C-C-C-C-C-C-Combo Breaker – A look into the life of The Hadou

This past week in the community we saw the Injustice 2: Legendary Edition update patch hit us. If you haven’t checked out the new gear added, you must! Many of the pieces are great additions to the game as well as a brand new and thorough tutorial that will help you competitively. Thinking about the blog though this week, it came to mind that the NRS community has many people to thank outside of dev for it still maintaining its strength to date. We have not only the players and personalities to thank for consistency, but also our tournament organizers. If it wasn’t for the TOs we know today taking care of our games and including them on their bill we wouldn’t have as many wonderful streams and events to look forward to throughout the year.

One of the first TOs that come to my mind since I entered the scene is Rick “The Hadou” Thiher. He is involved with many events outside of his own but we know him very well for his event, Combo Breaker. Rick has never forgotten about NetherRealm games when it comes to his tournament. Even with other tournaments he tries his best to make sure our community is included and given respect. Combo Breaker is creeping up on us soon and I felt it was the perfect time to reach out to him for inside information on himself and maybe give out some advice or information that may be inspiring to future generations or current that we have. Without further delay I’d like to pass this over to Rick:

Photo by Robert Paul (rmpaul.com)

1. Thank you for joining us Rick! We’re excited to have you on F2T! Can you tell everyone a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what you do (for those who may not already know much)?

I’m a zoner and grappler favoring player from Minneapolis, Minnesota currently living and working out of San Francisco, California. I’m mostly known for being the Event Director of COMBO BREAKER, and a behind-the-scenes design and TO figure for tournaments and competitive gaming projects. I worked freelance design prior to accepting my current role at Twitch; which means I didn’t sleep a lot and worked on too much at once frequently.

2. How long have you been involved in the fighting game community and what initially got you started?

I’m an 09’er. I got started the classic way, by seeking out a local touney to win and getting bodied. My love of fighting games came from a childhood friend getting Mortal Kombat via the Sega Channel. We didn’t have regular access to an arcade, so MK piping in through a coaxial cable was how we fell in love with the genre.

3. How long does it normally take you to plan for a tournament? What would you say is the first thing you go about doing every year?

It takes 7-to-9 months for our teams to build out and promote a large event. Every event starts the same though, gotta find partners/staff and secure a good venue.

4. Why the love for NRS games? Why do you feel it is important to always be inclusive of our community? (Also for bonus what is your favorite NRS game?)

Mortal Kombat is where fighting games got competitive for me. Everything before it was AI battles or playing matches with my brother. MK was the game my friends were interested in playing, and having sets with pride on the line changed how I experienced the genre.

Long after that, Mortal Kombat 9 was a key part of my becoming an organizer. It’s still the only game I think I’ve devoted practice time to while at events. I don’t have a clear explanation of why MK9 clicked for me, but it produced some of my fondest FGC memories.

Inclusivity matters because we never know where the next driving force in the community is going to come from.

Bonus: MK9, no question.

Combo Breaker crowd shot by Robert Paul (rmpaul.com)

5. What is your favorite part of organizing tournaments? What is the payoff for you?

Oddly enough, I think I enjoy the stress of it. One of the things I liked working freelance was the weight of looming deadlines and the need to try and beat the expectations laid in front of you. It’s a competition with yourself and a battle against the calendar. It’s also a battle that pays off in having created something that makes people happy.

The main payoff is the post event “Wow, we got through this” moment and the sea of energetic people you’ve helped rally together. There is a sense of accomplishment in creating (presumed) happiness, friendships, rivalries, and life memories for that many people that I still haven’t found that feeling elsewhere.

6. Are there any people who inspire you as a TO in the FGC? What about outside the FGC?

I tend to find inspiration in TOs trying to build locals and TOs trying to improve their events.

In the past couple years that has meant following what @Yakinikuwizard is building in MN, what @ItsTotallyNoah has been running in IL, or what @VGBC_Aposl and @VGBC_Gimr are trying to establish with Xanadu. The community driven experiences that @Mastercup, @2Old2Furious, or @LaDOSE_UM_Flo’s MIXUP series in France provide have been inspirations most recently.

I also find drive in the commitment showcased by players developing their own online circuits; as I think the regular opportunities to compete provided by things like @8BitBeatDown or War of the Gods matter for a big chunk of the community.

Outside the FGC I’ve been looking to music festivals like @soundset and streetwear moguls like @bobbyhundreds for inspiration. Other than that most of my inspiration still comes from hustling artists, musicians, and comic books.

7. When did you start going by the name “The Hadou” – when did it stick?

Around 2010 I started calling my design studio The Hadou. I wanted a nerdy conversation starter on my business cards. Hadou also made for an interesting blackletter ambigram I could use as a logo. Sometime after that I joined Twitter, and using the platform for personal conversations meant @thehadou quickly overtook Rocksteady as the name I was known by.

I entered brackets as Rocksteady until sometime in 2016. I didn’t give up on the handle until CB started using smash.gg for brackets though. I acquiesced to “TheHadou” being my account name so that something familiar would show up in the event admin area. I think Rocksteady finally died that day. Unfortunately, I performed much better in brackets as Rocksteady.

Rick and the KI community at CB photo by Chris Bahn (ptbphoto.org/)

8. How do you deal with feedback from the people who go to your events? (Positive and negative)

I catalogue it, sometimes mentally and sometimes digitally. Feedback is always valuable for drive and for progress, so you have to spend time with it. When the event gets heavy I often refer back to positive messages, tweets, and posts as a reminder that the work is of value to the people experiencing it. That positive feedback is often the fuel to keep working when expectations get too heavy.

Negative feedback I treat the same way. If the feedback is clear and is inline with our event goals, I try to see how we can better provide for what that attendee wanted and didn’t get. If the feedback is unclear (or just generally hostile) I try to figure out what the underlying message or emotion driving the response is. If it is something the event can work on solving for, I talk to the team and we try to improve. If it is not, I keep it as a reminder that our event can’t serve the wants of everyone worldwide.

9. What is one thing you’d like to see other tournaments do more of or do better? Anything you would like to do better for your own?

I think our largest struggle as organizers continues to be communication, both amongst ourselves and with the player base. There are a lot of voices, ideas, and products in the community nowadays, and collectively exploring how to continue building them is vital.

At CB I’d like to continue refining scheduling and floor-plans, as well as start producing standard convention materials like attendee handbooks and Program Guides.

10. What are you most excited about this year at Combo Breaker? Do you think you will continue to do these events in the future even with living further away?

Watching MK9 finals is going to be a special treat personally. Watching KI all weekend and taking the attendee group photo are usually my overall highlights.

I’ve never lived in Illinois while running COMBO BREAKER. So running it from afar doesn’t change too much beyond phone call hours and flight costs. I’ve always felt that as long as the local community helps produce the tournament and that the Midwest wants it, I’ll try to keep it alive. My heart belongs to the Midwest and I never plan to root it elsewhere.

No Coast. No Kings. Forever.



Big thank you to Rick for taking the time to do this with his busy schedule.
You can stay up to date with him and his event at the following:
Twitter (Personal): https://twitter.com/TheHadou
Twitter (Combo Breaker): https://twitter.com/ComboBreakerFGC
Event Website: https://combobreaker.org/

Thank you as always everyone.
Can’t wait to share more stories from members of our community next week.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *