Local Natives’ Ryan Hahn

on Street Fighter

Aug 03, 2010 Issue #32 - Summer 2010 - Wasted on the Youth Bookmark and Share


I can remember the first time I played Super Street Fighter II. It must have been 1993, I was seven years old and we were living in Mission Viejo, California. A bunch of us had just come inside from playing street hockey. The game had ended as it usually did then, with someone in tears because they either caught a high stick in the face or his brother had pushed him on the ground. We were at Tommy and Adam's house, which I remember because they had a giant fish tank and a pet pig. But this time they had something new—a Super Nintendo. I'd played regular Nintendo before—Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, the 7-UP game-but this was something on another level altogether. And when they put on the game Street Fighter, I was hooked immediately.

The first match I ever saw was between two characters who I now know as Blanka and Chun-Li. Even though one of them was an orange and green mutant, I remember my amazement at how realistic everything looked. It all seemed tailor-made for the hyperactive, Capri Sun guzzling side of me. Some agro voice announced, "Round One... Fight!" while a crowd of drunken onlookers pumped their fists in the background. Blanka eventually won by squatting down and electrocuting Chun-Li each time she approached him, a move that caused much controversy among the room, eliciting cries of "Cheater!" Pretty soon all my friends had the game and we were playing constantly. Even today I can tell you the names of all the Street Fighter characters. My brother's favorite was Guile, a Top Gun-esque military dude with a blonde mohawk. My favorite was Ryu, possibly because his name so closely resembled mine, but also because he had the coolest special moves. I'm willing to bet that 99 out of 100 people my age can not only tell you what a "Hadouken!" is but can also fully demonstrate one for you.

Needless to say, I was sold. I begged my parents for a Super Nintendo. I proposed all kinds of absurd bargains involving chores and forgoing presents for several Christmases and birthdays but they didn't budge. And then, fate stepped in.

At the time, my dad was still in the Navy. My family had moved quite a bit when I was growing up, and in 1994, after only a few years in California, I was told we were moving to Singapore. I had to have my dad show me where it was on a map. My brothers and I were bummed. Leaving behind my life in California would surely suck. I remember one of our first days in Singapore we spent sightseeing. We ordered ice cream sandwiches from a vendor on the street and he handed us a scoop of ice cream on a piece of bread. My little brother started crying. For weeks the feeling that we were out of place was overwhelming, and since school hadn't started, my lack of friends only helped to make things worse.

Then one day my parents told us to hop in the car and we took a trip downtown. We pulled up to a building that looked like a mall, only much more frenzied and chaotic. Inside, though, it was like paradise. I stood looking up at three floors of shops dedicated solely to video games and arcades. It seemed my parents had finally taken pity on me and on the way home I cradled my Super Nintendo in the backseat. After that, Super Street Fighter II took over my waking hours. Pretty soon, I was inviting kids from the neighborhood over to play Nintendo. The same video game I played back in California was now helping me meet new friends on the other side of the world. And as it turned out, kids in Singapore were way more into video games than any of my friends back home. We even went to see the Street Fighter movie in theaters a few years later, the one with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I didn't play Street Fighter so much after that.

On our last tour, we happened to stay at a hotel outside Nashville that was host to an anime and gaming convention. The band went exploring and we found ourselves in one of the smaller conference rooms. Inside were at least a dozen different stations with flat-screen TVs, Xboxes, PlayStations, and Nintendos. Around each station were a handful of attendees in elaborate anime costumes watching people play video games. We walked up to one and I was surprised to find that I recognized the game. It was Street Fighter, only it was an insane, steroidal modern version of the game I once knew. I hadn't played since we moved back to California in 1997. Some of the group noticed us watching and invited us to play. I told them I was content to watch but I remember thinking how great it was to see Street Fighter still bringing people together.



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.