Justin Wong’s name resonates over people’s minds when they think of “professional gaming” and/or “e-sport.” He has been involved with professional gaming for over 10 years and has over 40 champion titles under his belt. He’s known for making remarkable comebacks and is renowned (and feared) in various fighting game circuits. The titles for Marvel vs Capcom 3 Champion at EVO 2014, Mortal Kombat 9 Champion, and the Major League Gaming Killer Instinct Champion are only some of the recent titles he holds. You would think Wong would be an intimidating guy, but I had to opportunity to sit down and ask him a few questions at Momocon 2015. What I found it is that he is a laid-back individual who, at the core, is just all about having a good time doing what he does.
Are you excited to be at Momocon this year? What do you have planned to do? What do you hope to do?
I am definitely excited to be at Momocon just because I’m really into like the anime culture and because I’m also a gamer, so it kinda like goes two in two together. But I do enjoy Atlanta, because there’s a lot of tournaments and all that, so I’ve been here before. So I know a lot of friends, so it’s really cool to just like kick in, and it’s less stress because obviously when I do come to Atlanta it’s big tournaments with a lot of big prizes, but this time I’m here to talk about a panel or about e-sports so it’s pretty cool.
So how did you start your career in e-sports? How did it all start?
I pretty much started as like a fifteen year old playing like video games in an arcade, and eventually my friends took me to a tournament and I did really, really good. From there I just got really addicted doing it, just because I was able to travel so much and just meet new people that have like the same passion. And sooner or later I just got picked up by a sponsor called "Evil Geniuses" and I’m pretty much living the dream at the moment.
Do you feel like that is the best method for someone to still get into e-sports? At least for fighting games? Or has it changed since?
I think the best method, if you like wanted to pursue a career in e-sports, is first: just have fun with it. I can’t just like wake up one day and be like, “I’m going to grow up and be a professional gamer.” If you don’t have any passion to it, then you’re pretty much not going to have fun and then you’re just going to hate it. But if you’re having fun with it, and you get really good because you’re having fun, it will come to you.
Was there like a definitive moment you were like, “I want to become a professional gamer!” Or you decided you were going to become a professional gamer?
I really never had that thought process of, "I wanna be a professional gamer." Even when I was winning a lot. It was just one of those things that, "Ok, I represented like my hometown, my coast, my sponsor." Then, it was just time to go back home and do real life stuff like jobs, school, etc. But right now it’s just getting to that point where there’s so many events, the prizes are actually huge now and you can actually make a living off of this if you’re really, really good.
Let’s talk about some other stuff that is big in e-sports right now. MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) are probably the biggest thing in e-sports right now. How do you feel about that rise of popularity? Do you think it’s good? Or do you think it’s damaging as many people only associate that image with e-sports even though you still have like fighting games and shooters being a big part of it?
Well, MOBAs are definitely the biggest for e-sports. I don’t think it’s bad, it definitely actually helps all the other genres, because people are noticing that video games are like something people can actually do for a living, to make money, and it’s also really fun at the same time. But the reason why people enjoy MOBAs is because it’s like a team effort, you get to play with friends, and it’s also free to play most of the time. Any time it’s free to play, people love it. And especially when you can turn that "something" that is free to play into something that can actually earn an income; that’s pretty good and actually helps a lot because more people wonder like, "Hm, I wonder if this game has a competitive scene or if this game has a following?" People get curious.
Another thing that is becoming big again in e-sports is Super Smash Bros. It’s going to have a really big presence at EVO this year; I think it’s the biggest Melee tournament ever. How do you feel about Smash? Do you like it? Have you ever considered competing in it?
When it comes to Smash, I’m like one of the hugest spectators in the world. I love watching Smash tournaments, especially Melee. I’m a very big fan of Melee. One of my teammates on Evil Geniuses, PPMD, he’s like one of the top five Smash players in the world, so I really enjoy watching him play. I also love watching Mango and Leffen. I really appreciate how it grew, especially when like the tournament stopped supporting it but then the community stuck together and said, "We’re going to keep playing our game because we love it!" And because of that they got a second chance and now everyone wants to see Smash, Smash, Smash, and they deserve it; they really do deserve it.
You brought this up earlier, but I just want to elaborate on it. You’ve been involved with professional gaming for about over ten years now, right?
Do you have any other source of income now? Do you think maybe in the near future we could see people making a living off professional gaming alone?
Beside playing in tournaments to make money, I also stream a lot on Twitch. And that’s actually something that is becoming a very stable income. Also, I’ve been getting into like gaming industries. Like trying to understand how to get a job in the game industry, what can I do? Pretty much, internally, after I stop playing professionally.
Lately you’ve been streaming a lot of Mortal Kombat X, so are you digging that one?
“Mortal Kombat X is actually a very, very fun game. I’m obviously known as a Capcom player: Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, but when it come to Mortal Kombat X I can just literally play it like everyday just because it’s so fun and the movement of the game it really makes me appreciate like, ‘Damn, NetherRealms actually really, really made this as like probably the best fighting game of 2015.’”
They just added Jason Vorhees, and I saw you kind of messing around with him on YouTube, you like him as a character?
I mean who doesn’t want to play Jason, right? It’s like a dream. Like when Freddy Kruger came out for MK9, who did not touch Freddy Kruger, right? So now when you have Jason, you’re definitely going to play Jason, because you grew up with him.
Who would probably be like your dream Mortal Kombat fighter?
Probably like, The Ring. The girl from The Ring. I think she would be pretty cool. But there is actually a character very similar to her in Killer Instinct for Xbox One. Her name is Hisako. She carries like a giant staff, more like a spear, and her hair looks like The Ring and stuff like that and that’s kind of cool. It makes me want to play her too.
What else have you been playing lately and enjoying? Both, fighting and non-fighting?
Well, right now it’s that time of the year where I should only focus on fighting games. Whatever game I’m entering in EVO, that’s the game I should play until EVO. But after EVO I want to play some single player games, some puzzle games. I know Witcher just came out, and I tweeted recently that I want to play Witcher, and then last week I won a raffle and I got Witcher, so I’m like, "It must be fate. The dream has come true."
Is that the only one on your list?
At the moment, it’s like Witcher, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and like pretty much games that the stream wants me to play. They like to see me play these little spooky games, because I get scared very easily.
This is kind of a loaded question but: what is your favorite game of all time? And why?
Probably my favorite game of all time is probably Marvel vs. Capcom 2, just because that’s that one game where I literally sat down and started from not knowing how to play into like 100% knowing everything about the game. I could literally play for hours. Even like now I will sit down and play it. Just for hours or just with friends, because it is very, very fun and competitive and it also got me to where I’m at right now too.
So where can everyone expect to see you? Like upcoming tournaments? Where can they catch you online and follow you at?
The next tournament I will be at will be CEO (Community Effort Orlando) which is in Orlando, Florida. It’s a really, really big tournament. It’s pretty much the biggest tournament right before EVO, so everyone is going to be there. I’ll be at E3 if you guys are going to be there. But you guys can follow me on Twitter @JWonggg or twitch.tv/eg_jwong.
You can go follow Justin on Twitter here and see what he has to say about upcoming tournaments, when he will be streaming, e-sports, and games in general. Be sure to watch him on his Twitch and YouTube channels playing games ranging from fighting to horror. If you want to go experience him dominating live near the end of June you can find out information about CEO here.