Tekken 7 superstar Anakin reflects on the so called COVID-19 pandemic time skip and his career as offline events begin to return.
Tekken 7 has long been one of the most exciting games in the fighting game community. It also has one of the longest legacies in the FGC - this version of Tekken has been played competitively for nearly seven years at this point. Many names have emerged as top players over the years, like Knee or even newcomers like Gen - but a crowd favorite in North America has always been Hoa "Anakin" Luu.
Anakin's career has been a storied one. He had a breakout tournament all the way back in 2010 at MLG Dallas in Tekken 6, and his career has been on an upward trajectory since. He's still out here taking names, and as the FGC really gets back into the swing of things with offline events like Red Bull Kumite, Red Bull Golden Letters and Evo finally returning, we had the chance to catch up with the Jack-6 main to reflect on his time in the FGC.
Dustin Steiner, esports.gg: What was it like having things delayed by the pandemic, in terms of being able to play offline?
Hoa "Anakin" Luu, Red Bull/UYU: I think it hit everyone really hard, just kind of came out of nowhere just not being able to travel a lot. Personally for me 2019 was the best year that I had in Tekken. I was really looking forward to fixing the last few mistakes that I needed to. I was really close to that World Championship title, and it's the one thing I'm striving for these days. I was really motivated and excited for the upcoming  season. Didn't really waste too much time, though. I got back to work even though I wasn't really physically at tournaments, we made sure to try to adapt.
At Red Bull, we did a lot of things. The online training series, invitationals, a lot of stuff shifted to online, which was the focus. I'm personally very excited to be back at live events now. I love going to sports events and the atmosphere, that was the thing I missed the most. Red Bull Kumite brought things back with a bang, and hopefully, that momentum keeps up this year.
Steiner: For the FGC especially, the pandemic felt like a time skip in an anime - you haven't seen some of your rivals for close to two years. What was the biggest change to you?
Anakin: I think the most interesting storyline, and it's all about the storylines at this point in Tekken 7. Each year was a new theme, legends coming back, low tiers coming back, an unknown region coming out of nowhere being the world's dominant force.
Now the storyline is a lot of new faces that have shown through these online events, with the spotlight now being put on them. With those guys they have a lot of people saying that their success was because it was online, a lot of detractors. Those guys are hungry to prove themselves in an offline setting and now that creates that clash between the offline staples, the vets, and these new guys who have been taking it to them online.
There's always that last line of defense, the 'I would've beaten you offline.' We're finally ready to find out. There were a lot of people who emerged through the Tekken Online Challenge. It was a big boost to that scene, a lot of people don't get the chance to travel, so it was a great opportunity to get their name out there. We'll see who develops the most beyond that level.
Steiner: Any standouts that you want to mention?
Anakin: There are a lot! One guy who has emerged is a kid from Texas by the name of Joe Crush. He was doing really well online, but with these recent offline tournamnets happening over the last months, he's been at every single stop. He's been getting those reps in, getting that training in, getting that offline experience. Phi, from Oregon, is another guy who's been putting in airline miles. I like to follow my scene, but those are guys that seem to be trying to take the next step the most.
I could sit here all day and name players all day long, but time will tell who rises.
Steiner: Reflecting back on your career, you had a breakout win all the way back in 2012 at MLG Dallas. Now you're here 10 years later. What's been the biggest moment of your career?
Anakin: Definitely, the turning point of my career was getting sponsored as a Red Bull player. Til then my life had always been about trying to balance my passion and my hobby of Tekken with responsibilities of an ordinary adult. Needing to work, needing to worry about the future, but when Red Bull came into the picture four years ago, that really took me from amateur player paying my own way to tournaments to being a full-time professional. That in itself has been a great journey, I would say that's the defining moment. I've been playing Tekken since I was a kid, 20 years almost. But I think the popularity boom from Tekken 7, only created opportunities like that. I consider myself extremely lucky, and I'm optimistic about the future.
Steiner: As someone who's been playing Tekken for 20 years, been with Red Bull for four years now - what do you want your legacy to be?
Anakin: I think everyone just wants to leave their sport and discipline better than it was when they started. 20 years ago I was just a kid in the arcades playing for the love of it. Our competitiveness has grown things to here.
So if I can have some kind of impact or footprint on the growth of the Tekken scene. All the things that I do these days is think about the future in that regard - how can I improve the scene on a local level, national level, global level. I try to think of everyone - not a lot of people get to be in this position, so I just want to make the most of it. Not just for myself but for everyone that loves the game like me.
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