Competitive Street Fighter fans might know Brian ‘Brian_F’ Foster for his exceptional use of the brutal boxer Balrog, as evidenced in his performance at the Street Fighter League: Pro-US 2019 tournament series. However, they might not know that Brian nearly gave up on Street Fighter at the outset - but his determination and will to win ignited a fiery competitive spirit that has since pushed him to take top placements at major tournaments.
The gift that keeps on giving
While Brian had played Street Fighter II on arcade cabinets as a youngster, he didn’t get fully invested in the series until later in life, thanks to a happy coincidence brought about by a $20 Bestbuy gift card - as well as his own stubborn determination.
“I got into fighting games on a whim,” Brian said of his introduction to the series. “I had gotten a Bestbuy gift card for christmas, and it had $20 left on it. I was browsing the game section and noticed a copy of Street Fighter IV for that exact amount. I recognized Ryu and Ken on the cover from mashing on the SF II arcade machine at the sports bar as a kid. ...When I popped it into my Xbox 360, I couldn't beat a single round in Arcade Mode set to very easy. I hated the game and didn't play it for a week, but because the game beat me so bad, I was stubborn and eventually said, ‘Screw this, I'm going to get good.’”
Old friends and new beginnings
Brian’s efforts to master Street Fighter IV eventually coincided with a reconnection that would ultimately change his life, after an old friend introduced him to the world of competitive fighting games.
“...I was chatting with an old friend on Facebook,” Brian explained. “We went to middle school together and reconnected online after going to different schools. I mentioned I was playing this game called Street Fighter when he dropped the bomb. ‘...Man. I play that game a lot. With a lot of people. Like in tournaments.’”
That wasn’t the end of their conversation, by far; Brian went on to state that his friend introduced him to his local fighting game community, which ended up getting him “hooked” on the game’s high-level competition.
“I was hooked,” he continued. “I saw high-level play, and couldn't believe the level of play I was watching. The one-on-one mental mind games and the physicality of perfecting a combo... feeling the rhythm, almost like playing an instrument, intrigued me. I was tired of team-based games like shooters, and this solo competition felt way more rewarding.”
There’s no escape!
It’s no secret that Brian_F mains Balrog: however, Brian actually began his Street Fighter journey using the series’ primary protagonist, Ryu, later switching to Balrog in favor of his damaging punches.
“Back in SFIV, I started with Ryu for the first couple of days,” Brian said. “Then, I noticed I liked how Balrog punched, and I was winning more using Balrog to punch. So, I just stuck with him. I like characters that look simple and powerful, no tricks hidden up their sleeves, just raw power.”
Of course, Balrog has seen some major changes between Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, with Brian finding his worst matchup to be G in Season Four. But Balrog wasn’t the only one to see big changes, alone; Brian himself made a huge change in his own life, moving across the country to become a Floridian transplant in the Midwest.
Moving to the Midwest
Brian’s fighting game career in Florida coincided with his college education, thereby limiting the amount of tournaments he could travel for and players he could fight against. Upon moving to the Midwest, Brian found himself able to attend more tournaments, thanks to his full-time job - but he credits the majority of his growth in the community to his transition during this period.
“...I found being in the Midwest was kind of convenient for making it to events on both the East and West coasts,” he said of his move. “So much of my growth in the FGC has happened during this transition, from streaming more frequently to attending/performing at more CPT events. I saw a lot of new faces and talent I hadn't heard about in the Midwest. It just goes to show there are killers in the FGC all over the world who don't always get their chance to shine.”
Fighting ‘til the end at Final Round
Brian likewise got a major chance to shine at this year’s Final Round, the very first tournament in the 2019 Capcom Pro Tour - and a Premier Event, at that. Brian ultimately placed fifth in a major show of strength, going up against names like Jonathan “JB” Bautista and the Beast himself, Daigo Umehara, who Brian_F ended up defeating off-stream in a massive victory.
“Coming into that tournament, I had a lot to prove,” Brian recalled. “I felt a bit of a chip on my shoulder due to some sponsor relationships coming to an end and feeling undervalued and not treated properly. ...I had to put a stamp on it and show that I'm here to play. ...When I beat Daigo off stream 2-1, I knew that it wouldn't matter if I didn't get out in winners.”
Brian went on to play against Ren “Johnny” Sato, who ended up knocking him into the Losers’ bracket after Brian had taken out JB just earlier. JB, like Brian, is a participant in the Street Fighter League: Pro-US 2019 – a series that Brian feels is “great,” as it allows anyone a chance to demonstrate their skills on a big platform.
“The League is great, because it allows anyone to enter,” Brian said of the series. “Just win the tournaments to qualify, or get voted in. If you have what it takes, or people like you enough, you get a shot to show off what you can do, without having to worry about going 0-2 and then waiting for the next tournament.”
What’s next for Brian_F?
Brian himself was voted into the League after “falling short” in two of its qualifying online tournaments, with his popularity getting bolstered by his performance at Final Round. As Combo Breaker looms on the horizon, Brian is planning to get “as many points as possible early on” in order to earn a spot in Capcom Cup - but that isn’t the end of his plans, by far.
“I will continue to produce content over at my YouTube channel, stream my grind for the Tour, and talk about the CPT and everything in between on my Twitter,” Brian stated. “Keep an eye out for me - I'll be around.”
Fans of SFV have already seen a major “level up” amongst players who participated in the League, to boot. Ranking Event Texas Showdown saw a Top 8 bracket filled with five League players, with Grand Finals coming down between JB and Du “NuckleDu” Dang. Considering Brian’s strong start in the 2019 CPT and his valuable training experience at the League, fans wouldn’t be amiss to expect another big showing from this breakout competitor in the near future.