This article is part of our Street Fighter series.
With the release of Street Fighter V in 2016, many players were thriving with the new characters gameplay mechanics in play. It wasn’t all fun and games for everyone, however. While some were picking up tournament wins with ease, Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis was struggling to reach his goals. The struggle came to a head when he missed out on the Capcom Cup. Some may have let the frustration of missing out on the biggest event of the year consume them, but for Snake Eyez that frustration became determination to come back stronger than ever.
A competitive beginning
Like many esports professionals, Snake Eyez picked up gaming at a young age, vividly remembering his brother rolling through him with Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl for the NES. As he got older, however, sports became a bit more of a focus. It wasn’t long, however, before Snake Eyez realized that a career in professional sports was out of the realm of possibility. Snake Eyez contributed much of his early success in esports as a direct result from the passion and competitiveness he gained from the traditional side sports.
While Street Fighter was the eventual landing spot during his career in esports, his time with competitive gaming started with a completely different title.
“When Halo 2 came out, I started playing that a lot. I [even] met players online and we would play team matches and started kind of a pro team that went out to play local tournaments,” Snake Eyez recalls.
There was something about the team-based nature that just didn’t appeal to him, however. Snake Eyez’ mantra with solo video games was “if you do well, you profit.”, a line that eventually fueled his love for Street Fighter. With a solo game, he could control his own destiny and wouldn’t have to worry about having a weak link on his team; or worse, being the weak link himself. Enter Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.
The era of Street Fighter
When Snake Eyez picked up HD Remix, not very many people played it. Knowing that he needed to get better at his Street Fighter mechanics before diving into the highly anticipated Street Fighter IV, he stuck with HD Remix to perfect his craft. He picked up a huge win at Evolution 2010 and then transitioned into SFIV.
As he progressed through that title, he found himself achieving favorable results, but never quite reaching the peak that he certainly would have liked to. Sure, he may have finished 5th at the 2015 Capcom Cup as the only American in the top 10. That wasn’t enough, however. Snake Eyez thought that he may finally get over that hump and climb further towards the goal of winning the Capcom Cup with the release of Street Fighter V in 2016, but it wasn’t that easy.
Looking back at that year, Snake Eyez summed up his journey in five words. “My character was just bad.” Sticking with just Zangief and not putting another character in his arsenal essentially pigeonholed him into a lackluster year that culminated with him missing out on the Capcom Cup. While he admits being frustrated with himself, he knew that innovation and broadening of his repertoire was needed if he wanted to succeed.
Snake Eyez sheds his skin
After seven years at any career, stagnation is just about as certain as can be. By that point many become set in their ways and just stick to what they know without really accepting the need or want to grow.
Not Snake Eyez.
After his disappointing 2016 season, he began a grind that took on a different form than what we see from the other top players in the game. It started with adding Akuma into his playbook since only playing Zangief made it so that “other players didn’t have to guess at what [he] was playing” in a given match. Given Akuma is widely considered one of the best characters in the game currently, it was a stroke of genius, given Snake Eyez only picked him because he thought he was cool and fun to play.
With the addition of Akuma,as well as buffs to Zangief, Snake Eyez is currently in the process of putting together one of his most successful seasons ever. From second place finishes at Texas Showdown and Combo Breaker in May to his CEO title over Victor “Punk” Woodley, who is currently sitting at the top of the Capcom Pro Tour standings, it is clear that he’s finally found himself higher on that mountain that he’s ever been before. With these big wins in hand, Snake Eyez is now sitting 20th in the world, which puts him well inside the top 30 that will receive spots at the Capcom Cup in December. It wasn’t just the new character that allowed Snake Eyez to enjoy the success he has, however.
While he admits that the bigger tournaments are the most important, Snake Eyez says that he’ll attend all the tournaments if he needs to. That’s what makes him such a different player compared to some of the other top names in the game. A lot of players will just pick out which of the bigger tournaments they want to attend, but Snake Eyez simply wants to keep up the grind.
“These smaller tournaments are more of a training ground for me. Those tournaments have a lot of the local players that you’ve never played before. So you don’t know what character they will play or if they know the matchup against your character,” says Snake Eyez of the amateur scene.
It’s that element of surprise, however, that Snake Eyez thrives on. “Whereas in [SFIV], you could just play your game and win nine times out of 10, that’s not necessarily the case this time around,” says Snake Eyez. Getting a leg up on the mindgame allows Snake Eyez to perfect his game and give him the best shot once those big tournaments do roll around.
Speaking of those bigger tournaments, all of this preparation was put to the test at Red Bull Battle Grounds, which acted as the North American Regional Finals. While this tournament was certainly going to be a huge showdown featuring some of the biggest names in the scene, Snake Eyez admitted to not really feeling any pressure going into the event since he’s already got a spot in the Cup. Whereas there are some players at the event that can’t even sleep from the stress of not making the Cup. For Snake Eyez, though? “It’s just pure excitement.”
While he didn’t end up advancing past the top 64 at the event, Snake Eyez will still be attending the Capcom Cup in a few weeks time. The first step on the road back from last year’s disappointment is complete. It’s now time for him to make the most of his spot and seize that title.