Unsung Heroes is our series about the many members of the Fighting Game Community who work behind the scenes to make our community a vibrant, positive, exciting place to be. If you would like to submit your own Unsung Heroes, contact us here or @toptiergg.
Back in 1975, the city of Toledo, Ohio didn’t have much to get excited about. It was such a quiet place that John Denver, one of the most wholesome singer-songwriters in recorded history, described it as “like being nowhere at all” and joked that its most exciting pastime was to “sit in the park and…watch the grass die.”
Luckily, it’s not 1975 anymore, and Toledo is not the same sleepy town it used to be. Its zoo is top-ten, its art museum is world-renowned, and every Sunday from 3 to 10 there’s Synthwave X, a fighting game tournament run out of the University of Toledo campus. That’s where you’ll find Tommy “Kenstar” Ingersoll, one of the many people around the world who works tirelessly for the sake of his local Fighting Game Community.
Man of Mystery
Ingersoll’s role in the Toledo FGC is multifaceted. He competes in Street Fighter V as R. Mika and Birdie and in Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] (a.k.a. UNIST) as Mika. He also acts as Tournament Organizer for those games and commentates them as well. But he says his favorite contribution is “the weekly mystery bracket,” an idea he’s borrowed from Combo Breaker. The idea is simple: find a rare, goofy, or underappreciated fighting game, make it the center of a free side tournament, and then watch the chaotic fun unfold.
Ingersoll’s mystery tournaments are good for more than just entertainment, though. As is the case with many local scenes, the Toledo FGC is largely siloed into a Smash community and a non-Smash community. By running a free tournament in a fresh game, Ingersoll creates a clean, new space in which everyone in the Toledo FGC can meet and interact comfortably.
This is Ingersoll in a nutshell: giving of himself in order to build something that holds a special place in the lives of others. Where some people might be focused on the competitive side of the FGC or on chasing a financial reward, Ingersoll says that his moments of bliss happen when “new people keep coming.” “It lets me know,” he says, “that not only was the event that I held fun but also that everyone there was friendly and inviting.” For smaller or newer communities, this is a huge accomplishment. Fighting games evoke tremendously strong emotional responses in players, and sometimes those responses can be confrontational. In such a highly charged environment, it’s vital for everyone to know that they’re among friends. Otherwise, most won’t return and the community will shrink or disappear altogether. Ingersoll’s mystery tournaments help to create a sense of belonging that will carry the Toledo FGC forward.
Honestly had a blast tonight at Synthwave X and the mystery game makes me worried that some people have too much time on their hands #nerfpolice
— Iceman32 (@Iceman3216) September 23, 2019
Synthwave X is still a relatively small tournament, Ingersoll says, but it’s been growing quickly. As the event grows, Ingersoll finds himself changing with it. His natural love for fighting games is no different than it ever was – he’s learning about UNIST by commentating it, he’s counting down the days until the new Guilty Gear game is released, and he has even more ideas about how to make his scene dynamic and inviting. As a practical matter, though, there’s only so much of him to go around.
Ingersoll already works between seven and twenty hours a week for his local FGC. Right now, he says he has “time to do it all.” Soon, though, that may not be the case. He wants to raise Toledo’s FGC to the same level as the ones in larger cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago, with larger monthly tournaments and perhaps even regional or major tournaments that are held yearly. If he succeeds in this, he’ll certainly need some help. No one, not even Ingersoll, can carry that load alone. For now, those dreams are still some way off, but he’s already thinking of competing less in order to uphold his other responsibilities.
One way or another, nobody will ever think of Toledo the same way that John Denver once did. Thanks to the efforts of Ingersoll and his friends, Toledo has a distinct and important place in the lives of many local fighting game players, and its future as a home for the FGC looks bright.
Eli Horowitz (@BODIEDnovel) has met a handful of people from Toledo, Ohio, and they were all very friendly. Eli lives in Pittsburgh, where he writes and works in software. His first novel, Bodied, is set in the FGC.