Michaelangelo: Helping Give Rebirth to the FGC’s Relationship with MLG

Michaelangelo made an impression on me when I went to interview him, as did Perfect Legend. The man is easy-going but hard working. Very hard working. (You’ll see what I mean later.) When we had repeated technical difficulties, he kept working at it and kept insisting until we finally got everything fixed.

The FGC has been welcoming, accommodating, friendly, and professional so far. All those terrible things I’ve heard about drama or hating anyone who even has the letter “M,” “L,” or “G” in their name have just not proven true so far. I’m sure some of it is still out there, but I have yet to find it. And I think MLG and the FGC are about to discover they care a whole awful lot about each other.

Gilean: We’ll start with the basics: What is your name, your handle, and what character do you play in Mortal Kombat?

Michaelangelo: My name is Michael Lerma. I go by Michaelangelo in tournaments. I play Kabal and a bit of Kenshi right now.

Gilean: Which leads to my next question. “Kaballin!” Really? Will you be sporting that shirt at your next MLG Event?

MIchaelangelo: Haha! I wear that sexy shirt to every tournament I go to, and plan on going to MLG events but, unfortunately, not in time for Columbus.

Gilean: It sounds as though MLG is pretty passionate about the FGC, so I would be too worried about missing your chance. Fighting games are here to stay on the Pro Circuit.

Recently, you raised approximately $10,000 and sponsored yourself to attend essentially every event there was throughout the year. (Told you he was hard working.) What possessed you to do this, and how did you raise that money? Did you make it to all the events you wanted to?

Michaelangelo: It’s all about the passion and dedication I have for fighting games. Especially Mortal Kombat! I raised the money by just working and saving. Little did I know it was for Mortal Kombat tournaments. I’m really glad I saved and had one of the greatest times of my life last year!

I did make it to every event I wanted to.

Gilean: Your competitive “season” ended with EVO 2011, if I’m not mistaken. But it didn’t end quite as well as you had hoped. How did you place?

Michaelangelo: I placed 9th at Evo. It was tough not placing where I wanted to at EVO, but I did have a great run, and I’m happy with how well I did last year.

Gilean: There was talk you might take it easy after EVO and drift toward more casual gaming. Will we really find you waving a Wii-mote around in your downtime?

Michaelangelo: Haha! “F” that! After last year, I only really play games I want to take seriously. Other than that, I’m usually doing other things besides gaming. I thought I was going to take it easy, but I have received so many requests from my amazing fans that this year I’m going to try to make it to as many events as I can. This year I’m doing it for them.

Gilean: Was part of your decision to stay competing related to your performance at EVO and a desire to go out on top? Or are there other stronger influences?

Michaelangelo: I have always been a very competitive person, and my passion for games sometimes scares me. The fans just made me take it to a whole other level. I enjoy making people happy and some of the looks I would get at tournaments said it all.

Gilean: Speaking of love for games, there’s one other game that has interested you in the past that a large portion of the MLG Community is certainly…”passionate” about, to put it lightly. You’ve competed in Halo in the past, though perhaps not at MLG. How did that go for you?

Michaelangelo: Before I played fighting games [almost exclusively], I would play any game I felt was competitive and did very well in local tournaments. I would go to houses and bet money against people who heard about me and thought they were better.

After doing so well last year I decided to go big. The rest is history. *Smiles*

Gilean: Mirror matches are something that the League of Legends and FPS communities don’t know much about, although I’m sure our SC2 friends could comment on the subject for days. How difficult is a mirror match for you? What added challenges does it throw into a fight?

Michaelangelo: Well mirror matches for me are a bit scary because Kabal is so damn overwhelming sometimes that the matches almost feel like a blur.

Gilean: Are there any match-ups that Kabal or you seem to struggle with?

Michaelangelo: Kung lao, Kung lao, Kung Lao! For some damn reason, it is engraved in my brain that he is scary to play. Any other character I don’t really mind playing.

Gilean: Finally, Mortal Kombat seems to be your main gig. Do you plan on branching ou in the future? Do you spend any time with other fighting games?

Michaelangelo: I do play a bunch of other fighters (although I hate 3D ones), but I never loved on as much as I love Mortal Kombat. The day you find me playing a game other than MK9 at a tournament is the day MK10 comes out!

Shout-outs to everyone who believes in me and supported my crazy ass.

Gilean: A huge thank-you to Michaelangelo for taking the time to talk (and fighting through the technical difficulties). Follow him on Twitter @MKMichaelangelo and check out his website MichaelangeloPlayer.com.

(Some) Placings: 

MK Truck Tour: Two 1st Place Finishes

Hadocon: 1st Place

PDP: 7th Place

UFGT: 4th Place

Revelations: 1st Place

Norcal Regionals: 1st Place

East Coast Throwdown: 1st Place.


Perfect Legend: Interview with a Shaolin Monk

Major League Gaming has decided enough is enough and has gone full-steam ahead in their efforts to entice the Fighting Game Community into their fold. And I love it. But there’s just one problem: I don’t know who the hell these people are! (And, maybe, neither do you.)

In an effort to remedy my problem, I sought high and low for a wise teacher. At the end of my journey awaited a wise man in a razor-rimmed hat. And behind that hat stood a Legend.

Getting to Know You

Gilean: Allow me to introduce to everyone Carl White, more commonly known as Perfect Legend. Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get your start as a competitive gamer, and how long have you been making kids break their sticks in anger?

Perfect Legend: I’ve played video games for most of my life, but I started to play competitively [in 2005] when I was 17. I competed in my community by hosting my own tournaments. I felt that [it] would be a better strategy to bring the competition to me, rather than spending a lot of money to go to other competitions.

When I grew past the competition in my local community and made enough money from it, I decided to go on the road to seek stronger competition. My first out of town tournament was T.I.T in Texas but my most significant tournament was East Coast Championship 2006 in New Jersey. That was when I met a friend of mine, Jeron Grayson, who introduced me to the gaming brand that he was in called Empire Arcadia. They dominated the Fighting Game Community competitively and I wanted to add my expertise and prove that I could play alongside the Nation’s best. It didn’t take for me long to prove that either. After joining, I won East Coast Championship 2006, EVO East, and, eventually, EVO World Fighting Game Championship 2K6.

Gilean: You have been crowned World Champion in both Mortal Kombat and in Dead or Alive, and just recently won Evo 2011 for MK. What draws you to these two games over other fighting games? Do you compete more predominantly in one over the other?

PL: I play a variety of video games. Competitively, I love fighting games, and, within the fighting game genre, I like to play games that are different from the norm. 3D games like Dead or Alive are my passion. There is so much depth to those types of games because the game is in 3D. Games like Soul CaliburTekken and Virtua Fighterall grab my interest as well. Unlike 2D games, there are more options for various situations, and you’re not limited to a couple [options]. For me, I love the freedom of having options to choose from.

Before 3D games came into play, I loved Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct. In any arcade that had the game, you could find me playing them. When they made the new version of MK for modern systems, it was MK Tom Brady [The competitive gamer whose real name is Bill Menoutis] that brought me into the game. He felt that I had the skill set to be good at the game and wanted me to help bring flare and support to the MK community. I always wanted to support the competitive scene for Mortal Kombat, but I never found an entry point, so this was a great opportunity for me to contribute to the community.

Right now, I’m playing Mortal Kombat until my true love, Dead or Alive 5, comes out. I play other fighting games, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to play at such a high level in all of them. I’m one of the prominent players for Empire Arcadia, so, like the other members of both present and past, I have to be able to compete in multiple games to keep the brand relevant in competition.  The discipline required to maintain high level gameplay in multiple fighting games is very tedious; it builds mental fatigue rather quickly. This is why after winning the Evolution World Fighting Game Championships I took a much needed break away from the game to focus on other fighters. I didn’t want my skills in the other fighting games to be neglected. Every now and then I brush up on the game to make sure that I’m at the very least relevant if I have to play.

Gilean: What character(s) do you main in Mortal Kombat and why?

PL: For me, it’s about the storyline. Kung Lao was the first Mortal Kombat champion, and I [have] loved playing with him since Part 2 and, especially, Shaolin Monks. I just like the character’s SWAG! I [do] play other characters just to understand what properties they have, so I know what I’m up against when facing them.

Gilean: What MLG Events have you attended in the past?

PL: My first MLG was Columbus, Ohio, in 2010 for Tekken. My second Event was last year when [MLG] returned to Columbus and held the Mortal Kombat Exhibition, which I won.

Getting to Know Your Game

Gilean: FPS Competitors always stress how important it is to get LAN practice in if one wants to actually get worthwhile practice. In fighting games, it would seem that LAN would be even more important, seeing as how precise and perfectly timed every action must be. What does a regular practice schedule look like for you? Do you practice against bots, over XBL/PSN, or are there moderately skilled players nearby?

PL: Most of my Mortal Kombat practice is in done in the practice mode against max difficulty. When I do get the chance to practice against a physical opponent, it’s usually with either MK Tom Brady, THTB, Forever King, or Altarie, who’s from Canada.

Gilean: How well balanced are the various characters in MK? Are there any OP characters we should keep an eye out for during the Event?

PL: Well, Nether Realm is on top of the game when it comes to patches. So, the minute something broken is unveiled, best believe that it gets patched quickly. Right now, there are a few characters who are very strong, though; to name a few, there is Sonya, Jax, Kitana, and Cyrax. Those guys rose up in the ranks because they [nerfed] other characters in the past which indirectly made them stronger.

Gilean: Mortal Kombat has gone through numerous changes over the years. How does the current title stack up against its predecessors? Has the game ever become so bad it lost its competitive appeal for you?

PL: I cannot speak for the other 3D renditions of the game, but as far as MK 23, and 9, it is really competitive. Personally speaking, I think the game has gotten better through this version. It has really put MK back on the map in terms of branding with fighting games. When you look at the community, this is the most competitive Mortal Kombat to date.

Gilean: Is MK a game that rewards an aggressive play style or a reactionary one?

PL: Mortal Kombat rewards both styles of play.  You have to know when to react and when to be aggressive.

Getting to Know Your Community

Gilean: MLG has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the FGC in the past. What has been your opinion of MLG over the years, and do you think things are about to get better with MLG’s new passion for fighting games?

PL: I find it funny that people think MLG has [only just recently] picked up fighting games. When I first came into the Fighting Game Community, I had already heard of MLG being involved. In fact, in 2005, they were partners of EVO if I’m not mistaken. Unfortunately, the fighting game community was turned off by MLG for some reason. At the time, I didn’t know what that reason was. All I knew was that what MLG wanted to do to help fighting games expand ,and I agreed with what they had in mind. The FGC has been trashing MLG ever since and still do now.

I read an article in 2005 about Empire Arcadia supporting MLG’s initiative, and that was my calling to join the organization. But I had to find out how, and that is actually what compelled me to compete and become a professional gamer. At the time, though, MLG stopped pushing the game that I wanted to play professionally because of its falling out with the FGC, which is why I reluctantly ended up going to CGI/CGS and WCG (Championship Gaming Invitational – Championship Gaming Series and World Cyber Games)

Gilean: In a recent interview, it was stressed that grass roots events are vital for the health to the health of the FGC, and that if MLG wants to enter back into the FGC’s good standings they will need to respect these events. Just how important are these smaller events across the country?

PL: Well, I don’t know about the events being smaller. Perhaps in stature when comparing the community to the industry or professional gaming, but in terms of numbers, well, the FGC has truly grown significantly. It would only serve to do good for both the community and the league if they respected each other. This is about the gamers and showing their love for gaming and competition. At the same time, however, we can’t neglect the opportunity to grow.

We in the Empire have a distinct point of view about competitive gaming. The FGC follows more along the lines of the WWE; as TriForce would [call it] “Digital Competitive Entertainment”. Whereas, MLG follows more along the lines of MLB. Sundance would [call it] “Major League Gaming”. Sundance and TriForce are visionaries who understand the future of competitive gaming for the United States and that’s why I continue to support their efforts.

Unlike a lot of gamers, I don’t want to be stuck playing games for a living all or even most of my life. A professional gamer to me is someone who makes or has made a living off of gaming. It doesn’t have to be just competitive gaming. The title is called “professional gamer,” so it involves a gamer doing something professionally in gaming. Sundance, Seth Killian, TriForce, and others are all professional gamers to me because of what they contribute, not only to competitive gaming but to gaming as a whole. When I’m satisfied in winning enough World Championships, I would like to take up a position similar to what they are doing and continue my professional gaming career. Look at Walshy. He retired from MLG, and now he is a professional commentator for the league. Gamers need to start thinking about their future and not just about pressing buttons on a joystick or pad.

Gilean: From the insight you’ve shown so far, you’d likely fit right in helping gaming and eSports through their next evolution. But let’s focus on MLG for just a bit longer. If the league really wants to nail this Event and impress the FGC, in what key areas do they need to shine?

PL: In my honest opinion, I think MLG is already doing a good job. They got $50,000 to put into their first three games of their first winter event. No matter how much dislike gamers from the FGC claim to have against MLG, they’re coming to play and win some of that [prize pool]. I have a team mate who plays Soul Calibur 5 named Phillip Atkinson (KDZ), and he is stoked that MLG picked up the game. He already told me that the Soul Calibur Community is going to flood MLG. The same with Mortal Kombat, and best believe the same will be for King of Fighters. It wouldn’t surprise me if you see a lot of Capcom players visiting MLG to get some of that money from the King of Fighters XIII, which has a very similar Street Fighter engine which the players are familiar in playing with.

Another key area of importance is who they get to promote and endorse the games in their league. Like any professional sport, player endorsement is vital to a brand’s success. As the Mortal Kombat Evolution World Fighting Game Champion, I’m in a very important position where I can help expand the Mortal Kombat competitive scene. This is where I can put my title to use. In the Empire, you’re taught that, “It’s not what you win [that’s important], but what you do with what you’ve won.” For me, endorsing MLG helps expand the Mortal Kombat scene. That is more important than winning the championship itself. I hope other respected gamers follow suit and help MLG take fighting games to the next level.

Gilean: Is the FGC a close-knit one, or is there a lot of strife between players? How interrelated are the different games’ communities?

PL: The fighting game community is far from being close-knit. If not for SRK/Evo, the Capcom community would not get along with the Namco, Nintendo, Tecmo, Sega, SNK, and Nether Realms. Cacpom games foster elitist gamers who look down on the other competitive fighting games like TekkenSuper Smash Bros.Dead or AliveVirtua Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. No one can tell me this is false because I’ve been in the scene and competed at their tournaments locally, regionally, and [at the] majors and hear them talk to me about gaming discrimination. “Oh, you play DOA? Man, you should play a real fighting game.” I’m like, what?

This starts a lot of rivalries that cross over into games. I find it funny how they make cross over games so that we can fight it out virtually. Whoever came up with that idea is godlike, because it supports both the community and the industry. Games like Super Smash Bros. with Mario vs. Sonic, Capcom vs. SNK with Ryu vs. Terry, Street Fighter X Tekken with Akuma vs. Orge, Marvel vs. Capcom (and the list goes on), are an excellent way to unite the community.

Gilean: Is there a large international community for MK? 

PL: I know that they play Mortal Kombat in other countries, and there is a very strong presence for the game. But for the game having another scene outside of America, I’m not too sure if that does exist. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt it’s because people may not like the game, but has more to do with the extreme level of violence and gore. It’s like the Gears of War for Fighting Games. It is accepted here in America, but in other countries it may be too violent to be accepted.

Gilean: I’d like to thank Perfect Legend for taking the time to talk with me. I strongly encourage everyone in the MLG community to give him a follow on twitter: @PerfectLegend. If you’re going to be in Columbus, show the man some love! And if you’ll be at home, too poor and too far to attend the event (read: myself), then be sure to tune in and watch him show off his “SWAG” live.

(Follow, as it turns out, helps encourage me to keep doing these things: @Gileann)

Here’s just a little preview.

PowerUp MK 9 Grand Finals: EMP PerfectLegend vs. EMP Tom Brady

Evo 2011 Grand Finals: EMP PerfectLegend vs. vVv REO