Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 16
The ProdigyIf you've ever told a child video games won't take him far in life, a local gamer might make you think twice
BY JASON BANANIA
Most adults would find it unimaginable that a 9-year-old kid could beat them up in a fighting match.
But they’ve never faced Noah Solis.
While the boxing ring is the common square for brawling, Solis’ battles take place in another type of square: a television screen. It’s in this digital realm that he duked it out last year—with the competitive spirit of a prize fighter—at the world’s most prestigious video game tournament held in Las Vegas, placing in the top 48 among thousands of players.
And he was only 8 years old.
Emotions run wild when Noah, also known as the “The Prodigy,” picks up a controller. And it isn’t the sense of anticipation from the audience—it’s the anxiety coming from his opponent, who’s faced with two possibilities: the embarrassment of losing to a child, or the hostility that comes in waves from the audience for beating one at play.
In one of many YouTube videos focusing on Noah, boos can be heard from the crowd as the boy’s opponent hits his avatar, and then uproars of cheers when Solis responds with his own attack.
Solis started playing video games at the age of 6, but soon became bored with the games he owned. Then one day his brother and mentor, Sisto, 19, came home with a game called Marvel vs Capcom 2, a fast-paced combat title that requires precise timing and effective strategies.
Six-year-old Noah got hooked on the game and took every opportunity to play online. Eventually, his dedicated practice paid off.
“I started noticing from the online rankings that he was winning a lot when it came to Street Fighter. I was like, ‘Man, he’s doing pretty good.’ That’s when I thought about entering him in tournaments,” Sisto said.
Right after Noah’s seventh birthday, Sisto signed him up for a regional video game tournament in Los Angeles. Their father, Moises, Sr., financed the trip by selling the expensive rims of his car.
“At that time, I was going through a rough period. I got injured and had to leave my job, but before that happened I had already promised Noah that I would take him to the tournament in L.A. So I sold my $1,500 rims for $700 to pay for the trip,” Moises said.
In Los Angeles, Noah went 0-2 and was eliminated from the tournament early on. But Noah’s shine came during the end of the tournament where matches were played for fun.
A crowd of viewers gathered around Noah as, according to Sisto, he “took out adults left and right.” The recognition he gained in the tournament earned him his first sponsorship from the company Eight Arc, which makes arcade joysticks. They sent him a free $250 joystick to represent their company at the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) in Las Vegas.
It was at EVO 2011 that Noah began gaining respect for his skills rather than the “wow factor” of his size and age. After defeating two competitors in an impressive fashion, he was given the opportunity to showcase his skills to the audience on a Jumbotron—and to the entire world.
“After Noah won his first two matches at EVO, the referee wanted to put him on the stream, which is the big stage,” Sisto said. “The big names and top players are put on a huge screen where people watching can see the match and the players’ facial reactions as they play. It’s where the whole audience is looking.”
The matches were also streamed live on the Internet, where hundreds of thousands of viewers watched his match online. Last year was a record-breaking year for EVO: The three-day stream attracted two million viewers online, according to GameInformer magazine.
By the end of the tournament, Noah’s popularity had risen exponentially. He was featured in numerous interviews, including one by the cable network G4. He also caught the attention of Capcom, the creators of the very game he loved to play. Company officials flew him up to their headquarters in San Mateo to play Street Fighter 4 before its release to the public. Noah also gained a sponsorship from a company called The Traveling Circus, which sells a T-shirt with a self-portrait drawn by Noah on its website.
The master, in person
At his home in Lompoc, Noah is practicing for the EVO 2012 tournament at Caesar’s Palace on July 6. Looking up at the TV screen, his jaw is slack but his eyes are focused as he rapidly taps the buttons on his joystick controller.
After a couple of matches, and with the encouragement of his family, Noah sits down to answer a couple of questions.
How did he get so good?
“Practice, a lot of practice,” he says.
How does he feel when he loses?
“Confused,” he says.
How does he feel when he wins?
“Happy,” he says. “But one time I made someone cry before”—Noah says that made him feel “a little bad.”
When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to do besides play video games, Noah’s eyes roll toward the top of his head as if searching his mind for an answer. With a long drawn out “ummm,” he comes to a conclusion.
“Yeah,” he says, “I just want to play video games.”
Contact Intern Jason Banania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arroyo Grande hates on charter-bashing bill Flash in the barrel? - Central Coast craft brewing continues its roll, but the growing number of startups raises sustainability questions Some whistled along as classic rock piped through the radio. Towers of power - PG&E crews employ daredevil tactics in an Atascadero-SLO power line upgrade Cougars and Mustangs You've got male! And female! And ... - Students and staff hope to make Cal Poly a hub for gender discussions Lawsuit forces Nipomo CSD's financial hand