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Casuals: Gllty, the Troll

© Robert Paul / http://rmpaul.com
By Michael Martin
Leah "GiantSword Gllty" Hayes represents the Midwest FGC with her unique brand of play.
Believe it or not, the fighting game community extends beyond the left and right coasts of the United States. Every region has its own underdogs or its obscure talents. Tucked in the middle of the coasts known for producing fighting games’ greatest players is the Midwest. Leah “Gllty” Hayes from St. Louis, Missouri, sponsored by custom arcade stick manufacturer GiantSword, has been bouncing around the scene longer than many realize. She admittedly isn’t a household name in Street Fighter competition but don’t let that fool you. She’s a strong player who isn’t afraid to execute her style of play. In other words... she might troll you a little.

Frustrate the Opponent

At 27, she looks young for her age. She was the teenager bouncing around in local arcades that looked like she was 8 years old. Her introduction to the competitive scene came through Tekken 5. While most of the local scene played games like Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Capcom vs SNK 2, and Marvel vs Capcom 2, Gllty wasn’t paying attention to those games. It wasn’t until Street Fighter IV released in 2009 when Gllty got serious enough about competing that she started traveling.
When Street Fighter IV hit, Gllty had a “character crisis” and didn’t connect with any specific character so she played some Dhalsim. In Super Street Fighter IV, Gllty picked up Makoto, the “worst character in the game”, according to Gllty. Why would anyone play with characters known for their horrible match-ups or that are acknowledged as bad? Getting a peek into Gllty’s mindset and her approach to fighting games reveals her intentions.
“I like characters that use mechanics in a way that denies other people,” Gllty said. “I think it’s an interesting way of approaching the game because it takes options off the table.”
It’s very much a risk versus reward play style to play those types of characters, often players give up advantages like higher damage output or lower health, as in the case with Dhalsim and Makoto in Street Fighter IV, respectively.
“You have to make a lot of choices where you bank everything and are willing to lose. With Dhalsim, you want to be a jerk. It’s ironic the way he is designed. He’s about denying people what they want,” she said.
Being able to deny the opponent from executing their game plan opens up opportunities for characters like Dhalsim because it frustrates opponents more than anything. A frustrated opponent is more apt to take risks or do something they wouldn’t normally do, playing into Gllty’s hands. It’s a sound strategy, but it doesn’t always pay off.
“This may be why I lose because I like to push the envelope and overextend myself or I get someone mad and they become too stubbornly aggressive and I don’t adapt to it,” Gllty said.
Leah "Gllty" Hayes, Street Fighter Competitor
Leah "Gllty" Hayes, Street Fighter Competitor

Disappearing Act

Gllty stuck with Makoto throughout the years and thanks to some buffs, Makoto became quite the deadly character which we say late in the year last year as Kentaro “Misse” Nakamura made an incredible run into and through the Capcom Cup.
“She’s stressful to play. If someone is playing random, you can lose the game. That’s kind of Makoto. But if you can condition someone, players crumple because they’re scared. You could do several things that lead to a quick death,” she said.
While Gllty cited several local Guilty Gear/Tekken players like AKA and Slips, as well as more well-known competitors NerdJosh, Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez, Arturo Sanchez, Misse, and Haitani as her source of inspiration for competition, she also cited an unlikely game, World of Warcraft.
There was a period where Gllty vanished from the fighting game scene. During that time, she fell into a deep dive into player versus player in World of Warcraft. Even in that game Gllty tried to find what made the game fun for other players and actively tried to take that away, griefing them in PvP. During this time, Gllty did some extensive self-exploration to find herself outside of the games that provided an escape from the conservative, small town environment she’s lived in all her life.
“I grew up one way and disappeared from the scene for a while because I needed time to figure myself out. I put a lot of time into refining myself,” Gllty said.
In that time, Gllty transformed and emerged from her World of Warcraft cocoon, eventually reintegrating herself into the fighting game community with a new worldview and perspective on the scene.
“I felt confident enough to start going to arcades again. I don’t think people recognized me because it had been about 10 years. I was no longer the annoying awkward kid. I became the girl that wanted to play,” she said.

The Long Con

Now, you’ll find Gllty competing at most major events from coast to coast like Final Round, NEC, and CEO on the East Coast, Season’s Beatings and Combo Breaker in the Midwest, and SoCal Regionals and Evo on the West Coast. Last year, she even made it all the way out to Northwest Majors near Seattle.
While her approach to fighting games could be considered playing mind games, part of it stems from a social awkwardness. It’s not intended to be malicious. She just likes to play the part of a troll, bordering on a villain but still relatable as a skilled sometimes underestimated player.
“I’m not a great fundamental player but I’m good at getting under someone’s skin. In Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, I want to put so many things on the screen, someone can’t do anything about it. I like that checkmate situation. The only thing you can do is watch,” Gllty said.
“I don’t do it to ruin someone’s day. There’s a mental attrition. It wears people down and I want to convince them to give up.”
It’s as if she’s running a long con game because she hopes that if someone plays her again down the road, they’ll recall that frustration. One of the more humorous instances of Gllty’s trolling came at Final Round. As she and Julio “The Yun” Fuentes prepared to start their match on stream, Gllty extends her hand for a fist bump. As Fuentes responds with the same gesture, she slides her fist under his and makes a pair of bunny ears. You can see her say, “Snail,” on stream, catching Fuentes off guard.
“What was that?” commentator David “UltraDavid” Graham asked.
“She is a troll,” his commentating partner Skisonic replied, to which UltraDavid agreed while they laughed about the exchange.
“I play with her on Live a lot and a lot of our matches devolve into the stupidest “I think you’re an idiot” moves we can think of,” UltraDavid said on the stream, as he praised her ability with Makoto.
She didn’t win any Capcom Pro Tour events. She didn’t even make it out of pools at Evo in 2015 but what she didn’t accomplish doesn’t bother her. In fact, she’s confident in what she will accomplish moving forward with Street Fighter V.
“I started late and did kind of eh. I put myself in the position to do quite a bit with the next game. Some interesting things could happen with Street Fighter V,” Gllty said.
If you haven’t guessed who Gllty may play in Street Fighter V, her mother provided a hint.
“Oh my, my, honey, you need to play FANG,” Gllty’s mother said to her.
“FANG is flamboyantly goofy in an off-putting way. I like obnoxious characters. In-game, I can be that person and it’s not a bad thing,” Gllty said.
Leah "Gllty" Hayes competing at Final Round 18
Leah "Gllty" Hayes competing at Final Round 18
You don’t always have to be the player that wins every tournament to contribute to the fighting game community. In Gllty’s case, she’s a player with a distinct outlook on fighting games and a desire to get better. She’s even taken up playing Super Smash Bros. because it has a good local scene. You’ll find her promoting the STL Barwarz streams because they’ve been supportive of her competitive endeavors. She’s also contributed to the push for better female and LGBT representation in the fighting game community, whether she’s aware of it or not.
“You see a lot of women stepping up increasingly. Persia on Marvel commentary, Milktea on the Smash side, StarmieG, Sherry, and Matsuri, they’re doing something, getting results. The adversity someone goes through shapes them. The ones that stay are four times stronger than those trying to push them out. I envy that kind of strength,” Gllty said.
“I don’t know what my value is to the community at large, but we’ll see what happens with the next game.”
Check back next Thursday for another installment of Casuals and follow @RedBullESPORTS on Twitter for more Street Fighter coverage.