Meet Donald Gimperoso: Cebu’s strongest ‘Street Fighter’ player

John Sitchon
Meet Donald Gimperoso: Cebu’s strongest ‘Street Fighter’ player

GAMER. Donald Gimperoso has made a living out of playing 'Street Fighter.'

Donald Gimperoso

Donald Gimperoso is one of the finest 'Street Fighter V' players in the country and has represented the Philippines in international esports tournaments

Meet the Cebuano who single-handedly beat the best of the best gamers of Street Fighter V in the Philippines: Donald “Don” Gimperoso.

Gimperoso is first and foremost, a 34-year-old registered nurse and father. Unlike his main in-game character “Akuma” who is known to be a vicious fighter, Gimperoso is quite the gentle family man who likes to play video games with his six-year-old son.

Born in the queen city of the south, Gimperoso grew up spending a chunk of his childhood playing arcade fighting games ranging from King of Fighters to Tekken and eventually, Street Fighter.

“When I was a child, near our house in Labangon, there was a video game shop and I passed by there every day. I stopped by there every time and played if I had coins,” Gimperoso told Rappler in an interview.

In the backdrop of his adolescence, Cebu’s esports industry steadily grew into what is now a tight-knit community and a pool of gaming agencies that are fond of holding local tournaments for its adoring youth.

These local tournaments ranged from city-funded competitions like the Cebu City Mayor’s Cup to gaming events held in OtakuFest and ArchCon that often attracted thousands of crowds each year.

Starting out like all of the pros out there, Gimperoso climbed the leaderboard in Cebu’s Street Fighter V tournaments and won prizes that varied from gaming equipment to large amounts of cash, and even life lessons and friends. 

Later on in life, the Cebu champion fought in tournaments held in the capital of the Philippines to become the “nation’s pride.”

Gimperoso made his first appearance in the competitive scene in 2013. He represented the Philippines at the World Cyber Games in Shanghai, which he said was his first overseas competition.

By 2014, Gimperoso was taken in by Metro Manila esports agency PlayBook Esports. 

Since then, he went on to compete in multiple competitions hosted by international gaming company Capcom and events held at the Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit.

“I joined gaming competitions that would last two to three days. It was a really great experience, especially since I was representing the country,” Gimperoso said.

For Gimperoso, being a champ meant working hard no matter the circumstance, which in a way, taught him to be a steadfast individual.

“In the community, we had training sessions. It’s a bit challenging now because it’s online but we still tried our best,” he said.

During tournaments, Gimperoso would recall how often he would meet professional players that knew how to take things to the “next level.”

“When I use Akuma, they use characters to counter me. Especially in tournaments, race to two or three, naa juy times machambahan jud ka (there are times when you get lucky). I counter and they counter,” he said.

In 2018, Gimperoso made his mark by defeating local champions from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in the Philippines’ first RedBull Kumite, which was held at the City of Dreams in Manila.

After winning a close match against local esports talent James Prado, Gimperoso took a flight in November of that year to compete in the international league of the RedBull Kumite.

Despite not reaching the grand finals of the tournament, Gimperoso still took off to join many other tournaments hosted by gaming and tech companies.

Recently, he won sixth place in the Intel World Open 2021 Street Fighter Open Qualifiers for South East Asia, which was held online in July. 

“Due to the pandemic, it had to be online. It was sayang because it would have been in Tokyo, Japan,” he said.

Still, Gimperoso believed that what mattered most now was being able to bond with his son at home and train whenever he has the chance to do so.

“I share a connection with my son in video games, especially now in the pandemic,” he said.

Gimperoso has taught fellow esports players that being one of “the strongest Street Fighters” also meant having the strongest of bonds with family.

Even through the twists and turns of this pandemic, Gimperoso will continue with his training in Cebu until the day he clashes with his rivals from all over the globe in face-to-face events once more. –