Wanna Be Like Mike?
Growing up, all of us have heroes: the sports star whose posters line our bedroom walls, the musician whose voice brings tears to our eyes, the scientist or inventor or doctor who changed the world. But as the old NCAA commercial once said, “just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.” Sometimes it can be hard to give up on those dreams, especially in a small, grassroots community like the Fighting Game Community (FGC). We like to believe that top-player status is only one hot streak away and that every loss is just a step on the way to greatness. But what about those of us who may not want to climb the mountain? Where do our paths in the FGC lead?
It Takes A Village
It’s obvious how our champions contribute to the FGC. They stand above the crowd and in doing so they inspire us, amaze us, and represent us to the broader world. But they don’t attain those heights alone. Rather, we, the community, raise them up collectively. There could be no tournament winners without tournaments – and tournaments don’t exactly grow on trees. So if you want to be a hero in the FGC, consider joining the (paid or volunteer) staff at a local tournament.
Tournaments are a ton of work after all. Between the logistics and planning, the physical labor that goes into the venue, and the stress of wrangling gamers who – let’s be honest – aren’t exactly known for being timid or timely, every single fighting game tournament represents an astounding amount of labor. But many hands make light work, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some love from your scene if you step in to help with judging, bracket running, streaming, commentating, or even just setup and teardown.
And you don’t have to worry that this will keep you from playing! The head Tournament Organizer of Evo, nothingxs (@nothingxs), estimates that around 30% of the judges were also competitors in 2019. Meanwhile, all of your favorite streamers and commentators started as players, and many of them are still making waves in their respective competitive scenes, from Arturo Sanchez’s (@nycfurby) appearance on Street Fighter League to F-Word’s (@F_Word_FGC) 33rd-place finish at VSFighting and beyond. Even being a full-fledged TO won’t necessarily stop you from getting your sets in – just look at LI Joe (@thisislijoe), who’s a TO for East Coast Throwdown and also an Evo finalist in SFV. If he can do it, so can you! For more info on how to help put on a tournament, see our articles on bracket running and doing commentary.
Be Beautiful; Be The Spotlight
But maybe the life of a tournament worker isn’t for you. That’s okay! There are still plenty of ways to help your scene to shine. Consider Quasimodox (@quasimodox), the Mika player who’s also a mod and artist for the r/StreetFighter subreddit. His art was the centerpiece of this past year’s hugely successful r/SF Evo sponsorship drive, which sent three community members to the world’s largest fighting game tournament when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go. As it turns out, making the FGC a beautiful place is also a great way to make a name for yourself.
And there are plenty of opportunities to do it! Broadcasters need logos, overlays, and emotes for their streams. Musicians can provide intro/outro music or even an entire track, as Zaid Tabani (@zaidtmusic) did several times for Evo, SoCal Regionals, and other tournaments:
Can Confirm. Came to WNF’s and was terrible and got knocked into ban matches twice. Then Valle gave me a shot at doing music for the stream and I did EVO intro’s the following year, as well as two documentaries on the scene right after. You can always contribute important things
— Zaid Tabani (@zaidtmusic) August 12, 2019
Or if you can capture the magic of the FGC, become the photographer or videographer and show the whole world why your scene is strong. It can even be as simple as sharing clips from your local, as Saint Cola (@_santicola) and others do:
Wish Punish read that instant overhead like a children’s book, and @Tech_Tack has to hold that.
— Ｓａｉｎｔ Ｃｏｌａ @ Red Bull Conquest (@_saintcola) August 28, 2019
Or you could contribute by submitting information to James Chen’s (@jchensor) FGC Locals of the World, HiFight’s (@HiFightTH) Local Warriors Recap, or TopTier’s own event highlights and locals listing. Even if you go .500 or below in bracket, these are all great ways to stand out and earn a place of pride in the FGC.
Spread the Good Word
But okay – let’s say that your scene already has all the staff, artists, and PR specialists it needs. Then what? Well, there’s one thing that every scene always needs more of: players. No matter who you are, you can bring a friend to your local or host a watch party for Evo. Maybe you can even do something a little fancier, like Jose Guilherme, Jr. (@dilosnacho):
I organized an FGC team for my elementary school students. We have 16 members (8 girls and 8 boys, all beginners). We play in a PS2 and an old computer. Can you share some ideas for this project, and suggest games for us to start? @ComboQueens @RedditSF @JWonggg @TheMamaDao
— Jose Guilherme Jr. (@dilosnacho) July 25, 2019
Now, Guilherme will probably never make it onto the main stage at Evo. He may never end up getting sponsored or flexing in a highlight clip. In fact:
I just attended my first SFV online tournament. I’m very happy cause it was Capcom Pro Tour LATAM, and I had the opportunity to play against great players (and I lost of course)! 😁
— Jose Guilherme Jr. (@dilosnacho) July 27, 2019
But you’d better believe that Jose is a hero to at least some – if not all – of those kids.
And there are tons of other ways of bringing new people into the FGC. Create a videocast or podcast, like r/SF Radio (@redditSF), Best of V (@bestofvshow), Some Random hosted by Sriracha Flash (@SrirachaFlash) (full disclosure: I was a guest on episode 3 of Some Random), or the FGC Analysis series from Offcast (@offcast):
By recording and sharing your perspective, you can reach people who aren’t yet in the FGC but whose points of view resonate with yours. If you’re brainy, be brainy, like FGC statistician extraordinaire Glenn (@TheGameTwoK). If you’re funny, be funny, like frog mom and meme grandmaster, KeroChobittsu (@KeroChobittsu). And if you’re just a fighting game player through and through, use your knowledge to help newcomers or anyone else who might be struggling to feel comfortable behind the sticks. As XO Academy veteran and Ed/Necalli player P-Chan (@p_chanFGC) can attest, training other players is an excellent way to be an FGC hero:
After Monday’s training, @uppercat gave me her short term goal. She wanted to get from 2100 to 2500LP. Not even a few days later, she reached that goal!!!!!
The 3 rules I told her to focus on through these early ranks:
1) ANTI AIR
2) GRAB MORE
3) PUNISH THINGS (1/2) pic.twitter.com/UAf5htXIAj
— P-Chan @ ECT2019 🤘 (@p_chanFGC) August 26, 2019
We All Win Together
And this is just scratching the surface. Mods, cosplayers, writers, engineers – there are as many ways to excel in the FGC as there are people. Of course, none of this will come for free. No matter how amazing you are, your tournament probably won’t become East Coast Throwdown overnight. Yet as our own Choysauce (@choysauce85) said, “There will always be the risk of not meeting your standards, so there will definitely be failure along the path. But accepting that pain and seeing progress in yourself is totally worth the hardship that it entails. So I urge you to set new standards for yourself, because you can reach them.” And trust me: when you do find your niche, it’ll make pressing buttons all the more fun.
Eli Horowitz (@BODIEDnovel) is a super-bronze Ryu player living in Pittsburgh, PA. When he’s not getting tilted on ranked, writing is his way of contributing to the FGC. Bodied, his FGC-themed novel, should be out soon.