Long Nguyen is philosophical about his love for video games. The 30-year-old pharmacist has spent most of his youth studying and building a successful career for himself. But he says when he is on his deathbed, he wants to be remembered and known for dedicating himself to the things he loves and is passionate about.
“You’re not going to look back and wish that you had gone for that pharmacy management position and gotten more money,” he said. “You’re going to say, ‘I got to go to Japan to compete,’ and I can carry that and be happy with that when I’m thinking on my deathbed.”
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Nguyen has competed in some of the biggest international tournaments for fighting video games including EVO — a major open gaming tournament — and the Frosty Faustings tournament — a major event that brings in players from Asia — in Chicago.
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His game of choice is Guilty Gear, a 3D Japanese fighting game that is similar to the popular Street Fighter games in North America. While he does not play full time, Nguyen has placed among some of the top competitors in the game, coming 13th out of 45 teams and 45th out of 250 individuals early in 2018. He is also a regular local gaming and hobby store, Goodtime Games, where he helps host gaming nights for aficionados in the city.
Nguyen said it’s his goal to help people feel as welcome as possible and help them to make new friends.
“It’s just a place for kids to play games and have fun,” he said. “We try to keep it as positive as possible so people don’t feel alienated.”
Nguyen’s love affair with games began as he would watch his older brothers playing early nineties classics like, Mario, Final Fantasy and Street Fighter.
“I was always fascinated with the games he played,” Nguyen said. “And I would always want to project myself into the games.”
When he was still young, Nguyen said that his mom would bring him and his brothers to the mall where they would play games at the old Happy Orange arcade. She would give them 50 cents while she shopped for groceries. The brothers, eager to have their time last as long as possible, would take turns playing as characters on the game King of Fighting.
“We would try our best to be better at the game so that we wouldn’t lose right away,” said Nguyen. “If we lost and that 50 cents only gave us 2 minutes of game play, then we would have to go back to my mom at extra foods and wait until she was done talking with all her friends to get more money.”
For seven-year-old Nguyen, waiting was not an option.
“To prevent that situation as best as we could, we had to get good at those games,” he said. “That’s how we got good when we were little.”
Nguyen continued to play throughout high school, eventually choosing to go to UBC for university because they had an arcade, and he figured he would be able to develop relationships with people who had similar interests to him. As a young student managing a heavy and difficult course load while away from the comfort and familiarity of home, he said making friends who played the same types of games as he did helped him to get through what was the most stressful year of his entire life.
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“The friends I made playing Guilty Gear in school are the same ones I have now, some of them are even in my wedding party,” he said, laughing. “I built this camaraderie, this friendship with people who also dedicated a lot of time to this game.”
This core group began hosting tournaments at the University, which was Nguyen’s introduction to the competition scene. While he enjoyed competing, he said the rigours of pharmacy school took up more of his time as he began to focus on building his career.
Nguyen said he re-discovered his passion after he moved back to Prince Rupert and landed a full time job and security. While he was happy to have accomplished several important educational, life and career goals in his life, Nguyen said his career isn’t what really fulfills him.
“People know me as the pharmacist from Safeway,” he said. “But i’m not known for doing something that I particularly love, and I love playing these fighting games.”
Nguyen said being know for his passion and improving everyday at it are the two things that motivate more than ever now. If he can do those two things, he will die a happy man.
“I guess laying on my deathbed, as weird as it sounds, the thing that will bring me the most happiness is knowing that I did my best,” he said. “And I tried to improve everyday as a person at what I love.”