Well now, the Super Bowl of Fighting Games for 2015 is in the books. I hope everyone out there enjoyed the show with plenty of notable highlights. There were no shortage of ups & downs. As I make my long way back home, I’d like to share my thoughts of this year’s Evolution Championship Series.
Where to start, where to start… well, since these are the records of "AJ da Saiyan", let’s tackle the competition side. Looking over all the tournaments from main to side was a healthy reminder of both why I love to play and an unpleasant sting that my hiatus is forcing me back to basics as I tend to other important priorities in my life. I brought my joystick & GameCube controller for nothing as I didn’t even sit down for casuals and missed out on the Street Fighter V & Tekken 7 stations. Last EVO, I entered Vampire Savior/Darkstalkers 3. I ended up drawing Haitani of all people in my first match and promptly received a Bigfoot print firmly in my behind. This year, I caught the Grand Finals on the Madcatz station and, of course, Haitani was there to take the whole thing more than convincingly. Seeing that got my pride going and, for a split second, I was considering training up for next year to slay one of the Japanese gods. I’m tired of being limited to a smart spectator; I want to earn my tag of SS4 AJ and be known as a smart player. Now that my summer vacations are out of the way, I can make some moves towards that goal.
To switch gears a little, EVO is arguably on top as an FGC event and I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect. I got to speak, small talk & outright BS with some really down to earth people throughout the weekend and it’s really refreshing to converse with like minds. I’ve met and talked with the inspiring BrolyLegs at his book stand (‘My Life Beyond the Floor’, definitely check it out). I did see a disguised Jamie Lee Curtis and was too dumb to ask for a picture. As a self-appointed coach to my friends & teammates, I felt the true agony of defeat for the first time in my life. That empathy & emotional investment for your players -- the same that I've seen my entire life through my father & grandfather -- hit hard when I witnessed the tournament life for Punisher, Knocturnal, Prodigy & Grief get cut short. For most, if not all of them, this was their first EVO. Like the rest of us, they gotta take their lumps and learn for this experience to improve & succeed. I expect all of them to push further and gain even more satisfactory results next time around.
The overall competition for EVO 2015 was impressive. However, there were some hitches and ugly spots that I wasn’t the only one to pick up on. Bally’s was a beautiful hotel/venue to stay in and host an event like this, but it became clear that they weren’t suited to meet the demands of a tournament of this magnitude. The grand stage room was smaller than the year before at Westgate which puts a lot of pool stations in the vendors’ ballroom. This also caused a quick sellout of Sunday passes into the grand stage and almost split in half the attendees between the rooms with a live stream feed. Sold out passes can’t be helped, especially if attendance spikes from one year to another, but if you can’t get in the grand stage ballroom on Sunday, I find very little difference from staying in your room or even at home and watch the stream. The Wi-Fi there was always an issue & I’ve heard the side streams back home were downright unwatchable because of it. There was also the unfortunate case of Neo getting robbed; I understand this was an unattended bag in Las Vegas and it might’ve not been someone from the FGC, but it's a sad reoccurrence nonetheless.
On a more trivial note, the stream monsters were let out of their cages. How else can you explain a nerfed character that wasn’t overpowered to begin with (Tanya) being booed during MKX Top 8? Speaking of nerfed characters, I grow weary of the custom move debate in SM4SH to the point of indifference, but we've seen a normalized Diddy Kong close out EVO. ZeRo, the odds on favorite, took the whole thing from winners with a normalized character whose probably still top 5 WITHOUT customs… in a grand scale custom tournament. I find this (the practice of complaining instead of putting in the proper amount of work) to be one of many indictments against the community at large. Another is the constant misplaced "USA" crowd chants. I completely understand supporting our hometown boys in an Asian dominant Street Fighter (amongst other games), giving energy and another reason for them to push forward; I just find the bravado more than silly when American players tie for 7th in Top 8 or play a Russian character. Furthermore, American players had a really suspect outing this EVO. International players ‘invaded’ Top 8 of American native/dominant games like MKX, KI and oh boy, Marvel… Olympus has fallen and a Chilean player (much respect to KaneBlueRiver) with a below average team wouldn’t be denied; beating the defending champ on the way to an unscathed chip. A small part of me doesn’t want to see specific national dominance in games, but I always edge towards the best player. This year, the home crowd looked like loudmouth blowhards.
When it comes to the FGC, I find myself quoting Morgan Freeman in Se7en. Despite the all-around shortcomings, I love being a part of it. Before my days are done, I’m leaving an impact on this community and myself.