EVO 2014 – It’s Why We Play The Games

The Evolution Championship Series, or EVO, can be defined by it’s moments. MDR RZR Axe completely dismantling GC Silent Wolf in under a minute on Sunday. Ricky Ortiz’s masterful destruction of Itabashi’s Zangief, only to be swept by Snake Eyez’s in the Ultra Street Fighter IV Top 8. The explosion of emotion by Justin Wong when he finally got back to the top of Marvel. It’s moments like these that make these tournaments what they are.

EVO took over the Westgate Hotel and Casino (Formerly the LVH) this past weekend, and the action that took place didn’t fail to disappoint. While boasting over 120K concurrent viewers on their Twitch stream, EVO’s halls were packed by eager fighting game fans ready to make their mark on the world. From players who were clearly sponsored, to the gamer who entered their first tournament, EVO gives it’s players the very real sense of “it could be me.”

There was an awesome MUGEN-powered DBZ game running (and livestreaming) from a Surface Tablet.

There was an awesome MUGEN-powered DBZ game running (and livestreaming) from a Surface Tablet.

While the technology to watch these events live is great, and depending on the game the commentators definitely add to the drama, there is nothing quite like being in that ballroom when one of these moments happen. To have a crowd of mostly grown me jump to their feet and start chanting “PI-KA-CHU!” in complete unison is simply a surreal experience. But one cannot help but be caught up in the moment. The rush when a competitor on screen drops a combo and their opponent seizes the opportunity, the room simply buzzes with electricity in anticipation of the result.

Not to mention, that Guile theme simply makes the ballroom feel more epic.

I was there for part of Saturday and most of Sunday, though I didn’t expect to be there on Grand Finals day. I went last year and since I had never really paid attention to the fighting game community (FGC) before, I really didn’t know what to expect. The game I was really into as a fighting game fan wasn’t even a part of the tournament. So I spent most of my time last year in the second hall at the Mad Catz booth, watching a Soul Calibur V side tourney, all the while aware of the chants and cheers coming from the main hall.

This year, it was different.

Daigo and his team is set to take on John Choi and the "American Masters" in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

Daigo and his team is set to take on John Choi and the “American Masters” in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

This year I resolved to spend most of my time near the main stage. We saw Daigo Umehara defeated by John Choi – twice. We saw Filipino Champ’s outrageous comeback against Apology Man in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. The crowd’s reaction was so raucous at that moment that it literally distracted everyone involved with the Killer Instinct matches on the second stage. And why shouldn’t it be? It was a complete clutch moment that even though Filipino Champ lost to the eventual runner up on Sunday, he can look back at this a know it was a defining moment in this tournament.

Moments like these are why we play the games. Moments like Ricky Ortiz taking out a Japanese God in Hori Sako, leaving the legendary player in 7th place. Moments like Justin Wong taking out both of Filipino Champ’s characters with one X-Factor to move onto the Grand Finals. The show of camaraderie and emotion from both players reminds us of just how tight knit this community truly is.

To be apart of the crowd of grown men chanting a Pokemon’s name is something I never thought I would do. I did yesterday. When Justin Wong collapsed on stage after winning his first EVO UMvC3 final since 2010, I felt like collapsing with him. I felt the dismay when two American titans in Street Fighter had to compete to see who would move on, and was sad when Ricky Ortiz was swept. I went ballistic when Luffy took out Bonchan to become the first European USF4 champ. On a PS1 controller, nonetheless. I felt like crying when Luffy finally dropped the stoic gameface he wore throughout his tear through the Top 8 and finally let the moment hit him. I was right there as he lifted the trophy, cheering my head off for the guy who had to reset the bracket to make it happen.

EVO 2014 can be defined by it’s moments. Each of these are just a small snippet in the grand scheme of what EVO was this weekend. But it’s these moments that make these players legends among the FGC, and because of what transpired, I simply cannot wait to experience them again next year in Vegas.

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