[music] [Bracket runners calling matches] [applause] What is my toughest loss? Every time I lose EVO Grand Finals, that’s always the worst. That’s always the worst feeling. Playing on that stage is if you’Â™re in it for the long haul. If your goal is to win, and you know you can make it to the end, it really tests your mental fortitude. I really wanna win EVO. I can’t quit playing competitively until I win EVO. [music] Fighting games are games where you play against another opponent, you use attacks like punches and kicks and special moves to dwindle down your opponent’s health bar to zero and that’s how you win the game. There’s usually characteristic, multiple different fighting styles and you pick whatever is your favorite, and you play against people. I guess you have to compare it to other types of games. So, platforming games, like Mario and Megaman, it’s just you playing, you finish a level, you beat a boss, you move onto the next level. FPS, it’s usually you against a computer in campaign mode but then once you go online you’re on these teams of like, 2, 3, 4, 5 plus and two teams play one another. Fighting games are kind of unique in the way that it’s one-on-one always. Two men enter, or two women enter, and one leaves. One emerges the champion. Two different people, two different skill sets being thrown in one area together and seeing who comes out on top. And I say two different people because we both think differently, we both have a different outlook on how we’re gonna go about certain things. And skill sets being what we do in the game, whether we pick a certain character, or the tactics with inside the game, or the mechanics and stuff like that. Really, it’s about having a game where you have enough utilities and enough options to be able to craft something out of the characters or the avatar that you’re controlling, that you can outplay somebody else and develop this very strong, high-level mind game, mental game. I mean, I hate using the term high speed chess because it’s kind of a generic way a lot people describe it, but in a lot of ways it is. It’s about out-thinking your opponent and out-strategizing them and it’s really, a lot of it is very psychological. I think that’s one of the things a lot of people don’t realize about fighting games is all you see is the buttons and the joystick and what the character’s doing on screen but the thing that you really miss out on is how much is going through a person’s head when they’re playing, how much they’re trying to figure out what the psychology is. Is this a defensive opponent? Is this an offensive opponent? Does he get scared easily? Is he reckless? When your opponent reads you, it gets in your head and you’re like, does this guy know exactly what I’m thinking before I’m thinking, so the thing I think I should do in this situation I maybe shouldn’t do in this situation because he knows that I’m gonna do that? And once you go down that road, a good opponent can really exploit it so you have to believe in your reads, you have to not second-guess yourself too much. It gets to this point where we have these competitions and you’re playing against these people that play for hours and hours and hours each day, and they’re in each other’s heads as they’re playing it. You can actually see it happen. It’s great. When there’s a good match, you can like, see in each player’s head and beautiful things happen. Oh!
He got a hit! Oh!
The mash! Oh!
Can he finish? Will this combo kill?
He can! You know, there’s a lot of different subcategories in fighting games as well. Really, the distinction kinda just comes from the basis of how the game is played. So there’s the basic 2D fighters. Those games are played very horizontally. And it’s very flat. You really just have this understanding concept of, you’re on the ground, you have jump attacks that you kind of attack from the top, and you try to face each other. It’s mostly about spacing and distance from your opponent. When you have games like anime games, these games take place in a larger space because there’s a lot more super jumping, a lot more air dashing. With 3D fighting games like Tekken and Soul Calibur and Virtua Fighter, going up into the air is not even something you really think about. It’s mostly just little hop kicks is the most, but outside of that it’s a very actual 3D kinda thing because there’s a lot of sidestepping, there’s a lot of dodging. It’s very appropriate to even mention the Smash Brother games now because they’re their own genre now. And these are completely different because they don’t even use standard life bars. All the games that I mentioned already have standard life bars that you drain. But in Smash Brothers you’re just trying to knock them off the stage. So it’s really the basis and the fundamental mentalities of these games that actually define the little genres inside them. And it’s why we have so much variety and I personally just think it’s awesome that it is that way. This should be it, he’s gonna run out of meter. Chip him, chip him! He’s gotta watch out for the dragon punch, he’s gotta watch out for a DP. Aye! A fighting game is something that you experience not just by yourself but with friends, with enemies, with people that you love, people that you hate.That’s really what a fighting game is, it’s the embodiment of everything that you try to do to outdo another person. It’s like you wanna be out on top. You wanna — it’s competition — you wanna be the best. You wanna be able to outsmart everybody. You wanna be able to show everyone that you have the skills, you want the fame, you want the fortune. It needs to have a way to put yourself in the game with the character that you love. It needs to have the head-to-head, it needs to have the saltiness, it needs to have the “I need to beat this guy I’m sitting next to.” If it’s got two life bars and, you know, whoever loses their life bar first and one emerges and then you do it over again, you probably got a fighting game. [applause]
Street Fighter Announcer: KO! The “FGC” is an acronym standing for the Fighting Game Community. It’s an encompassing term for multiple different groups of people around the world, multiple small clusters of people who get together to play fighting games. That Fighting Game Community encompasses anybody who really plays fighting games, so whether you play a 3D game or a 2D game or a Street Fighter or some really obscure title that people haven’t heard of, you’re part of the Fighting Game Community. It’s changed a lot over the years. So I guess I can give you a really old school story, which was as far as I know the first online fighting game community was in, it was a news group called rec.games.videoarcade and once Street Fighter came out, the chat about Street Fighter got to the point where it actually sort of took over the group and people were complaining like, “There’s all these Street Fighter threads, why don’t you idiots get a room or get your own place?” And so we did, and that became altgames.sf2. That, to me, was I guess the first experience of there are video games and here are fighting games and sort of separating those and making it it’s own kinda thing. People from all over the world play fighting games and they travel to events everywhere in any country, pretty much, to play against each other and kind of meet up with friends that you wouldn’t normally see on another basis. It was really meeting up with strangers on the internet, that’s what really it was. It was kinda awkward especially since I was growing up, I was still a teenager at the time, and when I had to explain to not only my parents but also my other friends at school that, “hey I’m not gonna be free this weekend, I’m going up to some place ten hours away to meet up with some guys I met on the internet to talk about fighting games” and that was really a weird point of acceptance for when I was growing up. The players getting together, the competition level, the traveling, the camaraderie, just everything in one equals the FGC. People learning how to play, new people getting into the scene, you know, parents bringing their kids, like — takes a lot to sum it up, I just can’t find one perfect word. [cheering] Sometimes I explain to people, because I travel a lot for these events, and so I’ll tell random people, “oh, I’m flying out to Florida this weekend” and they’re always like, “why are you flying out?” And automatically now I have to be like “well, there’s this subcommunity,” you know, just depending on the person it can be very easy to explain, “Oh, that’s cool,” you know, and then other people are like “People do that with video games?” You know? Most of the time what I just try to tell them is that it’s just a very cool, competitive community, we have tournaments, and there’s a lot of personalities in there, a lot of pride, and it’s just super fun, you know? And probably the one thing that I always tell everybody is that I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it so much. Close to dizzy. Oh he tried to fake the fuzzy guard!
There it is! But he gets the low strong! Is this gonna be enough? Gamerbee, all the fancy stuff!
He goes for the fancy combo! And he does it! Gamerbee! Unbelievable! For me, it’s many things. It’s a paycheck, it’s a way to make a living. It’s also a way to find your friends. Back when I was in college, I swam Division I for Rutgers and halfway through my career there they cut the men’s team. So I started going to Video Game Club and I started playing fighting games and it kind of replaced that camaraderie of the swim team that just got kinda taken away from me. On a personal level, you know, I guess coming out was a really tough time for me. And people who are part of the Smash scene and part of other fighters, when I felt like things were done with my family, and we were gonna cut ties, they were the first to offer themselves up to me as a second family, to replace my first family and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. We’ve taken big leaps and we’ve changed for the better and we can be taken more seriously and of course all this couldn’t be done without Prog. [applause] [crowd chants] Thank you Prog! It’s just a continuum of awesome stuff and when I think of the FGC I just think of my friends and so many great friends from so many different parts of the world and that’s meant more to me than anything. It can definitely be whatever you make it to be, you know, like to me I took huge passion in it, I have a huge love for it, so to me I could say that it is my second family. It is my best friend, it is my dad, it is my mom, it is my family. But, you know, some people could just look at it as it just being a hobby or just something to do but I feel like I invested so much time in it and I got — I can’t believe where I got in my life just because I like fighting games and I can play them decently, I guess. But yeah, to me that is definitely what we are, definitely my family. [music] [sounds of various arcade games. play Vampire Savior] Arcades were, I think, critical to the early development of the scene because it was a social place, it was a shared place, it was a place that wasn’t really for adults. Going to an arcade didn’t take a lot of money, it was open to you for sure, no one could tell you, “you’re outta here,” you’re a prep or you’re a burnout or whatever, this is an open space for anybody to come and play. They would get early access to the game, pretty much. So the way games work is they release usually arcade, then about eight-ish months later they’re released on console. So the people that don’t have access to an arcade are behind because the people that live near an arcade get an advantage. So what that kinda did is if you look at the strength of scenes in the US, it’s usually because there was an arcade there so you have good fighting game players where these arcades were, like New York, Texas, SoCal, NorCal. You just look at these different regions and because they had an arcade, they had the competition that was serious ’cause A) you have to pay to play and you better be good or you’re just throwing away money. No online, no social media. You had to come out if you wanted to play, baby. You know, you could say that there’s more of a chance to play online than there would be in an arcade, but you don’t play with the same inspiration online that I think you would necessarily in an arcade because you’re not just playing to beat, you know, I want to beat Iori5739. It’s “I want to beat that fucking guy,” like, that guy pissing me off, I don’t like that guy, I don’t like the way he plays, I don’t like anything about him, I wanna stay on the top, I wanna be ahead of that guy. Let’s say you get blown up by some dude in ranked on SF4, you want a rematch immediately but there’s no kind of button to do that. And you can’t just wait in line to do it again ’cause he’s probably paired up with someone else, right? In arcades, you get rematches for as long as they’re there and you have quarters, right? So you get to build this kind of longer competitive history and you know, as you keep on losing, you start to develop a rapport with the person, you start to develop a relationship and that simply isn’t there to the same extent if you’re not playing in a public venue. So I think arcades were a perfect illustration of that because a lot of those people became friends, a lot of them became enemies, but it also engendered a certain kind of respect and a certain kind of attitude because you were sharing a physical space with them. So if you wanted to talk too much trash, you might get punched in the mouth. You can only talk so much trash in person to teenagers before something’s gonna go down. So it was both a bounding factor but also a connecting factor that I think really brought a lot of people together because you really got to know who someone was not just through the expressiveness of a fighting game but by seeing how they dress, how they talk, how they eat. So Chinatown Fair was an arcade located at 8 Mott Street, New York, New York. That’s where you went to play good players. Whenever I would go I would lose so badly, no one knew my name. I was just known as Joe’s friend. The guy that came with Joe, that’s who I was. It took me a year, it took me from 2006 to 2007, to beat someone. And as soon as I beat that dude, his name was Mike, he played a purple Ken, people learned my name. When you’re trying to be the best Street Fighter player you can be, for people at the best arcade on your coast to know your name, it’s huge. If Chinatown Fair was a cologne, I would wear it. I could sit here and talk about CF for like, ever. But once I got a little bit better and I got known there in Third Strike, you wound up going there by yourself or with one of your friends and then going to Chinatown, and going to food and going home, where it slowly became to going there, meeting someone else there, and them saying, “hey dude yo we’re going to go eat, you wanna come eat?” And then you meet other people that they brought out to dinner and then different places to eat. Chinatown Fair was more of an arcade, like that was a culture in four blocks. We were a culture that spanned in four blocks of Chinatown. It was also a culture thing for me ’cause I was an American boy who eats hamburgers and hot dogs, and now they’re like, this is bubble tea, and this is this, and this is duck, and this — I was like, whoa. You get to meet all these cool people from places and ways of life and things that are just totally different from you. So they had literally different ways of playing based on their own local scene and the way they approached — chose to approach the game. I think that mostly lends itself to the fact that fighting games are awesome, really. I have no other way to explain it. The fact that something is diverse means that everyone can get into it and that’s really the great part about fighting games, it’s that anyone can get into it as long as they have the right mindset and they really just pay attention and they love it. The kind of democratic and open-entry nature of our tournaments comes from the arcade culture, right? Because all you have to do to start playing is to walk up, put up a quarter, and wait your turn, right? It was a beautiful thing. And it was the strength of those bonds, I think, that inspired the Fighting Game Community to be one of the very first to sort of go online, at least in terms of finding other players. It was because they were so compelled by the experience they had in their local arcades that realizing that same kind of experience was happening in other little clusters all over the world was like, really cool, and you wanted to find a way to be a part of that and connect with more of those kind of pods. [applause] It was definitely a newer market and people found interest in the competitive aspect of it. You had SNK knocking games out, you had Capcom knocking games out, then you had Midway who came along in the 90s with MK. 2004ish, 2005ish it started to get a little dry. We were playing the same games, everyone’s either playing CvS2, Third Strike, Marvel 2, but those games have already been out since ’99. In one sense that was cool, because there were some of those games that are completely worth playing basically forever, they don’t get old at all, but in the video game world and just — video games are all about new new new graphics graphics graphics and that’s the way you can really attract crowds at the beginning and fighting games hadn’t had that in forever. It was rough, man. It was like, almost a dark period, almost a Crusade, you had to struggle. I was happy to get two, three hundred people at an event. It was hard back then. By the time we hit 2009, you were pretty sure that most of the people who were around were kind of the diehards, right? If you were around and you were sticking around, you were gonna be there for a while. We weren’t get a whole lot of new blood in. Kinda got dry and then, of course, we have Street Fighter 4. [music] I remember where I was when the trailer came out. I was at Nassau Community College, in a class, I don’t remember what class it was, but I remember Joe texting me saying there’s a trailer for Street Fighter 4, go check it out. I ditched class, go to the library, and I find the trailer and I started flipping out, internet’s blowing up and it really came at a perfect time. Street Fighter 4 was a linchpin because it was a numbered Street Fighter. There hadn’t been one of those for ten years. And it wasn’t just a new Street Fighter with a bunch of crazy crap, it was directly looking back at Street Fighter 2, and here’s the stuff that brought everybody to the party in the first place, and we’re bringing it back, and we’re gonna make it look awesome. We’re gonna make it feel good. We’re gonna bring back the characters that you know and love. It brought back all the people who played Street Fighter 2, at least for a little bit. They knew that someone was out there playing these games and kicking ass. But they didn’t have an easy way to get into it, right? Street Fighter 4 became that, it became like, hey, welcome back, we never left, and we’re here to show you how this game should be played. I remember being in Chinatown Fair and we had a quarter line, bro, with a piece of paper, and the paper had like, I don’t know, 60 names on the paper, and you’re only allowed to win 6 games and you had to get up to keep everything moving. It was– it looked like the old days in the arcade in Chinatown. Chinatown was packed. We were all there, when the place opened, when the gate came up, we were all playing Street Fighter 4. And it was people who played Street Fighter 2, who played Street Fighter 3, who played Marvel 2, everyone who’s ever played a fighting game was playing Street Fighter 4. So, it had the nostalgia engine firing, it had the new cool-graphics-and-look engines firing, it had the marketing hype and we’re gonna do cool stuff around that, all in the right place, as well as a competitive community that had been brewing for many years waiting for a chance to really be fully inflamed. I dunno, I always talk about it like this was a fire that was burning all the time and kept burning brighter and brighter over time but Street Fighter 4 basically just poured gasoline on that fire. And it was just done in such a way that relaunched the Fighting Game Community and gave us insane exposure. And it was so important, it just came out at the perfect time that it just worked. And because of that, the community evolved around this game and since now Facebook and Twitter were out at that time and gaining a lot of popularity in the mainstream, information was able to be disseminated so fast. You know, speed of light. I think streaming has been absolutely critical to the growth of the scene, so when you see something authentic that happens at these kind of events, I think that really shines through and streaming’s been a great way to get that reality of what’s going on here across. Because we can stream it, because we can share it, anyone in the world can look at this and be like, wow, that’s something I wanna get into, that’s amazing. Because all of this information was being shared, it made it easier to get better. It was like a fighting game revolution, almost. It was just super important to have. Being able to launch Street Fighter 4 was a big one for me as well because there was so much of my life that I — I had personally thrown away good stuff in my life to try and work on that project and then you really hope it’s gonna be what it needs to be and then to see it being played and succeeding — that meant a lot, just on a personal level, but also because it meant fighting games had a chance, had a fighting chance again. 1!
[Crowd] Shoryuken! My name is Steve Barthelemy. Also, my handle is Lord Knight, I am from New Jersey, central New Jersey, and I play Blazblue, Persona, and I also play Melty Blood. I didn’t discover fighting games for a really long time. I played Street Fighter 2: World Warrior on Super Nintendo with my neighbors when I was six but it wasn’t really anything serious, we just kinda — I played it for a little bit and I’m like, OK, this is cool, and we played Mortal Kombat and it was cool ’til my parents took it away ’cause they were like “What IS this game?” I didn’t really get invested into multiplayer games until I moved to New Jersey and Super Smash Brothers came out. That’s the first multiplayer game I played really intensely with my friends. The first time I really used — really, really interacted with a community for a competitive game was for Smash Bros. and that was on Smash Boards. I went to the regional boards to try to find somewhere where I could play. So it was the first time I’ve ever left my house to go play video games with people I never met. So I was a little nervous about it but I was like, “Can I come to this? It’s not that far.” This guy gave me his address. My sister drove me out. It took 3 hours even though it was half an hour away because the street leading into his neighborhood didn’t have a sign so she kept driving past it over and over, and she almost gave up, and I think if she gave up, I probably wouldn’t be talking here right now because that probably would’ve been it. But I was like, “let’s go in this one place that we haven’t gone in before” and that was the place, and they were all super, super nice to me and welcoming, so it was a really good experience. My track to playing fighting games started when I went to MLG in 2006 to play Halo and we didn’t have a team. Our team bailed on us. So I figured we should just enter Super Smash Bros. Melee because we’re the best players in the world, obviously. So let’s enter this tournament and win the tournament, and I went like, 1 and 2 and I was devastated, it was crushing. I got motivated, I was like, “I’m gonna be the best Smash Bros Melee player in the world.” But while I was playing SSBM in high school, I met this kid named Mark who really, really– he had a lot of fighting games on his tablet, and he had Guilty Gear Sharp Reload and he showed me that game and I was like “whoa, this is a sweet game.” So that was the first fighting game I really played. The Smash scene was really big at Rutgers. And this is about a year after I started playing fighting games and they’d always have these gatherings on Livingston for Smash. Randomly, one day, we’re playing in my dorm room and we’re like, “well, let’s go downstairs and check out the Smash tournament and see if any Guilty Gear players are down there” so we could go back up to my room and play. And then in the corner of the room there’s this kid with a laptop playing Melty Blood, and Geo, my friend at the time, he’s like, “Whoa, that’s LordKnight.” And I’m like, “who the hell is LordKnight?” So we go over and we’re like, “oh, you know, you wanna come up to the room and play Guilty Gear?” And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah I’ll go up, I think I remember how to play” right? He bodies me free. I found out he lived close to me. One day I invited him over to teach me Melty Blood. I’m like, “Come over, body me in Melty Blood. Let me learn the game.” So he came over one day and I think since then we’ve just been friends. We travel, we’ve been to Japan together. We traveled over there. I help him when he needs a hotel room or a ride somewhere to a tournament. He’s just my friend now. BlazBlue is Arc System Works’ most serious production, I guess, in the past few years, what they’ve been focusing on. It’s a really complex game with a lot of subsystems and a lot of depth. So it’s kind of just Arc System Works’ brainchild, just them doing whatever they want in the scope of a fighting game. Air dashers, or anime games, are different because 1 — it has air dashing, so you go back all the way to Street Fighter, it’s two people, they walk back and forth, they can jump once, you can’t block in the air. In the 2D games, Street Fighter, KOF, jumping is a very spare thing. You try to reserve that because it’s a big risk and stuff. But a lot of these other games, jumping and going into the air all over the place is a very common thing. So that actually produces a very different kind of game. Obviously you can move through the air, you can jump more than once in the air, some characters can air dash twice, jump three times. It adds more movement options to the game. So when people look at an anime game, usually they’re looking at the mechanics, but it’s also the look of the game, because they were made in Japan, originally they were drawn in 2D art. You know, they have the big eyes, the different color hair. They’re crazy looking. There, you get much more over the top moves, the screen is now filled with crap or I am turning into a 30 foot robot or I am — feathers all over — I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. There’s, there’s — you get a certain element of zaniness and more over the top. It’s much more fast paced. It’s usually a little less readable unless you’re familiar with the franchise, the anime, or just play the game a lot. You know, why are there feathers shooting up from the ground, why is the sky now red and 20 feet tall? That stuff doesn’t make a lot of sense all the time unless you’re familiar with those stories but they’re a ton of fun to play. [game sounds] The main reason I play these games is just because I like them, more than anything else. I got to play Street Fighter IV, the arcade version of Street Fighter IV and I guess it didn’t really grab me right away. I didn’t appreciate it, I should say. I didn’t appreciate the game for what it was. I just thought it was a simple, way-too-basic game the first time I played. As far as Blazblue and Persona, the games were fun from the start, as opposed to some of the other games I played, which didn’t really grab me until I stopped playing and I watched a game evolve, and I was like, “Oh.” But they didn’t grab me from the start. That’s what I need. I want to have fun, too, I don’t wanna just be serious all the time, I wanted to have fun so if the games aren’t fun then I just won’t play. The biggest thing that keeps me playing right now is I have goals. Every since I started playing competitive games, period, I’ve always had goals for myself that I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to win tournaments, I wanted to win the large regional tournaments, I wanted to win majors, I wanted to win SBO, and I wanted to win EVO. There are divisions. There are locals, there are regionals, and then there are majors. So locals typically take place at an arcade or your local gaming center since we don’t really have arcades any more. A regional is something that’s typically a weekend long, one or two days. People travel for it. And it has a lot of competition, a lot of good competition, but it’s still — either the prize pot’s not big enough or it’s not an established tournament. And then you have something called a major and a major is an event that when you hear the name, it’s like, “yeah I know that tournament” because it has an established reputation. It has a big prize purse. It has a lot of sponsors. Everybody knows to go. That’s what we consider a major. And then after a major you have something like Evolution which is considered the world finals of fighting games. Because you have people from dozens of countries around the world, thousands of entrants, and that’s kind of where the world’s best is defined, through that tournament. Throw up here. This time it hits! And we have our champion, Mango, first place here at Evolution 2014. EVO is the biggest and baddest fighting game tournament in the world. It’s really the big show, it’s like the SuperBowl of fighting games. To my old school years, EVO is the rebranded B series of tournaments. EVO now is basically a direct outgrowth of that. So the scale is, I dunno, not even hundred times bigger, it’s actually more than a hundred times bigger, I think. But actually that’s one of the only things that’s changed. The format, I think, is almost identical. Still a double elimination tournament, you still pay money into the pot and the winner takes it home and it’s still put on by players. EVO has never had any full time staff and still doesn’t and every aspect of its production, from the sound, to the videos, to the stream, to the setup, it’s all just a bunch of players and that’s pretty cool to me. EVO is the culmination of fighting game fans everywhere. It’s crazy how it was a small tournament that no one knew about and it’s become a place where now game companies are highlighting and making announcements and really using it as a platform to not just reach out to the core community but also to media worldwide. And there’s millions of people that watch it year over year now and I think it’s amazing how much EVO has grown. I still remember the days when we got 100 people in a tournament, we were like, “What is going on? This is the most fantastic thing ever.” Between all the games we probably have 4000 players maybe, competing in all these games over the weekend, and that’s what makes it the big one is just that you know if you can survive through this gigantic armada of players, that you know you are truly one of the best in the world, to be able to make it through and win. Oh! He got it! He got it!
That is, that could be it! If he finishes it, it will be over! If he finishes with a grab it’ll be over! It’ll be over! It’s over. Got ’em! [applause] [audience chanting] USA! USA! I went for the first time last year, and I’ve been to a lot of majors at this point, but EVO was just an unbelievable experience. I didn’t think anything like that could really exist but just going to EVO for the first time and experiencing it, it was the greatest thing, you know, the greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s more than just the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, it’s one of the best events you can possibly experience in your life. [crowd chanting “EVO! EVO!”] Most of the people here probably don’t have a serious shot at winning the competition but coming here and taking a shot and knowing that it’s open to anybody to come and take a shot at the best in the world is pretty awesome and that sort of, I think, captures that old arcade spirit which is where we all came from, which is anybody can play. You’ve got a quarter in your pocket, you can walk up and play against anybody else who’s here and take your shot against them. My motivation right now is pretty much — I really wanna win EVO. I can’t quit playing competitively, seriously, until I win EVO. So that’s the main thing. As FGC grows and it gets more exposure and more coverage from mainstream media, I think that some issues that might come along are just the word “Fighting Games.” A lot of people who don’t really play games in general just hear the word and kinda cast it off as “this is something that’s violent and not something I would want my kids to play” or you know, parents might not see it for what it really is. To be honest, I don’t think we’re given a fair shake. I think that media have tended to focus, in large part, on a few high profile stories of fighting game players behaving badly and I think that’s unfortunate because there’s a really rich community here. There’s a lot of great people. And the fact is that we’re doing something different. We are a different community. We’re doing different things than a lot of other video game communities around there. The community does a lot more good that I feel like everyone outside the community doesn’t get to see. Everyone outside sees all the negative stuff and you know, whether it’s a sexual harassment issue or the portrayal of women in the scene or the game, or guys and violence and testosterone or whatever, it’s all, it’s those small — you know, like the one bad egg spoils the bunch kinda thing. Unfortunately, it’s real in the scene, and it sucks, and it’s not really, it’s not like that at all, man. Everything, no matter what scene you’re in, there’s always something that could spoil the bunch. Whenever we’re portrayed negatively, it’s really a wake up call for us to better ourselves. And if we don’t heed to that call, then it’s really our fault, if we’re gonna fuck up, we’re gonna continue to fuck up. But I believe enough in the community to know that whenever there’s something bad that happens, that we’ll learn from it and we’ll move on. I’ve been really glad to see that in general, games media, at least — even if they don’t know how to play fighting games and they don’t really understand what’s going on here, they’re starting to see that as a liability, right? Any website should have someone who knows what’s going on at EVO so they can cover it or so that they can cover the stories coming out of that community. So I think things are changing. I think it’s very easy for mainstream media to attach itself to something negative and really bring the negativity out more than the positive. So if we can just constantly have positive things highlighted in mainstream media I think the FGC could practically get a facelift off of something like that. We’re getting better as a community and I think that extends onto the media where they see us as better people, as a better community, and you know, they’ll want to support us more. So that’s good. I can’t say it’s always been good but like I said, it’s getting better. I was born in ’85, so Atari was the shiz in ’85. In my parents’ room was the Nintendo for the most part ’cause my dad used to be really into Castlevania and Zelda and my brother played Zelda a little bit. So I was exposed to games quite early in life. I remember the 7-11 used to have arcades, not sure if anybody remembers this, but 7-11 used to have, or at least the one by me, it had this little offset in the 7-11, it was this little space corridor area, and then I remember the 7-11 got Street Fighter, they had 2, and then Championship Edition. After that, wherever we went, wherever I could go whether it be the mall, or arcade, or bowling alley, or a diner, or like, wherever there was an arcade game, especially a fighting game, I wanted to play it. We’d give him a couple of dollars, wait outside, and he would go in, I really didn’t know exactly what he was playing, and he would play games for maybe not even a half hour and the money would be gone. We would go get ice cream or something and then we would go home from there. And as we continued going and he got a little older — not much, as months and months went by — the money that I gave him started lasting longer and longer. At first he would be done in a half hour, and then it was like, an hour, and then it was like, two hours, because he went and he started getting very much into Mortal Kombat. Tons of blocking. That block button getting some serious use right now! Time out! This might be a time out, ladies and gentlemen. Oh! Joe wins by time out! Holy sh…
That’s not good enough! So I met Long Island Joe back in 2002 or 2003, when I used to play Dance Dance Revolution. I remember I was a short fat kid back in the day, so I would always try cutting the quarter line. I was that annoying arcade kid no one liked. I remember one time I tried to cut the quarter line and he just looked at me, shook his head, and handed me back my tokens, said “You better wait.” So that was my first interaction with Joe. As time went on, I was no longer annoying and I kinda grew up, and we started becoming friends. But then DDR started dying out, so I never really saw him any more, and he didn’t work at FunZone any more. Probably 2005 or 2004, I started playing at another arcade, FYE Games, out further east in Long Island, and then I saw him again out there but he looked completely different, very approachable at that point so I walked up to him and I said, “Hey do you remember me? We used to play DDR at FunZone.” Of course he remembered me and yeah, we became friends at that point. He taught me Street Fighter, we played DDR, and now we’re kinda like brothers. Joe? John? Hello? The filming of the filming? The filming of the filming of making the filming of the movie, the film. [music] East Coast Throwdown is an event that I run with Joe and it started actually in two ways. So for a while, during the Third Strike era, I was running something called Castle Fight Nights. We became too big. We had almost 100 people in maybe a 25 square foot space. It ran really well, but it grew every time and I said to the owner Lance, I said, “Dude, we can’t do it here any more, it’s too big.” And there was no place on Long Island that we knew about that could fit us. So I stopped. I was always like, dude, do a major, you can do it, we’ll run a major, I’ll help, he’s [incoherent noises], typical John, great. And then one day, sitting at home, I have AIM open, this is in 2009. And a person messaged me. We’ll call this guy Mike. He was a friend of me and Joe’s who… he knew how to scam people. He knew how to get one over on people. He was a good salesman. And we remember going to Evolution East 2007 in Connecticut. I remember him saying, “How does this work? How do these guys make money?” And we told him, “well, you know, they’ll charge a venue fee, that’s how they get their money back, and then you pay ten dollars, that gets put into the prize purse for Guilty Gear, say.” He’s like, “Alright, so here’s what we could do, we could run a tournament, do all that, and then we’ll just shave off the top of the Guilty Gear pot and make money off that.” I’m like, “Dude that’s not how it works, that’s stealing.” But he didn’t see it that way. So fast forward to 2009, sitting home on AIM, get a message from Mike saying, “Hey, I notice you’re not running tournaments any more.” I said, “Yeah, you know, they got too big, I can’t fit anywhere. So I had to stop.” He’s like, “Oh, that’s a shame. Just want to give you a heads up that I’m running something big but I got major back.” I was like, “Alright cool, good for you.” Signed off AIM, called Joe immediately, and said, “We gotta do a major.” And that’s how East Coast Throwdown was born. It took us a few shots to get it right but now I think it goes very well. The last few have run, to me, I think they’ve run flawlessly. Running events was something I was never really into. I never really want — I just wanted to play, dude, I didn’t have any, any drive to run anything or stuff like that. I won’t say I didn’t care, but I felt like there were other people doing it, you don’t need me to do it too. There’s plenty other people that are doing it. But then John wanted to run a major and I don’t wanna say that John needed my help. But I offered the fact that I could help him, I could get the community excited. I had, I guess, stronger ties in the community at the time. We came together, our powers combined, Captain Planet. My whole involvement in the actual T.O. aspect of the scene is definitely because of John. You guys are the best, LI Joe and SweetJohnnyCage. This is CEO tournament level. Best tournament I’ve been to in five years. Good shit guys. Thank you everyone! [applause] Alright, so we started East Coast Throwdown in 2009. I’m 25, like I said I went to school for air traffic control, that was my plan. So I realized, you know what? Ever since I was 6, I’ve wanted to work in the video game industry. I mean, I remember when I was 6 I said I wanted to be a Nintendo tester or something. But I know how to run events, I know what I’m doing, so I built my resume up and I started sending it to companies. Because of that, if I were doing events or community management or something full-time, I would not be able to run these tournaments. So it’s because of that that I have to walk away. Not saying that I’ll forget about the fighting gaming community and not be involved, but my job is done. I’ve laid the groundwork for these events, I’ve been part of the team, and I can move on. And the events will be fine. John and I have this saying where I would be the artist and John would be the architect when it comes to running the events. I have the ability to think about it and plan it out and put it on the paper, but John can actually construct it and he’s a lot more patient than me, he has the ability — he’s actually a lot smarter than I am too — he has the ability to make these — he’s so calculated, he has your spreadsheet, he has your this, he has your that. I’m not that calculated and/or anything else like that so having him around is a huge importance, man, so we’ll see how it goes without him. I just want the community and everybody else to know the importance of John and his input in ECT. That’s my goal this year, to make sure that everyone knows that it’s not — it shouldn’t not matter that he’s leaving, people should honestly sit and think about all the stuff that he has done and all the stuff that we together have put into it or I or he helped me or I helped him. And I just want people to realize that it’s not — it’s a lot bigger deal than what someone seem it to be. [music] [cheering] CEO’s been pretty good so far. I came yesterday, there are a few people here. It’s a very friendly atmosphere, everyone is cool even if you don’t know each other. It’s fun. It’s fun so far. This weekend, I’m going to play Persona Four: Arena and Blazblue. The best case scenario would be me winning both games, that would be the best case scenario. It’s not imperative that I win this weekend. Everything is practice before EVO, so if I don’t win then I can figure out why I didn’t win. Was it me? Did I just mess up, like execution? Did I get angry or flustered and do something dumb? I can figure that out. But if I win, people will be more conscious of me, which will probably be for the better. LK is undeniably one of the best players in the United States of America for all anime games, Blazblue, Persona, Melty Blood. What makes him a strong player is he labs it up a lot. He goes into practice mode with his character, optimizes his combos, figures out small nuances with matchups and really, really fleshes out the game. Just lays it out and figures out every little mechanic, every little nook or secret about it. And he just tries to have the most knowledge about the game because honestly, the stronger players are going to know more about the game. Come on, LK. OK, OK, I like this. Is he gonna cover her tech options? Yes! Thank you, LK. To be honest, I think people don’t think I’m a good player, really. I know I’m not a really exciting player to watch. I just manage to win or I just beat people, I don’t do anything really exciting. Ooh!
LK wins, smirk on his face So yeah, hold that.
[Reggie’s air horn, blowing majestically in the distance] Oooooh, ooooh!
[applause, more air horn] I wanna say yeah, I think the general consensus is that we wanna see new faces in the top spots of tournaments. I don’t wanna say it’s boring, it’s great the players are consistent but it’s almost more fun to see good players or the best players lose. I wanna say maybe outside of the Northeast, the general consensus is that yeah, we wanna see LK lose. He sometimes loses to a wild play style. He’ll just get hit and then he’ll try and calculate or sometimes he just won’t care, he does 50-50 sometimes where he’ll play like a nut, sometimes he doesn’t. Ooh!
He’s gonna get a perfect, he’s gonna overhead it, just go! Yes! Woo, baby! You say this because he’s your friend, you wanna say, “oh, he’s better” but there are players that are on his level that he’ll lose to and it’s mostly because sometimes he just doesn’t say “f it.” He’s just very calculated and if you throw him outside of that, he kinda loses some of his strength. So there’s two extra prizes for Blazblue at EVO. There is a $25,000 pot bonus from the creator of Blazblue and then there’s also an additional $5000 and a trip to Japan for the highest placing American player at EVO. There’s a huge pot bonus and that has huge incentive for people to travel and to also travel from overseas. So a lot of the Japanese are coming. Very, very strong players, the best in Japan are coming. And all the best players in the US are coming minus a handful. So what this means for us is this finally a time when we get all the strong players together in one spot to see who is the best. And on top of that, the best US player that places gets to go to ARC REVO and they get to choose their partner for the Blazblue tournament so we finally have an American representative at the big Japanese tournament for Blazblue. It’s probably one of the tournaments I care the most about since EVO 2010, I’m pretty sure. Of course the money is a thing, but I haven’t won an EVO and even if I don’t win, if I outplace all the other Americans I still get a really, really good prize, a chance to play in the Japanese National. I think out of all the players that are going to EVO, he probably — the American players, obviously — he probably has the best chance to win this. You know, I’ll never count LK out. He always — he never ceases to amaze me. So I think he has the best chance out of all the American players going, to win. Never really a bad idea.
What? Oh my gosh. Must have been a misinput, there’s no way. You think Juggernaut’s controller broke, mid match? Is he gonna give LK the round?
No… it’s already over. My gosh… both player’s doing the exact same thing. Fireballs, traps. 6A the god. Oh my god! BananaKen, he knows. He knows! Oh my god! [music] So East Coast Throwndown 2014 has gone pretty well. Friday night was a little crazy, we had some issues with the venue where we didn’t get certain things that we were contracted to. We just worked really late, got 90 minutes of sleep and got right back up in the morning and kept going. We had a pretty good turnout, actually better than I thought it was because it’s Mother’s Day Weekend and stuff like that. So it went a lot better than I thought, it ran pretty smooth, everything’s been on time for the most part. Haven’t really had many complaints from anybody so I’m happy with it, I am. Events like this are super important for the community, I think. If you just take a look around, it’s everybody just hanging out, it’s a great place to meet friends, get back together with old friends that you haven’t seen, maybe they moved to a different state or another side of the country or a different country. It’s really good to just come together, play some games, win some money, and hang out. These events are some of the most important to the community because it still shows that the players that have 9-5 jobs are still doing things like this. I know Capcom can do it, they can do Capcom Cup, but that is their job. It’s cool to see the dudes that just have passion for it to make sure that we can all come together and we can share the passion, you know what I’m saying? This is literally what community means. Meeting people with similar interests and making connections that last a lifetime. Oh man, 4-6 but he loses.
Alright. Wow raw spear! Oh man.
He just did it, he just did it. Now Joe is up by one.
Yes, fatality. Yeah. The crowd is going wild.
This is why we play UMK3, ladies and gentlemen. So this event is important on a lot of levels to me since it’s my last event. My last East Coast Throwdown, I should say. It’s been tough especially today since it’s Sunday, this is the last day and in about an hour I’m gonna get on that stage and tell people this is my last East Coast Throwdown, so. I mean John is definitely my ride-or-die partner but he is doing something to better his life and I could never take that from anybody. He’s doing the right thing. He has a passion just like we all do. So I have to respect it. I’m not mad — obviously I’m happy for him. You know — he always talks about it, I got an email, someone called me, someone said something on my Twitter about it. So he really is all about it. There’s no greater achievement than doing something that you love to do on a grand scale. And I’m not doing this to be like, “Oh well I’m leaving so watch it change.” I’m doing this to say “I’m leaving, thank you for everything that you guys have supported me with” and I want people to know that I wouldn’t be what I am without this event and this event wouldn’t be what it is without the people who come here and support us and support East Coast Throwdown. So I don’t really know how it’s going to go and what the reception’s going to be like. Part of me doesn’t really care because it’s more for me just saying thank you and letting people know that I’m thankful. So I don’t know, I really can’t predict it. Alright, guys, if you can do me a favor please, guys in the building. If anybody is playing casuals and not tourny can you please do me a favor and hit pause and stand up for two seconds? I just want everyone to really pay attention and give us your full undivided — I know there are teams going on over here which I totally get. Don’t be mad if I cry or if anybody cries. Alright — John? Holy shit, that’s a lot of people. OK, so in 2009 when Joe and I started ECT, I was 19 and he was 22. We had no idea what we were doing but it’s because of you guys that we figured it out. Took us three years, God knows ECT3 made me wanna quit. But we got through it and here we are. In a ballroom three times the size of our original space at the Westin Governor Morris. We have two giant screens for you to watch all day. Working with Team Spooky, the best in the biz. Deadly Bison, our friends from Long Island. Combat Network, all of the guys we’ve met have really helped us. Woohoo!
That’s right. All the guys we’ve met have really helped shape us into who we are. Now I’m not sure if a lot of you guys follow me on social media, but you’ll notice that this year with ECT it was a little quiet, and that’s because after we wrapped the Fall Classic last year in 2013, I started really focusing on my career and what I wanna do with myself and I decided that that is going to be my main focus and unfortunately, this really sucks — this is my last ECT. No!
This show will go on. There will always be ECT. So I wanted to do it here and it’d be very personal because you guys have really made me what I am and I’m eternally grateful for that and I cannot thank you enough for supporting this event even in its dark times and when it was rough, you guys kept coming out and supporting us and supporting East Coast Throwdown, and you guys are the reason it’s as big as it is. So thank you. Thank you John! As the words were coming out of my mouth, it felt correct to be doing it. It was tough, especially when the words came out saying, “this is my last ECT,” I looked at the crowd and everybody was like [sigh]. Listening to the speech, I remember paying attention to more the people than really looking at him ’cause I already knew what was coming and stuff like that and I’m just really glad that the people in general really understood what was going on. We are still as tight, I just don’t see him as much, I should say. He has other things going on, other avenues in business, more esports stuff and things like that. I’m very proud of him, I’ll back him up in whatever he wants to do. You know, we’ve been through too much for me leaving a tournament to come between us. And he was extremely, insanely supportive of me leaving. When I told him that I wanted to leave, without hesitation he iust said “OK, sure, if this is what you wanna do, go for it.” I back him up on whatever he has to do and I know he’s not gonna stop until he gets it. And I hope he does, I hope he is successful, I hope he gets to live the dream and stuff like that, that’s what I would want for any of my friends. The one thing I could say is just don’t stop and if you need me, you know I’ll help you. [music] We’re at EVO, yes, it’s day 2. Yesterday I won Melty Blood and Persona at the same time. Top 8 was at the same time for both games, so I’m feeling very very good right now. Oh my gosh.
Oh my gosh. Oh, tries to bait! Oh, here we go.
Watch that burst! LordKnight! So my first game is a Kagura player from Toronto. Bill307? To get out of the pool, I’ll either have to play a Hakumen player from California, I believe, White Boy Willie, or the Twitch-sponsored Japanese player KojiKOG, who plays T-Hawk in Street Fighter but he plays Tager in BB. And I watched him play BB, I watch his videos from last year and his very recent videos because apparently he stopped playing, which is a good sign for me, but he’s still a grappler — KOG stands for King of Grapplers, so, it’s about as hard as you can get besides the actual, the guy who couldn’t come, Rasuk Grandia. Oh, what, what, what? No! So that might be difficult. The best possible scenario is somehow making Winner’s Top 8. That would be the best case scenario. Worst case scenario — I’d have to say losing in pools. Not getting out — losing, of course, just not making Top 8 is the worst case scenario, but things that could happen to cause that. Losing once in pools and having to get out from there I think is the worst case scenario for EVO, period. It would take a lot of games for me to get to Top 8 if I lose in pools, so I really don’t want that. [music] [sounds of buttons and games] Lord Knight, of course, strong tournament presence for the past half a year, year, two years, three years. He’s been a very dominant air dasher player and I’m sure this EVO is no exception in terms of his own perspective of how he’s gonna do in this tournament. Oh yeah. But!
Jiyuna’s got his legs though! Ah that’s a big drop. You can kinda see the nerves showing up.
Yeah. It’s all or nothing.
All on the table. Nice.
Do it or lose it. I’m loving his neutral right here, great backdash call as well. Called the backdash.
Maybe he’s calming down a little bit here. Oh no! What — side switch. Fatal.
Fatal counter! And all the meter to work with! Teleport.
Teleport out! Very even, very even.
Fireballs clashing! Equal setups, wow. Love those moments. Jiyuna calming it down a little bit which I do like a lot.
Awkward trade, does not get picked up. Called the backdash.
I like that, that’s a very safe call. Corner push.
Overheads too far. Gets some pressure.
Burst but he does there. He’s got one chance. Superball. He’s putting all his hopes and dreams into– Tech again and Lord Knight catches a 6A. Camaraderie, they’re both so impressed by that match, it goes to the wire. America takes it. [Crowd] Ey! [cheering] I got 17th, which is the lowest place I got in a tournament that year. Yeah, my lowest placing of the year was at EVO, 17th. The guy who beat me did make Top 8. I don’t feel too bad, and it was really close, but I’m still a competitor, I’m still upset about it. It was last game, last round, last situation, like, “hey if I’m right I win and I move on, and if I lose, that’s it.” I decided not to backdash, I think that’s what it was, I decided not to backdash, and he hit me with a meaty overhead and I lost. The moment he hit me with it, I was like, “man I should’ve backdashed” because I would’ve won and moved on. I mean, you can do two things, you can take the loss, just be mad that you lost and keep playing, or you can take the loss — I mean, it sucks that you lost but you have to grow from it. Fighting games is about growing. Competitive gaming, really, is about growing. You improve yourself. So the only way you can improve — it’s very cliche, but — through failure. And losing in tournament is pretty much about as straightforward of a sign of failure as possible, I think. [cheering] You know, one of the questions I talk to myself, I ask myself all the time is, “Where’s the future of the Fighting Game Community? Where are we going?” And honestly, I wish I knew. I want it to be huge. I want it so that everybody on the streets knows what a fighting game is. I definitely would expect the FGC to grow and grow and grow as the years go on. We have other esports games, like League of Legends, who are absolutely dominating right now. They get thousands and thousands of people filling up stadiums to watch their game and I definitely don’t think that the FGC is far from that. I feel like we’re only gonna get bigger. There’s no way we can really get smaller. There’s no way you can be in this community and say “Hey, there’s no fighting game I like.” There’s too many fighting games! There’s so many that there has to be something you enjoy, there has to be something you like. Fighting games are never gonna die. If there is a new fighting game I would go wherever I had to go to try and play it. I don’t feel that dying within me any time soon and I just hope that a lot of the other players who are here feel the same way because it’s gonna go hand in hand, if we’re not playing them, if we’re not creating this energy within the game to make people feed off of it and they’re not making the games for us to make that energy, then everyone’s screwed. That’s what I’m saying. We have to work together, everyone, and this will go as far as we take it. [audience chanting] USA! USA! Sky’s the limit, man. Put all the people around the world — hype — to make it to these qualifiers and qualify and everybody wanna watch it now. It’s going there, it’s gonna go there, it’s gonna go there, man. And I believe with Capcom’s help, tournaments like EVO and stuff, setting the standard for us, I don’t see no limit. If the average layman can realize how skillful these guys are and how much time and dedication, how much talent these guys have, I would love that. That is what I would like to see. I dunno, it could go a lot of ways. But in one sense I care a ton, and have invested a lot of my life into making that future, and on another hand, I couldn’t care less because I think what is already happening and what has already happened has value and has real value regardless of what happens. So maybe this would become the most popular spectator thing in the planet. I don’t think that’s gonna happen but if it did, that would be amazing. But I think it actually does have the potential to do that because I played sports, I’ve watched a lot of sports, you know, live music, and bands and all that stuff is great — I personally have never found a thrill like I’ve found in the room at these tournaments, in terms of the camaraderie, in terms of the display of skill, in terms of just the electricity. So I think it absolutely has the capacity to reach those kinds of levels. I’d love that to happen and I’ll fight to make it happen but I think everything we’re doing now is great. It’s already great and I hope the world catches onto that greatness. But if it doesn’t, it’s the world’s mistake and not ours. [cheering] My goals this year are pretty much the same as last year and every year. I want to win EVO. Some people told me, “You did it! You did it!” because I won Persona last year but I don’t really count it ’cause it’s a side event. I still wanna win a main ticket tournament. That’s still the goal. The main goal going up at least to July — win EVO. [announcer over loudspeaker. seriously, play Vampire Savior]