Guitarist. Radio host. Husband. Mortal Kombat bad ass. Brant McCaskill, known in the video game community as ‘Pig of the Hut’, is a busy man. Somewhere in his hectic schedule, this top-5 Mortal Kombat player managed to find the time to come and sit with me.
Gunnar Ohberg: Welcome, Pig, thank you for stopping by.
Brant McCaskill: Thanks for having me.
GO: You got into video games at a very young age. You want to tell us when and how you got into video games?
BM: Yea I remember when I was four years old I got into my first system, which was an NES. I remember that morning playing with the Track and Field Power Pad, and I was instantly addicted. I asked Santa at the time when I was four years old after seeing my cousin have a Sega Master System with Double Dragon. It was just a whole new world for me. I loved the challenges of it, I loved the excitement of it. It was just different… I went from Mario Bros. to Final Fantasy to Mortal Kombat. When I was 12 years old I found Mortal Kombat in an arcade in Macon, Georgia.
GO: What attracted you to Mortal Kombat specifically.
BM: Back in the day, I used to always go to the arcades just to play almost every game in there. I played Pit Fighter, Street Fighter… Bad Dudes, NARC was huge… every time I went to an arcade I was interested in trying out all the new games. Back when we used to live in Dublin (Georgia) with my family, we used to travel to Macon to go Christmas shopping, and I would hate shopping, being a normal 12 year old kid. So I’d go the arcade for five dollars. I one time saw this huge amount of people surrounding this game making these sounds of amazement. Turns out it was Mortal Kombat. The first thing I remember seeing is Johnny Cage knocking off Kano’s head. I instantly fell in love. I said “What is that? What do I have to do to play that? Do I need my parents to play that? I have to play it now, period.” So I got in line, played it, and that was it. It just became a lovefest ever since.
GO: There is a new Mortal Kombat, and it’s slated to come out next year. Are you excited that they’re making entries for Mortal Kombat, and do you think it will inspire people to play the game?
BM: I think so. Mortal Kombat has been around since 1992, and it’s had a lot of golden eras and a lot of dark eras. I think the first two or three games was the highlight of the series. But then it hit this really stale era with the fall of the arcade scene… Mortal Kombat 9 is finally the return to the golden era for Mortal Kombat. The middle of the era was pure trash in my opinion, and now we’re back to the golden era, and we look to continue that era with Injustice and Mortal Kombat 10. I think releasing a movie next year could be a perfect segue into Mortal Kombat 10, to elevate even more what Mortal Kombat 9 did for our scene. Before Mortal Kombat 9 no one gave a crap about Mortal Kombat in the major tournament scene, but now we’re actually one of the bigger dogs now… I think the movie can help expand our scene as a whole.
GO: You mentioned Injustice. That’s going to be all DC characters. Are you looking forward to that game? Do you think that it’s a good idea to bring a Mortal Kombat feel to another franchise?
BM: Well, no game really feels like Mortal Kombat. First of all, I’m extremely excited about (Injustice). I think it looks really sharp, and I think it’s going to be a step above Mortal Kombat 9. I think it’s also a way for NRS studios and Warner Bros. to take some of the fundamental problems that Mortal Kombat 9 had that were unpatchable and use Injustice as a way to fix it and test it, and make sure they are primed for Mortal Kombat 10. In a lot of different ways, I see it as an improvement. Plus, I think every player involved in the Mortal Kombat 9 scene is heavily invested and interested in Injustice. It’s a win-win for everybody.
GO: You recently just became part of Team Fighter Alliance (TFA). Tell us about that and about some of the other teams you’ve been on.
BM: I’ve been on some clans before. There’s a really high-skilled clan called the Crazy 88 that I was a part of for a really long time. Those guys are all accomplished and established players online. Offline they don’t get around so much. There’s tons of 88′s online but only a few that are able to go to tournaments and represent their clan and do well, but I have the most respect for those guys. I joined TFA and Razor, who basically aligned to one group. Razor sponsors TFA, and TFA sponsors it’s players, so I joined them both at the same time. I’m currently in talks with Razor for making and distributing the Razor Academy videos, to teach people the fundamentals of Mortal Kombat, to help people further understand how to get into our game and how to play our game… A week after my EVO placement (in 2011), they (Team Fighters Alliance) said they were really interested in me and they wanted me to be a part of their group, that they had been following me for a while and they see me as a top player. So I said “Yea, I’d be happy to join your group.”
GO: You mentioned being busy. What else do you do, Pig?
BM: (laughs) I do a lot of stuff. I do too much. First of all, I’m married, I have a child, a dog, a workout schedule. I have a full-time job working at convention centers and churches doing live streams, audio recordings, website stuff, video recordings and editing. I have two sports talk radio shows, one show’s called ‘Overtime’ and one show’s called ‘No Limits’. Both shows are prerecorded either on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday depending on my schedule, and they run at various times over the weekend on 97.5 FM, WJUL. I also teach guitar. I used to play in four bands, now I only play in two. I used to teach 22 students, but now I only have around six. I also try to practice and to stay in top form, and that’s very tough to do with my schedule, but I definitely put a lot of time off to the side, basically when all of my family goes to sleep and I can just focus on me and my gaming.
GO: Definitely busy.
BM: Yea, absolutely.
GO: Where do you see yourself going with the Mortal Kombat “job”?
BM: Well, Mortal Kombat first and foremost is a hobby, I love to do it. I love to play guitar, I love to play Mortal Kombat, I love to go to movies, I do it because I enjoy it, I love it, and it’s fun. I used to go to grassroot tournaments, when the money wasn’t there, and I still go to grassroot tournaments, and I still look forward to going to grassroot tournaments. I’m looking forward to MLG (Major League Gaming, an organization that holds major video game tournaments) possibly keeping Mortal Kombat in their lineup, because MLG provides marketing opportunities for us, if we do well we win a lot of money, so it helps me pay bills at home, tuition for my wife… When Injustice comes out, I will go full force into that, and I will still play Mortal Kombat. Those will probably be my two games. Possibly work with MLG if they’ll let me.
GO: In Mortal Kombat, who is your favorite character?
BM: My favorite character is without question Kenshi. When I started this game, I started off with six characters. My main character, my main heart and soul is Kenshi. I will always use Kenshi in future Mortal Kombat games, because there’s something about him, I like everything he stands for. He’s an extremely dominate character in this game, and he makes everyone tear, he makes everyone upset. I like his character design, I like that he’s blind. I love making reads, getting inside the mind of my opponent, and that’s what he does, that’s kind of what he’s built to do. I just kind of have that connection with him, and I like it.
GO: Do you have any words of wisdom for people trying to get into Mortal Kombat?
BM: The game’s nineteen dollars now, so that’s not a problem, it’s a pretty cheap game to get into. It’s not a game that’s too late to get into, because the scene’s still vibrant. We just had 96 people at MLG Dallas. (Major Southeastern Tournament) Final Round’s looking like it might have 80 to 100 people. Our scene has not dissipated whatsoever. It’s either stayed the same or gotten stronger. I would say join testyourmight.com. I would say join mortalkombatunited.com. I’m very accessible, I’m very easy to talk to, so ask a top player, make a post if you ever have a question about the game. We always like to help each other… Every time we go to tournaments, although we see each other four or five times a year, we feel like we know each other, that we’ve known each other for years. Some of my best friends now are from the Mortal Kombat scene. I actually met my best friend playing Mortal Kombat about seven or eight years ago on X Box Live, and then eight years later he’s at my wedding. It’s crazy.
GO: How do you feel about eSports, MLG, Mortal Kombat… how do you feel about all of that compared to “real sports”?
BM: Yea, that’s an interesting topic, I could talk all day about this (laughs). One thing I tell people, NHL Championship game on TV pulls in 900,000 people. MLG Anaheim for three days straight pulled in four and a half million. CBS Sports saw that and since have signed a contract for 2013 for MLG to do some kind of Tv deal with one of their games or with multiple games… We have a bunch of internet guys sitting on their computer, on a 19-inch screen, watching for three days straight, pulling in four and a half million people. The world is changing, and even with football, football is the healthiest sport out there, nothing can destroy football, it seems… There are less and less reasons to go to an NFL game because of the broadcast quality that we can receive at home. So I think there’s more room in television for video games, because we don’t really need people in stands for our tournaments, but if people want to watch the professional broadcast from home and support our tournaments that way, and support the network, support the ads, support the tournament there (then they can). So I think it’s a pretty open-ended market that no one has completely tapped into yet. I think with CBS Sports recent deal in August, I think it’s going to grow, and when one person bites, I think the rest of them are going to bite, and it’s going to be a bidding. And that’s the best thing that can happen to eSports. Furthermore, I think that will increase the participation at all locals, online tournaments, majors… It will just completely increase the awareness.
GO: What is your favorite beer?
BM: Oh wow… I would say Magic Hat or Newcastle. Those are the top two that come to mind.
GO: You listed on your Test Your Might site that kickboxing was one of your hobbies. I know it’s not kickboxing, but along the same vein, what is your favorite Jackie Chan film, and why?
BM: (laughs) It’s not that stupid film with Jennifer Love Hewitt…
GO: (laughs) The Tuxedo?
BM: Yea, Tuxedo… I’d have to say the one that rejuvenated his career, Rumble in the Bronx. I’ll have to go with that one because I’m most familiar with it, and I love how it rejuvenated his career late into the game.