‘Lite the Iron Man’ 101

Greetings, and a mission statement

Cat is bullshit blazing. (Her name is Sammy, as in Samus.)

If you’re landing here, it’s probably because it’s the first article I’ve put up on Medium and you want a primer to everything that follows. (Hopefully, it doesn’t stay the only article for very long.) I’m new here, so you’re likely wondering who I am, and as it so happens, that’s what I’m here to explain. I wanted to pursue this avenue because I believe that written work is absurdly undervalued in the current iteration of the fighting game community, with sites like Shoryuken sadly becoming less popular and very few active writers outside of folks like Ian Walker and Patrick Miller. (I’m a very vocal fan of the latter.)

A lot of people who know me come to me for advice for writing papers, and one of the things I hear most often is that they often have no idea how to begin. Incidentally, I’m here as a holder of an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in English to assure you that trained writers often don’t know how to begin writing their pieces themselves. In my experience, I’ve found it helpful to begin with an anecdote or some sort of allegory for the rest of the piece, which lowers my reader’s guard and makes them more comfortable. If I’m writing a fiction piece, it’s not uncommon for me to just jump right into the action and then bring the reader up to speed later, employing in media res. This way I can ‘cheat’ and not really worry about making the introduction at all until I’ve gotten my feet wet- of course, the problem with this is that I don’t know where exactly to jump into the pool that is the story.

Here, however, I can just start right at the beginning, because I don’t anticipate ever having to write a formal paper ever again.

Hey. I’m Nathan. People on the internet and at my locals know me by my tag ‘Lite the Iron Man,’ or just Lite for short. People call me Lite in person all the time even after getting to know me, even if they knew my name prior to getting my tag, so it all kind of blends together. Call me what you like, as long as it’s not some racist shit.

Like I said before, I’m an English major and semi-prolific writer. I graduated from Irvine Valley College with my associate in arts, and then I transferred to University of California, Irvine, and completed my bachelor’s degree. High school was rough for me, but I ended up finishing my degree with honors, which was impressive to me. All I really got for my cum laude distinction was the gold cord, though. I ended up wearing it instead of an English major’s stole when I walked at graduation because I didn’t get to buy the latter in time.

During my time at school, my creative writing was published three times in local Irvine scholastic writing journals. My first short story appeared in The Ear, IVC’s prestigious journal which was revived by my classmates during my time there. Some of my poetry was published in New Forum, a student-organized journal at UCI that featured undergraduate work. Needless to say, I was stoked as hell every time I appeared in print, alongside other extremely talented writers no less. College was also when I started participating in Nanowrimo- National Novel Writing Month, and I was consistent in completing a novel every November for five years straight, from 2015 to 2019.

Look, mom! I’m in print!

So that’s my writing credentials. That’s how you know, more or less, that I’ve got The Stuff, that I know how to put words together and make ’em sound kinda good in a way that kinda makes sense. But what about my fighting game chops? What gives me the ability to write about the FGC? Did you even remember that I brought up fighting games as my motive in the first place, five hundred words ago?

I’ve been playing fighting games since I could hold a pad in my hands, long before my awareness of a scene around such games could congeal in my memory. I had a Nintendo 64 and a copy of Super Smash Bros., as most kids did in the late 90s, but it was my older cousins who exposed me to the nascent fighting game community. They had a Dreamcast copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 set up in the living room, and they let me play on one of their spare pads, none of that “unplug the controller and give it to him so he only thinks he’s playing” bullshit. As I got older, so did they, because, you know, that’s how time works. I remember how excited they were for the big fighting game boom of the early 2010’s, because every time we would go over for a family holiday they would have commandeered the living room, playing whatever version of Street Fighter IV was the most recent. Eventually, they got even older and moved on from games full time, but I would hear stories about Evo and even international competitions from them. My cousin Beto told me about a skeptical foreign player at an international event who was impressed with his Akuma play, complimenting him with, “Very good American man.”

I don’t have a picture of my cousin’s dog from back then, but Beto named him after his main in Ultra.

I myself began competing with Smash. I started attending Melee events at local game stores when I was in middle school, and I played Wi-Fi tournaments for Brawl throughout high school. After graduating high school, I had a bit more time and independence to play full-time, so I attended Smash 4 2GGaming events and got decent enough, but I never made it out of pools or anything like that.

A lot of things changed for me the year before I transferred to UCI, and it compounded once I got to work on my bachelor’s. In 2016, I attended Pokémon World Championships in Anaheim on a whim with some friends who were in town for the event to play the TCG. I would take them to try their first In-N-Out Burger, and at the event proper, I would enter the Pokkén Tournament Last Chance Qualifiers with a rusty-as-hell Blaziken. I got my shit rocked and went 0–2, but I was impressed by the level of play I witnessed at the event, which motivated me to keep playing. What’s more, I got to try the Pokkén Tournament DX demo that they had, and I fell in love with the new additions to the game, particularly the playable Scizor. When DX finally launched, I played the hell out of it, grinding Scizor and learning how to play the game from scratch. I entered my first Pokkén Wednesday Night Fights bracket and got top 8 (out of 16, but still,) even scoring a huge upset over Gouken Respeck, the player who had won the previous WNF. My growth was exponential, and eventually I would earn 7th place at Switchfest 2019 after making several more upsets against national and international players.

Look, mom! I’m on a Burnside graphic!

Within the industry proper, I developed my article-writing chops by working as a volunteer journalist for UCI Esports, my campus’s collegiate esports organization and the first of its kind in the United States. While I would like to be humble about my work there, it’s also some of the finest work I’ve produced until the present day. I got to write about our school’s Smash scene, and now my alma mater is the first public campus to offer Smash scholarships alongside those for Overwatch and League of Legends. I was also pretty happy about my opinion piece on Evo, where I had a lot of freedom and got to weigh in on some smaller grassroots scenes.

Now that I’ve graduated, I don’t belong to any esports media organization or games publication. I still write and am fairly productive- at the time of writing, my most recent project was my fifth Nanowrimo, which I completed just in time for Thanksgiving 2019. I still play fighting games- I finally got my first stick as a graduation gift and I’m learning Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2 in preparation for Strive later this year. I still enter events, although I no longer live in the OC so it’s a bit of a drive. (Go to your locals!) I don’t foresee a time where I won’t be playing fighting games or talking about them in some way.

I hope I’ve sort of answered “why should I, the reader, be listening to you?” To put it simply, I’ve grown up in the fighting game community, and I’ve developed my writing credentials enough to where I can relay my experiences effectively. I’m also kind of good at both fighting games and writing, so even if I’m not quite a Daigo or a SonicFox I can still speak with authority on the scene and the games played.

“Why do you want to write about the fighting game community?” Well, I kind of already do write about it- it’s just relegated to Twitter threads that don’t see more than a dozen eyes. And that’s part of the problem- written content in the FGC is incredibly undervalued, as I stated way up there. Video guides, Twitter threads, and Discord pins are useful, but articles can provide long-form, organized information that these other mediums can’t. We used to have access to a healthy repository of such information when Shoryuken was functional and there were more people using message boards, but now we don’t.

Creating written content on behalf of the FGC allows me to fill that void, little by little, generating guides and providing insight wherever I can, whether it’s the social needs of the scene or helping players learn how to get started with a new game. Plus, it also means I keep myself to a strict schedule of productivity, writing long articles and getting them out there every week. Building my portfolio like that and making sure my writing chops don’t rust over is a win-win in my book.

So, that’s that, and that’s me. I’m Nathan, but you can call me Lite. If you made it all the way to the end of this piece, that’s awesome! It means I was able to compel you into reading a nearly two-thousand-word resumé. I hope it also means I was able to convince you that written FGC content is worthwhile- experiences like mine don’t only belong to me, and I wish to share them in the best way I know. I plan on continuing to write for and about the community, for myself, professionally, whatever, long into the future. If there’s something I see in the scene that I feel needs to be discussed, I’ll write about it here, so that it’ll be saved in an article that can be freely accessed rather than a group chat or Twitter thread that’ll get lost in a day.

Thank you for your time. I’ll see you next week. Don’t be a stranger, and don’t mash on wakeup.

Fullscreen Ryuujin is okay though.

Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” Dhami can be found on Twitter (@LiteTheIronMan,) on Twitch (twitch.tv/litetheironman,) and at your local.

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