Originally posted on September 28, 2022
In this extensive interview we talk to Umisho about her beginnings and how she’s become arguably the most successful Guilty Gear Strive player in the world.
Kunoichi’s big event in September will be exhibitions in Guilty Gear: Strive. The event will feature three showstopping matches. The undercard will be between Saki Sakura vs Kunoichi Haseo and EMGG Melonade vs Kunoichi Curiousjoi. The main event will be between Umisho and Mira.
Becoming a Top 6 finalist at EVO 2023 and accepting a recent sponsorship with M.Rage, we interviewed Umisho ahead of Kunoichi’s exhibition last fall. She is 2022’s Evo and East Coast Throwdown champion for Guilty Gear Strive and placed second at Combobreaker 2022. Before she competed in fighting games she was a strong Overwatch player. We discussed why she switched game genres and about her stellar success in fighting games
Mira: Why did you switch from competitive Overwatch to fighting games?
Umisho: “It’s actually a bit more complicated than just switching. I quit Overwatch about two years ago due to a mix of lack of motivation, lack of passion, and overall aimlessness/anxiety regarding my life/myself. I didn’t intend to get back into competing at all, until about 10ish months ago when I picked up Strive casually, started having a lot of fun with it, and decided to enter a bracket one day just for the hell of it. And then 10 months later here we are! Overall though this scene and community (Strive specifically) is just so, so welcoming and cozy compared to FPS scenes, and I’m confident in saying this is absolutely where I belong.”
M: What were your initial expectations as a competitor when you picked up Strive?
U: “Honestly? I just wanted to have a good time.
My mindset and motivations towards Overwatch were in all honesty very toxic (mostly results-based, always be on the grind, etc.), and it led to me eventually experiencing the hardest burnout I’ve ever felt in my life by far.
So, when I started competing in Strive, the one promise I made to myself was that I would always put having fun before anything else. I only play when I feel like playing, I only play how I want to play, and I only play against who I want to play against.
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been before in my life right now (admittedly not JUST because of the game but it is a contributing factor haha), so I’m happy to say I’ve kept my promise to myself so far!”
M: Are there any skills you feel transferred from playing FPS games?
U: “This may come as a surprise to some, but I think a LOT transferred, actually. Mechanically not so much, but the mental skills absolutely. Stuff like proper approach to practice, a good healthy mindset towards competing, and ESPECIALLY being able to think about the game and matches from an objective point of view in order to foster improvement are all things I wouldn’t have if I didn’t already have experience competing in another game.”
M: You are very dominant in Strive right now. What do you think it takes to be consistent as a competitor?
U: This question is kinda tough to answer. The proper approach to competition can vary wildly from person to person, but there’s two specific things I preach a lot;
First, you HAVE to enjoy playing the game at least on some level. You must. If you don’t enjoy playing the game for the sake of playing the game, you will never be consistent; not consistent at practicing, not consistent at placing, and definitely not consistently enjoying yourself on a day to day basis.
Second (and this kinda piggybacks off the first), your main motivation to compete cannot be “I want to win”. If your goal is something as nebulous as “Win good lose bad” you’ll likely just be miserable when you lose and feel just okay when you win. Your reason for competing has to be something else; whether that be the people you get to hang out with/play against, getting to go to events, or hell just having fun playing the game. If you’re only here to win, the path will be a slog and even if you do win it’ll likely just feel hollow and empty eventually. In my experience, at least.
Besides those big ones there’s also the more obvious stuff like properly pacing yourself (not forcing yourself to play when you don’t want to), doing equal amounts thinking labbing AND playing, setting realistic goals, etc.
M: What was your first fighting game?
U: “Melty Blood: Actress Again: Current Code!
Maybe a surprise to some people but yeah Melty was where I was first introduced to traditional 2D fighters, haha.
The deep lore is that about ~2.5 years ago I read through Tsukihime (the visual novel Melty is a spinoff of) with a friend, and after we were done she was like “hey there’s actually a spinoff of this game that’s a 2D fighter called Melty Blood, wanna try it?”
After enjoying it a ton, I started delving into more games, eventually finding my way to Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core and Guilty Gear Xrd, which IMMEDIATELY hooked me into the GG series.
So yeah the tl;dr here I guess is that the ‘read Tsukihime -> win EVO’ pipeline is real.”
M: “What advice would you give newcomers trying to take fighting games more seriously?
U: “Honestly my best advice is uhhhhhh… never start taking it that seriously. I’m gonna be a broken record with this one by the end of this interview but, please please please never start taking fighting game competition too seriously. Never lose that spark of joy you felt when you booted up a 2D fighter for the first time; keep it with you no matter how far you get. Never start treating competition like a job; if it ever gets to the point it feels like one, it’s time to take a break and re-evaluate things.
That’s not to say don’t try hard; always try hard! Always push yourself to bigger and better heights. Just never let yourself get lost in it.”
M: Are you interested in competing in any future fighting game titles?
“Absolutely. “Street Fighter 6 is on my radar. I've considered trying to get into Type Lumina, and if a new UNi or BlazBlue game drops I’d be on it frame 1, and of course any future entry in Guilty Gear. Even if GG always stays my main focus, you’ll see me around for sure!”
M: Do you think the Strive meta is in a good spot? What would you like to see changed?
U: “Short answer:
When you ignore the top dogs, I think the character strength in this game is actually not too egregiously separated among the cast! Especially compared to prior patches, pretty much everyone around the low to upper middle of the cast can swing with each other and then some in my opinion.
The problem, however, shows you get to the, well. The problems. Characters like Ram, Nago, Happy Chaos, and to an extent Baiken and Leo just overshadow everyone else below them in terms of sheer character power, matchup spread and ESPECIALLY tournament reliability/consistency. I’m not a game developer so I don’t know the best answers, so I’ll just say something’s gotta be done to address how overwhelmingly powerful these characters are.”
M: What hobbies do you enjoy outside of fighting games?
U: “Honestly ever since covid I don’t get out that much, so most of my time outside of fighting games is just spent playing single player games, reading visual novels (not for the faint of heart), talking with my friends or spending time with my partner.
The FGC offers a lot in the way of social events that don’t 100% involve playing the video game though, so those are always something that I look forward to!”
M: Is there anything you would like to spotlight or talk about?
U: “I really really wanna take this opportunity to just say how constantly amazed I am by the LGBTQ+ presence in Strive and the FGC at large, as well as how low-stress it is to be part of it. I’d just come out a few months before joining the Strive community, and (mostly due to things I’d seen and heard in the Overwatch scene…) I was extremely extremely anxious as it was the first new community I’d joined since coming out. But all my anxieties were pretty much completely eased within a few weeks time, and it still gives me whiplash sometimes how just, like, not a terrible person most people in this scene are?? Like oh my god (most of) y’all are just actually good people and I’m so grateful for it. Proved to me that I can do the things I love AND just be myself at the same time without worrying about garbage being slung at me for no reason. It’s great.”
Umisho is a world class talent at fighting games. Her experience in Overwatch has given her a unique perspective in competition that has contributed to her massive success. With being an Evo champion at a young age, it is exciting to see what she will accomplish in the future. Please continue to give her your support and cheer for her in the September edition of Kunoichi Arena.