We live in a time where lots of gamers aspire to play professionally. Just like baseball, basketball, or football players, gamers hope to one day sit on professional gaming’s biggest stages and win world championships. Street Fighter V offers players a fresh start in the series, making it an easier starting point for inexperienced players. Many of these players dream about competing on the Capcom Pro Tour for a shot at its finale, the Capcom Cup, in December. But not everyone has a natural affinity for fighting. So what do players who want to improve do? Get help from the pros.

Two of fighting games’ biggest personalities, Justin Wong and Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez have created a Street Fighter V “boot camp.” They’ve taken their show on the road in partnership with Wizard World Gaming. Gootecks has been training Street Fighter players in some form since at least 2010. He chose some Street Fighter experts to help him get his Cross Counter Training business off the ground. One of those experts is one of the most decorated American fighting game players of all time, Justin Wong. He’s been a finalist in multiple games over the years at Evo and an Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Evo champion.

street fighterGootecks jumped onto getting players prepared for Street Fighter V early. He’s written two books about preparing for Street Fighter V. The most recent is called Fighting Game Fundamentals. In these books, he describes everything from getting the right hardware to practicing drills and learning the fundamentals of gameplay before moving on to advanced tactics like combos. He didn’t train for Street Fighter IV like he is for Street Fighter V, and he chalked that up to his lack of success in the former game. This time around, he doesn’t want to make the same mistake, and he wants to bring the community up to speed with him.

Street Fighter V presents an opportunity for trainers to reach new competitors. But it isn’t just about bringing up a new crop of players from a younger generation. Plenty of older or lapsed players who have experience with previous Street Fighter games want help too.

Take myself for instance. I’ve been playing the series since Street Fighter II launched in 1991. I was terrible at Street Fighter IV because I couldn’t play beyond a beginner’s competency due to its baked-in mechanics. This is something Capcom mostly threw out with Street Fighter V.

In January, I attended the Wizard World Gaming event, an offshoot of the Wizard World comic book convention in Portland, Oregon. Gootecks and Wong were holding the first Street Fighter V boot camp, and numerous trainees with a variety of fighting game backgrounds showed up. They all got to work with Gootecks or Wong one-on-one, as well as other trainees. Their first test after the boot camp would be a Street Fighter V tournament at Wizard World Gaming that weekend.

Gootecks during a competition.

I observed Gootecks analyzing players’ matches and offering critique and questioning their thought processes during the matches. The goal is to get players to understand what they’re doing, whether it’s a good or bad choice, and why they made the choice in the first place. If it doesn’t work out, knowing why it failed helps the learning process in Street Fighter V.

Then I got thrown into the boot camp myself, something I wasn’t expecting.

I played a few people and overheard Gootecks explaining to one particular player about how his undisciplined approach played right into my strategy, which was to slow the game down to my pace by sitting back with Ryu and reacting to my opponent’s movement and attacks. I’m not what I would consider an advanced player by any stretch so it’s enlightening to hear the instruction being given throughout the boot camp process.

“Gootecks complimented me on my ability to survive but he only saw that when I was about to die on a game losing point,” said Charaian, a player who has bounced around between playing Nash, Ken, and Ryu.

Gootecks wanted to see Charaian play more consistently rather than get better as he is about to lose. Some players excel with their backs against the wall, but playing from behind isn’t the best place to start as a novice. Charaian said he’s also trying to shore up his mental game by being calmer during play, which he hopes carries over into tournament play.

“After I came home from day one, I went into training mode and practiced fundamentals, which Gootecks stresses. It still didn’t shake off the pre-game jitters,” he said. He went 3-2 overall during the double elimination tournament, winning his first three games and losing his next two.

Before the boot camp, Chun-Li player Madguymao, was “pretty lost” in Street Fighter V. “With the advice Justin and Gootecks gave me, I learned how to be more patient… I push buttons with a lot more purpose and thought after getting their advice,” he said.

Madguymao also entered the Street Fighter V tournament the following day. He started playing fighting games with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and transitioned into Street Fighter IV. The gameplay and strategy between those two games are like night and day. But playing both of them developed habits that don’t carry over well to Street Fighter V.

“I learned to chill out a little bit and watch what the other player is doing. I want to pressure people and put them in the corner but when that didn’t work, I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Madguymao won his first match before losing his next two matches and being eliminated. Since then, he’s competed in local events. While he said he hasn’t been doing as well in competition, he still feels he’s improving based on what he learned from Gootecks and Wong at the boot camp.

Justin Wong on stage

“Part of Street Fighter is the muscle memory aspect. You don’t think to take the time to practice a situation over and over. Justin has a wealth of fighting game knowledge and we provided a lot of value to people who showed up.”

Most of the people getting help aren’t expecting to be one of the 32 qualifiers for Capcom Cup after their boot camp training. Some players have experience with fighting games, but find themselves behind the curve in Street Fighter V. Other players need more elementary help like hand positioning and how to do motions on a controller. But whatever the skill level, people are definitely interested in competitive Street Fighter V. This year, the first Premier Event on the Capcom Pro Tour capped the entrants to its Street Fighter V tournament at 1,024. That’s one of the biggest turnouts, if not the biggest, for one fighting game outside of Evo.

While Gootecks and Justin Wong are offering a free boot camp at the Wizard World Gaming events, they offer private training sessions as well. Why would you pay for training when you could use free resources online? Because watching videos or reading blog posts on the ins and outs of Street Fighter V isn’t the same as having someone work with you in person. “You can try to figure everything out on your own. What’s your time worth? What is it worth to not have to struggle by yourself?” Gootecks asked.

Just as online was a boon for fighting game competition when arcades died out, the real competitive experience is sitting next to or across from someone and playing in person. No matter how technology has evolved throughout the years, we still come together as a unit to level each other up. Events like Wizard World Gaming offer an unprecedented opportunity for outreach to new and improving players. You never know. There could be a future Evo or Capcom Cup champion coming out of one of these boot camps.

Nicole Tanner

Nicole Tanner

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.