The Beauty and Ugliness of the Fighting Game Community

Esports is a thing. Even though there are still a lot of people that can’t wrap their head around the competitive side of video games, esports is a thing. And it’s an incredibly huge business that should be taken seriously by everyone, especially those in media. Not only are the prize money getting bigger, but the viewership numbers are just ballooning each and every year.

While most of these numbers come from MOBA games like League of Legends and DOtA, I do believe that a good chunk of those figures comes from fighting games. While MOBAs generally pull in bigger numbers than fighting games, it does seem like games like Capcom’s Street Fighter and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros are more mainstream. In fact, just last week, the EVO finals for both of those games were broadcast live on non-gaming channels. The EVO finals for Street Fighter V was shown on ESPN for its second straight year while Super Smash Bros. made its Disney XD debut. So, essentially, gamers got to see Mario (and the ultra sexy Bayonetta) shown on the Disney channel!

Of course, fighting game fans, collectively known as the fighting game community, are incredibly proud of this accomplishment of sorts. And, as a member of the fighting game community, I’m proud as well. However, even though I love being a part of the FGC, I do have to acknowledge that, sometimes, it’s not good to be a part of it. You can actually say that the fighting game community is the older and crotchety older uncle in the esports family as the fanbase is, well, a hot mess. At times, the world of the FGC is a beautiful thing and, conversely, it can get incredibly ugly. However, as a card carrying member of the community, I have to accept it all, both the good and the bad.

One of the reasons why I love the FGC is that anyone can be a member. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, how old you are or what race or weight class you belong to. As long as you love fighting games, you will be generally accepted in the FGC. Take a look at this year’s EVO and the ones that have passed. Actually, just go take a look at other tournaments in the past. There have been young kids who have joined these tournaments. There have been male, females, homosexuals and transgenders that have participated and have done incredibly well. Heck, where else can you see a disabled player join a competitive event against a non-handicapped person and do well?

Don’t believe me? Well, I can actually name two people that play Street Fighter and have beaten “normal” players. One is newcomer Sven, who is blind. Even though he is unable to see the screen, he still has beaten a couple of players in an actual tournament setting. And he only plays the game just by listening to the sound effects, which is amazing because that takes a whole lot of concentration. But if that wasn’t amazing, well, then meet BrolyLegs, a card carrying member of the FGC that plays without the use of his hard or feet!

BrolyLegs’s story is incredibly inspiring as well. Even though he doesn’t have full use of his hands and his legs, he still manages to play competitively, and very well I may add. Like Sven, rather than let his situation control him, he never let it get in his way. Both of these guys are able to hang with the pros that regularly do well. Video games is the only venue where this can happen and it seems especially true for in the fighting game community it seems. And if you get to watch either Sven or BrolyLegs in action, either on stream or at the venue, it’s pretty heartwarming.

Unfortunately, there are those that think that watching other people play video games is a waste of time. There have been a lot of people that cannot seem to comprehend why anyone would watch others play. Various news programs like The View have laughed at former professional athletes like Rick Fox for supporting the entire sports scene. Sports media personality Colin Cowherd infamously called people who participate in esports as “booger eaters.” Even Jimmy Kimmel, who’s a pretty good guy, just thinks that the people that do this are losers. This monologue video is his most disliked video on YouTube.

Unlike the gals from The View and Colin Cowherd, however, at least I understood Jimmy Kimmel’s point of view on the matter. To him, watching other people play video games is a waste of time because it’s something you can do easily. But he doesn’t quite understand how video games, especially fighting games work. Sure, you can just play the game but, in order to get better, you have to also watch other people play the game so you can pick up new tricks and strategies. This is especially true for the fighting game community as there isn’t just one way to beat your opponent. There are multiple playstyles like rushdown, turtling and just doing psychic uppercuts. There are also different kinds of characters, each with their own strengths and weakness.

But for people in the FGC, watching other people play their favorite fighting game has another benefit. We understand the techniques and the ups and downs of actually competing in the game. We know when someone does a clutch combo to steal victory from the jaws of defeat and we know when someone commits a crucial errors that makes them lose a match. We also know when someone does something totally incredible that was previously thought to be impossible and we react to these moments with joy and jubilation. EVO Moment #37 anyone?

It’s moments like this and this kind of excitement that binds the FGC together. We see EVO Moment #37 and we instinctively know what we just witnessed was a miracle and we just have to react to it with the traditional level of hype we can muster. It’s like we all speak the same language and we understand what each and everyone is saying. The fighting game community is a extremely rabid group of fans that love that same thing and it’s this love for fighting games that makes us all get along with each other to a certain degree. It’s the passion for fighting games that essentially brings us all together like one happy family.

Unfortunately, while the FGC is technically one happy extended family, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t squabble between family members. The biggest point of contention is not our love for fighting games but what specific fighting games we love and support. There is some crossover between games as most of us do like all fighting games. But there are generally some really hardcore members who will not accept any other fighting game than then one they like. And there probably isn’t a more divisive game in the FGC like the Super Smash Bros. series.

A lot of gamers in the FGC just cannot accept any game in the Super Smash Bros. series as a “proper” fighting game. To them, it’s a game for babies and lacks the strategy and intricacies of its “serious” brethren like Street Fighter and Tekken. Essentially, they think Super Smash Bros. is a joke despite its tournament scene having an extremely dedicated and hardcore fanbase. I mean, you have to be incredibly committed if you gotta lug an old CRT television around the country just to play your favorite game, right?

This division in the FGC isn’t the worst thing. In all honesty, there are still a lot of card carrying members of the fighting game community are, shall we say, a boorish lot? This is especially true during streams of tournaments because the “stream monster” will just say the worst things about anyone. We love spewing profanity and insults about the players and how they’re just “frauds.” Whenever there’s a girl on screen, we just can’t help to point them out. If someone is overweight, you can bet we’re gonna shine a light on that fact! But the worst thing we actually do is when someone like Ricki Ortiz or Gilty has a match on stream. Both of these highly skilled players just so happen to be transgendered. But, even in this day of age, the stream monsters will be so busy commenting that “she” is actually a “he,” a “trap” or some derogatory statement along those lines.

Is the fighting game community perfect? Not by a long shot. We definitely have a lot of growing up to do as evidenced by how a lot of the stream monsters behave. We want to be this big group of fans who love essentially the same thing but we still are divided in some way. With that being said, I still believe that the entire FGC is still a positive group. I’ve met a lot of new people that I would have never met because we may life totally different things or may run in different social circles. Fighting games was that common thing that connected us. And it’s my years of experience with other members of the FGC that made me realize that, despite all of its flaws, it’s a community that can’t be beat.

What are your thoughts on the fighting game community as a whole? Let me know in the comments section below!

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