The conversation often goes like this.
“So what do you do for fun?”, she asks.
“Well, I’m a fighting game champ. I also run a fighting games community, and own the Canadian website for Tekken (it’s a fighting game).”
“Oh, that’s pretty cool!”, she exclaims.
“Why thank you,” I reply.
“It’s weird though, you don’t LOOK like a huge gamer. I thought most gamers were overweight and gross.”
I wonder where she got that stereotype from?
Fighting Games Are Social
People are always surprised when I explain that each major city has a fighting games community.
“Aren’t gamers antisocial?”, they ask. “Don’t they just play online from their parents’ basement?”
Short answer? No.
What they don’t realize is fighting games are much more social than other types of games, like first person shooters or RPGs. To play a fighting game efficiently, you need to be in the same room as your opponent (there’s too much lag online). Except for the Japanese style arcade setups, the players are also forced to share a screen, effectively meaning they need to sit next to each other. And if you want to have some proper fun, you’ll have several guys in the room waiting for their turn. It’s kinda hard to be antisocial when you have 5 guys sitting in your living room.
Fighting games are played one on one, with two players going head to head for the grand title of Winner. In a room full of players, you’re also playing for the right to keep playing. If you lose, you give up your spot, and become a spectator. If you win, your opponent spectates, and the next person in the rotation jumps in. Most games also have a counter that keeps track of how many wins you have in a row.
This adds more social pressure to the games, and more excitement. If Rami and Adam are playing Street Fighter, no big deal. But if Adam has 26 wins, then everyone is rooting for Rami, and the pressure is on. It also gives Adam the right to trash talk everyone in the room, and to laugh at them for being unable to dethrone him.
It’s like a spectator sport, except the spectators can actually participate as well. I like to compare it to Ping Pong.
Fighting Games Are Community Based
The key word associated with fighting games is community. Players belong to something, and recognize others who are a part of it.
Fighting games are also based on gatherings. A gathering is just a simple way of saying “getting together at someone’s house for X”. It makes it easier to invite everyone too. A typical invite looks like this:
“Hey guys, we’re having a gathering at my house. Show up at noon, someone bring a console and an extra copy of Marvel vs Capcom 3.”
Gamers spend lots of time with each other, especially in communities that have gatherings every week. There’s great amounts of socialization in these communities, which leads to many learned behaviors.
For example, people in the Tekken scene have to be honest, because if you fuck someone over, everyone that plays the game knows about it. We had an incident wherein someone stole a discman from Adam’s house. We banned him, and never played with or hung out with him again. It’s pretty brutal when your whole social circle brands you a thief.
Similarly, when you go to a new city, most Tekken players would be willing to host you, solely on the basis of you being part of the Tekken scene. It’s like a social club, only instead of being based on wealth or some weird cult like the Raelians, whether or not you participate in this game is the determining factor.
When I moved to Toronto in June, I was hosted by my buddy Jon, who is a Tekken player. He let me stay at his place for nearly a month while I looked for a place. Not many friends would do that. When Renato moved to Montreal from Brazil, he didn’t know anyone, just like me when I first moved to Canada. But he and Matt had been conversing on the King forums of Tekkenzaibatsu, so Matt invited him to a gathering at my house, and that’s how we met. Renato is now one of my best friends.
Gamers also learn each others’ slang. If I were to tell you “that guy is salty”, and you weren’t a fighting gamer, you’d probably wonder if I licked his skin. Other gamers would know I mean he’s “upset at having lost”, or even a “sore loser” depending on the context.
Finally, fighting gamers love to shit talk. In fact, we even have a specific Shit Talking section on our forums at TekkenCanada. But that’s an article for another day.
Fighting Games Are Accessible
If you’re not involved in any kind of fighting game community, then the word EVO probably doesn’t mean shit to you. To us though, it’s the holy grail of fighting tournaments. It’s the one time of year when gamers from all over get together for one weekend to play Fighting Games at the highest competitive level.
It’s akin to our Super Bowl, only on a much smaller scale. Where the Super Bowl draws an average of 100 million viewers, EVO gets about 2 million. The biggest difference is that you can’t just show up and participate in the Super Bowl. However, if you have the time to get down to Las Vegas for a weekend, and can spare an extra 40 bucks, you too can be part of EVO.
That’s the beauty of fighting games, and what sets it apart from other traditional spectator sports. Anyone can pick up a controller and join in. They’ll probably suck, and get beat down pretty badly, but they have the right to try. Plus, the only way you can actually get better at these games is by playing against opponents that are on a higher level than you.
So, if you’re a gamer, and you’re interested in fighting games, get in touch with your local community. Google the name of the game you want to play, and the city you’re in, and see what comes up. I guarantee you’ll find some players that want to hang out and teach you the basics.
If you’re in Canada and play Tekken, check out TekkenCanada. We’d love to meet you. Who knows, maybe you and I will be good friends in the near future.