Remember beating your friend’s ass in Mortal Kombat or maybe Killer Instinct in front of a group friends at the arcade or at home? I certainly do. There’s nothing quite like handing out asskickery one on one, mano-a-mano, and especially for money. These days, it’s the same theme only with tens of thousands of people watching live and online. Esports has developed into a reality for shooters, fighters and some strategy based games as well. Fighters have come to account for some of the largest viewed streams in gaming with the EVO Championship drawing over two million viewers in three days in 2011. Hell, I’ll be honest, I took a paid day off work to watch the finals of EVO with about 10 people and it was comparable to a super bowl party. Getting paid to watch some of my favorite gamers? That shit is smart. Everyone watching is not only invested in the games on a personal level but follow certain players closely with so many achieving celebrity status within the community. The similarity to sports is uncanny with heroes, villains and underdogs that all reveal themselves live and unscripted, not to mention the entertainment value. In many instances, a country’s pride is at stake with how many travel for majors these days. Esports may have a place on television networks with continued growth and the fighting game genre holds all the qualities needed to do so.
The truth is in the numbers and most fighting game majors are bringing in enough viewers to rival an average network show. Earlier this month the NEC major in Philidelphia saw upwards of 15k viewers watching at any given time. Take into consideration it’s virtually the last major of the year and you can see the interest in fighting games isn’t waning. As I’ve mentioned before, companies like Dr. Pepper and Redbull are seeing the money in the tournament scene and slowly becoming more active in sponsoring fighters and anything MLG(Major League Gaming) runs. Live streams on television are a realistic vision and money aside, the dedication the players show to their craft is something that deserves more exposure.
Speaking of dedication to one’s craft and celebrity status, the fighting game scene has more than a few that fall into those two categories. Countless hours are spent in training mode because consistency separates the best from everyone else. Arguably the best Street Fighter player in the world, Daigo, has implemented a physical training regiment after his loss in this year’s Evo Championship.This man IS Ryu in real life… please tell me how the hell do you compete with someone whose on a diet, working out and a strict sleeping schedule, solely to beat your ass in Street Fighter? The video above displays some showmanship from Korea’s champ Poongko before absolutely dismantling Daigo on the biggest stage fighting games have to offer and sending Daigo on a path to become Ryu. Situations arise and suddenly everyone adopts Poongko and loves seeing the champion fall. The sports comparision is obvious here but games are clearly better in nearly every instance, mainly because I say so.
Pride in one’s country is evident at nearly every tournament I go to these days. The Japanese traditionally dominate fighters and little has changed since the resurgence. America’s renewed dedication to the scene is seeing the gap close some what when international play is seen. Rivalries like America’s Justin Wong vs. Japan’s Daigo have grown and we see Wong winning above and the celebration that ensued. Hearing the USA chants in World vs. America at Seasons Beatings this years was absolutely amazing. Gaming evoking country pride is the shit I expect from gamers and it’s one of the driving forces in the fighting game community.
The fighting game scene has a chance to make Esports grow into something we haven’t seen in America- gaming becoming glorified on a national level. It could become something similar to Starcraft in Korea but on a smaller scale and I don’t think we’ll have colleges for fighters any time soon. Gaming as a whole, thanks to streaming and sponsors, is moving towards a larger spotlight and so I’ll continue to let others know that this is why gamers are better than you .
Written by Commanderofyomi at http://www.refreshandreload.com/