The term “veteran” is an archetypal category we often use to describe players who have been in the scene a long time. As the ageist stereotype is rampant in esports today, the term unfortunately also possesses an implicit, negative connotation. With this article, I want to showcase Bae “Knee” Jae-min, who is widely considered to be the greatest Tekken player of all time. By identifying Knee’s traits as a player, I want to challenge conventional assumptions about veteran players while adding additional insights into what makes them such valuable assets.
Myth: Old players struggle to learn new concepts
Let’s get the most ridiculous one out of the way. There is no real correlation between increasing age and mechanical prowess. For one, mechanics is an umbrella term with as many definitions as “tempo.” For the sake of the article, we’ll define mechanics as the level of prowess shown in piloting in-game characters across various scenarios a player may encounter. Looking at the term from this perspective provides more clarity in how ridiculous the myth above is.
At the age of 36, Knee is inarguably the most consistent Tekken player of all time. Starting his domination from Tekken 5 in 2007, he has consistently finished in high placements for tournaments all over the world. The secret behind this consistency lies in his methodical, research-intensive approach towards Tekken. Taking advantage of the decade and a half years of competitive experience, Knee has gathered an unmatched level of game knowledge by playing every character in the game to understand their kit and interactions with other characters. This process resulted in him making history in October 2021 when he became the first Tekken player to reach Tekken God Omega, the highest rank possible, with every character available in the game.
Myth: Old players cannot adapt as quickly as younger players
You may wonder how this all transitions on stage. Knee’s unparalleled knowledge gives him two distinct advantages against most opponents. First, he can adapt to his opponent’s playstyle and patterns faster due to his familiarity with every character. He then utilizes his analysis to develop counter-strategies that pin the opponent in a corner. Second, he constantly changes his patterns and approaches to make his moves difficult to read for his opponents. This is when his opponents are put between a rock and a hard place. This scenario has been nicknamed “Kneenario” and countless players have been reverse swept as they are annihilated in the last set.
Myth: A player’s mechanical ability decrease with more age
Just because he has adopted this style does not mean that Knee is incapable of using difficult moves that require perfect, knee-jerk inputs. One of the most infamous moves in Tekken is the Electric Wind God Fist, a special technique of the Mishima family that imbues their punch with lightning. This move is notorious for its difficulty in hitting it consistently since the inputs can be missed so easily. The move becomes progressively more difficult if the player tries to cast it repeatedly. Knee has consistently hits four of these moves in a row when most cannot even accomplish that in a practice lobby.