Meet Noah Solis, the 8-Year-Old Fighting Game Wunderkind

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Posted by patrickklepek (3382 posts) -
Noah Solis plays in front of a screaming crowd at the Evo Championship Series in Las Vegas.

I found my journalistic skills put to the test earlier this week. No one taught me how to interview an 8-year-old.

I start my conversation with Noah Solis, the 8-year-old who surprised everyone by ranking in the top 48 at the Evo Championship Series 2011 this year playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3, on simple footing. How'd you get into fighting games?

"It was fun," he responded. The phone goes silent, as I wait for something more. Nothing. It's quiet.

Okay, maybe we're just getting warmed up. How did you decide you wanted to be competitive?

"I beat everybody!" he said definitively.

This back-and-forth continues for another minute or two.

Not someone you would expect to take you down, but plenty of players at Evo learned quickly.

Were you always playing against your friends and beating them? "Yes!" Is Marvel vs. Capcom 3 your favorite fighting game? "No!" So, what is your favorite fighting game? "Super Street Fighter IV." Who's your favorite character? "Bison." How come you like Bison? "His purple hand." What was it like to go to Evo and play against all these people who were older than you? Was that fun? "Yes!"

The questioning halts when I ask Noah what it was like to finally lose in the tournament. Instead, Noah's father, Moises Solis, speaks up.

"I've seen Noah cry," said Moises, a 38-year-old single parent taking care of Noah and his two older brothers, ages 15 and 18. "When he wins, he kind of cheers up, but I see the passion he has for it as a sport. He would cry just like any pee wee division would cry if they lost the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? That's how I see Noah."

The family's located not far from Los Angeles, where Noah got his start in the competitive gaming circuit. Noah was playing fighting games with his brothers when one of them told Moises that Noah wasn't just good, he was really good.

"My two oldest just keep passing back and forth the controller," said Moises. "Growing up, when you passed the controller, you lost! [laughs] So I asked my oldest son and I'm like 'is he winning?'"

The family started considering the idea of bringing Noah to a local tournament. With three growing mouths to feed, however, deciding to jump in the car and enter a tournament wasn't an easy question to answer. Such trips cost money.

"The way the economy is, I lost my job," he said, "but I had a nice set of rims on the car, so I sold my rims and said 'Let's go, let's see what he's got.'"

Noah made his first appearance at the Level Up SoCal regionals in 2010. He was just 7-years-old.

"He did okay, I think he was more nervous," he said.

Noah kept making appearances on the local circuit, generating buzz. At one point Noah ended up "perfecting" someone (read: he didn't get hit), which caught the eye of the community. He was young, but Noah was no joke.

The successes convinced Moises this was a worthy path, even if he doesn't have a solid grasp how the games his son is playing actually work. In his youth, Moises wasn't much of a gamer, focusing instead on sports.

"If you look out your window," he said, "the things kids are doing nowadays...I have options here in my home. There's reading, there's math, there's gaming. I can either let him go outside, smoke pot, run around with gang members--if this is what he wants to do, this is what I'll support him in."

Noah stands with his father, Moises Solis, after one of his early tournaments in Los Angeles.

Noah's biggest splash came at this year's Evo tournament, finishing in the top 48 playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with his combination of Hulk, Wesker and Sentinel. The trio caught some off guard, especially Hulk. Edward "RoyalFlush" Valdez was just one of the players who lost to Noah.

Valdez entered Evo 2011 playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tekken 6 and Mortal Kombat--a mix of old and new. He described himself as an early adopter, willing to jump into the competitive scene of a new game, even if it hasn't really proven itself yet. Tekken 5 was his original gateway drug into everything, but he eventually received the most attention for playing the Wii-exclusive Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.

He'd heard of Noah before Evo, but he didn't bother to look at this pool of contestants, so squaring up against Noah was a surprise.

The thing you notice watching videos of Noah's Evo matches is the crowd's role. When Noah's winning, the crowd cheers like crazy. If he's losing, they vocally dogpile with boos. It's lose-lose for anyone against Noah. Valdez figured he had part of the crowd on his side thanks to his odd lineup of Viewtiful Joe, M.O.D.O.K. and Thor.

Approaching the stage, Valdez sized up his surprising opponent.

Noah grabs his head after being dealt a setback during his Evo face-off against Valdez.

"He was really quiet, actually," he laughed. "All I asked was what was his name and how old he was. That's all I got. Even after the match, I always give a handshake, but actually gave me a fist bump instead!"

The match was going Valdez's way at first, allowing him to secure a first round win.

"I won the first match, so I was feeling good about myself," he said. "Usually, when that comes around, like the second match, I feel like I can take more risks because I'm on that high, that boost of morale. That totally fell apart in seconds."

Valdez described the experience of playing in front of a crowd as much different than messing around with your friends. You're here to show off, take risks and showcase the skills you've been honing. Doing so means that sometimes it won't work out.

Eventually, Noah was able to turn the tables.

Describing Noah's play style as "surprisingly patient," Valdez eventually lost. The crowd went wild.

"I didn't feel bad about it," he said. "There's some people that get really mad after they lose. I was psyched that he won. I don't really know how I would have acted if I'd won the match. It's always a good feeling when you win, but when you lose to someone good or it's not like you got randomed out."

Getting "randomed out" is losing to someone who doesn't have a real strategy--like a button masher. It's similar to poker--if you're playing against someone who's just acting randomly, it's impossible to employ a credible counterstrategy.

Struggling with the feeling of defeat is a lesson Moises is working hard to teach Noah. Try to remember what it was like when you lost something you really cared about as a kid. Those losses are crushing. It's hard to tell your young self to just chin up.

"In a football game, when a crowd boos on you, you try harder," said Moises. "You don't let the crowd [get to you]. That's what I taught Noah because I used to be a pitcher, and I explained to him 'There's gonna be crowds yelling and all that and all you do is tune 'em out and just focus.' You just have to teach your kid what's right, wrong. Noah, when he loses, you know what I say to him? 'This is what it's called, son. You take a licking and keep on ticking.'"

Noah holds up his "Rising Star" trophy from Evo 2011, a nice consolation prize.

Valdez's real regret is a consequence of Evo's growing popularity. Thousands watched the Evo matches all weekend long, which means his defeat to an 8-year-old has been archived for eternity.

"I have to live with that for the rest of my life," he joked.

His loss is Noah's gain, with his performance at Evo prompting all sorts of random offers and phone calls to his father about Noah's skills. Coming to grips with his son's rising fame has been a struggle for Moises, a task he deals with on a day-by-day basis. Moises promised an "announcement" of some kind was coming for his son in the near future that would shed some light on how he plans to pivot in life after Evo.

"This is a whole other level for myself," said Moises. "It's including my son, something that I care about, something that is a part of myself and something that I don't want to screw up! I can't."

Even though Noah didn't win this tournament, Evo did recognize his talents, sending him a "Rising Star" trophy to celebrate his valiant efforts.

It will probably be the first of many.

Evo Photos by Kara Leung

Karaface.com

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3382 posts) -
Noah Solis plays in front of a screaming crowd at the Evo Championship Series in Las Vegas.

I found my journalistic skills put to the test earlier this week. No one taught me how to interview an 8-year-old.

I start my conversation with Noah Solis, the 8-year-old who surprised everyone by ranking in the top 48 at the Evo Championship Series 2011 this year playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3, on simple footing. How'd you get into fighting games?

"It was fun," he responded. The phone goes silent, as I wait for something more. Nothing. It's quiet.

Okay, maybe we're just getting warmed up. How did you decide you wanted to be competitive?

"I beat everybody!" he said definitively.

This back-and-forth continues for another minute or two.

Not someone you would expect to take you down, but plenty of players at Evo learned quickly.

Were you always playing against your friends and beating them? "Yes!" Is Marvel vs. Capcom 3 your favorite fighting game? "No!" So, what is your favorite fighting game? "Super Street Fighter IV." Who's your favorite character? "Bison." How come you like Bison? "His purple hand." What was it like to go to Evo and play against all these people who were older than you? Was that fun? "Yes!"

The questioning halts when I ask Noah what it was like to finally lose in the tournament. Instead, Noah's father, Moises Solis, speaks up.

"I've seen Noah cry," said Moises, a 38-year-old single parent taking care of Noah and his two older brothers, ages 15 and 18. "When he wins, he kind of cheers up, but I see the passion he has for it as a sport. He would cry just like any pee wee division would cry if they lost the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? That's how I see Noah."

The family's located not far from Los Angeles, where Noah got his start in the competitive gaming circuit. Noah was playing fighting games with his brothers when one of them told Moises that Noah wasn't just good, he was really good.

"My two oldest just keep passing back and forth the controller," said Moises. "Growing up, when you passed the controller, you lost! [laughs] So I asked my oldest son and I'm like 'is he winning?'"

The family started considering the idea of bringing Noah to a local tournament. With three growing mouths to feed, however, deciding to jump in the car and enter a tournament wasn't an easy question to answer. Such trips cost money.

"The way the economy is, I lost my job," he said, "but I had a nice set of rims on the car, so I sold my rims and said 'Let's go, let's see what he's got.'"

Noah made his first appearance at the Level Up SoCal regionals in 2010. He was just 7-years-old.

"He did okay, I think he was more nervous," he said.

Noah kept making appearances on the local circuit, generating buzz. At one point Noah ended up "perfecting" someone (read: he didn't get hit), which caught the eye of the community. He was young, but Noah was no joke.

The successes convinced Moises this was a worthy path, even if he doesn't have a solid grasp how the games his son is playing actually work. In his youth, Moises wasn't much of a gamer, focusing instead on sports.

"If you look out your window," he said, "the things kids are doing nowadays...I have options here in my home. There's reading, there's math, there's gaming. I can either let him go outside, smoke pot, run around with gang members--if this is what he wants to do, this is what I'll support him in."

Noah stands with his father, Moises Solis, after one of his early tournaments in Los Angeles.

Noah's biggest splash came at this year's Evo tournament, finishing in the top 48 playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with his combination of Hulk, Wesker and Sentinel. The trio caught some off guard, especially Hulk. Edward "RoyalFlush" Valdez was just one of the players who lost to Noah.

Valdez entered Evo 2011 playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tekken 6 and Mortal Kombat--a mix of old and new. He described himself as an early adopter, willing to jump into the competitive scene of a new game, even if it hasn't really proven itself yet. Tekken 5 was his original gateway drug into everything, but he eventually received the most attention for playing the Wii-exclusive Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.

He'd heard of Noah before Evo, but he didn't bother to look at this pool of contestants, so squaring up against Noah was a surprise.

The thing you notice watching videos of Noah's Evo matches is the crowd's role. When Noah's winning, the crowd cheers like crazy. If he's losing, they vocally dogpile with boos. It's lose-lose for anyone against Noah. Valdez figured he had part of the crowd on his side thanks to his odd lineup of Viewtiful Joe, M.O.D.O.K. and Thor.

Approaching the stage, Valdez sized up his surprising opponent.

Noah grabs his head after being dealt a setback during his Evo face-off against Valdez.

"He was really quiet, actually," he laughed. "All I asked was what was his name and how old he was. That's all I got. Even after the match, I always give a handshake, but actually gave me a fist bump instead!"

The match was going Valdez's way at first, allowing him to secure a first round win.

"I won the first match, so I was feeling good about myself," he said. "Usually, when that comes around, like the second match, I feel like I can take more risks because I'm on that high, that boost of morale. That totally fell apart in seconds."

Valdez described the experience of playing in front of a crowd as much different than messing around with your friends. You're here to show off, take risks and showcase the skills you've been honing. Doing so means that sometimes it won't work out.

Eventually, Noah was able to turn the tables.

Describing Noah's play style as "surprisingly patient," Valdez eventually lost. The crowd went wild.

"I didn't feel bad about it," he said. "There's some people that get really mad after they lose. I was psyched that he won. I don't really know how I would have acted if I'd won the match. It's always a good feeling when you win, but when you lose to someone good or it's not like you got randomed out."

Getting "randomed out" is losing to someone who doesn't have a real strategy--like a button masher. It's similar to poker--if you're playing against someone who's just acting randomly, it's impossible to employ a credible counterstrategy.

Struggling with the feeling of defeat is a lesson Moises is working hard to teach Noah. Try to remember what it was like when you lost something you really cared about as a kid. Those losses are crushing. It's hard to tell your young self to just chin up.

"In a football game, when a crowd boos on you, you try harder," said Moises. "You don't let the crowd [get to you]. That's what I taught Noah because I used to be a pitcher, and I explained to him 'There's gonna be crowds yelling and all that and all you do is tune 'em out and just focus.' You just have to teach your kid what's right, wrong. Noah, when he loses, you know what I say to him? 'This is what it's called, son. You take a licking and keep on ticking.'"

Noah holds up his "Rising Star" trophy from Evo 2011, a nice consolation prize.

Valdez's real regret is a consequence of Evo's growing popularity. Thousands watched the Evo matches all weekend long, which means his defeat to an 8-year-old has been archived for eternity.

"I have to live with that for the rest of my life," he joked.

His loss is Noah's gain, with his performance at Evo prompting all sorts of random offers and phone calls to his father about Noah's skills. Coming to grips with his son's rising fame has been a struggle for Moises, a task he deals with on a day-by-day basis. Moises promised an "announcement" of some kind was coming for his son in the near future that would shed some light on how he plans to pivot in life after Evo.

"This is a whole other level for myself," said Moises. "It's including my son, something that I care about, something that is a part of myself and something that I don't want to screw up! I can't."

Even though Noah didn't win this tournament, Evo did recognize his talents, sending him a "Rising Star" trophy to celebrate his valiant efforts.

It will probably be the first of many.

Evo Photos by Kara Leung

Karaface.com

Staff
#2 Edited by jkuc316 (981 posts) -

Great, an 8 year old kid is better than me in MvC3 :(

#3 Posted by zombie2011 (4968 posts) -

I felt bad for people going up against this kid at EVO because the crowd booed the fuck out of them if they won. 

#4 Posted by TatsurouXIII (649 posts) -

and how exactly do they explain this kid playing M rated games?

#5 Posted by Scarabus (478 posts) -

MvC3 is a toy game. This just confirms it.

#6 Posted by jkuc316 (981 posts) -
@OracleXIII said:
and how exactly do they explain this kid playing M rated games?
The cool dad who says he'd rather have him play video games than smoke pot
#7 Posted by rjayb89 (7716 posts) -

... that guy all the left on the front page looks like it's shopped or something. It's weird.

Online
#8 Posted by KarlPilkington (2676 posts) -

@jkuc316 said:

v

Fantastic comment.

#9 Posted by CyleMoore (489 posts) -

I remember when I was a kid and was really good at games too.  I had a lot of free time back then.

#10 Posted by jkuc316 (981 posts) -
@Chabbs0 said:

@jkuc316 said:

v

Fantastic comment.

I edited it after getting the quest and I still got caught, damn you're fast
#11 Posted by Mijati (875 posts) -

Awesome story, first I've heard about this. Thanks Patrick

#12 Posted by scarace360 (4828 posts) -

I wanna see this kid play mvc2.

#13 Posted by Shuborno (938 posts) -
#14 Posted by LosDub (198 posts) -

Sounds like a remake of The Wizard is do to me

#15 Posted by motang (62 posts) -
@scarace360: LOL!
#16 Edited by sirdesmond (1234 posts) -

@OracleXIII said:

and how exactly do they explain this kid playing M rated games?

His parents allowed him to play them. It's not really that complicated.

#17 Posted by Legend (2646 posts) -

I taught this kid everything he knows. Yes.

Online
#18 Posted by Tesla (1902 posts) -

I like Bison because of his purple hand too! This kid is awesome.

#19 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3001 posts) -

That kid's dad sounds like an awesome guy.

#20 Posted by MassiveDuck (153 posts) -

Great Story. I love that GB offers more than simply run of the mill news articles.

#21 Posted by scarace360 (4828 posts) -
@motang said:
@scarace360: LOL!
Whats funny.
#22 Posted by Ronald (1334 posts) -

One of the top MvC3 players was born after 9/11. I feel old.

#23 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

I'm still surprised he got that far in Evo with the level of play I saw, he wasn't that good but placed way higher than I would have expected. Very strange, I mean I thought the level of competition would be pretty damn good even at top100 but this kid made top 48 or something.
 
Then again sometimes you just get placed in either really easy or really tough pools. Luck of the draw and all.
 
Oh and this kid could be the ultimate troll if he wanted, good to see he doesn't have some cocky attitude.
 
Edit: and oh hey, karaface!

#24 Posted by Elusionar (309 posts) -

 
Mk is 17+ and with good reason. I hope that the younger teens ( or kids in this case) arent aloud to play it in tournaments or even watch it.

#25 Posted by Akia (38 posts) -

This write up was fantastic

#26 Posted by Evelgest (122 posts) -

Kara's photo on front page of GB. Hm.

#27 Posted by Philzpilz (225 posts) -

That video is awesome. I'm not a fighting game guy, but I think I'd watch Evo if I knew an 8-yo kid was in there with a chance of placing well

#28 Posted by MindOST (215 posts) -

Not TOO surprising. 
 
Kids have crazy-good twitch reflexes, and this kid's had as much time to learn the game as any adult.

#29 Posted by DarkbeatDK (1225 posts) -

I wish I was that good at video games.

#30 Posted by Mesoian (1572 posts) -

The crowd probably had a lot to do with him being so nervous. If you watch his MvsC3 matches, you can hear them actively cheering when he's doing well and booing when he's doing poorly. The kid is 8, he probably had never experienced anything like that before.

And I know that he's a hulk user and 90% of his combos started with s.H, which is a pretty easy move to land, and his competition probably wasn't taking him seriously enough as they are RUSHING DOWN HULKS (which you do not do because it's the god damn hulk...) and he never actually did go up against any real killers, so a lot of factors weigh in to how well he did.

But he seemed to enjoy the experience, and it'll be interesting to see how he decides to pursue this, or if he decides to. Playing video games for a living sounds pretty amazing when you're a kid, but the time you have to put into it has a tendency to suck the fun right out of it. He was fun to watch though, and every time I was about to say, "bah, he's just mashing a button and hoping for the best" he would pull something quite intelligent out of his hat.

#31 Posted by DrDarkStryfe (1079 posts) -

I laughed my ass off at the comment about selling rims so the kid could play, an awesome thing for the parent to do, but hilarious nonetheless.

#32 Posted by laserbolts (5309 posts) -
@OracleXIII
and how exactly do they explain this kid playing M rated games?
Seriously this is what you thought after reading this? Christ.
#33 Posted by TheTelePlus (33 posts) -

Playing fighting games professionally in a nutshell, it's so easy an eight year old can do it.

#34 Posted by Cirdain (2996 posts) -
@Akia said:

This write up was fantastic

#35 Posted by Scodiac (470 posts) -

Someone start filming the documentary now. It's quite a story. Sold his rims! What a dad eh.

#36 Posted by Phoenix87 (471 posts) -

Hope he doesn't get exploited, as most children with talent do.

#37 Posted by Naoiko (63 posts) -

You've got courage to try and interview and 8 year old. Awesome article! 

#38 Posted by Phonics (327 posts) -

Marvel 3 is such a hard game, you can win by smashing heavy attacks. This kid isnt a genius or an amazing player, STOP IT. Yeah, he went to evo and won some matches but people calling him a 'prodigy' need to check themselves. 

#39 Posted by coakroach (2486 posts) -

This kids probably got an interesting life ahead of him

#40 Posted by heatDrive88 (2262 posts) -

This is the feel-good story of the year, I love it.

#41 Posted by darkjester74 (1565 posts) -

Great story Patrick.  What I found most surprising was how supportive his dad was, leveraging video games to teach his kid some life lessons.  Really cool stuff.
#42 Posted by Qwert (27 posts) -

More stuff like this please. This was great!!

#43 Posted by dubios451 (134 posts) -

@Elusionar: It is, but ultimately it is the parent's choice, the rating system is simply to restrict the purchase of the game to those 17 and older. In this case the father is aware of the content of the game and approves of his son playing it, so its okay. Likewise kids could watch the game being played, its ultimately up to the parents to remain informed of what their kids are up to.

#44 Posted by MEATBALL (3013 posts) -

Man, good to hear Noah's father is so supportive. Hope the kid goes places.

#45 Posted by Shisnopi (78 posts) -

I wonder how he feels about Ultimate MvC3?

#46 Posted by Chet_Rippo (231 posts) -

That dad is a pro

#47 Posted by Junpei (712 posts) -

People have known about Noah for about a year on the fighting game forums (SRK, EventHubs) but it is great to see him getting some wider known recognition because it is a great story and is awesome to see him play. Completely agree with the people who stated that anyone playing against him at EVO was immediately the villain. It could have been a fan favorite like Daigo and they would have booed him because you just can't help but root for this kid.

#48 Posted by Fuga (206 posts) -

"wunderkind"

#49 Posted by rmanthorp (3850 posts) -

EVO 2k11 was amazing.

Moderator
#50 Posted by wolf_blitzer85 (5250 posts) -

Really cool story. I wish my brain was all fresh so I could be super good at video games again.

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