in Street Fighter League in the US two times now, last year and this year, so I was one of the lucky ones to experience offline. But being back here, this is like the first offline event I’ve been in that is like, a bigger scale than, because Street Fighter League is an invitational, there are only like six teams so that’s eighteen players?
Yeah, but this one is like 256 players plus the LCQ for Tekken, there’s a bunch of people that you’re gonna be seeing. It feels very good to be back here again.
Steiner: Someone described it to me as an “anime time skip,” everyone’s going and going and then it’s just nothing, and now you’re back. So does it feel a little bit something like that for you, coming back and seeing everybody again?
Big Bird: Yeah, I feel like a lot of things have changed, a lot of people have changed; it does feel like a time skip because some of these people, I haven’t seen since 2019 or like early 2020, and now seeing them again after two years, almost three years, it kinda feels like a time skip for sure. A lot of people have changed, some have stayed the same, I myself have changed the way I looked since 2019, so it kinda feels surreal, I’m very happy to be able to experience this again, and I hope that COVID is done soon so we can go back to normal offline gameplay again.
Steiner: What do you think was the biggest change in the Street Fighter scene and do you think that it was ultimately a good thing that the scene went online for a while or do you think that it was a net negative, what’s your take on that?
Big Bird: There’s good and bad to the online scene, the good is that people have now optimized their setups at home, me being one of them, so before, we used to play on PS4. And playing on PC, it’s a world of difference, it’s like you’re playing a different game. So right now I think that 90 or 95% of the players around the world are playing on PC now.
So I feel like if it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t have been exposed to that. But the bad thing is that the netcode that Street Fighter V has is kind of unstable, so you’re not always gonna get good matches, you’re not always gonna get bad matches, it’s kind of random.
"I feel like if the netcode was perfect, then this would have been amazing, people would not feel like they were stuck at home. This would have been an amazing experience, but because of the netcode, the accessibility of it, it feels kind of iffy."
Steiner: That makes sense, okay, so tell me a little bit about your home scene, and like how that has kind of grown around your success as a player, has it gotten bigger?
Big Bird: Unfortunately it’s only been getting smaller since 2016, every year it just gets smaller, but some people that play, including me and AngryBird, we can’t force people to play a game, you can’t force them to keep up, so you just have to play and practice with what you have, basically. There’s still some people playing, it’s just getting even more little and little every year.
Steiner: Do you think Street Fighter VI or something like that will be the new excitement to get people back in it?
Big Bird: Yes, every Street Fighter—I remember Street Fighter V, in the beginning, there was a lot of people playing in (the) UAE, but like I said, every year, it declines a bit. So I’m hoping Street Fighter VI brings those people again, and keeps them, because bringing them is one thing, but keeping them is another thing. So I hope Street Fighter VI is able to resurrect some of the communities, UAE included.
Steiner: Nice, okay. Do events like this help your local scene? Like when they see you at an event like Red Bull Kumite, maybe the next local, you go home, is it bigger because they want to see you, and congratulate you?
Big Bird: I don’t know if it makes any kind of difference to be honest, because once you move on from a game you just move on. But maybe it helps people who are still playing. Because I know a lot of people playing right now, they always watch our, me and AngryBird’s matches when we go out. Maybe it helps keep them playing, basically, and show them that even if you come from (the) UAE, the smallest of the communities, you can still be on top. So yeah, but like I said, once people move on they just move on, there’s no bringing them back.
Steiner: You’ve been to Red Bull Kumite before, obviously, and this is your second one. How do you think invitationals fit into the grand scheme of things in the FGC?
Big Bird: I feel like the beauty of the FGC is that it’s not dominated by invitationals. The beauty of it is that anyone can join in. If you have the resources you can join in any tournament you want.
But invitationals are also important to have, like I would always say that invitationals are always like a celebration of the players, of the talent that you have. And Red Bull Kumite fits that profile perfectly. It doesn’t feel like a tournament, it feels more like a celebration, a showcase, an exhibition. So invitationals are really important, but what’s more important than that is having open tournaments. So I cannot say I prefer this over this, the scene needs both to sustain itself.
Steiner: Would you say that invitationals are the reward for doing well in the open bracket system?
Big Bird: Yeah, I mean getting invited to invitationals highly depends on two things: your result and the way you brand yourself. Because even if you perform, even if you’re the best player in the world, but you don’t brand yourself well, you don’t market yourself well, people don’t really recognize you more. Branding helps a lot with invitationals, but I will say that results also play a bigger part than branding.
Steiner: Obviously we’ve been in this online era, we’ve had EVO online this last year, and EVO was outright cancelled before that, the year before, do you think that that has kind of stalled the momentum of the FGC?
Big Bird: Depends. Some games, like Guilty Gear, for example, were released in the COVID era, right? They were released a few months ago. But it’s been popping because of one thing, which is the netcode. If your game has good netcode, your game will 100% survive the COVID era. But if your game has average or bad netcode, then your game will get hurt a lot because during the COVID era it’s all online, so some games have gotten hurt by covid, some games are doing fine, and some games are doing very, very good, because Guilty Gear, you can play across continents. So that helps a lot as well.
Steiner: So we’re kind of at the end of the Street Fighter V era, we’re kinda like in that lull where we had Ultra going into Street Fighter V, with everyone saying Street Fighter V’s had its time, now looking ahead. What do you want to see in the next Street Fighter game that would really make it both succeed commercially and personal wishes?
Big Bird: The thing that hurt Street Fighter V at the beginning was the lack of content in the game itself, the lack of things to do in the game for a casual. For me, I don’t really care, because I’m a player, so as long as I’m able to play matches with other people, I’m satisfied. But the average player that isn’t really a competitive player, he needs things to do in the game, so they started doing that, adding survival mode, adding arcade mode, these things, a year or two after release.
So if they could release a whole package of the game at the start, that would really help them. And to sustain itself competitively, I would say have an excellent netcode, because an excellent netcode would do wonders for the game. A lot of people realize that a good netcode is really needed, especially for an era like COVID. You don’t get to bet on offline to keep the game alive.
Steiner: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing to your fans back home?
Big Bird: I really appreciate the support I’ve been getting recently. I really appreciate NASR esports and Red Bull for supporting me throughout this pandemic, and I hope I can make them proud and make all the people who support me proud this weekend.
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