EVO Ramblings & Rants: Battle Fatigue

Recently, we saw history repeat itself as it so often does. The events that transpired before, during, and after the 2013 Donation Drive still have a lasting impact on my community today, the Skullgirls community. As you might guess, seeing this start up all over again brought back some memories of darker times and mistreatment. It's an old wound, to say the least, and seeing so much of the community revel in revisiting what felt like the source of so much frustration and hardships leaves me in a rather sour mood.

You all know how the 2013 Donation Drive went. On the surface, you know that SG and Melee fought tooth & nail, and you know that -- after being told this fight was for the final spot -- Injustice was escorted ahead of the pack as the final main game. You might even know that, when talking back on it, the men orchestrating this will say the 2013 drive was for the 9th game, when in reality it was for the supposed 8th and final spot. This does well enough to set up the frustrations we felt, but you wouldn't know what was underneath the surface without having experienced it. Instead of ranting about how terrible it is to give voters the power to buy their win or any of the other problems people had, I'll talk about how the handling of the last donation drive affected me personally.

My very first offline interaction with FGC was for Street Fighter 4, though I only had about two of those before abandoning the concept of regularly going to locals. I had a hard time finding a niche and a game I felt comfortable in, but I felt like somehow there was something for me in the concept of competitive fighting games. I couldn't relate to SF4, though I very much wanted to. After SF4, I tried Soul Calibur V & Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but when I couldn't understand how to play the game, I was met with unhelpful community members. Next I picked up Street Fighter X Tekken, a game that made me promise to myself I wouldn't buy any more Capcom games, which I have to this day kept.

Enter Skullgirls. I had been following the game's progress for a while before then, so I was ready, but right as I dropped SFxT and wondered if I would be able to find any game for me, SG appeared and everything made sense. The tutorial helped me understand basic concepts others assumed I knew. It was the perfect game, and so I entered the realm of offline gaming once more. The first week of my nearby local had a healthy upper-teens sized bracket. The following week, there were enough players for a round robin. It got to the point where I was the only one still interested in playing, so I stopped attending.

After this I found my groove online and begun dominating the online competition. After feeling confident enough, I decided to enter my first major tournament, ECT V. I placed well, but the attitude and feeling I got there was worrying. The first thing I noticed was that we were entirely stationed on one table at the outskirts of the ballroom, near the bead vendors. Craning your head around the corner of the Skullgirls setup, you could see the large main-stage-size projector that displayed the then-popular Persona 4 Arena. I played against (and bested) Chris G, who I recognized from big news sites like Shoryuken, after which he abandoned the tournament altogether despite only being in Loser's bracket. It didn't feel good, having him dismiss the game I had been working hard in as not worth his time.

Months pass. I attend more tourneys and get more familiar with my scene. The Skullgirls scene in general had been struggling with attitudes like Chris', like our game wasn't worth the effort of considering. We struggled with this at Big E events and we struggled with it at events in all corners of the country. Just as we got to around the size where we as a scene felt we deserved more, the EVO 2013 donation drive arrived, promising fair and equal competition for every game that thought they deserved it.

I don't need to recap the public transpiring of the donation drive; passions and money flowed freely. Losing felt bad, but our consolation prize of a sanctioned side tournament felt fair, until the 9th game was announced. It again felt like Skullgirls was being brushed off to the side. Even at the event itself, we seemed to be placed in a rather empty side room. I don't recall specifically where we were, but we somehow managed to be placed just outside the main event once again.

In the days after EVO 2013, things felt like they were looking up. We just had a very successful charity drive, we had a new patch out, new characters were being made after a madly successful indiegogo. It FELT like we should be getting considered differently. Despite all of this, our treatment year round was the same as before. We weren't even put on the pre-reg list of some events that announced a tournament for us, and our tournament rankings weren't reported on news sites. We were even told by Big E that in order to get respect we had to make significant showings at Winter Brawl, Summer Jam and NEC consistently. It was as if we still didn't exist, and the only time people mentioned us was to give us hoops to jump through.

This feeling came to a fever pitch at Evo 2014, which you may know held a Tekken exhibition set in place of Skullgirls' Top 8 of the tournament, resulting in us getting cut back to a very late Top 4 stream. Little was done to soothe our frustrations other than promises of getting it right next time. I, and many other players, had enough of half-hearted promises, hoops to jump through and people to suck up to. This year saw us give Big E events another chance at NEC 2014, but the consideration we were shown at NEC was gone by the time Winter Brawl rolled around. This saw the community drop those events, along with EVO.

After this, you know most of the story. We found Combo Breaker. All is well. Here we are today, with the latest donation drive concluding, crowning Marvel the winner. I can't help but feel like we were being asked to jump through hoops again. Can't help but feel like I'm watching every other community being asked to jump through hoops like circus animals. Doing a donation drive again, in the same format as 2013, feels like another dismissive gesture to the SGC, which hurts. Hopefully this trip down memory lane helped illuminate exactly why.

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