The grand finals of a recent Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite tournament would have normally passed by without much fanfare, if not for the buzz that passed through the scene as it became known the winning player, a relative unknown named Brian “Abbock” Murphy, was in fact an infamous gamer known since 2012 as Cryin’ Brian.
The fighting game community is home to figures of truly legendary renown. Daigo Umehara, Justin Wong, and Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi are players whose names have become enshrined in history thanks to their continued dominance in countless games over decades of competition. But in the presence of greatness, there must always be a mirror image of lesser status—like Dan to Street Fighter protagonist Ryu, for instance—and no one has filled that gap quite like Cryin’ Brian.
The legend of Cryin’ Brian began at Youmacon in 2012. Every year, the Detroit, Michigan convention hosts a variety of fighting game tournaments, and Murphy (known back then as “Karate Lincoln”) was in attendance to try his hand at Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In order to get some experience, Murphy challenged Noel Brown and Christopher “Footwurk” Leggett to money matches, or unofficial casuals with cash on the line.
Murphy lost $90 and, emotional, stepped away from the setup. Unfortunately for him, Footwurk belonged to an infamous group of fighting game players known as C.O.R.N. (or the Coalition of Real Niggas), who in their heyday wholly embraced the community’s loud, in-your-face reputation. As soon as they saw Murphy crying, they shoved a camera in his face for an impromptu interview. While the original upload has been lost, duplicates on YouTube and World Star Hip Hop have kept its spirit alive.
“Why’re you crying?” the cameraman demands of Murphy.
“Because I just lost $90,” he explains.
“You’re crying because you lost money?”
“Why would you money match Noel Brown?”
“Because I wanted to play good players.”
“Stop crying, man, that’s not real nigga shit.”
“I’m not a real nigga.”
“I wanted to money match people so I could get them to take it seriously because money was on the line and because it’s hype as fuck.”
“Well, you know what? Real men don’t cry.”
Murphy is clearly uncomfortable stammering back what was just said to him, but it should probably be noted that he grants himself a lot of license calling himself a ‘nigga.’
The video quickly caught fire, due in part to the truth of Murphy’s words; money matches are hype as fuck and, well, let’s just say he won’t be joining C.O.R.N. any time soon. It’s mean-spirited, sure, but the absurdity of it all was compelling in a way only the fighting game community can be. And, let’s be real, crying is probably good for competitive gaming, something the more polished world of esports is still coming to grips with.
“Within minutes of the video being posted, I was being messaged about it and the shame and embarrassment levels were off the charts,” Murphy told Compete. “I’ve learned to laugh about it since then, and I look back with relief that I’d never get myself in such a situation again. Barely any of the community’s mockery on social media and the like bothered me much at all, no matter how nasty things got. I’ve been around the block enough times to know that if you don’t roll with the punches, the faceless mob will consume you.”
Fast-forward to last weekend. Murphy had just won the Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite competition at this year’s Youmacon with a decisive victory over runner-up Jamar “EyECoNiC” Williams. While those at the event were aware of his reputation, the news began to circulate on Twitter for those outside of Youmacon. Reactions were a mixture of surprise and excitement, with the below tweet from competitor Patrick “keninblack” Kelly’s perfectly summing up the response.
Murphy’s victory seems like redemption. After being put on blast, he returned to obscurity, only to rise from the shadows years later and win an important local event. The fact that he eliminated Footwurk, one of the opponents that led to his infamous origin video, in the losers finals added another layer to the dense narrative. But Murphy sees things in a different light.
“More than anything else, it felt fun and exciting,” Murphy said of winning the tournament. “Fun is the number one priority when I play fighting games, and I would have been perfectly satisfied with any placing because of how much I enjoy playing Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite.”
While it’s easy to get distracted by tournament results and moments of historical significance, the true mythos of the fighting game community can be traced through its inside jokes. What was once something a couple of people laughed about on commentary can become important lingo, and someone like Cryin’ Brian can emerge from less-than-rosy origins as a folk hero of sorts, adapted for the internet age.
“It is somewhat poetic, I have to admit, but if I’m a hero, that means my opponents and the Detroit scene would be villains, right?” Murphy said. “That’s just not the kind of narrative that I want the community to see in this. The truth is, I’ve held no ill will toward anyone involved in the creation or spread of the video five years ago. This was just another fun evening at a convention for me.”
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.