EVO Japan

EVO Japan wraps up. Promises to return

The Evolution Championship Series held it’s first ever event in Japan recently. Organizers wanted to host an EVO event in Japan back in 2011. Unfortunately these plans were postponed indefinitely due to the big earthquake that occurred that year. Now, 7 years later, Japanese fighting game players had their chance to win a prestigious fighting game event without having to travel internationally to participate.

The country showed up in force. Online warriors that never travel abroad surprised many who had not seen them on a live stage before. It kept the competition fresh compared to many of the tournaments streamed in the US. The matches were fierce and unpredictable, and made for a wonderful viewing experience, especially live. For those of you that couldn’t attend, or could only watch online in the wee hours of the morning, don’t worry! The Game Haus has you covered.

Days one and two

The crowd at EVO day 2. Image taken by The Game Haus

Days one and two of EVO Japan took place at the Ikebukuro Sunshine City Community Center building. There weren’t many signs indicating where to go, but after wandering aimlessly for a few I managed to find the event space. I was greeted by cacophonous noise and a pair of girls passing out free Red Bull to attendees. The floor was naturally separated by game, and every seat was filled with participants playing casuals. Each game also had a special stream area setup, and these games were projected up on the walls for those that wanted to watch. The event used a large stage in the back to present the top 8 of games that would not be present on the final day.

There was a small section of stands near the entrance for vendors to sell gear or promote new games. Both BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and King of Fighters XIV’s new DLC character Oswald were playable on the floor. Unfortunately, the lines stayed long even to the closing moments of the last public day. High level players and pros from each game played against each other during their time off stream. They would even play against relative new comers to give them pointers on their play.  I considered joining in for some Street Fighter V casuals myself, but saw that the row in front of me was filled with Mago, Dogura, Itabashi Zangief, Momochi, and Tokido, and I decided against embarrassing myself.

Finals Day

The last day of EVO Japan took place in central Akihabara in a relatively small venue when compared to the first two days. There were no frills, no casuals, and almost nothing left but standing room. No one seemed to mind though; it was high level action that we came for, and it was high level action that we got.

Super Smash Bros. WiiU

EVO Japan

MKLeo accepting his trophy. Image taken by The Game Haus

1st: Echo Fox | Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez (Cloud)

2nd: Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura (Bayonetta)

3rd: DNG | Takuto “Kameme” Ono (Shiek/MegaMan/Cloud)

As the only non-Japanese player in the Super Smash Bros. Top 8, MKLeo was the only man in the bracket not playing with home-field advantage. This isn’t to say he was necessarily the underdog, but all eyes were on him in these grand finals. MKLeo had a decent head start by entering the grand finals in the winners bracket as well, but Abadango had proven himself in the losers finals by taking Kameme out 3-0. For Abadango, this was a potential revenge match as well, as MKLeo knocked him into the losers bracket earlier in the top 8.

The first match began with MKLeo as Cloud and Abadango as Bayonetta. In my preview article I mentioned that I didn’t really follow competitive Smash much, but it was difficult not to be enthralled the energy in the room as both players fought for nearly a full minute with over 100% damage each. MKLeo took game one with a fortuitous air slash that sent his opponent off screen.

Undeterred, Abadango stuck with Bayonetta for match 2. It seemed he learned a thing or two from his first match against Leo’s Cloud. Through a series of great air juggling and impressive edge guarding, Abadango was able to take both of MKLeo’s stocks in under 2 minutes. Leo knew he needed to make a change, and came back ready for round 3.

Bayonetta had a much more difficult time getting attacks in on Leo’s 3rd round Marth. No matter the approach or strategy, Marth stood ready to zone with his Dancing Blade special. Though things looked dicey when Abadango nailed some aerial combos, MK Leo ended up taking the 3rd round without losing a single stock.

Though he won with Marth in the 3rd round, MKLeo went back to Cloud for the 4th and what would be final round of the tournament. It appeared he gathered himself a bit after his win as Marth. His Cloud looked more confident, and more willing to contest Bayonetta’s advances. That isn’t to say that the game was one sided. Quite on the contrary, though Abadango took MKLeo’s first stock when he already had over 100% damage on his final stock, he looked like he was poised to take the game too. In the end though, MKLeo finished the round, and brought the EVO trophy home for Echo Fox, for Mexico, but most importantly, for himself.

Tekken 7

1st: ROX | Knee (Paul/Bryan/Steve)

2nd: ROX | Chanel (Eliza/Alisa)

3rd: N.M | GURA (Geese)

EVO Japan

Chanel resetting the Tekken 7 bracket. Image taken by The Game Haus

What surprised me most about the Tekken Grand Finals was the amount of versatility top players in Tekken have with their character picks. In the Grand Finals series alone the two players from ROX cycled through no fewer than six different characters. As a player of Street Fighter, I’m used to seeing players have one main character with maybe one alternate that they pick up for specific match ups. Tekken is clearly a different beast.

The first round began with Knee on Bryan Fury while Chanel picked Akuma, a character that he seemed comfortable with previously. Chanel may have been anticipating Knee to pick Paul Phoenix, who Knee used extremely effectively in his previous matches. The Bryan pick seemed to catch Chanel off guard, as Knee dismantled his opponent. Chanel needed to lose another round with Eliza before finding his groove with Alisa. Using Alisa, he managed to come back from his 2-0 deficit to reset the bracket, and force Knee into a second best of 5 match.

Knee seemed confident in his Bryan pick enough to start out the set with him, but Alisa still proved too strong. After rethinking his strategy, Knee switched to Steve Fox, giving him more mobility against Alisa’s attacks. This appeared to be the counter he needed, as Chanel’s Alisa could not keep up. After a surprising yet ineffective switch to Lucky Chloe by Chanel, the final round came down to Knee’s Steve and Chanel’s Eliza. Though Chanel put up a fight, his teammate’s boxer ended up taking the EVO trophy.

Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2

 

Nage accepts his prize money alongside a dancing Cup Noodle. Image taken by The Game Haus.

1st: NAGE (Faust)

2nd: OMITO (Johnny)

3rd: GGP | Kazunoko (Raven)

I’m honestly a bit torn about the results of the Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 tournament. As a Johnny player myself, I rooted for Omito for most of the tournament. I find his unique movement style fun to watch, if challenging to play. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the chaos that was watching a high level Faust player climb up the ladder.

For those unfamiliar, one of Faust’s main mechanics involves him throwing random objects on the battlefield. These items can be as mundane as a small hammer that deals damage when it hits. They can be a great utility as well such as a spring board that launches the opponent in the air if they step on it. The items can also be darn near OP such as a black hole that roots enemies in place, or a giant meteor shower that covers most of the screen. A good Faust player has to react to these random items to try to get the best conversion possible, which is exactly what Nage did during the grand finals.

Omito put up a great fight. These grand finals could have easily gone to either player. I honestly wondered when some of Omito’s combos were going to end as he put on a display of just how much he knows about Guilty Gear and it’s systems. He even managed to reset the bracket before Nage took the final set 3-2 in a series that went down to the very last round. For fans of the game, it doesn’t get much more hyped than that.

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition

1st: Infiltration (Menat/Juri)

2nd: John Takeuchi (Rashid)

3rd: Hx | CYG BST | Daigo Umehara (Guile)

EVO Japan

Street Fighter V Top 8 posing after Infiltration won. Image taken by The Game Haus

I think the whole of Japan released a disappointed sigh when Daigo Umehara was eliminated from the event. Few fighting game players can be called a Legend in their scene, but Daigo is definitely one of them. If he were to win the first ever EVO event in Japan, it would have felt like destiny. Alas, it was not to be. Infiltration’s Menat was able to use her superior range to out-zone Daigo’s Guile.

It wasn’t just Daigo who had trouble with Infiltration’s Menat. Until John Takeuchi knocked Infiltration into the loser’s bracket during the winner’s semi-finals, Infiltration’s Menat looked nigh invincible. Takeuchi played a patient game, waiting for Infiltration to come to him before making his attack. He found that Infiltration was able to react to almost any offense thrown at him, and decided to give himself space to react to Infiltration instead. Infiltration quickly realized that Menat was not going to win him the match, so he switched to Juri. Juri’s unique rhythm threw Takeuchi off for a game, but the mental damage may have already been done, and Takeuchi sent Infiltration to the losers bracket.

In the grand finals, Infiltration went with Juri from the get-go. He continued to be a thorn in Takeuchi’s side, constantly interrupting his rhythm with Juri’s far

reaching normals and well timed invincible reversals. The pressure clearly got to Takeuchi, who began to play much more aggressively in hopes of turning the tide. By the time he regained some of his composure, Infiltration had already reset the bracket. Though he did better in the second set, Infiltration still took the tournament 3-1.

 

An annual event

EVO Japan

The Grand Finals Venue before it was crowded. Image taken by The Game Haus

I suppose I can’t speak much further than next year, but a representative came on stage at the end of the event to announce that EVO would be indeed returning to Japan next year. The crowd erupted in applause. No one was sure if it would happen given the rough history of trying to bring an EVO event to Japan. I couldn’t be more excited to see what games show up at EVO Japan next year. If Dragon Ball FighterZ is still popular, it’s highly likely it will make an appearance. In the next year both Soul Calibur VI and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle release as well. EVO Japan may be in the past, but the future looks just as exciting, if not more so.


Featured image taken by The Game Haus.

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EVO comes to Japan

This weekend, for the first time in the history of the tournament, EVO will host an event in Japan. This seems strange considering that a large number of the games played at the tournament were created by Japanese developers. Of course Japan hosts its own tournaments for said games, but EVO has become one of the largest annual fighting game tournaments in the world. Top Japanese competitors for years have had to travel to the United States to compete for EVO’s considerable prestige and prize pool. After almost twenty years, things are finally changing. Let’s take a look at the games present at the first annual EVO Japan.

ARMS – 327 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

Unfortunately, EVO Japan may be ARMS’ last showing as a main event at a tournament of this scale. After the initial positive reception, interest in the game declined rapidly outside of a core group of enthusiastic players. Nintendo seemed to sense this too. The developers announced in December that the Version 5 patch would be the final major content update for the game. While they claimed they will still make balance patches as necessary, it is difficult to see the statement as anything other than a nail in the coffin.

With that said, 327 is no small number of competitors. Though by far the smallest competition pool of the tournament, it’s commendable for what is arguably a niche title even among fighting game fans. If EVO Japan is where competitive ARMS play ends, at least it’s a great opportunity to send it off properly.

Tekken 7 – 1202 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

Tekken is a game about complicated family issues that tasks the player with mastering equally complicated juggle combos. Compared to the previously mentioned game, Tekken has nearly four times the number of competitors at EVO Japan. This makes it the second largest competition at the tournament and it’s not difficult to see why. Tekken has somehow managed to be not only a competent and satisfying fighting game, but one with characters fleshed out by a cohesive, if convoluted, story. Since its debut in 1994, it has grown to a cast of nearly 40 playable characters on disc in Tekken 7. Many will argue that some characters aren’t viable in competitive play, but the amount of different characters picked in competitive play still feels large. The diversity in the character roster means that matches are hardly ever boring to watch.

The game also has a leg-up in popularity over some of the other games by being a staple at many arcades in Japan. Despite having its roots in the arcade scene, Street Fighter developer Capcom decided against creating arcade cabinets for the series’ fifth iteration. Tekken has been there to fill that void, and its popularity may have gained a bit of a boost as a result.

Super Smash Bros for WiiU – 757 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

I’ll start this section off with the disclaimer that I’m still new to the competitive Smash scene. As someone who plays the game casually, I am amazed at the amount of knowledge high level players have about what I thought of as a party game for so many years. Without that knowledge, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the action. However, it is easy to see that the Smash community is one of the closest knit fighting game communities that exists. Whereas other competitive fighting games receive support from their developers after the game gains traction, Nintendo has left the entire fate of the Smash competitive scene on the players themselves. Prize pools tend to be smaller as a result, so the top players have to commit a lot of themselves if they hope to make a living.

But this atmosphere makes Smash compelling to watch, and it is why the community is so close knit. They aren’t competing for the largest prize pools. They aren’t receiving as much support as the other games. Without that additional hype, many would lose interest after a time. The people left are there because they love the game, and they want to be the best at it. If that doesn’t make for some compelling, high intensity games to watch, then I’m not sure what does.

GUILTY GEAR Xrd REV 2 – 1187 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

When it first released in 1998, Guilty Gear had some stiff competition in the 2D Fighter genre. At the time, there were not many fighting games that could compete with the hype surrounding Capcom or SNK’s games. 1998 was a particularly competitive year, seeing the release of Street Fighter Alpha 3, Marvel vs Capcom and King of Fighters ’98. Guilty Gear still managed to find its niche with a unique music style, colorful characters and over the top combos.

Compared to other fighting games I’ve played, I find the combat system in Guilty Gear to be the most complex. Learning jump cancels, roman cancels, the tension gauge and various other systems often proves too much for my poor brain to comprehend at once. This makes watching play between those who have mastered these systems so enthralling. The combat is fast paced, visually stunning and incredibly technical. Even without knowledge of the game’s systems, it’s worth a watch.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction – 595 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

BlazBlue is commonly considered the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear. While the Guilty Gear brand was experimenting with new genres with the release of Guilty Gear 2: Overture in 2008, developer Arc System Works also released BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger into arcades late the same year. At the time there had not been an updated arcade release of a Guilty Gear game since late 2006. Something was clearly needed to refresh the arcade scene, and BlazBlue was the answer.

There are certainly similarities between BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. Characters move in much the same way, and you can even see the inspiration taken in some of the main character designs. The action is just as fast paced and high-execution as its predecessor as well, making it an absolute joy to watch. While the latest Guilty Gear chose a more cell-shaded 3D art style on a 2D background, the current BlazBlue retains its original sprite animation art style, so there is plenty of reason to watch both if you’re a fan of “Anime Fighters”.

The King of Fighters XIV – 542 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

From 1994 to 2003, developer SNK released a new main entry in the King of Fighters game every year. While spin-off titles were released with reasonable frequency, the time between main entries became few and far between. Released in 2016, King of Fighters XIV was the first main entry in the series in six years. Fans responded with the enthusiasm you can probably imagine. That being said, it is clear to see that KOF’s long absence from the competitive spotlight has done it some harm. Though the margin between it and BlazBlue is small, KOF is the second smallest tournament at the event.

That is not to say that it isn’t worth watching! KOF is unique at EVO Japan as the only 3v3 team fighting game. With a line-up of around 50 characters to choose from, team compositions are dynamic and diverse. For the most unique viewing experience at EVO Japan, you’d better take a look here.

Street Fighter V Arcade Edition – 2217 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

We’ve arrived at the main event. At 2217 entrants, the Street Fighter V tournament nearly doubles the size of the next largest tournament. Developer Capcom received some harsh criticism early in the game’s lifespan as fans complained about server issues, lack of transparency in announcements and the absence of expected features. Since the game released in early 2016, Capcom has worked hard to slowly turn this opinion around. While players will always find something to nit-pick, the general consensus is that Street Fighter V is a much better game than when it launched.

Add to this the fact that the latest edition of the game, Arcade Edition, just launched less than two weeks ago with the addition of fan favorite character Sakura. More importantly, in terms of competitive gaming, it brought a laundry list of sweeping balance changes to individual characters, as well as the combat system as a whole. None of the players in this tournament have had more than a couple of weeks to adjust to these changes before competing. The 3.0 patch flipped the entire competitive scene on its head. Even if you’ve watched competitive Street Fighter before, it’s doubtful you’ll have seen anything like what’s about to unfold in Tokyo this upcoming weekend.

EVO Japan takes place in Tokyo, Japan from 1/26 – 1/28 Japan Standard Time.


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sequels

Sequels to esports: good or bad?

sequels

Despite Ultra Street Fighter II releasing earlier this year, Street Fighter V’s competitive community is what gets the most attention right now. Image: Nintendo Enthusiast

Traditional sports are simple. They may change a bit and get new rules every now and then, but they’re never in fear of being replaced. There will never be a “Baseball 2” that replaces the current baseball community. However, esports exist in a different bubble in this regard. Unlike traditional sports, we constantly see new esports replace older ones through the likes of sequels. Unlike sports themselves, video games often get sequels that improve upon the mechanics established in previous games. The fighting game genre is brimming with examples of sequels essentially replacing the competitive communities of previous games.

You’d have a difficult time finding mainstream coverage or a large competitive following for Street Fighter II (SF II) in 2017, since Street Fighter V (SF V)’s competitive community currently gets more attention Street Fighter II, being the newer game. But does that make SF II irrelevant and unimportant in esports history? To put the question in perspective, if Blizzard released Overwatch 2 in a few years, would the current competitive community of Overwatch stay dedicated to the original game, or abandon it and move over to the sequel? If people did move over to the sequel, would the original Overwatch’s legacy stay intact, or would it just be considered irrelevant?

Can a sequel to a game that’s an esport essentially make the previous game’s legacy as an esport irrelevant? Let’s explore this idea, particularly looking at the overall fighting game community as an example.

Sequelitis

The example of Street Fighter V now having replaced Street Fighter II’s competitive community is perhaps more common than many people realize. The entire fighting game genre is full of great examples of sequels replacing previous entries in respective series. Let’s take the Tekken series as an example. Ever since the original game, Tekken has always been a series that encouraged improvement and rewarded high-level play. Each game attempted to improve and evolve the fighting mechanics of the series. Each installment of Tekken incorporated advancements in gameplay. These improvements provide a greater, more competitive experience for both the casual player and competitive community.

sequels

Tekken 7, the newest game in the series, was featured at EVO this year. Image: USA Today

Now, we see the latest installment in the series, Tekken 7, played at tournaments. The game appeared earlier this year at EVO 2017 and will be at EVO Japan in January 2018. This is great for Tekken 7 as a game on its own, but concerning when looking at the Tekken series as a whole. Although Tekken 7 is played at such large events, none of the previous games in the series are played at the event, despite previous Tekken games garnering competitive communities of their own. Are those communities just…gone? Are they irrelevant just because the series continued to get sequels?

At large fighting game events such as EVO, we rarely see older games being represented. On one hand, we can look at these events from a business perspective. Many of these events are made possible through sponsorships. For many companies like Capcom, Nintendo and Bandai Namco, it makes more business sense to sponsor an event that is featuring a newer game being played. This makes more business sense since it can convince viewers to buy the game being played at the event. This is easier to achieve if the game being played is recently released and/or on a system that is currently available on the market.

On the other hand, older games get the short end of the stick. If older competitive games get replaced by newer competitive games, is the older game still viable for competitive play?

The Exception to the Rule

Only one game immediately comes to mind when thinking about an older competitive game that has lasted throughout the years, despite multiple sequels coming out. To say that Super Smash Bros. Melee has a dedicated following would be a gross understatement. Despite the game having been released in 2001 and followed by sequels, Melee is still played in many competitive events such as EVO to this day. Why is this? What makes Melee different from, say, Tekken 4?

The biggest reason of Melee’s survival throughout the years is, simply put, its community. Melee is so different from any other Smash game, with its specific physics and exploits making it feel completely different from other entries in the series. Brawl (and all the mods that came out of it) and Smash 4 have released and garnered their own competitive communities. Despite this, Melee’s community has still remained loyal. If anything, Melee’s competitive community has only become more prominent throughout the years thanks to the game being consistently played at EVO every year.

sequels

16 years after being released, and Melee still gets featured at events like EVO. Image: YouTube

Melee still managed to attain its loyal community despite sequels having come out. Despite Melee staying alive, the original Smash Bros., Project M (the most prominent mod of Brawl) and Smash 4 still have sizable communities in their own right. All games in the series have competitive communities that coexist with one another.

Super Smash Bros. isn’t the only series that sees its competitive communities coexisting alongside each other. However, I find it to be a great example of how multiple esports within the same series can be represented. There are still communities for older competitive games. But we don’t see those older communities represented at large events. At least, not very often. This can change if we start seeing events feature older games. Then, we could begin to see competitive communities of older games get more coverage and gain more appreciation.

Are Sequels good for esports?

In general, I think video game sequels are great. They provide opportunities to improve upon mechanics that were established in previous games. Even if games happen to become an esport, I think any game can be potentially be improved upon through a sequel.

In regards to sequels potentially replacing the competitive community of the original game, that’s where things get tricky. I think it’s valid for people to worry that competitive communities for certain games may become barren if a sequel comes out for that game. But I think we need to think of ways to highlight and represent older games at larger events, to appreciate how that game gathered a competitive community of its own.

Sequels to esports have both good and bad aspects to them. However, I think giving attention to both newer and older competitive communities is what’s truly important in this discussion. Ultimately, though, I would say that sequels are good for esports. Sequels to esports ultimately give us more esports to watch and engage with. While I do think that there are negative aspects as to what sequels can do to competitive communities, esports simply wouldn’t grow without them.

A good number of the esports out there are sequels. Clearly, sequels are important for esports. But I just want to make sure that we never forget where those sequels came from. We can’t forget about the legacies of older competitive games. Sequels let us both remember the legacies of older games, in addition to creating a new legacy in and of themselves.


 

Featured Image courtesy of Shoryuken.

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The Heart of Battle

This week is going to be a weird one, but thanks for sticking with me. It’s been a slow few weeks for the Fighting Game Community, but we have East Coast Throwdown this weekend and the Fall Classic coming up on the first weekend in October. In the meantime, I wanted to have some fun with an editorial piece this week seeing as next week will be event coverage. This week’s article is incredibly personal. As writers, we work so hard to have a voice when we cover things, but I think that I’ve still come off more as a set of opinions rather than a real person. To rectify this, I’d like to take a moment to speak about how I got started, why I love the community and why I love fighting games.

I started playing fighting games in my freshman year of college. I’d just started working at GameStop and Marvel vs Capcom 3 was the only game in my Xbox at the time. We’d always had this junker fight-stick in the back and I’d been eyeing it for awhile. Eventually poor judgement would get the best of me and I started to really learn Marvel vs Capcom. I’d eventually meet some of the Nashville scene through a mutual friend at a local anime convention. This would lead to me reaching out to the scene in Knoxville where I’d meet some of my good friends, Johnny and Donnie, as well as my mentor Jason.

Courtesy of Deviant Art

Courtesy of Deviant Art

As the summer went on, Persona 4 Arena would come out and I’d reconnect with the Nashville scene. Knoxville was a fantastic place to learn Marvel, but the anime fighter scene was lacking. There were a few Guilty Gear players who knew their stuff, but Nashville was a haven for anime fighters. Eventually I’d go play in my first tournament at Game Galaxy arcade. The King of Bling was a local tournament covering everything from Persona to Street Fighter. I remember coming close to winning my first match as a player, but I’d lose on stream. I wouldn’t compete again until last year, but I loved the thrill of competition and I felt at home with my friends. I felt like I belonged to something and I was ecstatic.

After that, things would get a bit rough and I fell away from my community. I still talked with the Nashville crew and play netplay, but things had changed. I was working more and school was my main priority. I couldn’t make it to weeklies and I was mostly playing online. This led me to meeting Jason and Johnny who both rekindled my love of Street Fighter. I spent those 3 years playing Street Fighter and actually learning to play fighting games. It wasn’t until I started to learn my fundamentals with Street Fighter IV that I would grow as a player. There was a long time where I just wrote my losses off as a lack of experience, but this wasn’t really the case. I was predicable and I didn’t understand the mind game aspect of it either. I like to joke that getting old and patient helped me mature as a player, but I’m just as passionate and hotheaded as I used to be.

I don’t regret any of the time I spent playing fighting games, but I’d be lying if I said that I should have done things smarter. This year was far from my finest hour, but I’ve come a long way and that’s what I love about fighting games. I’ve always felt that regardless of my short comings that I’d always have a place in this community and the friends I’ve kept along the way are important figures in my life. The Fighting Game Community is a family of competitors. It encourages growth and it creates long lasting friendships, rivalries and experiences. The thrill of winning is intoxicating, but it’s just one part of why I love this sport and its’ community.

Courtesy of The Street Fighter Wiki

Courtesy of The Street Fighter Wik

A community is only as strong as its’ members and the Fighting Game Community has always been family. I spoke about Jason and Johnny, but I can’t even begin to describe how beneficial they’ve been to me. I love my local scene and the people here are welcoming and honestly the funniest people I’ve ever met. The fighting game community is filled with compassionate people whose only desire was to help newer players get better. The grassroots community is one of the biggest strengths our community has and the competitive nature of our players is a key motivator.

Fighting games are competitive by nature and a good player is always looking to better themselves. This is one of the key fundamentals when learning any fighting game and it also serves as a valuable life lesson. Successful players build strong work ethics and challenge themselves in their day to day lives. Even the best players have admitted that there is so much more they could be learning and my two heroes, Diago Umehara and Alex Valle, are both examples of how players grow and mature. Daigo Umehara is known as the world’s greatest Ryu player, but recently he has been dedicating himself to being the world’s champion on his own terms. Alex Valle has been working to personally challenge himself while building a new generation of competitive players. Both players have come a long way from their initial rivalries and they work to show the best aspects of what the community can do.

Courtesy of SoCal Reigional

Courtesy of SoCal Reigional

A strong community is made of strong players united around games to play and there is an immense reward that comes from playing fighting games. A good match consists of two players who know their fundamentals, know their character and know each other. This type of match goes beyond the standard excitement of regular multiplayer and it easily the most rewarding competitive experience I’ve ever had. Fighting games are mental gymnastics combined with precise execution. Being able to read your opponent is a key skill and using those reads to create bad habits is the basis of higher level play.

Street Fighter, Guilty Gear and Tekken are all different beasts and no game is the exact same, but each offers a basic set of fundamentals that help to round out the player. The idea of taking a basic set of skills from numerous games to help build a player is a novel concept and the idea of building positive habits from a game is my favorite thing. Players developing training habits and progress goals have real life application which is something wholly unique to fighting games. You learn goal tracking from MMOs, but there’s no training in them. All I know is that fighting games have taught me proper study habits, how to set realistic expectations and an attitude that I should always be bettering myself.

Thank you all for giving me a platform to talk about why I love this sport and why I love my community. I wouldn’t be here without the support of the people in my scene or the friends who have helped push me to get there. I’ll be back next Sunday with a new Combo Breaker.

Seth Hall has been playing fighting games for the last four years and writing for the last two. He can be found on twitter @themanseries and will be competing at The Fall Classic in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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A Conversation with Joshua “Jio” Otis

The City of Atlanta, Georgia is biggest home for Tekken players on the East Coast. Many notable American players such as Circa’s Hoa “Anakin” Luu call Atlanta home. Today, I’m going to be speaking with Joshua Otis, or more commonly Jio in the community. Having played in numerous majors, Jio is a notable member of both the Atlanta community and Knoxville, Tennessee communities. A transplant from Memphis, Tennessee, Jio has been playing the game competitively for 13 years. As of late, Jio can also be found commentating for the upcoming Tekken 7 alongside community figure,Mark “Markman” Julio. I caught up with Jio after his performance at Wizard World Minnesota for a brief conversation.

Courtesy of Final Round

Courtesy of Final Round

Seth Hall: Your main game is Tekken. What drew you to play it and what continues to drive you competitively?

Jio: I started playing as a masher back in T3. I was drawn to the character design, the music, and how a lot of moves were derived from real martial arts and wrestling disciplines. I didnt start playing competitively until the end of T4. I continue to play competitively to prove to myself that I still can do it at a high level.

Seth: What got you into the competitive side of the scene? What was your in?

Jio: I worked at the local arcade. The manager would organize local tournaments and I decided to play. Went 0-2. The salt of losing drove me to compete.

(Note: Salt is a common term in the community used to describe the feeling of loss.)
Seth: So what are your thoughts on the local scene? Tekken 7 is on the horizon and there is most likely an influx of new players. Are the any general hurdles you see the community struggle with? I know that competitive SF players are always trying to catch up to Japan, does Tekken have something similar?

Jio: Well the local Tekken scene has shrunk from 50+ players to around 8 or 9. Everyone is just ready for Tekken 7. Some of us watch videos of T7 and play solo TTT2 to try to make the most of the wait. Other players have moved on entirely to other games, such as SFV and MKX. I think catching up to Japan and Korea has been difficult in every iteration, because they always get the game significantly earlier. T7 was released in SE Asian arcades over a year ago. The wait T7 has been even more frustrating because we are teased by location tests and exhibitions at majors, and still haven’t been given a release date. Even the best american players will have difficulty bridging that gap.

Courtesy of Namco Bandai

Courtesy of Namco Bandai

Seth: So you’ve recently been doing commentary at events. I saw you alongside MarkMan at KIT/FR. Have you considered moving more into the streaming and community sides of things or attempting to work for PR on the American side of things with all the work you’ve done for the scene?

Jio: Ive done commentary for 4 or 5 years. In the past couple years, Ive had the opportunity to commentate larger events. I enjoy it nearly as much as playing. Id love to do it more often, should the opportunity present itself. I take pride in serving the community in any capacity. I usually only make guest spots on Anakin’s stream, because I dont own any streaming equipment.

Seth: Tekken Tag 2 is ending its life cycle. What about Tekken 7 has you excited and what do you think it will do for the scene? What has you concerned about it? I know Tag 2 had a steep barrier to entry, do you think Tekken 7 will have the same?

Jio: Im excited to go back to 1v1, because having two life bars made a lot of pokes almost obsolete. Im also looking forward to exploring the new combo system, especially the new floor and wall break possibilities. Also Xiaoyu received a much needed buff in T7. Im concerned that the movement nerf may hinder more skilled players, but I’ve started to become more accustomed to it. The wakeup game has been toned down, making escaping oki situations less daunting for new players. I believe this Tekken will significantly easier for new players to pick up and compete with more established players.

(Notes: Pokes are when players use basic buttons as an attempt pressure, catch or harass the opponent. Okizeme, or Oki, is usually the pressure applied to a player getting up after a knockdown.)

Seth: So continued before I grab food, what would you tell new players to develop starting with T7? Where are the best starting points? What are easy pitfalls to avoid that kill a lot of newer people.

Jio:  You need to identify your best moves for keepout, pressure, and tracking and practice utilizing them appropriately. Remain aware of stage position, using attacks that allow to take advantage of the stage (floor/wall breaks). You want to learn the most damaging combos that you can consistently execute, and your punishment for each frame window. One of the most difficult things for new players is character familiarity, so don’t allow the number of moves to discourage you from playing. Continually learn from either watching or playing with or against unfamiliar characters. Find the weaknesses of their strongest maybe 3 or 4 attacks, and concentrate on learning how to exploit them.

Seth: So you recently went to Wizard World in Minnesota. What was your experience there, how was the competition. What do you feel you did well at, and what do you feel you were lacking in?

Jio: Wizard World was a fun event. There were actually 2 tournaments. A first come 16-man bracket and the main double elimination event on Saturday, with top 8 on Sunday. Very high production value, friendly and helpful event staff. I feel I played well for the most part, I have a lot of work to do learning the new characters in the game. I ended getting 4th, losing to the same Katarina player in both pools and top 8. The tournaments were run pretty quickly, so there was a lot of time for casuals. The competition was probably one of the more stacked Tekken 7 events so far with players such as Rip, Mateo, Jannakazama, ZTS, Spero Gin, Rick Da Ruler, and Datboi STL among others.

Courtesy of Wizard World

Courtesy of Wizard World

Seth: Thank you so much for your time. Did you have any shoutouts or social media you wanted to promote?

Jio: Shout out to MarkMan, TastySteve, RockSteady, ATL Tekken and TN Tekken. You can find me on twitter @thebigjio and on Instagram as thatman_Jio.