Okay, you lovely people allowed me to reminisce, so now it's time for me to get to work. If I'm being totally honest with both myself & you, I can say -- without reservation or hesitance -- that 2018 will be the FGC's "tipping point".
Some might read what I'm about to say here and probably liken it to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth. They wouldn't be entirely wrong, either. Right now, there are three very important things that will shape the next 12 months: escalation, inclusion & representation. Escalation, as I'm using it, is twofold: it refers both to the sheer tidal wave of 'oneupmanship' that is going to imbrue the upcoming tournament calendar and the unheard of amount of games that are scheduled to be released. (SPOILER ALERT: It's a lot of games!) Inclusion relates to the concept of everyone wanting to everyone else to be everywhere at every event. Finally, representation is what you'll be hearing about ad nauseum for who knows how long once 2018 starts rolling. If it pleases the court, I'm going to share my thoughts on each subject.
When I consider how many new games are coming out in 2018, I can sometimes find myself feeling like Roger Murtaugh. At soon-to-be 34, I'm admittedly no longer in "spring chicken" territory, but I intend to treat fighting games like I did Saturday morning cartoons: I'll keep playing as long as they keep making good ones. At face value, that sounds simple enough, but remember what's coming down the pipe this year:
- Dragon Ball FighterZ
- Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
- BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle
- Fighting EX Layer
- Soul Calibur 6
Each one of these titles is going to turn the FGC on its head. Mind you, none of the impending ruckus includes potential indie gems like Fantasy Strike, Fight of Gods, Punch Planet, Omen of Sorrow or any number of others that have flown below my radar. Furthermore, this doesn't even take into account the massive updates and possibly seismic upheavals in the respective metas that we'll see with Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition, Injustice 2's Fighter Pack Three (staring at you, Turtles), Noctis joining the Tekken 7 roster, the mysteries of the King of Fighters XIV 3.0 patch & whatever the hell is ultimately going to happen to Marvel vs Capcom Infinite now that Disney has bought out Fox. I also wouldn't put it past Daisuke & ArcSys to have a Rev3 update just waiting in the wings for no other reason than because they can.
With ALL OF THAT in store for us, the burden to accommodate every respective community is going to fall squarely on the TOs. No matter how much some people are going to want that "special attention", a lot of feelings are eventually going to get hurt. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there aren't enough bodies to throw nor enough floor space to spare that'll have everyone feel as though their game is getting (what they feel is) the proper amount of attention and/or focus. A lot of them will try, don't get me wrong, but the Law of Diminishing Returns might overtake their best intentions & entropy will take hold sooner rather than later. Also, since most of the new titles/all of the AAA titles will more than likely have their own tournament circuits, a very uncomfortable schism might grow between different neighborhoods of the FGC.
With the upcoming tide of games on the way, more events are going to start popping up throughout the calendar. Naturally, no one can be everywhere at once, so take a wild stab in the dark as to what's eventually going to happen. Attendance might take a dip at certain key points due to people having to be more selective about which events they choose to attend. Audiences and player bases might end up getting split right down the middle. Hell, top players may even end up having to drop multiple games in order to focus on the one (maybe two) that pay the bills. The uncomfortable question now is that, with all the different games/updates/expansions on their way & all the efforts by those games' developers to either include or attract new players, where will the line be drawn?
Sadly, whenever opportunities present themselves, there will always be those ready to exploit them and anyone looking to capitalize on them. Although it irks me to no end to have to admit to this, there's going to be a nigh exponential number of teams popping up out of the woodwork to get a piece of the FGC pie. Some of them will be legit, others will be shady & a few will just be dumpster fires waiting to explode. (I can already think of one organization that's going to annoy me like a canker sore with what appears to be their unscrupulous minimum threshold, but I'm not here to name names.) All I can say is that, moving forward, vigilance will be a must if we are to prevent anyone with potentially nefarious designs from manipulating our brothers & sisters who are just trying to reach that ever-elusive "next level".
Here's the thing, though... I don't want anyone reading this to think that I'm not looking forward to what 2018 has in store for us all. We stand on the cusp of greatness, but everyone needs to understand that the exposure & acclaim come with very particular caveats attached. Last year saw some less-than-stellar individual moments take the spotlight and while I can appreciate certain (let's just call them) "vintage" aspects of our culture remaining a part of this ascent, others need to go the way of the dinosaurs & fast. Again, not pointing fingers or singling anyone out, but I trust most of you are painfully aware of the moments in question that I'm talking about. If we want Our Shared Passion to be taken serious outside of our usual circles, we need to collectively grow up. Stop acting like brats, hold each other accountable for our actions & start actually reprimanding those who would, as my Aunt Colleen would say, "show their ass" whenever things don't exactly go their way. We can be so much more than trashy clickbait headlines, let's start acting like it. Given what's on the horizon, the only ones who can screw this up for us... is us.
With all that said, you may be wondering what to take away from this somewhat lengthy diatribe of mine. In truth, it isn't all that complicated. Given that we're inching ever closer towards that comfortable plateau so many other games/genres enjoy, it's time we start acting as if we want to earn that spot & not like we automatically deserve it just because. If it needs any further clarification, then jot this next bit down & hang it up somewhere:
- Play your game(s): There will undoubtedly be something for everyone coming out this year, so don't let anything or anyone hinder you from doing what you enjoy. Furthermore, don't hesitate to experiment a little. For all you know, one of those titles that you originally didn't care for all that much might just be where you find your niche.
- Plan ahead & choose wisely: Like I mentioned earlier, the tournament calendar is primed to explode this year, so make it your business to schedule as much in advance as possible. Plot your course carefully so as to not sell yourself short or stretch yourself too thin... go it at the pace that YOU are comfortable with.
- Do your research: Just because someone hits up your inbox with talk of sponsoring you, don't jump headfirst into any agreements or arrangements without doing your due diligence. There's blood in the water, brothers & sisters, so do well to avoid any sharks or leeches.
- Uplift each other: This doesn't mean put everyone before yourself to the point where you're openly getting taken advantage of, but just that we should all remember that -- despite our affiliations & whatnot -- we're all in this together. Support those who genuinely have your best interests in mind. Don't hesitate to lend a hand to anyone, be they a newcomer in need of guidance or a TO trying to make things run smoothly. Finally, do not falter in (righteously) calling people out on their BS. Regardless of their status, we can no longer afford that type of press. Don't let the foolishness of one/a few ruin it for the FGC as a whole.
Simply put, don't be a jerk or dumbass. If you see someone going out of their way to be a jerk or dumbass, call them out on it. Wherever you can lend a hand, lend that hand. Follow Zidiane's sage advice: "Play what you love & love what you play." This is OUR year, folks... let's make it something truly historic.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.