A couple weeks ago, I published the first of multiple blog posts which looked to examine how the fighting game community (FGC), as a whole, was uniquely served to set up situations of abuse and harassment, largely in response to a wave of incidents that have come to light in the recent month. The initial post discussed how the humble origins of the FGC and the ascension of many of its original members to positions of power has led to a culture that protects certain community members from accountability for their actions because of friendship or other significant ties.
Last time I wrote for the blog, I was covering my trip to the Evolution tournament in Las Vegas and the positives and negatives of that trip. As I was writing that piece, I found myself having to frequently amend it as the days went on because it seemed like there was a new scandal emerging daily from that Evo weekend: multiple instances of sexual harassment and drugging at the official Evo after-party, prominent photographer Chris Bahn being outed as a serial sexual harasser, Leah “Gllty” Hayes was banned from competition at any Capcom Pro Tour event and most major tournaments after similar accusations of sexual harassment, longtime figure Ari “floE” Weintraub was accused of sexual assault in an incident that took place at Evo. I probably missed some, but that’s the majority of it.
Evolution 2019 was, as usual, the biggest tournament of the year so far, and once again I made the trip up to Sin City and the Mandalay Bay resort/casino in order to participate. Ever since I was first aware of the greater fighting game community, I always recognized Evo as it. The I-Ching. The sum of everything that came before it. The Mecca for fighting game players. I used to say that if there was one tournament you needed to attend if you wanted to understand the fighting game community, it was Evo. As one of both the biggest and longest running events in the community, its prestige is absolute; placing at Evo is going to get you a Wikipedia entry and a medal that gives anyone who has it an almost unchallenged authority when it comes to fighting game prowess. Aside from just the tournament’s major community standing, many fighting game developers have chosen to make Evo the place to debut their new products or additions to fighting games already at the event. Much like how San Diego Comic-Con has become the go-to event to see new trailers for films and video games, Evo is where you can get a glimpse of what the next year or so will look like on the fighting game front. I don’t know of any other tournaments that have a curtained off section just for media coverage, which should speak to how big this event has become.
Too big, possibly, for its own britches. Read more
“…This is the place?”
As our vehicle pulled up to the MegaCenter of the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois, which has been the site of the past few Combo Breaker tournaments, I have to admit that my initial reaction was less than enthusiastic. I was attending the event for the first time, and I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. The PRR is a 250-acre resort that looks as old as it is; the place opened for business in 1963, and its architecture is charmingly stuck in a late 70’s-early 80’s style. It’s a timeshare salesman’s wet dream, the kind of place that my grandparents would whisk me and my brothers to as kids during summer vacation: indoor and outdoor pools, a full golf course, a bunch of restaurants, theaters, and a quaint, WASP-y charm.
Given all that, I just had a real hard time imagining that a fighting game tournament was supposed to be taking place here, let alone one with such an amazing reputation as Combo Breaker.
One of the more heartwarming things I saw come out of the FGC in the past year was the Michigan Masters event that took place back in April. It was a regional event in Farmington Hills that was expanding, after a few years, to a 3-day event. While it was not without the usual trials and tribulations that come with running a big tournament, its mixture of popular fighting games, much smaller but unique games, and festive atmosphere proved to be a winning combination that pushed them to great success. A key to that success was that atmosphere I mentioned, which the organizers took seriously enough to actually levy bans out to a few players from the Michigan area. These players, who are mainly known for their association with a Michigan group called C.O.R.N (don’t ask me what it stands for!), had caught the ire of the local scene by extrapolating some drama into threats of physical violence. While not an uncommon occurrence, particularly for that group, the MM2018 organizers had had enough and maintained that those players were not going to get away with it. There was a lot of blowback for that decision, but ultimately it was seen as positive step forward in bettering the community.
In the past few days, a discussion on Fighting Game Community content was started up on Twitter, which is a pretty cyclical topic that usually makes the rounds every few months. This time it was started by Japan-based commentator and streamer MajinObama:
I think everyone who has ever been involved with the Fighting Game Community can remember their first time. No, get your head out of the gutter, I’m talking about something else! What I’m talking about is that first time that you feel, whether it’s during a late-night meal after a practice session or in a packed hotel room after a major event, the almost mystical feeling of this is where I belong. I still remember mine: Final Round 2012 in Atlanta, GA. The tournament itself wasn’t very good, but on the Saturday of that weekend, a 5 on 5 exhibition was held that involved ten pillars of the then-fledgling community who almost exclusively played Mortal Kombat and other fighters from Netherrealm Studios. Some of my training partners played in it, and although they got their ass kicked, the elation and fun of being in that room with all that energy powered me through the disappointment of seeing my friends lose and being packed in like a sardine. 3 years of competing in tournaments and I was finally home. I’ve been a lifer ever since, having played every NRS game competitively in some fashion and creating content exclusively tailored to that community.
I still remember when I first heard that my uncle was homeless. Well, he was “homeless” in the sense of what the hundreds of thousands of those we consider “homeless” actually are: he could scrap together some cash to put his family up in a Motel 6 here or there or stay with some friends from time to time, but he did not have any sort of residence that didn’t change day-to-day. Between the various debts he owed to both utilities companies and the federal government, he was simply in far too much debt to really earn money, since almost everything he could scrape together through any anonymous day labor he could find went toward finding some sort of housing and food, with very little left over to start saving some money toward a more permanent home. I remember seeing his son, then a toddler, hair long and in front of his eyes due to not being able to get a proper haircut, and his clothes wrinkled and dirty from his parents not having any means to get them clean. The last I had heard, they were splitting time between spending days in public parks and nights at whatever shelter or friends’ place they could find, trying to stay out of the hot Arizona summer and chilly desert winter.
Before I start, I do want to give a warning that there is some pretty heinous stream chat clips that have lots of transphobia. If that’s not something you can handle today, please be aware!
2019 has barely started but the Fighting Game Community never stops rolling. Both the Dragonball FighterZ World Tour and Genesis, one of the biggest Super Smash Bros. tournaments of the year, happened within a week of each other, and both were great watches for any fighting game fan. Genesis, in particular, had what will likely be one of the biggest upsets of the whole year when Magi, an up and coming Super Smash Bros. Melee player who recently cracked the top 100 on the Melee Global Rankings, upset Joseph “Mang0” Marquez, long considered amongst the very best SSBM players.
But the more we see new faces upset old legends, the more some terrible things stay the same.
One of the joys of being in the Fighting Game Community is the long wait ’til December, when the Capcom Pro Tour for Street Fighter V finally concludes. The CPT is a nearly year-long odyssey for its players, who have traveled the globe and entered many tournaments in order to earn enough points to make it to that final 32-man bracket. Not only that, almost every match at the finals is between two world-class players, experts who really push the game to its competitive height in order to scrape out a win. I’ve never not been impressed by the play at Capcom Cup finals, and I figured 2018 would be no exception, and I’m happy to say it wasn’t!
The grand finals set between Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada and eventual winner Kanemori “Gachikun” Tsunehori was nothing short of breathtaking. Kumada, a veteran with more than a decade of competitive experience under his belt, stole back momentum from a near route by top USA player Justin Wong early on and tore through the loser’s bracket, even forcing the grand finals to reset against the nearly unstoppable Tsunehori. Eventually, however, Tsunehori rebounded and took the final set convincingly 3-1, although Kumada didn’t make it easy. Seriously, even if you’re not a fan of the game, this match (and several others) are well worth the time to check out!