As of me typing this little entry, we are about a week out from the events that transpired at this year's EVO. A great deal of joy and surprise was had by all that were interested. For those who filled up my Twitter feed with, "What's an EVO?" Go here for the full history.
There seems to be something strange happening in the fighting game community. The level of recognition and genuine interest has been hard-fought over the past decade. Within that time, fighting game makers: Namco, Capcom, Aksys, have helped and hurt the culture. There was an obvious feeling of rushed games or just too many to play at one time. Games around the turn of the millennium were having a renaissance genre-wide. During the era of Third Strike, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Guilty Gear, there were so many iterations of fighting games, it was almost like, Guitar Hero.
For almost ten years it seemed like fighting game fans were playing the same four games. That is until now. This year marks the maturation of how fighting games are viewed. In this age of downloadible content and patch updates, surely the fighting game fan and developer bond is all-the-more tighter. At least it should be.
"Evo was amazing this year it's events like these that make me wanna play fighting games forever even if they aren't that good lol. Community is gdlk" - Arturo "TS Sabin" Sanchez
Mr. Sanchez's twitter update leads me to my next insight within the fighting game culture. With the recent deployment of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and the announcement of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there has been a stench of history repeating itself. This same stench is grouped with a Seth Killian and a thankless announcement of Street Fighter: Third Strike: Online Edition. The names just keep getting longer. The people working on these games before and after their release seem genuinely concerned about the people playing them, well at least Mr. Killian does.
Arturo wasn't the only well-known player championing the fighting game community, while playfully brow-beating the machine that churns said games out. Now it's different. Now EVO is getting millions of views on UStream. Now high-level players are being sponsored to play these games, things are certainly different.
Back in the 'olden' days, you played the game you liked. Once you stopped liking the game, you played another one. Playing for money only gets you so far, back then, fans who sought more in a game, became better at it -- and were recognized for it.
Now players are openly saying they don't like the game they are playing. In some cases, players are chastising developers for releasing games and/or patches too fast. It took Third Strike almost ten years to mature into what the community sees it as now -- one of the best fighting games ever made. I said early it was a thankless task to announce the Online Edition of Third Strike in the midst of this muck. There's a great team working on a game that, essentially, divided the casual video gamer and the hard core.
What I find most disturbing is that not only could the fighting game community be embarking on a new wave of top tier players who [actively] hate the game their playing. This could be one of the few times where developers and gamers have been this close in contact with one another and yet both factions are ultimately unsatisfied.
The most interesting thing about watching the Teamspooky produced web stream of this year's EVO, is that among all these thoughts of where the community is headed, I still had a great time.
Something amazing happened on the internet and in Las Vegas that final weekend of July. I had people who are as casual a fighting game fan, as I am with rhythm games, approach me about this event. People got invested, even if it was only temporary. I think, for better or worse, the fighting game community gained more personality this weekend.
It was like World Cup! Tweets echoing "U.S.A." and "#TeamJapan" filled up my feed. Friends bet me and almost cried when they lost. It was almost like this was a viable sporting event that regular people began to take seriously. So yeah, like the World Cup, you know -- when people pretend to like soccer for a couple weeks, there was this temporary attachment based on pure enjoyment.
Personally, given that I participate within the fighting game community as well as write about genres outside of it, I do feel there are major problems to tackle. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 should not be released the same year the original game came out, it will not sell well and alienate its audience more so. Mortal Kombat 9 doesn't need active [daily] patch updates. It needs one giant update that gives developers time to dedicate their efforts to the major flaws of the game [namely the netcode].
However, I echo Arturo Sanchez's sentiment. The fighting game community proved that it is a universe all its own. It didn't need the 2 million views on UStream, but it helped. It doesn't need these initial games to be more casually inviting, only for the 'real' game to be released within a year's time. Again, it does help. Now we have newer eyes watching and playing video games. This is a good thing.
Amongst a variety of comments I got via Twitter, one came from a game developer friend of mine. He was a part of the group that just doesn't get fighting games anymore. A group I wholly understand and relate to. He asked me what makes these tournaments so interesting to people like me. He understood the camaraderie of having friends you know compete on a stage you rarely see. But he couldn't understand why so many people were watching and becoming invested.
To this, I responded with: "Do you know what it's like to throw a fireball for $10,000?"
Then he got it.