We love it when Pakistanis get represented on a global scale and we now have someone bearing our flag in the gaming world.
Pro gamer Arslan Siddique has been in the Fighting Game Community (FGC) for quite some time now but only got the spotlight he deserves this year, when he became the first unified champion of EVO, known as the biggest fighting game tournament of the year.
A Tekken player, 23-year-old Siddique — known as Arslan Ash in the FGC — not only won the second EVO Japan in February but also EVO itself. Represent!
Being a fan of the FGC myself, I didn't miss the chance to get in touch with Arslan and get to know more about him.
Said an excited Arslan, "Winning EVO Japan and EVO USA is not that easy, so I've made history in this regard. Thanks to my mother's prayers, I'm the first person and Pakistani who has made history by winning both the EVOs and I'm very thankful to God."
Tekken players are predominantly South Korean. Arslan won EVO 2019 by defeating one of South Korea's best, a player who goes by the moniker, Knee. But Arslan's interest in Tekken didn't start from a drive to be a pro player. It was more about wanting to be the best at it for himself.
"When I was much younger, there was a gaming zone in front of my house and I used to go there. I was always interested in Tekken and a lot of older men used to play the game. I just wanted to defeat them and that's how I got into it. With time, I got used to playing it and mastered it. "
"When I started Tekken 6 10 years ago, I was already really good within Pakistan and won many games. Back then, I was in school and didn't really have the mindset that, 'Yeah, I should go abroad as well.' A year ago, I thought, why shouldn't I go and take the chance?"
As a young Pakistani who ventured far away from the usual paths of doctor or engineer, Arslan's story can resonate with many as he revealed the journey that took him to pro gaming — and how his parents handled the news.
"Initially, my family knew I won tournaments but were still interested in me completing [chartered accounting]. I did get on that, but the first time I told my parents that I wanted to pursue gaming internationally, their reaction was quite bad. You know how typical Pakistani families think, they said that it has no scope and my mother didn't let me go."
He went on, "I told them to give me one chance at least, and If I fail, then I would try what they wanted for me. They gave me one chance, and then I did very well in it and won money as well. After that, my career started and now my family is happy too. The main motive in life is to start earning money, right? At least, that's what people expect you to do. So if there's money coming in and the family's proud as well, then everyone's happy."
He added, "My mother was really happy. We got my sister's wedding done as well after winning one tournament in Japan."
Arslan may have gotten support from his parents, but it was also Street Fighter pro player Sherry Nhan — known as SherryJenix — who helped him get to EVO.
"Sherry has a programme called E5, in which she helps deserving people apply for their US visa, and those who have a difficult passport such as mine because most of the tournaments take place in the USA. She helps pay for the visa, guides us in filling our visas and is also the sponsor contact vouching for us."
Being a follower of the FGC myself — can never resist a good Street Fighter V match — I couldn't resist asking Arslan a few general questions about himself and fighting games.
Arslan's main in Tekken 7 is Kazumi, with whom he won EVO as well. Explaining why she is his main, Arslan said, "Kazumi is a simple yet effective character. Her normals are really good and less risky overall."
Who does Arslan look up to in the FGC? "Misterio, who is a player of King of Fighters. He is definitely someone I look up to and he has to be my idol."
Does that mean KoF is Arslan's second choice for gaming?
"If I weren't playing Tekken 7, I'd definitely be playing either King of Fighters or *Street Fighter."
Many pro players partake in meditation and even tae kwon do to be prepped for a match. What is Arslan's routine?
"Before my matches, I always pray namaz once and just hope everything works out for me. It helps my mind relax and concentrate as well."
"As a Pakistani, I definitely feel very proud to be representing the South Asian community because now a lot of international sponsors are interested in Pakistan. Recently, even Japanese people came to Pakistan to meet and play with me."
We remember this as Arslan not only gamed with these players but introduced them to our street food as well. Now that's what we call cross culture exchange!.
Arslan is currently playing under UAE team vSlash but hopes to see more Pakistanis take up careers in gaming and believes that because of his win, "a lot of people will come and see how good the Pakistani players are and they will get more opportunities."