A Life-Affirming Weekend at EVO, the World's Biggest Fighting Game Event
J Thoendell stashed this in Video Games
It’s all part of the nebulous, fast-growing segment of gaming called eSports, where people compete in tournaments for specific games for prestige and prizes. Attendance estimates at the bigger eSports events range between 9,500 on the low end and 14,000 on the high end, with the most-entered tournament, Ultra Street Fighter IV (USFIV), drawing over 2,200 entrants alone.
That’s the easy description. But in truth, EVO is something much more complex.
***There was a lot of excitement over USFIV because it’s likely the last year it will be EVO’s “big game.” The sequel, Street Fighter V is slated to hit in early 2016, so everyone had high hopes for SFIV’s sunset.
EVO is only partially about the games, however—it’s also about the people who play them. One of the reasons competitive games appeal to people is that they give them an opportunity to construct a persona within a community. You might be working a boring day job where nobody remembers your name, but when you’re going to tournaments and bodying scrubs left and right, you are a fiercely felt presence.
It’s not surprising that many well-known fighting game players have professional wrestling-like “good guy” and “heel” personas they play up within the scene. People love the goofy, smiling guys who stick with unpopular character choices in the face of tough competition, and they love to hate the players who pick the characters believed to be “overpowered,” and who publicly talk smack about their opponents.
These personae play a part of each individual’s personal EVO story, a harrowing journey from the morass of tournament pools to the championship on the main stage that only one will claim as the winner.
Many people come to EVO mainly to witness the drama as it unfolds. They know they’re unlikely to advance far in the tournament, but the draw of the spectacle is so powerful that they don’t care. They just want to be a small part of it.
Fervent cheering and shouts of disbelief from a corner of the room announce when something big’s going down at a tournament station. When upsets happen—and, with the amount of players at EVO, upsets are an inevitability—the actual and virtual spaces explode, tweet reactions flying and people running to report the amazing thing they just witnessed to others.
"People love the goofy, smiling guys who stick with unpopular character choices in the face of tough competition."
Yes they do.