Behind The Stick: An Interview with JDR

I had the chance to sit down and talk to JDR, a high level player in many games but most recently UNIST. In this interview we discuss: His history with fighting games, his feelings on the KOF and UNIST scenes, and his crowning achievements in fighting games.

Q: First I just want to say thanks for doing an interview with me. I’ve really been enjoying UNIST so it’s great to get the chance to talk to another top player about the game. How are you doing today man?

JDR: I’m doing great. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be interviewed. Just woke up and starting the day already with my messy hair.

Q: I feel you on that one my man. Messy hair, messy life. So for those who are unfamiliar with who you are can you give a bit of history about yourself and your history with fighting games?

JDR: Certainly. My player name is JDR, but my real name is Jordan Del Rosario. I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I currently live in San Francisco with my parents and that city is where I was raised since childhood. I’m currently a student at San Francisco State University studying Cinema. I’ve liked doing video productions since my teacher from high school convinced me to go into the film industry. I also do volunteer work at an organization to help out the community. Currently, I’m volunteer at Wednesday Night Fights as a Tournament Organizer for the Anime Games such as UNIST and BBTAG. Every Friday, I volunteer at a non profit organization called Donaldina Cameron House where I live. A program called Friday Night Club where I lead the youth with different activities such as a physical activity or a workshop to talk about different discussion topics. Both of those organizations I still volunteer as of now. My different hobbies would be exercising and taking initiative in doing a side project from people that I know closely. I started playing fighting games when I was 8 years old and first ever fighting games that I’ve ever played was Super Turbo and Alpha 2 on the Anniversary collection.

While I was in middle school, I went to my first tournament in 2010 at a GameStop store since I was too young to go tournaments outside of San Francisco. My first tournament was Super Street Fighter IV. That’s when I didn’t play stick at the time and use a pad instead. My first tournament was a single elimination and I went 1-1. So no 0-1.

Following the year of 2011, a new arcade shop called Southtown Arcade opened which was located at the Stockton tunnel near my house. I first stepped into the store and man there were a lot of fighting and non fighting games to play. I talked to the manager named Art and he was a really cool guy to talk to. This is where I started my fighting game career. I wasn’t that great at the time, but I had great friends that helped my game play such as Reiki, N4US, Hellpockets, El Gallo Negro, Honnou Rod and others in the Southtown Days

After Southtown Arcade closed, I was 17 and old enough to go outside of San Francisco. I went to a another place called Game Center. It’s mostly a place that focused on Anime fighting and poverty games for casuals. The reason I went there was because a VSav player named Tenkai convinced me to play VSav when they used to run tournaments there. So when I went to Game Center, I met the manager named Myung. He’s a really cool guy to talk to about technology and he’s really good at ST.

In 2015, I was debating if I wanted to retire from fighting games and focus on school, until one of my friends convinced me to play UNIEL because it’s a good game. So I tried it out and give it a shot. After labbing and playing the game, I was so impressed with the game that I stuck with it. That’s the reason I’m still playing fighting games right now. Now only I play UNIST, but I’m also talented in other games that I’m playing right now such as KOF, DBFZ and VSav.

Q: Quite the history. Seems you’ve had a pretty extensive library of games that you’ve played. So you mentioned that you had a friend who convinced you play UNIEL. You said that you were impressed with the game but what was it that actually impressed you and kept you playing?

JDR: I think there were a lot of things that I actually liked about the game. UNI in general has a lot of stuff that the games that I played in the past also had. Assaults are similar to the short jumps in the KOF games, the green shielding is similar to the push blocking in VSav for defense and the damage scaling in BlazBlue. Since I mostly play easy characters such as Ryu and Ken in Street Fighter, Kyo and Iori in King of Fighters, Ragna and Jin in BlazBlue. I mained Hyde because of how easy the character is to use in neutral as well as the combo routes. Since he does big damage in the corner, I stuck with him ever since. I like damage characters for some reason lol. I have some friends that helped me to play UNIEL such as Brett who taught me about the mechanics of the game more and another Hyde player named MikeLoafers, he taught me on how to play Hyde. After playing with him, I was able to adapt my own combos and neutral with Hyde. Since UNIST was released, we’re getting new players as well. So I’m doing my best to help them out and who knows whether they’ll stick with it in a year or two.

Q: So you’ve mentioned quite a few people that helped you learn about the game but is there anyone that you think has pushed you in the game to become better? Maybe someone you see it at tournaments that you play a lot or just someone you run into and play a lot of sets with?

JDR: To be honest, I mostly play with my friends in NorCal whenever I get the chance. But the strong players in NorCal are usual Tari, Brett, Tensei, and Lolimaiko. They helped me get stronger by playing them at Esports Arena or other venues. They gave me some advice on what to do in a situation and I followed it. One such thing included adapting my own skills to make the opponents confused sometimes. I can take some sets off them sometimes, but I try my best to catch up with them while balancing my life, school, work, volunteering, etc.

Q: Seems like quite the crew. So you’ve been playing fighting games for quite awhile at this point. Do you remember the first time that you started competing them? Do you remember how you felt back then? How does it compare to when you compete now.

JDR: I remember I officially competed in 2011 at Southtown Arcade playing Super Street Fighter IV. I didn’t do well, but at least I tried. I realized that Street Fighter isn’t my game, so I tried out KOF XIII and I actually liked the game because of how the combos are longer and the damage system is better compared to the Street Fighter games. I wasn’t great at doing the optimal combos, OSing, teching grabs, and other things in the past when I first started. However as year passed, I’ve became more comfortable. Other than KOF, I started playing more games such as VSav, UNIST and DBFZ right now while I still play KOF.

Q: KOF is a game I feel like that doesn’t get enough love tbh. There is a scene there of people who love it but I feel like it is drown out by other games fanbases that are much bigger and more vocal. So let me ask you a sort of two part question relating to two different games. A) How do you feel about KOF as a whole? Do you feel the scene is still going strong or that it’s not doing so well. Why? Secondly, UNIST has been seeing a surge in players. Do you think it was a long time coming and that they’ll be able to keep a lot of those players or do you think it’s just a passing fad?

JDR: First question. I feel KOF as a whole is actually a good game to play, but the community actually needs to step up and take more initiative in promoting their game because you barely see KOF XIV in majors. Vegas Cup for example run by my friend named Reiki, he’s one of my long time friends in the Fighting Game community, his dedication and communication is the reason he was able to bring the international players such as ET, ZJZ in Asia and Layec, ViolentKain, Wero Asamiya from Mexico. Players complain like, “This game is too hard” and will quit in a month or two because either they get bodied by cheap stuff or bs things. What makes it more frustrating is people who complain about the mechanics, XIV for example is all about confirming into max mode for one bar. I think we just don’t have like leaders that actually care about the community in terms of bringing people in. I hope KOF XV change the mechanics and actually has people taking initiative. Second question. Since EVO announced UNIST as a main game, most likely a lot of players from different communities, will be playing the game. As long as there is a strong and dedicated leader in each of the regions, I think UNIST will be there for quite a while. Maybe a patch could either bring more players or drop. We just don’t know yet.

Q: Yeah, I feel like the KOF scene is hurting a bit. I can only speak from my limited experience and it’s probably because I play PC but I couldn’t even find anyone to play online during peek hours. Perhaps it’s the fighting game market becoming very saturated but it’s tough to say. But let’s bring it back to you for a bit when you look back at your storied history as a player is there a moment that stands out to you as being a sort of crowning moment so far? An event that you look back fondly on?

JDR: When I first went to a major tournament, basically no one knew who I was. But once I started going to more major tournaments, people recognized me as the guy who plays Hyde or Ralf or Lilith or Bardock or whatever. What stands out to me is I was able to grew the UNI community because of my dedication to the game. I was once an admin in the discord group, but since I was too busy with a lot of stuff in my life, I stepped down as an admin and I passed the torch to a player named Cookies. I’m really glad that I have actual friends that I can trust such as Suika, Hiari, Cookies and the moderators in the UNI group. One major that I remember was Combo Breaker 2016 back in UNIEL. It was me vs SonicFox in grand finals. It was a close call between us, but in the end SonicFox won 3-2 with no reset. Could have done better, but what was awesome is that I inspired the UNI players to go to Combo Breaker because it’s one of the best major tournaments to go to each year. Shoutouts to Rick as known as Hadou and the staff for running Combo Breaker every year.

Q: So a big part of why I do these is to get a more intimate look at the players being interviewed. So the first question I have is that obviously you go by JDR which is are just the initials to your name but was there ever any other name that you went by or have you always been JDR? Were there any others you were considering?

JDR: I used to have my initial name as JD. I transitioned from JD to JDR in 2015 because my friends from Cameron House started to say JDR to me due to having too many Jordans and it’s easier for them to understand my name. So that’s the reason people call me JDR in tournaments, but some of my friends say my real name.

Q: Well it’s certainly better than some of the XBOX live names that people carried over into the FGC haha. So tell me what are your plans for the future? Do you plan to compete more? Stream? What does the future hold for JDR?

JDR: My plans for the future is to balance my FGC career and school. I’m half way done with college pursuing a degree in Cinema. After college, I might find a job in Cinema either at home where I will most likely apply for Twitch or move to SoCal for the film industry. I don’t what I’m gonna do in the future. As long as there are games that I can play in the future such as UNIST, KOF , DBFZ, etc. then I’ll keep going to major tournaments. Planning on streaming more, but whenever I have the time and not too tired. I’ll still continue supporting my current team: Kick Punch Block and the UNIST community. I’ll do whatever I can to help them.

Q: Well that’s all I have for you my man. Before I let you go is there anyone you want to give a shout out to and where can people find you on social media?

JDR: I would like to give a shoutout to Art, the manager at Southtown Arcade, for holding down the tournament until the very end and being the reason I still play fighting games. I would like to give my current team Kick Punch Block a shoutout for treating me like a family and supporting me while I support them as well. Shoutouts to the UNI community for being a dedicated union group in supporting the game and taking initiatives in doing a lot of exhibitions at different majors. That’s the reason that we’re at EVO this year. Finally I would give a shoutout to my friends and families that helped me get better not just at fighting games but in general. I’m really grateful for that. Follow me @JDRDelRosario on Twitter. JDRDelRosario on Twitch. heyitsjordan415 on Instagram. That’s pretty much about it.

Follow JDR on Twitter @JDRDelRosario

And as always you can follow me on Twitter @itsfrail

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