Evolution 2010 Season Wrap Up
Let's just cut to the chase, first and foremost. Street Fighter IV has changed everything. What this game and Super Street Fighter IV have done to the Fighting Game Community cannot be denied. One main reason that it's not proper to focus on the communities of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, Melty Blood, Tekken, and Super Street Fighter II: HD Remix is because, quite simply put, these communities are overshadowed by the sheer size and power of the Street Fighter IV community. And while this may make some of these other communities upset to hear me say this, especially because some members of these communities look down on Street Fighter IV, I think communities need to look at the positives that Street Fighter IV has been bringing the Fighting Game Community as a whole.
Whenever I talk about the Fighting Game Community to friends and where it needs to go and how it needs to grow, the topic of poker always comes up. Of any mainstream gaming communities that exist today, the Poker Community is the one that I feel as though the Fighting Game Community needs to follow and emulate as much as possible. There are many facets that can provide similarities between the communities, but the reason I bring this up today is because I feel as though the way Chris Moneymaker's win in 2003 initiated the Poker Boom, Evolution 2010 may have been the closest thing we've yet seen to achieving a similar boom. And it's all a direct result of Street Fighter IV's immense popularity.
You see, Chris Moneymaker was an unknown player. He was what we would refer to, in the Fighting Game Community, as a "newb." But he got entry into the World Series of Poker by winning a satellite tournament and proceeded to not only win the Main Event as the World Series of Poker, but to do so by taking down veteran professional player Sam Farha heads-up at the final table. After Chris won, everyone believed they could also win. And thus: the Poker Boom. Though a similar situation where a "newb" has taken down a pro hasn't happened in the Fighting Game Community, the huge increase of players at events like Evolution from one year to the next upon Street Fighter IV's release was very similar to the increase of players at the World Series of Poker the following year after Moneymaker won.
Now, I dunno about most of you people, but before the Poker Boom, poker was one thing to me: people sitting in a smoke-filled room asking for more cards and trying to bluff each other. Whenever you saw poker on TV shows or in movies, it was always the same format: each player is dealt 5 card hands and they are allowed a maximum of 3 cards for redraw. Texas Hold-Em was a version of the game I had never heard of even though it had been the Main Event at the World Series of Poker since forever.
After the Poker Boom, Texas Hold-Em was the main form of poker played. Even TV and movies began to reflect that. Casino Royale -- the recent James Bond film -- for example, had a plot that revolved around Texas Hold-Em. Without the Poker Boom, they probably would have played the same 5 card style of poker that we had seen in TV shows and movies for forever. Hell, they might have even just played Baccarat, the game that was originally played in the book.
Since Moneymaker's win in 2003, Texas Hold-Em has exploded. Everyone plays that version in home games, and when you hear "poker," Texas Hold-Em is now the first game you think of. Even your average joe pictures Texas Hold-Em as what poker is now. But here's the question: are there other versions of poker? Are there even more skilled versions of poker out there, that rely less on luck and require more knowlege and skill?
The answer to both of those questions is "Yes." There are tons of poker versions out there, and many of them do require stronger knowledge and take away some of the luck. There's Omaha High-Low, Stud Eight or Better, Razz, and on and on. Heck, there's even huge differences between tournament play and cash game play. Some formats are more skilled, some are less skilled, but none are as popular as tournament Texas Hold-Em. But here's the question: do you think fans of these other versions are frustrated that Texas Hold-Em is the most popularly played poker format out there?
Maybe. But most of them more than likely have accepted Texas Hold-Em as the main format in the poker world. In the mid 2000's, when ESPN showed the World Series of Poker, they used to televise many different games. They showed the Omaha games, the Stud Eight or Better games, and so on and so forth. But recently, in the past couple of years, ESPN has moved away from showing these games. They only show Texas Hold-Em events now. Why? Because the other formats simply didn't get as many viewers.
So by now I'm sure many fans of the other games like BlazBlue and King of the Fighters and Tekken are either sad or outright angry with me because they think they know where I'm going with this poker analogy. Am I really sitting here, telling you all to declare Street Fighter IV as king all-mighty of the Fighting Game community and to just accept it, like many poker players have just accepted Texas Hold-Em as the top-most played poker format? Am I saying that everyone should drop their games and go learn Street Fighter IV? Well... no. Not at all.
What I'm telling you is this: use the exposure of Fighting Games to the general public through Street Fighter IV to help your own community grow. Look at the influx of potential players and, instead of looking down upon the casual Street Fighter IV fan, nuture them and introduce them, slowly, to your game of choice.
Everyone nowadays goes into poker learning Texas Hold-Em. But it's almost a guarantee that, through the natural course of exposure to Texas Hold-Em, players who become serious about the game eventually move on to learn the other formats. They start learning how to play the other games due to general curiosity and the need for variety.
Is Street Fighter IV a simple game? Yes. But it's approachable and it's easy to learn. People who don't understand poker at all can watch poker on TV, see the percentages written on the screen, and recognize when someone catches a miracle card to win a hand and understand the elation or devastation experienced by the players. What they don't see is the slow-plays and the fake over-betting with a strong hand to feign weakness by appearing to try and buy a pot. People watching Street Fighter IV can tell everything that's going on and see who's winning thanks to the life bars and get excited by Ultra Combos and their pretty animations and recognize big comebacks and narrow victories and understand the elation or devastation experienced by the players. They don't see a lot of the subtle strategies that go on with Footsies and Option Selects and finger dexterity, but they don't need to: the game looks fun to them and they can understand it.
So the same thing starts to happen with Street Fighter IV that happens with poker: people who spectate start to get interested in playing because the game is so fun to watch. And they step into it and learn the subtleties little by little and their appreciation of the game grows. You start to understand why poker cannot be played without chips and why Street Fighter cannot be played without Throws. And then they start to understand the idea of why slow playing the set of kings is so effective and why baiting Wake-Ups becomes a fundamental tactic. And then they slowly but surely become good at a game that is actually friendly enough to allow them to get to a point where they are truly competitive. Yes, they are still going to lose to Patrick Antonius and Phil Ivey and Chris Ferguson and Johnny Chan 99 out of 100 times at the poker table, but they can at least play. And yes, they are still going to lose to Alex Valle and John Choi and Arturo Sanchez and Justin Wong 99 out of 100 times, but at least they can play!
And then what happens? They go to events like the World Series of Poker or Evolution and they start watching. They start seeing other games like Omaha or Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 or Seven Card Stud or Tekken and they become intrigued. And it's really up to those other communities, now, to bring those players in and introduce them to a different game. And who knows? Some of those people coming in as Texas Hold-Em fans may become one of the best Omaha players ever. A few of those Street Fighter IV kids may become pro BlazBlue players. You never know.
And this is bringing me to my main point: the Fighting Game Community needs to act as a whole from this point forward. This is why I do not want to discuss each community individually anymore. The Fighting Game Community is one entity, and it will only become successful and mainstream if it acts like one entity. The separate games of the Fighting Game Community need not ostricize and fight against other games. They need to start learning how to bring in other players and take advantage of the other communities.
Tekken players need to write up articles such as, "If you like using a Rush Down character like Cammy in Super Street Fighter IV, well then you should look at these characters to play in Tekken because they have similar sensibilities." BlazBlue experts need to write how strategies you've learned in Street Fighter IV apply to BlazBlue, such as Option Selects and BnB's and safe Block Strings and such. Heck, why stop at Street Fighter? They should even write articles that say "If you appreciate the Okizeme games of Tekken, here's how BlazBlue implements their Oki game in similar fashion."
The Fighting Game Community can only benefit from the influx of players that Street Fighter IV has brought in, and it's time for people to start realizing this and taking advantage of it. Only by doing so will the Fighting Game Community not only continue to grow, but to thrive and become truly a mainstream form of competitive entertainment.
Next up: Evolution 2010 Season Wrap Up Part 2 - Are Fighting Games the Best eSport?