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Cash, Casuals, and Community - A Follow-Up to TLB Round 105

Rapture

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Yesterday, myself and the rest of The Loser's Bracket cast were joined by CEO's Alex Jebailey for a discussion on fighting games and Major League Gaming, including the upcoming MLG Columbus event which, alongside Halo: Reach and Starcraft 2, will feature three fighting games in Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters XIII, and Soul Calibur V. For those of you who do not know, The Loser's Bracket is a vVv Gaming podcast focused on competitive gaming, a show that I am currently a co-host of.

As I said, Jebailey was on the show to discuss fighting games, the FGC, MLG, and all of that. Of course, there was a back and forth, namely between Jebailey and the host of the show (as well as the owner/president of vVv Gaming), vVv LordJerith. Thankfully I too was able to get some comments in for the fighting game side so it wasn't too lopsided, and ultimately it ended up being, as far as I'm concerned, both an entertaining and productive discussion.

Now, before you continue reading any further, please take the time to listen to the show so you know exactly how it went down. I know some of you will not do that and will just keep reading, but at least I attempted to warn you first:

http://www.vvv-gaming.com/forum/topic/55408-losers-bracket-round-105/

If you're still reading, hopefully you've just listened to the show or have already listened to it earlier (or even live). The reason I continue to type this is because there are many things that need clarification and more spotlight. Even to this day, as the so-called “FGC vs. eSports” debate rages on (and, boy, how ridiculous did that get back at the tail end of last year, huh?), there are still tons of people on both sides who still are not completely informed on how either community works. I feel I need to change that a bit.

No, this will not be a “We're the FGC, this is who we are, blah blah blah” kind of post, nor will it be something akin to the responses made after, well, every single time Kotaku makes a post about us (nevertheless, shoutouts to the guys who do go out of their way to write some very beautiful and accurate pieces on the FGC in response to said articles). I just want to clarify a few things for some of the either misinformed or not-as-informed non-fighting game players/fans/members out there. I feel some topics discussed on the latest episode of The Loser's Bracket were not discussed as much as I would have liked them to have been (we do have a maximum time amount we have to respect), so here we are.

The Cash

During the show, we discussed having events on the same weekend, a concern for many fighting game players, as well as tournament organizers. No one likes to step on each others toes, so we do our best to avoid doing so. I know this was a touchy subject with Jebailey because he's had that happen to him before, so I'm glad he talked about it.

I then chimed in on the money issue – namely that, when it comes to traveling, many top players may make plans to events based on a number of things, namely money, specifically making a profit. Once I said the words “making a profit”, a number of people quickly brought out their flamethrowers in protest. I need to clarify.

When I say making a profit, I mean how much money that can be potentially made versus how much money is being spent going to the event, being at the event, nourishing oneself at the event, etc. Local tournaments do not require that much cost, but major tournaments can be very expensive for a large number of people – you have to shell out money for travel (gas for car rides, public transportation, airfare, boat fees if you're a baller), food, shelter (if you're staying in a hotel, try to cop the floor and not have to pay a dime like a real man!), etc. Many people do not care about the cost because ultimately they're going there to having a good time, but it does raise concerns for many.

The reason why I brought it up is because when you have two events at the same time going on, you have to account for expenses, and that's why it's so important to be sure of how much money you're spending versus how much you're potentially making. Remember, a huge majority of the people going to these tournaments are not making money (and that's fine with most of them, but it's still a relevant point), and even top players cannot always make the trip out. I know a lot of people in the fighting game community that can barely get the money to get to local tournaments. It's not easy.

Thus, I wanted to clarify – money is always an issue. So yeah, some players may pick one event over another because of money, maybe one event is paying out more than another or costs less to attend, or maybe they have more of a chance at winning at one event over another. And it's not like we're the only community that does this. We love the games we play, but real life comes into play, too. We don't all have constant streams of money to through at toll booths, you know. And I know Halo players, Gears players, SC players, many of you are not eternally and infinitely rich, either.

The Casuals

Casuals, friendlies, free play, whatever you call it. If you go to a fighting game event, you see competition, but also an irregularly large amount of actual matches going on compared to what should be bracket. That's because we're all either playing casuals, money matches, or something completely different.

Now, the reason we do this is simple – we want to play our games as much as possible. If there's a free station and no one is around looking to use it, why not jump in and game a bit? It helps to warm up, practice, show off, have fun, and create friendships. I've made a number of good friends just by asking them to play me in casuals because I was either waiting for a match to be called or I was already eliminated.

Personally, I don't see any negatives in having free play during competition, as long as there's room for it (and if there's room that can be made, why not have it happen?). As much as we want to see the best players go at it, we like to attend tournaments to actually play the game, and many people will just not advance far enough into the bracket to get enough games played. What if you travel all the way out to the East Coast from Texas and get double-eliminated? Sure, it's your fault for losing, but it sucks to go two games and not play anymore. Others may say “tough luck”, but I, and many others, don't believe in that. I think it's a lot more enticing for players, especially lower/medium skilled players, to travel if they know they can play tournament matches and friendlies/money matches.

I was just discussing this with Vero, a Gears of War 3 commentator and a close friend of mine. He actually brought up the subject in the stream chat during the show, which is why I said more about it in the show and to him on the vVv forums. To avoid being redundant on multiple levels, I'm going to post some of the stuff I said on the forums, which is exactly about this topic, right now:

“We play games that are actually, if not always, still competitively viable. That's why we're playing them in the free play area - to practice at the event. You got to an FGC event that's running SF and Marvel? You'll see SF and Marvel friendlies. And most likely MK, KoF, 3rd Strike, etc. friendlies, as well, because those are also tournament games.”

I do later comment that some people like to bring non-competitively viable games, as well (either they're old and not supported anymore or just don't have a big scene or a scene at all), and we're cool with that, too.

But we pride ourselves in having friendlies (or not even that, they're just a part of what we do, it's natural) because it builds social bonds and friendships, it allows players to practice and warm up (remember, we can't play online like you guys can [well, we can, but it's not good practice]), and it gives less skilled players a chance to get more matches in rather than getting double eliminated in bracket then never playing again the rest of the weekend.

We run our events with both top tier matches, as you just said it, and free play. Why can't MLG do the same? It's not that hard. Free play is part of what makes the FGC the FGC, it makes the events more fun. People are more likely to go to an event if they can get those friendlies or money matches in because less than 1% of the people going are going to make money anyway. And it's easier for us to pull it off because, unlike Gears for example, we don't need 4+ consoles for a single match to pull it off. We only need one TV, two controllers, a console and a disc to make a friendly between two people happen. It's more executable for us than it is for you. That doesn't make it a bad idea.

Nothing negative has ever come from having free play, so we don't see why it's all of a sudden negative. It's not like every community that doesn't have it is doing exceedingly much better than us. Honestly, I think the Gears community would be less hostile to one another if you guys actually got together and played the game in person with each other not just in tournament competition like we do. And, again, we don't have online to work off of. How we see it, we need to get together in-person to practice, so why not also run a tournament at the same time, or vice versa? It doesn't hurt anything, it makes us better, it improves our metagame, we become a much more tight-knit community, and everyone gets to play more matches. What's wrong with that?

We're really not trying to turn it into anything it's not. I remember correctly someone telling me (and I've been to MLG events before) that free play does have a presence at MLG. We prefer it having a bigger presence, that's all. It's not a radical change, it's not a completely ridiculous request. It's something that is just as important to us as competition is.

I feel like those above thoughts that I presented Vero with suffice here in this blog post and sum it up very nicely. I hope that clarifies things. And, again, I personally don't believe in forcing things – if MLG cannot support free play for all the fighting game players, then that's that. But if they can, I'm all for it. I think it's a very positive thing, it most certainly spreads the love and passion for the games we play, in one way or another.

The Community

Now, to wrap this up, I just want to quickly comment on this one particular comment I found very, very odd. During the stream chat, Rod Lane of NJ Halo commented that the fighting game community needs to be more open (essentially his exact words, but paraphrasing). That's sort of a vague comment, but I'll take it for what it is. This is not a call-out, there is no ad hominem here, I'm pursuing the comment itself, not the person.

Here's the simple thing, other communities. I personally apologize if sometimes people in our community act in an uncivil or unprofessional manner. We're all the same community, but one person does not represent the entirety of us. And we're all human, just like you all are. We make mistakes, we have opinions, we have voices, and we have fight sticks (or pads). I feel like too many people are actually turned off from our events because of some of things being said in the media or the discussions we have or what not.

I know many of you have attended some of our events, but many of you have not. Trust me, we're all nice people! We just want to play fighting games, body kids, have fun, and enjoy ourselves. There's nothing wrong with going up to a player to ask for a friendly match or asking a top player for some tips. No one is going to scoff at you for not knowing a particular gimmick or asking a question that may be obvious to others. As long as you're not trolling, we'll help out.

No, we're not perfect – I've seen some crappy stuff done and heard some crappy things come from people's mouths, but the same rings true for all communities. Don't judge a book by its cover.

We're an open community, from the Street Fighter players to the Tekken players and everyone in between. We don't always get along, but most of us try our best to make it work. And we're not against change either, we're just very vocal and we like how we do things. That doesn't mean we're against new adaptations or additions. Maybe we're a bit territorial, so what? I feel like everyone is.

...

Look, I'm pretty much a random fighting game player. I currently play Ultimate and KoF XII and I have a good history in the Smash community as both a player and a commentator. I haven't won any big tournaments, but I follow all of them. I don't beat top players, but I'm friends with many and I hope to be friends with a lot more of them as the years go by. And, finally, I don't speak for everyone, but I hope the words of a normal fighting game player and enthusiast clears things up and clarifies some foggy things for people.

I like to see civil discussion and progress. So, naturally, I really enjoyed the conversation held with Alex and the Loser's Bracket crew last night. I hope we can go from there. Esports people (god I hate the word esports, couldn't we have just settled with competitive gaming?!?!), I don't enjoy the hostility between the communities or the divide as much as anyone else does not, so please don't take this post in any offensive way. As I said, I just wanted to clear things up and make some stuff more known and focused. I hope I helped that out a bit more.

I'll be at MLG Columbus next week supporting all my FGC brothers and sisters as they compete in all three fighting games. Hope to see everyone there! Please don't hesitate to hit me up!



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