Kuwait has a long tradition with fighting games, and like the rest of the world its scene has seen a resurgence since the release of Street Fighter 4. This year three of its top players will be headed to Japan to represent the country at Tougeki (SBO), the world's premier arcade tournament. 7ayat, one of the scene's notable players, gives us a tour of Kuwait's fighting game community.
Since the beginning, Kuwait has been notable for having a strong fighting scene in various games and have produced very strong players in each respective game. These games include Street Fighter 2, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear Accent Core, Third Strike, and now Street Fighter 4 and now Super Street Fighter 4. This year, three of our players will be representing the country in Japan's premier Tougeki arcade tournament. The place for competition is White Tower, Kuwait’s premier and longest running arcade for fighting games. White Tower brings in the top players.
White Tower Arcade
White Tower is considered small in size. In the golden age of fighting games in the 90s and early 2000s, every shop on the floor was a fighting game arcade. Each arcade had various skill ranges from casual to elite and also configurations of sticks, from American sticks and buttons to Japanese sticks and buttons depending on the store. One store would have Third Strike on American setup with another having Japanese.
However, thanks to the decline of arcade games in the mid-2000s, all the shops have closed due to reduced profits. Only White Tower remains with a staff who is truly passionate about fighting games, since they play themselves. All of the setups in White Tower are Japanese sticks and buttons.
The arcade is open daily from 4PM to closing time around 11:20PM, and that is where the best players gather to play and improve. The highest number, around 20, gather on the weekends. The most played game now is Super Street Fighter 4. There are 2 Playstation 3s set up on 4 minimum input lag LCDs. This way each player has a screen to himself and is separated by one person to his opponent for the true arcade feel.
We have gatherings at one player’s house, where you can play casually or hardcore depending on the atmosphere, all to enjoy the game and to level up. The best method for the hardcore, however, is to play at the arcade. These gatherings can go from 3 to 15 people and are usually done weekly at various houses and with different people.
We have bi-weekly tournaments at White Tower for Super Street Fighter 4 and have just finished the Tougeki (SBO) tournaments for Street Fighter 4. Currently we are doing a ranking battle-type tournament called the Top 10, so we can determine the 10 best players. While the bi-weekly tournaments have a turn-out of 20-30, this event had a turnout of more than 70 so its pretty successful.
The Community in Kuwait
In Kuwait there is an online community of people who exclusively play online, while anyone who wants to be considered a high-level player would play at White Tower. If you enter that community it’s the largest and most skilled. There are various pockets of people who don’t come to White Tower and prefer playing exclusively at gatherings or online. That is their choice, but I can vouch for our community being the strongest. People gladly help you get better even if you are completely new, which was my case and plenty of others.
Are fighting games in general popular in Kuwait?
We had a golden age of fighting games in the 90s when nearly everyone used to play and compete at the arcades, but due to the advent of home consoles and the arcade shops closing down, we don’t have the numbers we did before. But thanks to the release of Street Fighter 4 fighting games have seen a healthy revival (I believe everyone in the world owes thanks to SF4 for this). We are smaller in number compared to the 90s, but each player has far higher skill. We’ve shifted into quality from quantity, and fighting games will be popular as long as we have the dedicated staff and players who are passionate about it, which means White Tower stays open!
Profiles of Players Representing Kuwait at Tougeki
Kuwait Tougeki Team Photo: From left to right, Ali (Sai), Ma'an, and Ganoon.
Ma’an: He is someone who made international waves in fighting games before, notably in King of Fighters 2000 with his European achievements. He is excellent at reading opponents, has flexible adaptability and strong execution. After retiring for some time, Ma’an came out of retirement for Street Fighter 4, displaying the same traits he has before with his ferocious Chun-Li, which has led to multiple first place wins in tournaments. Ma’an now looks forward to kicking it up in Japan, spurred on by the strongest competition, and making waves in Tougeki.
Ganoon: Known for picking mid to low tiers and excelling with them, Ganoon is someone who loves to out-think his opponent, regardless of character the opponent chooses. He enjoys putting on a show for an audience even if it costs him a win, but in tournaments he brings his top game. In Street Fighter 4 he picked Honda due to him fitting his requirement for being a mid-tier and a character with whom he can bring out his potential. In Super Street Fighter 4 he stuck with Honda but plays Sakura on the side to entertain the audience. As the only Honda in Street Fighter 4 Tougeki so far, Ganoon wants to show the world what he is made of; dazzling the audience along the way.
Ganoon's Sakura puts on a good show, while his Honda closes the deal.
Ali (Sai): With a long history in different fighting games, Ali has a keen fighting game sense, which presents itself in any fighting game he plays. He plays well with a variety of characters in Street Fighter 4, as well as having a frightening Rufus as his main. His mix-up is lethal, as well as when he is rushing you down. He excels at fighting people who have a very strong mind-game, which means he can bend their thinking to his. Ali has been to Japan a couple of times before to level up his game and to compete. To quench his thirst for stronger opponents, he wants to do the same this time in Tougeki.
Other Notable Players:
Behbehani: Coming from a long period with Ken in Third Strike, Behbehani practiced relentlessly on SF4 when it was released, choosing to main Ryu after his favorite player, Daigo Umehara. Widely regarded for his outstanding linking and execution, Behbehani makes his opponent fear him in battle, with his superior zoning, and the never failing anti-air Shoryuken. A true textbook Ryu, leading him to various first-place wins in SF4, as well as coming out on top in a ranking battle for SF4.
7ayat: Noted for his excellent execution and pressure games, 7ayat can plant fear in his opponent's mind and crumple his opponent’s thinking with his fearsome Sagat. Managing to capitalize on every small chance and mistake his opponents make to his advantage, his execution never failed him to turn the tide of the battle to his favor, which has secured him the #1 spot in various tournaments in the country. 7ayat also has extensive knowledge of frame data and comes from a Guilty Gear background.
7ayat getting an OCV in Street Fighter 4
Feras: As old school as they come, Feras was utterly dominating in SF2 Super Turbo, and wowed the Americans when he played against them, as mentioned by Capcom's Seth Killian. He still plays to this day, and commands a Dhalsim in SF4 noted for excellent footsies and zoning, which has earned him the gold in various SF4/SSF4 tournaments.
Ali: Long time dabbing in fighting games along with his brother Adel who has a sick Guile in SF4/SSF4, after playing in Kuwait Ali has gone back to where he studies in Australia demonstrating a powerful Abel which has led him to tournament wins and even fighting against The Beast, Daigo Umehara.
Thanks so much to 7ayat for contributing this article and to all of the players of White Tower in Kuwait!
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