The secret to becoming a professional player at any video game is practice, which is especially true of the fighting game genre, as mastering the timing of moves and the responses to different character matchups is something learned over countless hours of play. For fighting game players, the choice of controller and their preferred button layout is of paramount importance, which is why premium arcade sticks exist, as they allow players to tailor their controller to their own personal specifications. French esports player Marie-Laure ‘Kayane’ Norindr teamed up with Nacon to create the Daija Arcade Stick, which is a premium arcade stick that is designed for use with PC, PS4, and PS5 games.
Kayane is a professional fighting game competitor, who has previously earned a Guinness World Record for being the first female Super Street Fighter IV world champion. She has been a major fixture in the Soulcalibur competitive scene for over twenty years, especially in her native France, where she has won a number of major fighting game tournaments. Kayane has lent her knowledge of fighting games to the development of Nacon’s Daija Arcade Stick, which uses SANWA components to provide a comfortable, customizable, and precise control setup for fighting games.
Kayane recently spoke to Screen Rant during the Nacon’s Bigben week event about her work designing the Daija Arcade Stick, her time in the fighting game community, and how to become a professional fighting game player.
How did you get involved in the development of the Daija Arcade Stick?
Marie-Laure Norindr: I’ve been working with NACON since 2016 for the first version, and it was released first in 2018 for the PS4 and PC version. And I was working with them from everything about the layout of the buttons to the joystick, and the fact that we can customize it to modify the artwork so that the viewers can have their own artwork and put their favorite characters in there.Advertisement
And the fact that you can have a Korean joystick or a Japanese joystick, so it’s different depending on the games that you play. I know that in Japan, they love to play games like Street Fighter or King of Fighters, and they would play with a Japanese joystick. And then with the arcade stick players, it’s a different one for Tekken players mostly, because Tekken is very popular.
We want to reach everybody, with any kind of game 2D or 3D games. So, that’s why we put the possibility to customize inside the stick and outside.
What are the benefits of using an arcade stick like this, rather than all the other ones on the market?
Marie-Laure Norindr: Now that the fighting games are more and more easy to use and to master, I think that controller players have an advantage over arcade stick players.
Today in 2022, it’s mostly about the sensations and feelings that you have with your controller or stick. To me, I always feel that arcade stick is better for me, because I really feel like I’m pressing buttons. When I play with a controller, I feel like I’m not really playing; I’m not really pressing buttons. There’s no sound; they have no feeling when they play with your controller. But when I play with a stick, I really feel like I’m doing something. When I press a button, then my character is doing the moves. I really feel that I’m controlling my character through the buttons of my stick. That’s how I feel.
I think that most arcade stick players feel this way too. They like to press buttons and feel they have something underneath. That’s how I feel right now when I play with my arcade stick; it’s my identity as a fighting game player.Advertisement
What other things can you modify with the joystick?
Marie-Laure Norindr: You can modify artwork, you can modify the buttons of the joystick, and then you can have different profiles. That’s something new to the DAIJA joystick on PS5, PC and Xbox. With the profile button, you can change things depending on the games you play – and have your own custom commands and your own configuration for each game.
If you decide Profile 1 is Tekken 7, then you can with the software change the layout of the buttons, so that it’s dedicated to Tekken 7. And when you play Street Fighter V, you go to Profile 2, and you just have to press the profile button near the PS button. And it’s really easy to do this way. Every game has a different configuration, but with this kind of software and kind of button, it’s really easy to switch from one game to another one. That’s something you can customize with NACON software.Advertisement
I’m a controller player myself, so what would you say the benefits of the arcade joystick are over something like that?
Marie-Laure Norindr: I feel like the benefits are the feeling and sensations. But besides that, it’s the fact that when you switch to a new generation console, you know the console changes. It can take some time before you have new controllers that have a PS license or a Microsoft license. You maybe wait a few years before having new models of controllers.
But with an arcade stick, whether it comes from PS3 or PS4 or PS5, the layout is kind of the same. We will add new features to it, but the layout of the buttons with the joystick is the same. It will add some features like a profile, or better fabric; we can modify the inside, but the layout is the same, because we want the players that are used to the arcade stick to feel the same way from an old console to a new one. I think that when you play on stick, you have zero adaptation time; it’s the same layout.Advertisement
Every time we have a new version, I think that makes your gamer life easier. At least I don’t have to adapt to a new controller, a new layout, or new button feeling. That’s something that is really important when you play on an arcade stick.
Something I’ve found when I play on controller – I play with the cross controller, and sometimes when I do super moves in Street Fighter V, I’d be too lazy to do it because I feel it hurts. That’s the kind of thing you won’t have by using an arcade stick; you won’t be tired and your fingers won’t hurt if you play hours and hours.
All the big fight games at the moment are coming to the end of their lifespan, as they’ve been around a long time. What changes would you like to see in the next generation of fighting games?
Marie-Laure Norindr: For the next generation, to be honest, I feel like the developers don’t think enough of solo content.
I feel like every player that grew up with fighting games are attached to characters and have their favorites because of their charisma, their style, and their story. The new generation needs to do some storytelling around the characters. With Overwatch, they do some mini-movies. And with League of Legends, Riot is doing an amazing job with Arcane on Netflix. It’s incredible.
I feel like all the characters in fighting games have their own stories that are not developed enough, but there’s a background that has to be developed. And I feel like in fighting games, we need that sort of content to attract more players. The players that we have passionate about fighting games, but I would like to have new players that are interested in the characters and the universe, and then the fight game. Then we can attract them to the competitive scene and things like that.Advertisement
But as a player, I would love to get back to a game like Street Fighter IV, that I really loved. It was quite simple to use, but so hard to master. And it has a lot of mind games, where you have to adapt and think about what you’re going to do. You have the possibility to have fun the games with simple things.
Despite that they are willing to make more and more features to the gameplay, sometimes it’s too much and can make new players lazy to learn. Maybe going back to some more neutral gameplay would be something good for Street Fighter. I hope that they will try to gather more people that are not used to fighting by developing a universe around it and make some simpler gameplay.
You’ve been playing fighting games for over 20 years now. How has the scene changed since you first joined?
Marie-Laure Norindr: The biggest change in fighting games? I think that is the publishers’ investment in the scene. We have something called the Grassroots Tournament, with grassroots organizers, because we felt the publishers were not really interested in supporting a competitive eSport. We’ve been organizing tournaments for 20 years now, and it was in some schools and some rooms and bars that wanted to welcome us. It was not something big; it was just something between friends.
We try to attract more people, and now we have CapCom and others that organize their own Legion; their own tournaments. Now they are really part or the competitive scene.
When there is a problem within the community, maybe around harassment of something like that, you will always have official statements from the publisher to say, “Okay, this player has bad behavior, so we’re going to ban him from all the tournaments.” That’s something that was not happening 10 years ago; we organized tournaments, and the people that played decided to do something when a player is abusing something or if there’s bad behavior. We were the one deciding, but now we have a publisher.Advertisement
They have their own rules: they decide when they want to do tournaments, where they want to do the finals, how many players – they decide everything, even the cash prize. Now, even if we are allowed to organize a tournament for Street Fighter V, depending on the cash prize that we put on it, they will say yes or no. That is the biggest change, I think.
They tried to do an Esports League organized by Blizzard or Riot; I think they tried to set this kind of model. But I think they should not forget about grassroots tournaments, because we come from associations and people that did it for free. And these guys, they don’t have the time to ask Capcom and wait for them to organize a ton of local tournaments. I really hope that they take that into consideration and make things easier for local tournaments to happen again.
What advice would you give to a new player who wants to get into fighting games professionally?
Marie-Laure Norindr: To anyone that wants to play professionally? I think that anybody that is professional right now in fighting games didn’t really want to do it professionally. They at first did it as a hobby of passion. And then when it comes out that they are really good at it, by participating in tournaments or going to local tournaments and going to major tournaments, then they get a good ranking and think, “Maybe I have a place here.”
When they participate in multiple tournaments and get good results every time, you have some sponsors and people that say, “We want you on our team as a professional player.” And that’s how it happens.
We don’t really decide to be professional, If you have a passion, you play. You train, because you want to be stronger. You participate in tournaments and get good results. And if it happens that you attract a sponsor, then you have to take this opportunity if you really want to lead from it.Advertisement
But it’s not like you have to think about being professional, because it’s a big world with lots of strong prayers. It’s not enough to be just strong. You have to have good communication; you have to be a content creator, and you have to be a talented creator. Sponsors nowadays don’t expect you to just be strong and to just participate in tournaments. They want you to do more on social networks and everything.
Being professional means a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time, and you’re not really well paid all the time. We have to take that in consideration. But for now, I would say to everybody to just play well, go to tournaments, and see what happens. Thank you very much.
The Daija Arcade Stick is available from Nacon for €149.90.