Xavier "Somniac" Nardella
Competitive Street Fighter player and two-time Battle Arena Melbourne (BAM) champion
HYPER: What attracted you to Street Fighter in the first place? Have you played any other games competitively?
SOMNIAC: I've always had a love for competitive gaming. Before my time in fighting games I played Warcraft 3 and Starcraft: Brood War, and my forte was Quake 3, placing first in many Melbourne tournaments and constantly within top five at interstate tournaments, including WCG for Quake 3 nationally.
Like everyone, I had played many fighting games when I was younger but did not know of a massive competitive scene until Street Fighter IV. I had spent quite some time playing Street Fighter III with friends in the arcade, but the game was never really big and competitions were not frequent.
In 2009 when Street Fighter IV was released, I strove to win the local tournaments held at the arcade, and focused all my energy towards proving I was the best player with my character. There I met many members of the fighting game community and we grew to be friends, meeting up regularly to play.
I have now been playing fighting games competitively for over 7 years, and have competed around the world in many fighting games including all versions of Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter V, King of Fighters 13 & 14, Street Fighter x Tekken, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. HYPER: Tell us about your training regimen. What does your day-to-day routine look like when a tournament’s just around the corner? SOMNIAC: When a tournament is coming up I'll spend a lot of time working on characters I find difficult to fight and if there is a known player attending I'll focus more on their habits. This means several hours of match footage reviewing and training mode, with the goal of trying to develop strategies that I can use in the match.
It can be difficult to find time with full time work, but I often schedule a few hours a night to work on each game I am competing in. HYPER: Does being a competitive Street Fighter player impinge on your social/family life at all? SOMNIAC: I wouldn't say that being known for playing Street Fighter has any stigma behind it or caused any difficult situations to arise through family or work. There's difficulty in managing time for the most part. I'll often find issues with traveling to
events, as it’s usually an entire weekend and my partner often has other events planned that I need to skip out on.
Occasionally work is a concern as well, I need to plan ahead of time to make sure I'm not expecting to be working on a tournament day. HYPER: How has the competitive fighting game scene in Australia changed while you’ve been involved with it? How do you see it evolving over the next five years?
SOMNIAC: There have been definite changes with the scene over the years. Fighting games originally had a start in arcades, with a very grass roots approach to tournaments. Over time we have seen a greater movement towards making fighting games esports, with some initial growing pains towards how to approach community development towards that goal.
People were concerned at the beginning that we would lose some of our identify and grass roots feel by involving ourselves in esports, but over time and with a fair bit of trial and error, I believe the fighting game community has really embraced esports lately, with the last few Evolution world championships and the seasons of Capcom Cup. I believe that now we've reached a perfect middle ground where we have our same grass-roots community feel and identify with the professionalism that is expected when dealing with major sponsorships and investors. HYPER: How long can a pro gamer expect to be at the top of their game? Do you think you’ll still be playing Street Fighter in five or ten years’ time? SOMNIAC: Age does not seem to be a factor when it comes to Street Fighter with a several competitive players being over 30. I actually think that age can be an advantage in fighting games, as with age you're accumulating a vast amount of knowledge and experience, just having good reactions isn't enough to be good at fighting games because you can be tricked into making the wrong decision.
Not to say you need to be old to play though, there are definitely amazing
young players in the scene these days like Liquid NuckleDu & John Takeuchi who have combined their reactions with training from their peers to become significant international threats. As long as you are willing to learn, you can play fighting games competitively. Hyper: What was your greatest ever victory as a Street Fighter pro? Somniac: My greatest victory would have to be my first Battle Arena Melbourne win (BAM 4), it was the first time I'd ever won a major event and it was in my hometown, which made it even more special. Everyone remembers their first big win as their breakout moment so that is why it will always hold a special place in my memory and on my trophy wall.
Every time I attend Battle Arena Melbourne, I want to make sure a Melbourne player takes it out so that we can defend our turf – that alone makes any win carry extra weight for me. I was able to do this again in 2015 with BAM7, defeating both international competitors Perfect Legend (USA) & Waza (New Zealand) in the losers finals and grand finals respectively to win the tournament. Hyper: What about your greatest defeat? Somniac: There are definitely losses that sting more than others and they aren't always grand scale losses. I've had many times where I could have beaten some of the world’s best in tournaments but fell short by the smallest margins. One of my most notable was against Evil Geniuses|Kbrad at Evolution 2013, which came down to the last few seconds and really could have gone either way. It was a nail biter that I wish I could have taken as it's every fighting game player's dream to take an Evolution championship, and a win here would have taken me a step closer to that goal.
I treat each defeat is a learning experience though, adding more strategies to my game play so that I won't lose the same way again. Hyper: What tips do you have for aspiring Street Fighter pros out there?
Somniac: Reach out to your local community, getting to know the players of your local scene and scheduling regular training sessions with them will help you level up much faster as you can bounce ideas off your peers.
It's also important to try to find answers to problems, always take note of how you lost and make sure you can work on a strategy to fight it. Fighting games have a nearly limitless ceiling for improvement because as you get better, so do your opponents, and they will always present a new challenge every time you sit down to play with them.
There's really nothing like the Australian fighting game community and you get to meet both amazing players and people by attending events. Speaking of events, remember to regularly check OzHaduou.net (for Sydney and Australia-wide events) and CouchWarriors.org (for Melbourne-specific sfuff). You won't regret it!
Fighting games have a nearly limitless ceiling For improvement because as you get better, so do your opponents