Before I even started playing fighting games, I had a strong interest in the complexity of the games. I spent way too much time listening to friends discuss tactics and character balance in terms I could only slightly understand and sitting in front of Twitch streams in awe and confusion of the best players in the world competing.
I had always been aware of the Evolution Championship Series, because, well, it's HUGE. Even someone with a passing interest in fighting games could hear about EVO, it's like the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and World Series all mixed in one. Only with a little bit less physical violence than football, baseball, and hockey.
So, while I haven't seen the community firsthand yet by attending a tournament, I've been playing these games for several months now, trying to figure out which one I like the most. Last night I excitedly watched the Wakeup SRK stream to find out which games would be at EVO in 2013.
But why do I care?
Realistically, I won't be making it to EVO this year for a number of reasons. Financial reasons are the most obvious, but I don't even know if I'd go if I could afford it. Like I stated before, I've never been to any tournament for any fighting game. EVER. I've watched a lot of them on streams, but it's not the same as going.
Currently, I'm planning to attend the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament in May, since it's the closest "major" tournament to my home and I actually know people in the city. It doesn't make sense to me to never attend any tournaments and then head to EVO as your first one. So I'll start small-ish.
So, if I'm not attending, why was I so interested in the game lineup at EVO, to the point of even cheering or being upset when certain games were announced? It doesn't really make sense if I'm not competing, right?
I'm watching the EVO stream for entertainment. So if I'm complaining about the free entertainment being provided to me, I think I'm being petty. I'll admit it. It's like having cable television and being upset that Honey Boo Boo is on. Just change the channel!
But in the moment, I was upset. I was irrationally angry that I would possibly be "forced" to see games I don't like on the stream, like Street Fighter X Tekken or My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic. And I have no right to be upset. In hindsight, I was almost ashamed to read my reactions from last night. I was essentially getting upset over something I don't even have to see.
The interesting thing I've noticed about this fighting game community is a bizarre obsession with death. If a game isn't being streamed at weekly events, it "died". If a game has an unorthodox style in terms of either gameplay or visuals, it's pronounced dead on arrival because it'll never catch on. And the clearest sign of death is exclusion from EVO.
If your game is not being officially represented at EVO, it is dead. Pack it up, play another game.
On one hand, I can see why being represented at EVO is a HUGE deal. It's the one time of the year where the spotlight is intensely focused on fighting games, where millions of people will watch this competition, even if they know nothing about what's happening on the screen. I should know, I used to be there.
And the fear of death is getting pretty real these days. Check out this article:
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown was dropped from the Wednesday Night Fights stream recently. Despite the best efforts of veteran players, the attendance levels for the tournament were too low to keep running actual tournaments.
That is how a game dies. When people stop attending tournaments, things in the game stop being discovered. These streams aren't run online, they are run because people show up to actual tournaments to compete in person. If that isn't happening, there won't be any tournaments to stream, and the game just...stops showing up.
So, why are the games at EVO there? Why did some of the picks make people upset? Let's look at the list first.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Mortal Kombat 9
Street Fighter X Tekken 2013
King of Fighters XIII
Persona 4 Arena
A few of those are givens. Marvel and Street Fighter are established as cornerstones of the EVO tournament to the point that it would be weird to NOT have them there. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is there because at least one 3D fighter is needed, and TTT2 has been critically acclaimed as one of the best out there. King of Fighters XIII arguably had the biggest crowd reaction at EVO 2012, and the game has been evolving (terrible pun not intended) since.
Then it gets complicated.
Mortal Kombat 9 will be returning to EVO for its third year in the row. I noticed a lot of people angry about it because they dislike the game for being boring to watch, unbalanced, and seeing the same people in the finals of the tournaments each year.
Street Fighter X Tekken will be returning to EVO for its second year in a row. After last year's showing, some people were confused as to why the game even made it in the first place: it was released in an unfinished state and plagued with glitches, the on-disc DLC scandal and gem system made people dislike Capcom even more than they already did, and the tournament was played in a bizarre 2v2 format which didn't help the fact that many people found the game boring to watch.
So, am I completely satisfied with the lineup at EVO 2013? Not exactly, but I understand why some games I like wouldn't make it in. And I also understand why the games I don't enjoy watching DID make it in. Mortal Kombat 9 has a large, dedicated community that runs plenty of tournaments on a regular basis. Street Fighter X Tekken is about to get a patch that changes or fixes problems that many people had with the vanilla build, and possibly a change of format would make for a very different-looking tournament than last year's. It still has a fair share of fans, probably more than most of us want to admit.
Games I'm personally attached to like Skullgirls, Soul Calibur V, and Virtua Fighter 5 have very small playerbases and wouldn't get enough entrants at EVO to justify putting it on the big stage: in terms of entertaining viewers and making good business sense, it's just not a good idea.
In hindsight, I shouldn't care enough to complain that my "favorite game" didn't make it to EVO. The best I can do is support the games I enjoy by attending tournaments and introducing new people to it. If your game didn't make it, I can guarantee that this is the most productive thing you could do. Get your game big enough to get recognized. Complaining about it may be cathartic, but it won't achieve your goal.
And if you're upset that a game you don't like is on the main stage, you don't have to watch. You don't have to change your game of choice to line up with what's on the main stage. You also can't change what's on the main stage.
The best thing to do, if you want your game to thrive, is to keep playing it. Get more people to play it with you. Try to attend tournaments. I know I will, because that would get a lot more done than my initial strategy of "complain on Twitter".