This year marked Ultra Street Fighter IV's first appearance at EVO, and Hay made it a memorable debut. Hailing from France, everything about Hay's win seems a bit unorthodox, from his controller preference to the primary reason he picked the character he sticks with, Rose: she looked good.
You have to lose twice to be truly defeated at EVO, as the tournament's final match is derived from a victor in both a winners and losers bracket. Hay found himself in the losers bracket, which meant he was always one loss away from saying goodbye to EVO until next year. But Hay and Rose stuck it out, and he found himself facing off against Takahashi "Bonchan" Masato, who knocked out many tournament favorites, and Sagat.
To win, though, Hay would have to defeat Masato twice. Once isn't enough, since it simply resets the bracket, as Masato came from the winners circle. But Hay manages to pull it off, ultimately leading to Masato's defeat.
Maybe next year, Masato.
With a little bit of time and distance from his win at EVO, I touched base with Hay to learn a little bit more about his climb to the spotlight, and figure out what's up with that PlayStation controller. Our conversation took place over email, and features some light editing on my part, as English is not Hay's primary language.
Giant Bomb: Does it feel any different to be an EVO champion? Are your friends and family treating you any differently?
Olivier Hay: It doesn't feel any different, I'm still eating Asian food and betting on horse races. But, I agree, it's funny when people recognize me outside, and want a picture. My family doesn't treat me differently, as games aren't really a successful thing to them. It's not like I've graduated with a PhD. As for my friends, which are for the most part gamers, they are very proud, but it didn't change anything in their behavior toward me.
Giant Bomb: Do you think the money (and interviews like this) might convince your family it's legitimate?
Hay: Well, I hope so! My family is of an older generation. They only care about getting stable work, and getting a daily life. Games are always a waste of time to them.
Giant Bomb: Who is the first person you talked to after winning? Did you call someone?
Hay: The first person I talked to was my friend Evans. After he saw the K.O screen, he jumped on the scene, and lifted me up. He was way more happy than me! Then, he told me "you won EVO!!!” I said, “Yeah, I won.” The first person I called was my girlfriend, to tell her that I won, and I would bring back some money home.
Giant Bomb: Do you remember why you got into fighting games in the first place? How did Street Fighter become your game of choice?
Hay: I got into fighting games randomly. I started with SFIV. Back then, I wanted to buy a next-gen console, so I got the PS3. Street Fighter was the only game I knew in the shop. That’s how I got into fighting games, and how I chose Street Fighter.
Giant Bomb: Where did the nickname MD|Luffy come from?
Hay: It comes from the manga One Piece. Sometimes, my nickname get spelled Louffy. It's because Luffy is taken when I want to register most of the time.
Giant Bomb: Is there a different mentality when you're fighting through the loser bracket?
Hay: Yes, totally. When you are in loser, you know that each encounter can be your last one at EVO. The next match would be next year--if you lose. I was trying to play my best game, despite being under intense pressure. It's really a game of nerves when it comes down to that.
Giant Bomb: As you move from round-to-round, is there a mental fatigue? Do you start to experience any kind of exhaustion?
Hay: Hmm, I would say yes, if you aren't well-prepared for high-pressure matches, and if you didn't get a chance to rest well the night before. But in my situation, I was pretty good. I got plenty of rest, as you have one day off from tournament. I'm used to playing in tournaments, and I have good control over my stress.
"My family is of an older generation. They only care about getting stable work, and getting a daily life. Games are always a waste of time to them."
Giant Bomb: Picking Rose as your character was considered a surprising choice. What's strategically appealing about Rose?
Hay: When I picked up SF, I didn't know that there were characters stronger than one another, or that characters had different styles--defensive, offensive. So I chose my character only based on the design. I liked Rose’s one, and she's sexy!
Giant Bomb: Many of the headlines about your win at EVO have centered around your use of a PS1 controller. Can you explain why that's your controller of choice?
Hay: I began playing on PS3, so I used the PS3 pads. After some months, I went to Xbox because the online was better. At that time, an adapter which handled PS3 pads didn’t exist, so I had to use a PS1 controller that I found in an old box. It was the controller I got when I bought the PlayStation with Final Fantasy VII back then. Its really old now. Furthermore, I really like the PS1 controller, as it's light, solid, the d-pad is more accurate, and it's easy to carry.
Giant Bomb: Do you have any rituals right before a match? Any superstitions you need to address before sitting down to play?
Hay: I do. I crack my bones in a particular way: always the right hand before the left one. Then, I finish with both thumbs simultaneously. Then, I crack my neck right to left. Then, I join up my hands up at the wrist (like praying). And, finally, I kiss my pendant.
Giant Bomb: How long do you think you'll continue to keep playing fighting games competitively?
Hay: I don’t know. I love video games, and I love fighting games. I don't think even aging can’t make me hate them, can it?
Giant Bomb: If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking of getting into competitive play, what would it be?
Hay: The most important part is to find a group of players with whom you can train and improve together. Training alone is the slowest way to improve, in my opinion. Also, go into competitions with some friends, so you don't feel alone there. It's important for your mental stability. Then, hope to lose. The first part of learning is happens by losing, to understand what your flaws are, so you have a base to work on!
(Photo Credit: Robert Paul)