Behind The Stick: An Interview With RetroStation

I had the chance to sit down and talk with RetroStation: A player turned Tournament Organizer from the New York scene. In this interview we discuss his history with the scene, his transition from player to TO, his advice to players and new TOs, and much more.

Q: First, I wanted to say I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk to me today. How are you?

RS: Been doing pretty well, thanks for asking! And yourself?

Q: Just got done watching CEOTAKU so I’m feeling pretty hyped right now haha. So for those who are unaware of you are could you give us a brief history of who you are in relation to the Fighting Game Community?

RS: I am currently an organizer for Kick-Punch-Block; we are a NYC-based team with members in various parts of the US. I also briefly competed in DBFZ on the local level before realizing logistics and operations are more my forte. I’ve volunteered as a bracket judge and game lead at multiple events on the East Coast and the Midwest. Additionally, I’ve been hosting the Twinkle Star Sprites side tournament at Combo Breaker since 2018 while also placing 3rd in the Mystery Game tournament at this year’s CB.

Q: So you mentioned that you were a competitor for a bit before you decided to make the switch to a more behind the scenes role. What was it that prompted that swap? Was there a moment you realized that you didn’t want to compete anymore? Was it something that you did here and there and then grew to love the more you did it? What’s the story behind the switch?

RS: What prompted the transition into operations was realizing that I am my own worst critic when it comes to competition. I realized I was being unreasonable with myself and expecting good results in a short period of time – what I like to call, “Gifted Kid Syndrome”. Around the time I was competing in DBFZ hardcore, I was in a relationship where my partner was also my coach. She didn’t play the game, but watched enough of it to understand high-level decisions and help me improve on where I was coming up short. When we ended our relationship, I sat back and asked myself whether I was competing for my own sake, or just to make my partner happy. Ultimately, I decided to embrace my knack for operations. Even outside of the FGC, I’m usually the type to help execute projects as efficiently as possible. I just also happen to enjoy being in a support role. That’s not to say I wouldn’t indulge in a FT5/7/10; I still play, after all.

Q: Of course, we all have a love for the game. So once you decided to embrace your knack for operations how did you get started in that role? How did you get from where you started to where you are now at Kick Punch Block?

RS: Although I’ve been in the FGC for years, the bulk of my involvement is from the last year and a half. I’d reached out to KPB with the intention of joining them as a player, citing recent placings at the time, along with mentioning how I was a key factor in having Skullgirls events hosted in NYC, back in 2014. It wasn’t until I attended my first major – Winter Brawl 2018 – when I met Rodimus Prime and Rage, KPB’s founders; it would also be my first event as a bracket judge. We had a discussion about what I wanted to contribute to the community, and we agreed on a lot of key points regarding growth and camaraderie within the FGC. I would then proceed to volunteer as a bracket judge at nearly every event I’ve attended since, also being a Game Lead and DBFZ’s Top 8 Stage Manager at this year’s Combo Breaker. Since joining KPB, I’ve always expressed a desire to learn more, whether it be on the tournament front through bracket running, or on the production front through camera work and stream operation. After several discussions throughout the summer with Rodimus, Rage, and Aphro Dynamek – the third KPB admin – I and my teammate Deezee Kujaku were brought on as organizers, expanding the leadership team to five.

Q: That’s awesome! It’s good to see that hard work and dedication eventually pay off. So when you look back at all the events you hosted and the mistakes that you made along the way what is some advice that you would give to yourself back then or maybe even to young and aspiring TOs who are just getting their feet wet?

RS: For TOs getting their feet wet: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are people out there who have been doing this for ages, and you only stand to benefit from picking their brain. Just go to your events and show people you’re willing to learn. Ask questions, even if they may sound silly to you. Chances are your question is a valid concern, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Also get to know your players; you wouldn’t have an event to run without them.

Q: And as a TO what are somethings players do that drive you crazy/could do to make your life easier?

RS: Going back to communication: If you, as a player, need to leave your pool for whatever reason – bathroom/smoke break, overlapping pool in another game, etc – LET YOUR TO KNOW. It grinds my gears when players disappear and hold up the bracket. Going further, if you sign up for a game, and you know you can’t make it, at least have the courtesy to communicate your absence so they don’t have to spend time wondering where you are.

Q: Hopefully we can make one TOs life a bit easier after someone reads this haha. You figure common courtesy would be a no-brainer but here we are. So when you look at the way that tournaments are run where do you think are the biggest areas for improvement?

RS: Coordination and collaboration. An issue I’ve seen fairly often is overlapping events for the same game. It splits up the community because you make them choose between one event or the other. It results in lackluster attendance and a subdued viewership for the streamers involved in said events. If event organizers could come together and hash out a calendar with minimal overlap, it’d ultimately benefit the community at large.

Q: Yeah, it always bums me out when I want to watch something like UNIST and Guilty Gear but they overlap. It happened today at CEOtaku. I know I can multi stream but it isn’t quite the same. What is an area that you think tournaments are lacking? For example, talent for interviews and analysis.

RS: I feel like we don’t do enough player interviews, so your example is spot-on. While people within a given community know who their players are, people outside of said communities may not know who a player is unless that player competes in multiple games. However, we must also account for event schedules, so it adds another layer of organization to consider, so it doesn’t surprise me when interviews are few and far between, outside of the brief interviews held for a tournament winner.

Q: Understandable. I think that it’s definitely an option to consider in the future and maybe one that can be planned around. It’s one that I feel strongly about myself for the reasons you listed and in part why I do these interviews. Which leads me to the next part of this interview: you. First, why did you decide to go with the name RetroStation?

RS: Before I entered the FGC I dabbled in chiptune covers as a hobby, and that was my music handle. It’s a play on Metro Station – Shake It was still fairly popular back when I came up with the name. I’m a fan of wordplay and puns, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Q: Takes me back to my high school days. The girls I used to hang out with loved that song. So what do you like to do outside of fighting games? What are some of your hobbies?

RS: Outside of fighting games, I enjoy working on chiptune music covers, other games (especially rhythm games and racers), and… singing.

Q: Racing games are something I’d like to get into. I want to get one of those wheels and pedals. So you mentioned quite a few music related things. Do you have a background in music or was that something you stumbled upon one day and have continued with since?

RS: I actually have a musical background! I’m a self-taught singer, along with 20+ years of percussion experience. I was in my middle school’s marching band in 6th grade, performing in the Memorial Day Parade, and I was in concert band all of high school. After high school, my music experience went digital when I was first introduced to FL Studio, which is how I’ve worked on most of my pieces.

Q: Ah, a fellow percussion man like myself. Although you are probably much better than myself given your years of playing. So obviously you’ve done a lot of changing over the last 5 or so years from player to TO to now working with Kick Punch Block. What do you think the future is going to hold for you next? Do you already have big plans in the works or are you just taking each day at a time?

RS: Honestly? I’m taking this a day at time. I’ll continue to hone my craft, build/establish communities wherever the need arises, and continue to make a name for myself as a consistently reliable TO. At the end of the day, I want the FGC to grow further and prosper, and I’ll do whatever I can to help make that happen.

Q: And how do you feel about the growth of the Fighting Game Community? The scene has been growing and the amount of great fighting games is arguably at an all time high in my opinion. That coupled with social media and higher level production quality when streaming has added another dimension to the scene that maybe wasn’t quite there before. Do you think the scene will continue to grow or will it become stagnant. Why?

RS: I think the scene will continue to grow, so long as the people within it are willing to grow alongside it. New games will always be on the horizon, and passion for older and/or more obscure games can still be cultivated. We just need people willing to engage in that labor of love. To that point, I want to shout out Lunar Phase Productions (@LunarPhaseProd) for being the home of UNIST, Melty Blood, and Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax Ignition here in NYC

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

RS: You can find me on Twitter (@KPBRetroStation) and Twitch(RetroStation)! I stream Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and it’s almost always something different every time. I wanna shout out my KPB fam, along with the US Twinkle Star Sprites community. You’ve helped me be where I am today, and I don’t think I could repay the kindness all of you have shown me.

You can follow RetroStation on Twitter @KPBRetroStation

And as always you can follow me on Twitter @itsfrail

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