If you’ve been following the fighting game community, you might’ve noticed something strange happening at some recent Guilty Gear tournaments. A player hailing from the U.S. named Joe Biden has been sweeping the competition, placing in the top 10 in the last 20 or so tourneys he’s competed in. But…wait a minute, Joe Biden? Yes, Joe Biden. Although the name has led folks to believe it might be the current President of the United States, longtime community members know the real story.
I was floored when I saw tweets of the official account for Dark Brandon tagged in tournament wins for 2012's Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, an updated and reworked version of Arc System Works’ 2002 2D fighting game. I mean, the @POTUS Twitter was mentioned in these tourneys, spinning everyone’s head around. Talk about a double-take. I, and other reporters, including Washington Post writer and former Kotaku staffer Nathan Grayson, went on the hunt, trying to answer the most crucial questions rocking the community: Just who in the hell is Joe Biden, the player? And why does he main the ninja Chipp Zanuff?
“I’ve been playing fighting games on and off for at least 10 years,” Joe Biden, who asked to keep his identity a secret as part of a long-running gag within the fighting game community, told Kotaku over Discord. “I went through a lot of different gamer tags growing up. I ended up just sticking to ‘Joe Biden’ because it felt right to me as Chipp Zanuff and Joe Biden are both presidents, have white hair, and can get hurt easily.”
Kotaku viewed email exchanges between the non-presidential Biden and tournament organizers, confirming that he is the Joe Biden currently cleaning up the competition. This was further verified by two others Kotaku spoke with who faced him in more recent tournaments.
While this mysterious gamer has been playing fighting games for over a decade now, he only recently sprung up on the competitive circuit. According to fighting game community (FGC) player and data tracker Start.gg, previously known as Smash.gg and owned by Microsoft, Joe Biden hit the competitive scene in November 2021, scoring 13th place out of a bracket pool of 88 players. He’s since gone on to do pretty well for himself, regularly placing in the top 10 spots in most Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R tournaments he participates in. Biden is quick to point out that he isn’t “dominating or winning all the tournaments,” but he does view himself on the same playing field as the top U.S. Faust player and founder of the annual Frosty Faustings tournament, Mike “ElvenShadow” Boczar.
But what makes Joe Biden so deadly? Well, he mains master ninja and President of the Eastern Chipp Kingdom, Chipp Zanuff. As to be expected being a ninja and all, Chipp is incredibly fast and unpredictable. He’s got excellent mixup potential, can easily open up his opponent for some big damage, and has the ability to run up walls and teleport around the stage. Chipp’s quite the pain in the ass, as competitive fighting game player Sam “Garbage” Ehren told Kotaku over Discord, who lost to Joe Biden at the monthly Boston Blue Beat tournament on October 25.
“I think the main thing is he plays Chipp, an extremely technical character with an insane toolset, that also happens to be kinda rare in the community,” Garbage said. “So when you play him, he’s hitting you with a deluge of mixups you’ve never seen before. The really scary thing about Joe, though, is that he also has really good fundamental fighting game skills, so it’s not really enough to just defend or navigate his okizeme [wake-up attack]. You also have to kinda outplay him. The only thing working in your favor is Chipp is a volatile character, so if you can sneak in a couple of hits you can melt him. But that’s a tall order when paired with a player like Joe Biden.”
Garbage placed third in that tournament, while Joe Biden took home second place.
Fellow Guilty Gear player Jack Wachter told Kotaku over Discord that Joe Biden is fun to play against, even if they lost to the non-presidential body double during a North America and European open Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R tournament on October 23.
“I don’t have much experience with Chipp compared to other characters, so I can’t compare Joe Biden’s Chipp to other Chipps outside of Joe Biden being very strong,” Wachter said. “Most likely top [North American player] Chipp. He knows how to play safe (important since Chipp is made of wet tissues), but can also be aggressive with movement and mixups. I’ve played him several times in brackets and a few times in casual sets. Definitely a far better player than I am, though I managed to send him to the losers bracket once.”
For that tournament, Wachter came in second and Joe Biden landed in first place.
Joe Biden said he’s only got time for Guilty Gear at the moment but is stoked about upcoming fighting games like Street Fighter 6 and the League of Legends fighter Project L. Until then, he’ll keep bodying folks with Chipp or, if you happen to catch him in a non-competitive setting, as the projectile and zoning-based character Dizzy.
“I’ve had an advantage in Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R competitions because Chipp is difficult to master and a less-played character at the top level,” Biden said. “Also I’ve spent a lot of time in training mode learning how to play Chipp and studying Japanese Chipp players like Samitto, Endou, and Susumu before the Rollback netcode patch came out in 2020. For the name, to me, it just makes sense while also being a bit funny that Joe Biden would play Chipp in Guilty Gear. A part of it was definitely ‘for the memes’ and I enjoy the jokes and attention it brings to the game.”
Kotaku reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a reply.