Chris Tatarian grows up, locks in on Street Fighter V

Chris "Chris" Tatarian hopes he and his main character, Ken, can make a statement in the Street Fighter V scene this summer. Provided by Capcom

Chris "Chris" Tatarian is hard to ignore.

Whether it's from social media or the results from a tournament, the 22-year-old Street Fighter V player usually garners a headline or two. Even though he's known more for his verbal battles on the internet or complaints about his character than his work in the game, this year offers a more mature Chris.

As a teenager, he was never one to back off a strong opinion, such as his complaints about his character's shortcomings, specific character matchups (Zangief most of all) or just a bad tournament result. Unfortunately for him, those outbursts followed and characterized him in the public eye. But, the enigmatic Street Fighter player is more than just some Ken player; he's part of the future of the fighting game community.

"When I was younger, I wanted people to like me. I also wanted to show off what my character, Ken, could do," Chris said. "Now, I can't let negative energy cloud me. I try not to go overboard because it has to be controlled, or else it will ruin your life. You can't take it seriously."

He has a rapturous love for Street Fighter. Although school takes over most of his schedule, Chris still forces a period of time each day to play. Before, Chris would never practice or play the game outside of his local tournaments; he picks up the controller a lot more now.

More maturity brought a different perspective on the Capcom Pro Tour and professional Street Fighter, too. With ELeague and other invitational tournaments on the rise, Chris's schedule is no longer singular. Instead of just obsessing over wins, he wants to focus on improvement with every tournament to prepare for all of these upcoming high-stakes events. He mentioned the help of gurus and his faith for his new mindset: approaching every event as a learning experience instead of lingering on everything that went wrong.

At West Coast Warzone, Chris took the first steps toward that despite a 17th-place finish.

"Focus, study and execute," Chris said. "There is no time to be afraid, and I have to do better at playing the game more instead of brushing it to the side."

Chris worked on a new plan during West Coast Warzone, but he struggled during pool play.

His first match against a Birdie player, Martin "Daily Tayne" Staggs, came down to the last game. As a huge crowd piled behind the two players, Chris understood that an upset was just a few button presses away. He adjusted his play and sped up his offense. He worried less about the incoming buttons in the neutral game from his opponent and focused on extending his time on the attack.

"I got lucky in that match," Chris said. "I was really nervous, and I couldn't get a good read on him; I had to quickly snap out of it and try to play solid. I needed to remind myself to breathe and forget any thoughts of potentially losing."

It wouldn't be long until Chris's final match was played on stream for the first day. In a set against an M. Bison player, Mark "Valiant" Tucker, Chris looked visibly nervous. He rocked back into his chair when he was caught by a dash, frowned when his character lost life and took deep breaths between each round. His emotions told the story of the match -- from a great read by his opponent to the increasing momentum on his side.

It was another close affair, but Chris finished off his day in winner's bracket and qualified for the round of 32.

"I have to get in the zone. When I practice against strong players, it makes me play slower.
I tend to test out my opponent; feel them out to collect data. If they're whiffing a button, I can tell that they're antsy. I try to position myself to punish those buttons," Chris said. "I have to mentally stay composed, play my best, and keep my awareness up and open my eyes."

Day 2 ended quickly. Chris was wiped out by a Balrog and found himself outside the top 10. Although Chris won the event in 2016, he was positive at the end. There was disappointment with how he played, but he did not harp on his placing and looked forward to the next event. Without the pressure of qualifying for the Capcom Cup on the mind, 2017 might be a prosperous year regardless of the results.

"I think I improved when it comes to making better decisions outside of the game and not just focus in the game. For example, I need to sleep better, and practice," Chris said. "I have to go into it positive. The moment it goes negative, that becomes your reality."