Cameron Lai

America’s greatest eSports champion is also its greatest villain

America’s greatest eSports champion is also its greatest villain

He's known as Chris G, but some people call him Chris Genius. Most gamers outside of the fighting game community likely don't know Chris Gonzalez, but they should because he's hands down America's greatest eSports competitor.

He's a threat to win tournaments in any 2D fighting game that is still in active competition, and he's unstoppable in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, the current headline game at most tournaments. In the past year he has won UMvC3 at practically every major tournament, and when he lost it was a topic of discussion and debate for weeks.

“Right now, compared to every other competitive gaming scene out there…not even close,” said Rod 'Slasher' Breslau, veteran eSports journalist at GameSpot. “Chris G is far and away the best American [video game] player, and he's won more titles by himself probably than everybody else [in America] combined in every eSport for the past year.”

He's the best of the best. So why do so many people hate him?

Iceman

He seemed phased by his loss at the NorCal Regionals, but it clearly lit a fire under him because he came back a month later at the fighting game circuit's most recent major event, Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 9, and finished in the top 8 in seven different games, and won the championship in Injustice, Street Fighter X Tekken, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Only the likes of legendary fighting game competitors Justin Wong and Alex Valle have ever succeeded at this level across so many different games.

“If you're a student of the game, and you love the game, and you see what Chris G is doing then it's very fascinating and it's beautiful to watch in a lot of ways,” said James Chen, fighting game commentator and host of the popular UltraChenTV stream.

“When you watch it, it's very calculated,” said Chen. “It's a very turtley style, but he's very calculating when it comes to the angles that he throws fireballs, and when he goes in offensively.”

He also said Chris G knows precisely when to switch up his strategy when his style and his characters are countered. If you try to pick a character that will counter his defensive-style then he'll use his defensive characters in an offensive way to change the tempo and throw you off.

“If you really watch carefully the pattern of fireballs that he throws, he's always trying to cut off specific angles,” said Chen. He said it can be so frustrating and difficult to deal with that it makes his opponents sloppy. Chen said they get so impatient that once they get past Chris G's defences, they make mistakes in their excitement and get caught with big counters.

I finally get why Chris G is so good. He's Iceman from Top Gun.

“Mav, you wanted to know who the best is? That's him. Iceman,” Goose said in the film. “That's the way he flies, ice-cold, no mistakes. Just wears you down. You get bored, frustrated, do something stupid, and he's got you.”

But remember, Iceman wasn't exactly the good guy, and Chris G doesn't seem to be either.

The dark side

So why is America's undisputed champion so widely vilified?

“For a while, he was someone that people would root for, but now he's so favored when it comes to [Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3] that people just want to see him lose,” said Chen.

“It's not just him winning,” said GameSpot's Breslau. “It's him dominating completely over everybody. Street Fighter is probably the biggest game internationally, but America loves Marvel. That is America's game. And America gets pissed off when the same guy wins over and over. People had the same feelings toward Daigo. It's the same in sports; people hate the Yankees, people hate the Miami Heat. I think that's why people hate him, because he wins and then he talks trash and then he wins and then he talks more trash.”

“On top of that he plays a [character] roster that is really annoying not just to players but to spectators because of the amount of fireballs and things on the screen it just feels like it can never be beat. Morrigan's fireball spam and zoning is off-putting to a lot of people/spectators,” Breslau continued.

It's not just that he's winning, but it's also the manner in which he wins. Chen referred to his fighting style as “oppressive” and it's a foregone conclusion that he'll not only win almost every tournament, but dominate with a style that isn't fun for viewers to watch.

Chris G is no stranger to controversy, either. In the last few months he's made headlines on fighting game websites again and again for his involvement in multiple mini-scandals.

He's never been formally punished, but he's caught flack from much of the community for colluding with opponents and prize-splitting. At Final Round 16 in April, his teammate and opponent threw a match to allow him to advance in the tournament. Then just a couple weeks later at Texas Showdown he and Justin Wong played a Finals that was called “lazy” and “a joke” with the assumption being that the prize was split.

Rounding out a highly controversial April, he lost in UMvC3 against a relatively unknown player named Senor Taxi at the NorCal Regionals later in the month. After the loss, he took to Twitter to decalre that the reason for his loss was unacceptable lag on the PS3 which, of course, made him a target for hazing from people who thought he was just complaining. It lead to an exchanging of words between Chris G and one of the organizers of the fighting game community's biggest tournament, Evolution, in which he used some hateful language

The Problem

Some people call him Chris Genius, but others have called him “The Problem.” Artist Cameron Lai created the artwork above of Chris G entitled “The Problem,” featuring Chris G with his now-trademark two sets of enormous headphones flanked by his UMvC3 team. Lai told me that the title is a multipronged message about Chris G's role in the FGC.

“I find it quite poetic,” said Lai. “It echoes all that drama shit. It pokes fun at how lots of people like to call Vergil, Dr. Doom, Morrigan, and even Chris G problems with UMvC3. But it also sums up what UMvC3 seems to be about at the top levels. If you take fighting games as problem solving (which I do), Chris G is THE problem that all the top players want to solve.”

After the dust up with EVO organizer, MrWizard, Chris G began musing about whether or not he'd even attend EVO 2013 in July. On an episode of eSports talk show Live On Three he said that because he dislikes MrWizard, and because the prize from winning at EVO is too small to make much of a difference in his life, he's considering passing it up.

Chris G has a lot of hate coming his way lately, but even his detractors must be hoping he goes to EVO. There's no denying that he's the best in the world, and EVO 2013 is the tournament for the best in the world. Even if he's not the most fun player to watch, a tournament of the greats is much less fun to watch when the best of the best is nowhere to be found.

We've been working with Chris G's manager for the past week, but after repeated promises to participate in this story we did not hear back by press time.

Photo of Chris G by Kara Leung of KaraFace event photography. “The Problem” by Cameron Lai.