Welcome to HandButt!
Many games, companies, and people create the biosphere that is esports, and every year, nay, every month this biosphere seems to get larger and larger. Developers of video games, gaming products, and gaming content all drive to leave their mark on the gaming realm. Some may do this in the hopes of cultivating a competitive scene, or to grow an already existing one. In this case, Dan Fornace has set his sights on the struggling Fighting Game Community and has brought some of its life and flare back with the creation of Rivals of Aether, a fighting game much in the sandbox style of Super Smash Brothers.
Our new friend Neal “HandButt” Sama saw this opportunity and decided to give it a go. What came of his decision was something straight from most gamer’s dreams. I was able to talk to Neal about his recent happenings and what we might be seeing from him for Mentality in the near future.
Q: Could you start off by telling me a little about yourself, both in and out of esports?
A: Well I'm 25 years old and I am from a small town in upstate new York. I graduated from Marist College with a degree in Criminal Justice and I now work in the private sector for a health insurance company. Gaming has always been my main hobby throughout life, along with playing guitar and playing tennis.
Q: What games did you play growing up, and what games do you play now?
A: Growing up I played Star Wars Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy, two of my favorite games of all time along with the Knights of the Old Republic series. I am a giant Star Wars fan, if you could not tell. I also played Counter Strike 1.6 and Source. Now a days I mostly only play Rivals of Aether, but also occasionally play Diablo 3 and PUBG.
Q: Regarding Rivals, how long have you been playing and what made you want to pursue it at a competitive level?
A: I started in Rivals after seeing it at Smash Summit 2 in Spring of 2016 and have played it consistently since, so just over a year now. I think in my 1st or 2nd week of actually playing I was watching RiskyCB stream and he told me to enter the Saturday weeklies. I am really competitive by nature and I have been hooked on the competitive scene since. Normally I only play games casually, but something about Rivals made me want to get better and better and the competitive scene seemed like the best way to do it.
Q: So, how did Season 1 of the Rivals Championship Series go for you?
A: That is really where I made the jump from upper-mid level player to a top 10 player. Most of my results were average until the last two events of the season, RCS11 and 12. In 11, I beat a lot of good players but ultimately took 4th place. In RCS12, I went on an absolute tear, beating Fly Society | Fullstream, Kisuno, TheFailWhale, BRT | LBO, and 2 sets against T2 | CakeAssault to win the tournament from the losers side. I ended Season 1 as the 7th ranked player in North America, and earned a partial travel voucher to Genesis 4. I under-performed there but despite that had a great time meeting the Rivals players and hanging out with the ICE crew at the ICE house.
Q: Were you ever expecting for this to turn into what it is now? Did you ever expect to become one of the best players in the game when you started playing?
A: No, not at all. I work full time and gaming is a hobby. I never put much hope or thought into it and maybe that helped. I think a lot of people get hung up on expectations and not having any helped me just improve at my own pace.
Q: So what can we expect from you for Season 2?
A: It is hard to say. I would be lying if I said I expected to win any of the national tournaments, but I do not think I or the rest of the community would be surprised if I did. We will have to wait and see.
Q: What can you tell me about Shine 2017 coming up? How do you expect to fare at the tournament?
A: I think I will do fairly well at Shine. Again, I try not to put expectations on myself, so it is hard to say. With 2 months to prepare and grind I am sure I will be at top form by the time it rolls around and hopefully I can contend for first place.
Q: Boy that is exciting! I know I look forward to watching you play! Do you have any last minute comments?
A: Just a shout out to NEO! The Rivals crew I have run with for a while now. And if anyone reading this wants to learn more about Rivals come join our general, tournament, and academy discords. You can find them all at the r/rivalsofaether subreddit.
With all of these exciting announcements for Mentality, we could not be more ready for the future! Both Froztbitten and HandButt are already making fine additions to the team. Make sure to keep an eye on our Twitter and Twitch, but make sure to give all of our lovely competitors and streamers a follow as well. They deserve just as much support, if not more, than we do since they make us who we are.
We look forward to bringing quality content and amazing competition to you, the community, and keep your #ClearMentality as we will have some more announcements very, very soon.