I am a cynical bastard. My emotions for the most part are pretty even keel; they never run too high or low. That is to say, until a fighting game tournament is on my computer or TV screen. I think you Curleh-Moustached, CEO-Belt-shirt-wearing, dive-kicking, stream-monstering mutha-suckas got me. I’ve always watched fighting game tournaments, but I did it the same way I watch baseball: it’s on, off in the periphery with the sound almost level with what I’m really paying attention to, but not really.
The past two years have been very different. I’m hooked in a really bad way and I need a fix NOW! I thirst for every main stage side-eye, every player pop-off served with a side of nutty crowd reaction. The fighting game community is having a great year, and that showcases why they are the premier group to watch in the E-Sports realm. Let me explain some why the FGC tournament scene is so fun and captivating to watch:
While the FGC has been slowly gaining popularity, an interesting section of play-by-play gamers has bubbled up from the community to become the most impressive group in the scene. Their ability to effortlessly jump from rifling off move notation to breaking down strategy and frame data, not to mention riffing on the crowd and player energy, really adds to the experience and I think is unlike anything else we see in E-Sports. Sure other games have jargon and lingo, but the FCG commentators do all the heavy lifting while being super entertaining. With the speed of the games we play this isn’t an easy task at all. If personalities make fights, then I would say commentators make hype.
Here are some of my favorite hypemakers:
A man of many hats, Ski brings in no-nonsense commentary to every stream he’s on. Usually playing the straight-man on, he seems like the perfect designated hitter for any situation. I really like that he calms the waters when things seem to be getting hectic.
The dynamic duo of James Chen & David Philip Graham have brought some of the most memorable commentary over the years. The chemistry these two have together on stream is second to none. You can tell that they genuinely like and respect each other and it shines through when they commentate together. Both are super energetic, quick witted, and very knowledgeable. If there were a Mount Rushmore of FGC commentators, I would award these guys spots 1 and 2. It’s great to see them cut loose from time to time, and it gives viewers a great peek into all the years they’ve worked the scene together.
nothingxs & ATX Carlos
I don’t think you’ve lived until you’ve heard a King of Fighters match commentated totally in Spanish. Mind you I don’t understand everything ATX Carlos and nothingxs say during a match, but the energy (pictured above) they give on stream makes every move or turned tide into a futbol-esque cheer that is worth the price of admission. I would love more of these two on more streams.
One of the best Marvel 2 players to ever grace an arcade stick, Yipes is one of the most beloved and charismatic commentators in the scene. His playing style and mic skills have given way to some of the more memorable YouTube videos and memes in the FGC.
Yipes’ ability to both inform and entertain makes his time on any stream “must see TV”
With the growth of streaming sites like Twitch & Ustream, gamers have been able to go from being local players in their communities to worldwide sensations in the FGC. Two of them in particular have helped to take the fighting scene from the comfort of their living rooms to yours. These indispensable gents are like the post office: through snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night, they will get a stream up and running for all of us to get our gaming fix. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but they put in major work throughout the year and are the go-to guys if you want to share your tournament with the world.
TEAM SP00KY (Victor “Sp00ky” Fontanez & Arturo Sanchez)
The folks over at Focus Fire had a great sit down with Sp00ky and he spills the beans on how they got started in the scene and what drives them to put out and capture all the sights and sounds of the FGC. It’s really inspiring to see these cats put themselves and the scene on the map.
People have talked at great length about how and why E-Sports isn’t growing as quickly as it should. I would say that you need two entities to exist in tandem to both excite the audience and keep them engaged: the first is the games themselves, the second is the players. Having an attachment and wanting to watch your favorite person win or lose is a major part of why I think the FGC is taking over right now. The top-tier players have been on the highest stages long enough that more and more of them are becoming very popular. If they can use some of that momentum they can kite the rest of the community with them.
There are way too many amazing players in the FGC, both vets and newbies for me to put them all on the list but here are a couple of my favorites:
I’d recently bought and fallen in love with the latest Mortal Kombat game and started watching some TwitchTV streams and tournaments to try and steal some tech. This unassuming, baby-faced dude gets on stream and commences to beat the hell out of people with Kung Lao. When I say beat people up, I really mean embarrass people. What made it interesting was how effortlessly he ran through his competition. The person in question was Carl “Perfect Legend” White. What I find interesting about his play style is that he will seemingly find something in the game way before other people do and use that totally to his advantage. His cerebral game is quite good and it shows by how many tournaments he’s won, including an EVO win a couple of years ago.
Sometimes a community needs a villain, a character who knows just how good he is and isn’t afraid to tell everyone about it. This person is Ryan Ramirez aka FChamp. One of the best Marvel Vs Capcom 3 players on the planet. Known for his skills and ability to pop-off in a millisecond win or lose makes him a fun player to watch. I’m not going to lie, I like folks who are a little unstable. It’s the reason I watch Laker games when I’m a Knicks fan. A random Metta World Peace elbow sometimes makes my day, and the same goes with FChamp. There is no doubt that he is amazingly dedicated and talented but his ability to get into the head of another player usually seems to be his best offense. It totally makes for great drama.
Chris G for the past two years is arguably the best fighting game player on the planet, not just for one game but multiple games. Running through the competition at minor and major competitions alike. His ability to pick up any game, new or old and become a competitive force is uncanny and a little bit scary. This has seemed to place him in a very interesting position where seemingly he can do no right. He can kick everyone’s ass and the stream hates him, he can lose a great match and people are overjoyed. What makes Chris so compelling to watch has been the brilliance of his play mixed with his sometimes random lack of focus. His epic battle with Justin Wong this past week at EVO was one of the best matches I’ve ever watched. He may be one of those players that elevates the whole scene into another level of visibility.
An insightful and great interview from @Jason24cf from Eventhubs.com breaks down some of this.
Justin has been one of the people to bring fighting games into its prominence. His epic match with Daigo in Street Fighter: Third Strike is one of the most watched fighting game videos ever. He is the sage veteran now, and though he might not be the top player in the world, he is always a force to be reckoned with. This is even more evident with his play at EVO this year.
Take a look at this battle between Justin and Flocker in the finals:
As a spectator, 2013 has been one of the most fun to watch in the fighting game scene. There has been astoundingly good play, new games for people to master, old games given new life, and everything else in between. The level has been raised on all sides and that is exceedingly evident in the way tournaments are being thrown and how visible they have become. Some of my favorite scenes have played out at a couple this year:
The Shirtless Final
At Curleh Moustauche: West Coast Edition II an amazing final went down between KillerKai and Dios X. There are a couple of elements that make this video great. Yipes and Tasty Steve on commentary plus the crowd hype combined for a classic FGC moment. It was great theater and a showcase of two men trying to impose their wills on the other both mentally and physically. Dios X comes out to a commanding 2-1 lead and then magic happens:
CEO 2013 has quickly become one of my favorite tourneys to watch. From the crazy gimmicks Alex Jebailey (Event Organizer) stages each year to the top notch competition, it seems as if CEO can only get bigger and better. In my opinion with the stream numbers and mindshare it has, it could potentially give EVO a run for its money one day. One of the memorable moments this year was based on the “FighterMania” showcase Jebailey put on where fighters would compete inside a steel cage. Mike Ross takes on Yipes and pulls out a win and has a pop-off moment that only the Ultimate Warrior could rival.
EVO is the Superbowl of the fighting scene, and people come from all over world to compete. If you win your respective game at this tournament, you can truly call yourself the best in the world. Two of those folks gave the gaming world a treat when went head to head and provided the showing of a lifetime. Down and almost out numerous times, Justin Wong staged a comeback of his own against Chris G that had the Twitterverse hyped beyond belief. I don’t think I’ve screamed that much EVER!
I truly believe that for the E-Sports community to grow beyond its current boundaries, people have to feel an attachment to the game being played but more importantly to the people playing those games. What separates the FGC from the Moba and FPS communities is that fighting games still and will always will be the purest form of one-on-one digital sport. It’s just you against your opponent, your skills vs theirs. The ability to see a player “download” and nullify an opponent’s tactic in real time, or to hear the rush from the crowd when someone pulls out their best combo is an amazing thing to watch. That combined with the sights, sounds, and players makes some of the most compelling and dramatic theater you could ever want to see. So no matter how much money the StarCraft players are getting, or how many sponsors are looking for kids with high K/D ratios there is only really one E-Sport in my mind that matters and those guys use Arcade Sticks.