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Meet the collectors: John and Matt Liot

interview

Meet the collectors: John and Matt Liot

Video game art collectors discuss their treasures.

Arjan Terpstra

23 Sep 2021 ⋅ 4 min read

In this series of interviews, collectors talk about their love for video game and pop culture art, their personal preferences and the way they display their items. This week: siblings John and Matt Liot from Jersey in the UK talk about their love of Street Fighter-but not the one you liked.

No, the brothers John and Matt Liot haven't been able to summon fireballs so far. But when the Mixed Martial Arts aficionados are out in the gym in their native Jersey (UK), launching at each other with abandon as we can see in the videos they share online, Street Fighter is never far from their minds. "On the one hand I'd say the fighting we do today has nothing to do with what games we played as kids," the older brother Matt says when we meet online. "But there's no denying two men training intensively and kicking each other's butts whenever they can has a strong analogy in Ryu and Ken, haha."

Contrasts

The fighting hobby stands in stark contrast to the personalities of the two brothers, who come over as lighthearted, smart, and compassionate siblings, with day jobs in IT (Matt) and as youth counselor and mental coach (John)-his podcast I'm Glad You Exist is the polar opposite of what you'd expect from a mixed martial artist. We meet to discuss the Akuma art print John gifted Matt for his birthday. "Or for Christmas, I don't remember really," says John. "The important thing is the image strongly reminds us of our youth, when we grinded away at Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha for days on end. Even though this specific title was panned by critics for being too slow and clunky, we loved that game to bits."
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© John Liot

Matt (Left) and John Liot, with the Akuma print John gifted his brother.

Critics

Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha (1997, in promotions spelled as "EX Plus a") was Capcom's first attempt to bring their beloved 2D fighter game to 3D. It introduced 3D polygon graphics to the Street Fighter world, plus a slew of new characters, moves, and combos, but critics weren't impressed. Capcom itself moved on to launch Street Fighter III soon after, picking up where Street Fighter II left off, orphaning EX Plus Alpha in the process.
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Screen caps from Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha. Note the blocky 3D in the graphics.

But that didn't matter one bit to young Matt and John. "You have to understand where we came from at that time," says Matt. "We found EX Plus Alpha in a car boot sale, and had no exposure to any Street Fighter game before that." John adds how in 1997-2000, the internet in Jersey wasn't available like it is today. "The time it took to dial up internet to learn more wasn't even something we thought about. You had what the game represented and you filled in the rest. Also there weren't any arcades in Jersey, so that entire culture of watching other kids play Street Fighter completely passed us by."

Gold standard

Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha quickly became the boys' gold standard in fighting games. Not that they were particularly good at the game when they first started playing it, John reflects. "I remember Matt beating me over and over again, playing Akuma, because he somehow found out his moves before me. Because that was how it went, right: you played without a single grain of understanding about why you won or lost."

And so, when John browsed for an art print for his brother, it had to be Akuma. Which turned out to be quite a search, John says. "As much as I appreciate places like Etsy, I was looking for art that was just that: art. For this reason I like collecting game art books, as they show the effort these artists put into their work, how their art sells a story or an idea. I had the same when I first came upon the Akuma print: it looks super interesting, timeless and expressive, and it sells you the dynamics of a fight more than anything else."
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© Capcom

The Akuma concept art for Street Fighter II Turbo (Capcom), owned by Matt.

Eyebrows

Moreover, it looks like the Akuma they know from EX Plus Alpha, even though technically it is concept art from another Street Fighter game, Super Street Fighter II Turbo. "This Akuma piece feels different from a lot of the other Street Fighter art," John says. "But I like it, because EX Plus Alpha WAS very different. More angular, expressive in a different way." Matt nods at the words of his brother, "It's so daft, but loads of the characters had their eyebrows drawn over their hair! That art style is so expressive and quirky, it was so easy to love and you just felt like the development team had fun with it all."
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© John Liot

John (left) and Matt Liot sparring in their Jersey gym.


Street Fighter Fine Art Print Collection

Hadouken!