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In the aftermath of this year's EVO 2012 event, I felt the need to get back into playing more fighting games and putting together an effort to do well at tournaments. In these past several months, I have missed the feeling of practicing fighting games and going to tournaments - EVO was the kicker I needed to refuel that passion. Yesterday, while perusing Facebook and still hyped about EVO, I came across a long entry by a friend, Geoff "Vermanubis" Butterworth. He's one of the most well-known Smash players in its community, being an extremely talented and intelligent individual who also happens to be one of the best Ganondorf players in the country. What he posted spoke to me in volumes, so much that I bookmarked it and read it over and over. Now, I want to share it all with you. The following are words from Geoff, not me, and I take no credit in producing the quote. Geoff gave me permission to post this in my blog. I only want to share these words with all of you and hope it helps with your careers in competitive gaming or anything else in life. --- "In retrospect of Evo, I've been thinking about how people improve at things, and trying to dig a little deeper into why some people excel, while others get stymied. To keep it as brief as possible, I think it can be simplified to observation. For example, in my musical pursuits (I know, I create an analog between music and just about everything), I actively and manually rebuild my understanding of music so I can arrive at a conceptualization of music that's most successful for my particular application. In order to analyze songs, I needed to learn to read sheet music so I could explore the harmonies in a song a bit closer. However, I didn't and haven't been making an effort to deconstruct my current understanding of sheet music, so my sight-reading skills stay about the same. The point of this is that you can't labor away at something mindlessly and hope to breach an obstacle. I'm far more concerned with the content of the music than developing an algorithmic ability to read on sight. So, naturally, I've plateaued at my current level of sight-reading, despite reading music almost daily. If you want to excel at something, you have to greet any and all problems and weaknesses and endure the ass-pains of reconstructing particular models of thinking. Pumping in time like it's going out of style isn't going to get anyone anywhere. Time in conjunction with a cognitive effort to understand the nature of the task is what makes people do well. Think of a concept like a lump of clay. Every time you consider a new concept, such as, say, what to do in an unfamiliar match-up, it's like adding another lump of clay. To integrate that lump of clay, you need to mold it, 'cause it won't just osmose into the bigger lump by itself. This is just a pattern I've noticed in both myself and in just about everyone else. When effort is put to thinking and understanding, instead of hoping for causeless epiphanies, results invariably come." -Geoff "Vermanubis" Butterworth (Permission to post granted)
For those unfamiliar with the current discussion about the fighting game community, know that it started with an article that appeared on SRK (Shoryuken) written by Tom, the co-owner of the EVO event. He stated that the article was in response to a rant by Evil Genius’s COO SirScoots. Basically, this article explained that eSports leagues get it all wrong and don’t understand fighting games or the fighting game community. In short, if you want to “get it,” you have to partner with Tom because he understands all this and eSports leagues do not. Interested in both his “version” of history, and who he was as a person, we had Tom on Round 95 of the Loser’s Bracket. We asked him to explain his position of “I reject the idea that the only path to more money for players is through the traditional eSports model.” Listen for yourself. We had no issues with Tom. Of course, he does avoid a few questions and his answers are shaky at times. Let's just say there were some statements that others had a very different recollection, especially when he blames leagues for not having Capcom games when he knows that Capcom won't give them the license. Yea, I challenge him. Three days later, Trouble Brewing (Starcade) wrote this article about the show and the FGC. Clearly, Tom’s shakiness to answering questions meant that “eSports leagues do not seem to be able to relate to us on a very basic level, as demonstrated by many of the questions asked to Tom Cannon (inkblot).” I was tickled with the idea that asking questions was an "inability to relate at a very basic level." He ends this article with a call to inaction. He tells the fighting game community, “Don't buy those MLG sticks. Don't buy their T-Shirts. Don’t watch their streams. Don't attend their events. Despite what they say, they are not here to support us. They are here to profit from our hard work.” I want you to know that not one member of the EVO ownership outwardly condemned this article. Following that article on Monday, Dec 12, David aka UltraDavid, Evo caster and attorney, wrote this article. I was stunned, but I also smiled at the sheer brilliance of this article. David, like many lawyers, has great skill in rhetoric, and he flashed his prowess in the art of discourse in this piece. Although I would love to attack his article and explain how MLG is so different from NASL, or how he does not get Halo, GoW or CoD, I will instead address this gem later. Stay tuned, you might be surprised. Anyway, the following day we had Team Spooky on, and although I upset him when I said that Tom was looking to protect his piece of the pie (EVO), the show ended on a positive note. Of course, Spooky’s fans rallied to him “keeping it real” and Tom’s brother made a melodramatic post about how “extremely vitriolic” I was and how we were “extremely irresponsible” in how we handled the show. Again, here is Episode 96 . I will let you decide how we handled it. Please take special note when Spooky says, “Shove it up your ass” and how I handle that. On YouTube, his fans end it right there. I think what follows is even more important. Again, I leave this all to you to explore and decide. We’ll call it “convenient” that they leave out the rest of that discussion on YouTube. Now, it’s important to note that many top fighting players such as Justin Wong, Marn, WolfKrone, PR Balrog and Alex Valle have tweeted POSITIVE things about seeing leagues include fighting games. Other examples include... Latif, the second place finisher at Evo 2011 for Street Fighter IV, tweeted "i hope FGC give MLG a chance to see how everything would go!!" This was retweeted by top player Ricky Ortiz. Mark Julio (@MarkMan23 on Twitter) recently tweeted "While I know they don't represent the entire FGC. People on SRK forums that post about eSports this and FGC that are really dumb. lol," and this was then retweeted by multiple top players including Mike Ross and Juicebox Abel. Gootecks replied to MarkMan's tweet with "did we read the same post? lol," and then "140 chars just ain't enough. and I don't have time to write a 9000 word dissertation like @ultradavid." Additionally, Gootecks also retweeted "You all can keep arguing about what to call competitive gaming and who is in or out, I will keep doing my part to grow it. Deal?" which was originally tweeted by Sir Scoots. So, this brings us to the BIG question: If the IPL and MLG want fighting games, and the top players want to see their games in these leagues, why are those involved with EVO not enthusiastically supporting this? There are three answers to that question, one given By Tom, the EVO co-owner, one by respected community member Trouble Brewing and one by EVO caster and attorney UltraDavid. It is important to note that NONE of these articles addresses the Tweets made by Justin Wong, Marn, WolfKrone, PR Balrog and Alex Valle in SUPPORT of the leagues. Here is a simple reduction of their three positions. I will refer to them affectionately as the “Three Stooges.” Moe (Tom) says that eSports leagues do not get fighting and always gets it wrong. FGC is unique and leagues don’t get it. Larry (David) says the fighting game community is too different and too rowdy for leagues. FGC is unique. It has unique demographics and a unique culture. Curly (Trouble Brewing) says that leagues are trying to profit from the fighting game community’s hard work. They don’t get the uniqueness of the FGC. Don’t care about it. Let’s pause here for a minute. I want to point out the common theme of unique. FGC is just SOOOO unique. I want to remind to you all of something: Sorry, that just had to be said. Now, I do love the fact the Three Stooges are telling their own audience that they “are so special and no one understands you the way we do.” It’s really a great message. The politics is brilliant: eSports leagues are a bunch of corporate suits who just want to profit from you and don’t understand you. They would destroy our culture and ruin the fighting game community. Now, I am sure a bunch of Gears of War and Halo players are saying, “Huh? WTF? You’re not fucking good!” CoD players are like, “got ham?” Stracraft players are like “How BM!” and League of Legends players are like “Really?!” Anyone who has ever been to an MLG event before is like “WHAT THE FUCK are they talking about?” Trust me, I have no clue either. I don't wear ties. This brings me to that little gem of an article by David who wanted to give us a history lesson. Mind you, I am 41-years old. I was putting quarters in Space Invaders when I was 9 years old in 1979 when it was in our local store and 7-11. I played in arcades in Chicago starting in 1981. I played Street Fighter when I was 17. I returned coke bottles for deposits and aluminum cans to recyclers so I could get loose change to turn into quarters to play games. I saved lunch money during the week so I could get to the arcade. David sir, I can assure you, you have NO CLUE what arcade culture is about, you fucking poser. That’s right, you have no fucking clue. See, I don’t need the Three Stooges to tell me about arcade culture because I lived it. I rode my bike to the arcade in rain, Chicago winds and Chicago snow storms. After I got my driver's license and car, I spent way too much time and money at the downtown Aladdin's Castle. My parents hated it. So, you can take your history lesson and shove it up your ass you condescending prick. I mean this in my typical kind and loving way, of course. :-) However, I do think David is right. Surprised?! Don’t be. I agree. We do NOT want fighting games. He’s right. Read his article! Here are some important warnings to us. "You might have heard about us trying to get hype with side bets." He’s right. Do really want betting at our events? We saw what happened with Brawl. We value good sportsmanship and spirit of competition. We don’t let side bets influence our players performance. We act swiftly and harshly when it is revealed. “...our community is very deeply different in ways that make us less accepting of and less fitting for professional tournaments and corporate influence even as they’ve given us the ability to stay so cohesive for so long. We are very deeply ourselves, and not many of us want to see that go away.” Do we really want a community who believes that their “cohesiveness” comes at the price of being less accepting of and less fitting for professional tournaments and corporate influence? We are working so hard to build roads to bigger and better brand supports. We want our players to be household names. Can we afford to let the FGC fuck it up for us? “...the SC community selected for a more business friendly, professional-ready culture and individuals who are much more likely to know how to navigate the professional corporate world.” “Arcades weren’t for girls...” I know MLG events have plenty of women. Players, fans, wives, sisters, daughters. . . yup, we know how to treat ladies. Can we risk a misogynic culture affecting our women’s experience? “...this crappy negative feedback loop started, with young males getting used to being able to speak negatively about women, which put women off...” Do I really want my sister or Mother to be openly disrespected at an MLG event? “And as I said, our in person culture has not always been the most welcoming to women, so we’ve consistently missed out on a gigantic chunk of players.” Again, most players and fans enjoy meeting members of the sex they are attracted to, and we want them to feel comfortable. Can we risk having their “in person culture” make our wives, mothers, sisters and daughters feel unwelcomed? “The fighting game community is louder, more hype, and more insular. It also tends to be less wealthy, less educated, much more racially diverse, much less diverse in gender, and not quite as big.” Do we really want a loud, rowdy, gambling, insulated, less affluent, less-educated, woman-disrespecting community? Do we?! Do we want to risk the FGC fucking up what we have worked so hard to build? "Our new players have largely adopted the established culture and tend to fit the same demographic molds as their predecessors.” Do we really want a community stuck in their culture? Is this good for us? Our sponsors? Our future partners? “But keep in mind how arcade culture looks at outsiders and how our demographics aren’t quite as business friendly.” Can we risk a culture that is less business friendly? Do we want to GROW eSports? “Nobody should be mad about this. The goal of any business, including my goal with my own, is to make money. “ Yea, no one’s gonna doubt you or Tom on this one! “That said, I also don’t think it’ll be the end of the world if we don’t work with professional gaming organizations.” Nope, I agree. It sure won’t. “We also don’t really feel the need to work with eSports.” Do we really want to partner with a community that does not “feel the need?” Do our sponsors, supporters and partners want us to work with a community that does not “feel the need?” Surprised? Don’t be. David is a caster and well respected member of the FGC. If he tells us that the FGC is bad for us, why argue? I know, the FGC top players get screwed, and they don’t get to grow their audience, but. . . so what? I mean, if the Three Stooges hold more sway over the FGC than their top players, then maybe we should take David’s advice and stay far away. I know, we should all try and encourage people to bring out their best! But seriously, if the FGC community leaders like the Three Stooges respond with fear, and warn us about how bad their community is. . . what choice do we have? THEY certainly are not trying to move their culture to be more business friendly, so why should we? If anything, we should protect all our partners and warn them about why the FGC is not a good partner. We will continue to support and sponsor top fighters (as will EG and other organizations). Funny, when we picked up REO and CD Jr, and when Latif got sponsored by Razer, all the community tweets were positive, congratulatory and supportive. I guess those members didn't get the memos from the Three Stooges. Maybe these three "leaders" are POOR examples of what the fighting community really feels? I wonder if the fighting community thinks of itself and sees itself the same way that David writes about them? David ends his article by attacking the word eSports (a word many of us don’t like, but’s it’s shorter than competitive gaming or competitive video gaming) by saying, “You know the only thing we’re opposed to? The word “esports.” Shit is straight clown shoes son, for reals.” Well, I’m gonna put my clown shoes on, walk over to McDonalds and ask those clowns, “Have you heard of eSports? I have these two fighting game players who I think can add a lot to your latest marketing campaign targeting . . . ”