It’s been an amazing ride these last few years for fighting games. Despite the death of the arcade, Street Fighter has once again become a new national pasttime. The average size of tournaments has more than doubled from years past. Nearly 1,500 people entered the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition tourney this year at Evo.
When I got into Street Fighter around 2008, the community was filled with OG’s that were far beyond the levels of anyone who tried to come into the community as a beginner. Without an interesting new game to play, everyone was playing the old standbys. Games like Third Strike, Capcom vs SNK 2, and Marvel vs Capcom 2 were among the only games people would play. The OG’s had been playing for years and had very deep knowledge of the games. It was quite frightening for beginners to attempt to take the game seriously. The games were years old and I was just too far behind the curve.
Regardless, I’m a fighting game junkie. Having been through the school of hard knocks playing in Super Smash Bros Melee tournaments, I knew that the learning curve would be steep. I still tried my hardest to get into the games, and I had fun with it, meeting new people and discussing the finer aspects of the game. But it was the Dark Ages. It was rare to find people who played seriously. Tournaments were lucky to get twenty people to sign up for any game, and there were hardly any new faces.
But look where we are now. We have new fighting games coming out each year. Capcom has returned to the forefront of fighting games, and they’re not alone either. NetherRealm Studios surprised everyone with a Mortal Kombat game that we can take seriously, and Namco still is running strong with Tekken. And Aksys still has its followers with the Blazblue series, the spiritual sequel to Guilty Gear.
Many of the OG’s are alive and kicking. Legends like Ricky Ortiz and Alex Valle are now playing alongside fresh faces like Gamerbee and Mike Ross. Some of the new faces have been around for a while, but now they can stand on top because the community had the fresh start it needed with Street Fighter IV. Things haven’t gotten stale thanks to continual updates from developers, and community feedback.
Fighting game players should be thankful and realize that we have a say in the future of fighting games. Developers now listen to us to make changes in their games. We’ve never had a bigger influence on games at any other point in history. We even have members of the community like Seth Killian and MarkMan working for the major developers.
So where am I going with all this? Fighting games have hit a new peak. It’s been talked about for years whether or not fighting games could be taken seriously, but we’ve gone from being nothing but a grassroots effort to having sponsors, live streams, and professional commentators. This year, there were around 80,000 viewers watching the final hours of Evolution. There were even multiple streams running for most of the weekend.
Where can we go from here? With Major League Gaming becoming interested in Mortal Kombat, we will likely see even more money getting put into tournaments, and bigger attendances. It’s a great time to enjoy fighting games, and I hope we never return to the Dark Ages ever again.
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