He was homeless at age 18, won a trip to Japan, and became the Ryan Hart we know now; hear Hart's inspiring story in this BornFree interview

'Gaming was my sanctuary. When I was playing games, I could forget everything else'

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • August 15, 2019 at 3:15 p.m. PDT

He currently holds no less than four Guinness World Records and is one of the greatest multi-fighting game players to have ever competed, but Ryan Hart's story and approach to his passion is just as intriguing as his impressive resume or seeing him on the sticks in realtime.

Hart sat down with BornFree at EVO this year to share some of that story as the two engaged in an in-depth chat covering topics such as Street Fighter 5's Sagat, Hart's humble beginnings, integral moments during his fighting game journey, and plenty more.

While he doesn't go too deeply into the particulars of his situation, Hart does share that he was homeless for a while at the age of 18, and it was through the positives of the arcade going experience that helped him deal with all the negativity going on at that time in his world.

"I wasn't in a good situation when I went to Japan. A lot of people don't know this, but at the time I was completely homeless. I didn't have anywhere to live, I was on the streets, and I would just kind of pretend that life was okay when I went to the arcades," explains Hart. "Gaming was my sanctuary. When I was playing games, I could forget everything else."

It was at this particularly trying time in his life that he found out that there was an Ehrgeiz tournament at a nearby arcade that offered a trip to Japan as a first-place prize. If you can't already tell, Hart's life needs to be made into a film.

We'll let him tell you what happened next in the story. There are timestamps below the embed so that you can jump to the parts that of the interview that you are most interested in first.

00:00 Final Round clip.
01:05 BornFree Intro.
02:15 Question/Topic: Introductions. SFV. Sagat.
06:40 Question/Topic: Commentating and current life and priorities.
10:53 Question/Topic: Gaming and his first ever sponsorship as a fighting gamer back in the mid-90s! Namco & Logitech - he was 17yrs old.
15:02 Question/Topic: First ever trip abroad, and Japan. Discussing Ryan’s achievements and being “under the radar”.
17:28 Question/Topic: Being homeless at the age of 18. Ryan’s backstory and first trip to Japan. Winning KOF World Championship.
23:15 Question/Topic: Why did you take fighting games so seriously? Why did you train so hard and try to learn so much back in the mid-90s?
24:42 Question/Topic: Did fighting games feel like “this is my destiny”? Includes Ryan’s old school training methods.
28:06 Question/Topic: More on the Japan trip. Should have been 3 days. Extended to 2 months!
The special welcome he was given by the players and media. KOF World Championship.
33:01 Question/Topic: First month in Japan. Being bodied in Tekken and Virtua Fighter.
36:30 Question/Topic: Nearly quit fighting games. Making the decision to carry on in Japan. The struggle was very real.
39:45 Question/Topic: Returning to UK, working and studying Japanese. And later back to Japan. FGC is a special place.
42:50 Question/Topic: Speaking his early Japanese, leading to job opportunities. Later worked at Nintendo as a product analyst.
47:19 Question/Topic: Deep dive on KOF tournament in Japan and, again, why Ryan was pursuing this stuff so adamantly?
51:55 Question/Topic: Can’t even imagine being homeless…?
53:05 BornFree Outro.

Load comments (17)