Every competitive scene has its boogeyman, a name that, when whispered, strikes fear into the hearts of rivals. In baseball it’s Shohei Ohtani, with his ability to both pitch and hit like he was born on the field. In boxing it’s Deontay Wilder, whose otherworldly punching power fells giants. In fighting game series Guilty Gear, it’s Joe Biden.
Since 2020, a player who goes by the in-game handle “Joe Biden” has operated at the highest levels of Guilty Gear, a fighting game series known for its flashy anime visuals and idiosyncratic characters. The game rewards — and, once you hit even an intermediate level, basically requires — intense dedication, lending itself to a fan base that’s tight knit and passionate. Word travels fast among the series’ players, and in just a couple years, Joe Biden has become something of a legend.
“A ‘Guilty Gear’ player named Joe Biden is currently sweeping every tournament he enters and nobody knows who he is, so everyone just assumes he’s the [President of the United States],” one fan recently said in a tweet that went viral, first covered by PC Gamer.
“Joe Biden the ‘Guilty Gear’ player has done more to improve my life in the last year than Joe Biden the President has,” said another in a tweet from earlier this year.
Biden’s work speaks for itself: While he doesn’t always win, he’s competed in 116 tournaments since 2020, according to Microsoft-owned esports platform Start.gg, and more often than not, he’s placed in the top 10 — sometimes the top 5. Most of these tournaments took place online, sans an in-person element, lending an air of mystery to this quietly devastating figure who almost certainly is not but could be the 46th President of the United States. When announcing tournament results online, organizers haven taken to tagging the official @POTUS Twitter account as a stand-in for the player named Biden, who lacks a public-facing online presence.
The Washington Post reached out to The White House to ask if Joe Biden the Guilty Gear player and Joe Biden the president are one and the same. For some reason, The White House did not reply.
Evidence in favor of the “President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. spends his vanishingly few off hours playing a niche fighting game” theory is scant, but compelling. In “Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R,” an older series entry that became Biden’s game of choice after developer Arc System Works upgraded its online play in 2020, Biden plays as Chipp Zanuff, a former drug addict and Mafioso who sets his sights on — and achieves, in a manner of speaking — the presidency.
“[Zanuff is] quick to lose his temper, and his words often come off as rude,” reads the official Guilty Gear website’s description of the character. “Now that he’s trying to get into politics, he’s learned basic manners and social skills.”
When it comes to playing as a character who is a president, the player named after the president is one of the best.
“I think he’s the best [“Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R”] Chipp in North America, but there aren’t many of us,” Patrick Miller, a longtime member of the Guilty Gear community who works on Riot’s “Project L” fighting game, told The Post. “Chipp is one of the fastest and hardest to control characters in all of fighting games … He does a lot of [stuff] you can only do if you’ve invested a lot of time in practicing in the lab. Super flashy too, not just about optimal stuff.”
Some members of the community claim to know and infrequently communicate with Biden, several of whom say he competed in-person at a tournament in Lombard, Illinois called Frosty Faustings in January of this year. However, the player in question did not use the Biden name, instead going by Tom Nook, a reference to Nintendo’s hit life simulator Animal Crossing.
“His family and girlfriend were worried that he might stir up controversy if he competed in a major event under that name, so they asked him to change it,” said Melon_125 (who declined to provide their full name), a player who attended the event.
There is video from the event depicting a masked, brown-haired young man who does not look much like the United States’ 79-year-old president. Additionally, Guilty Gear competitors pointed to a small YouTube channel with the name Chipp Biden that they said belongs to Guilty Gear player Biden, rather than the President of the United States. The channel does not include footage of its owner.
The Post was unable to verify these links. The Chipp Biden YouTube channel does not list any contact information, and Biden (the player) did not reply to interview requests made through players who claimed to know him.
The saga resolved Friday, when gaming outlet Kotaku spoke with player Joe Biden, who — alas — is not the president.
“I went through a lot of different gamer tags growing up," Biden told Kotaku. "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.”
Guilty Gear players are split on the attention Biden has recently brought to their scene. One who goes by the handle Mike Rowave (who declined to provide his real name) expressed discomfort at the idea that “Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R,” in particular, rarely gets much attention outside of spurious cheating scandals and memes like the one surrounding Biden.
“The truth is that Joe Biden is about as mysterious and interesting as any other player for a niche game like this,” Rowave said. “He just has a funny username; it’s not like he talks in a Joe Biden impersonation all the time or something ridiculous.”
Melon_125, however, views Biden’s notoriety as something for which to be grateful.
“ ‘Plus R’ doesn’t really get many opportunities to hit the mainstream fighting game community,” they said. “I’m glad that ‘Joe Biden’ is bringing some positive attention to the scene, even if the reason is a bit silly.”
Riley MacLeod contributed to this report.