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Every Sunday afternoon, sixty or more Samurai Shodown fans gather online to participate in a community-run tournament series called Ronin Rumble. The brainchild of Geoff “the Hero” Mendicino, Ronin Rumble augments its weekly online tournaments with “salty suite” side events at major tournaments, a Discord in which players learn and socialize together, and specialty tournaments that are tailored to new and casual competitors. Mendicino estimates that Ronin Rumble takes about 20 hours out of his week, making it as much of a commitment as a part-time job.
Why do all of this? On one level, it was pure inspiration: believe it or not, the idea came to him in a dream. On another level, though, Mendicino’s efforts reflect a growing and heartening trend in the Fighting Game Community, namely, the rise of the online “local.”
Futures Made of Virtual Locality
The FGC has its roots in face-to-face interactions. Whether you’re in an arcade or on a friend’s couch, there’s nothing quite like the way in which fighting games transform a room. Sometimes, though, physically attending a local tournament simply isn’t an option. Some of us live in an area without any arcade nearby. Others may be unable to make the trip for physical or financial reasons, and still others may have scheduling conflicts.
There’s also no guarantee that your local arcade will run a tournament for your favorite game. For example, at this year’s Combo Breaker, there were official tournaments in twenty-three games and community-run side tournaments in twenty-three more. Even the largest arcades can’t run forty-six different tournaments on a regular basis.
All of this adds up to the need for alternative outlets for competition and camaraderie. This is where online locals are stepping in. Much like a physical local, online locals occur at regular intervals, focus on a small number of games, and gather the same players and staff together every week. The result is a community: a committed and mutually supportive group of like-minded individuals who grow and share their lives together. The r/StreetFighter subreddit hosts three such online locals already, one for the eastern US, one for the western US, and one for the EU. Ronin Rumble is simply an extension of that tradition.
#EmbraceDeath to Embrace Community
Mendicino, who also physically attends Wednesday Night Fights in northern California, chose to pursue Samurai Shodown because the game resonated with him on a visceral level. “The damage is extremely high,” he says, “and when you hit someone with something like a heavy slash, the game’s feedback is incredible.” In addition to his role as a community leader for the scene, he plays the game competitively, maining Charlotte, Shizumaru, and Yashamaru. He’s also a casual player of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and he has an eye on picking up Granblue Fantasy Versus.
His history with the FGC is deeper than most. Mendicino was a developer on the 2013 iteration of Killer Instinct, and he always had the itch to contribute to a community. “I believe in fostering the grassroots feeling of the community and keeping things much more personable rather than synthetic,” he says. “I feel comfortable being myself because I feel at home, and I know many others out there in the community feel the same way.” He knows that Samurai Shodown is a smaller community, but for him that’s a strength: “the bonds between players are much stronger.”
Mendicino’s role with Ronin Rumble is extensive. He plans events, promotes the series, sets up and runs the weekly events, pays winners from the community-funded prize pool, and reviews the results to figure out how the series can be improved. Still, he doesn’t do it alone. In our interview, he shouted out Tsuntenshi, Reiki, David “Qiom” Mejia, Anthony “Crackfiend” Nguyen, Super Yan, and Simba for their contributions to the event. Their support is vital, because Mendicino is in this for the long haul. He says that he plans to be a part of Ronin Rumble “for as long as the community needs something like that around.”
If you want to be a part of Ronin Rumble, you can join the Discord here. The primary series runs weekly on Sundays at 1 PM Pacific time and is streamed on Twitch here. To support Mendicino, follow him on Twitter here – and if you’re a part of a smaller community, consider asking him what it’s like to start an online local for a worthy game. After all, if you follow his example, maybe one day your nickname will be “the hero,” too.
Eli Horowitz (@BODIEDnovel) is a writer and software professional who lives in Pittsburgh. His first novel is set in the FGC and revolves around an in-person local.