Sitting Centerstage: Do Rivalries Stunt Community Growth?

So… are you team K-Brad or Wolfkrone? Maybe you don’t have a horse in this race but you JUST GOTTA stay tuned. Alright, on the off chance you don’t care about the rivalry… you have to understand the fascination of it all & how vital it is. These two are the current faces of FGC rivals and we honestly haven’t seen this in a while.

What is it about competition that excites us & gets the blood hot? There’s a saying that goes “when you compete, you see a man’s true nature.” I say it’s accurate since players’ evolution, shortcomings or clutch shine through at the pinnacle of competition. It stands to reason that with an ongoing rivalry, the inner workings of each player’s mind and heart is on display for all to see. It also varies on levels from a friendly back & forth over time, something that naturally occurs by chance or maybe fate depending on how peculiar events turn out, to straight up bad blood. It gives the players something to strive for and the crowd something to look forward to. Where do these dynamics fit in the grand scheme of a more organized and professional stage for fighters, if they do at all?

Of course, something that can happen naturally cannot be prevented, so it’s silly to think that rivalries & what they entail can be outlawed. Any discussion entertaining that notion should be quelled. Instead, let’s examine the facets of how budding rivals can come to be & why it’s a hot topic to regulate passions. Firstly, you have the instance of two upstanding competitors that have history. To borrow some terminology from wrestling, the face vs. face applies. It can range from training buddies that came up together or seasoned veterans that just so happened to keep running into each other so often that they develop respect and often friendship. The unevolved version of that is the happenstance rivalry where crazy circumstances take place or an amazing match goes down that warrants a saga. Now this is the territory subject to personalities & storytelling because there is where we can see a face vs. face or one contender as a heel.

The organic feel of an unexpected rivalry like we saw with Dogura and Garireo has no equal. Two players enter battle unaware and leave with an entirely different relationship. The audience is left awestruck and the entire thing goes down as a “where were you when it happened” moment. It’s the most common starting point for rivalries, the collision course of destiny or whatever you’d like to call it. On the flip side, should one player be unsatisfied about the result or the opponent, get ready to draw that line in the sand and pick a side. The toolset of a heel is wide-ranged, from the call out to the tried & true pop off. (More on that in a little bit.) Antagonism doesn’t discriminate because, well… it’s the way of the world. Enter the heel vs. heel cog that can reach absurd amounts of trash talk & disdain. Despite the inherit nature of it, it’s rare to happen without a scripted or managed move taking place. Times when it is really two people just bickering among themselves, it can become petty and tiresome rather quickly. Brand building & self promotion is the drive force à la WWE. These types of people just want the mass appeal that the crowd gives willingly.

Now about that… popping off & being expressive in your player persona. It seems that popoffs are just an umbrella term for any kind of expression amongst players. There are times you ‘pop off’ innocently out of excitement & depending on the circumstance, it’s not mean spirited. On the other hand, there’s a slew of pop offs that are straight disrespectful, but the line’s been muddled by the stream monster mentality. It’s the go-to basis for bad blood rivalries and something so minuscule is easily instigated by both the crowd & players. Popoffs serve to heighten the intensity of a match. Although I don’t agree with a majority of the execution behind it, it is needed here and there to prevent monotony. There is an unwritten code with competitors that’s as old as the arcades that I got to see firsthand at NEC17. The etiquette is you keep it within the confines of the game. It was Grand Finals for teams Super Turbo and the drama speaks for itself.

Besides the matches, there was damn near every level of pop off. What you didn’t hear was after Krost reset the bracket, he was telling Mars to take the mask off. What you didn’t see, though, when Mars stood up after the comeback round on Jollies, was that he flipped off both of them… this was mid-match! The hype was through the roof in a relatively quiet corner of the event. After all of that, Mars and Krost hug it out in respect because it’s what you do when play your heart out.

The way rivalries are pushed in the FGC, it is clear that the majority want the WWE/grand show entertainment. They want heels just for the sake of heels and blow up any kind of drama. Either a TO or a few players start up feuds just to make a headline. Although, to be fair, this can pay off with a very good script & great showmanship. The fans love it, for sure, but at this stage, it's not going to put us over any popularity bar. If anything, it makes us look like clowns… almost reality TV like. So I ask everyone to ponder this: what exactly do you want as a community and as a sport? To be scripted in almost everything you do for a grand show with all the trimmings OR an actual sport where the most skilled comes out on top and the drama is natural?

The potential I see for the FGC, if they go down the path of professional sports, it can be team/sponsor based. Divide geographical regions into divisions, not unlike American sports, and the players fight & have turf wars. This can open the door for team-based in addition to individual tournaments, but it’ll also add the extra layer of rivalry that helped build the foundation of the community. Give players a sense of pride and something to play for other than themselves. On a grander scale, you can even do countries to set in motion an Electronic Olympics. With this, we’ll have to answer to a stricter code of conduct, but it won’t mean much when it comes to popoffs and postgame rants since that’s a regular for athletes and the media eats it up. What’s it gonna be, because you can’t have both. There's a good reason they don’t have WWE highlights scheduled on Sportscenter.

This is where it all started for the FGC, and will likely end like this.

The levels when two entities of equal skill clash with something to prove on both sides are what everyone craves. This is a piece of the FGC’s livelihood and, by extension, all competition. It shouldn’t be toned down, but it’s also better to not force it either. All & all, it serves as a catalyst to push a player’s limits. Shout outs to Core-A Gaming for further breakdown on this topic, as well. Be sure to check out their channel because they have some very insightful videos. Our KPB stream now has emotes so check us out on Twitch. Finally, my own plug-in… pick up my 20th anniversary game because it’s fire and you gotta believe! PEACE!

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