Yesterday, I came to bring the pain at T12: Toronto Fighting Game Championships. While it was not my first-ever fighting game tournament, it was definitely my first fighting game tournament of this magnitude. Everything about this one had a lot more weight to it, from the Team Spooky stream, to the international players flying in for this event, to the skill-sets of the players attending, to the hype that filled the room when something dramatic happened. Having watched these types of events take place for years from afar, it was very cool to be a part of it this time.
Before the event officially started, Steff and I did a scan of the goods they had for sale. I ended up buying this Mad Catz fightstick bag, pictured above. Prior to this, I transported my fightstick with an over-sized gym bag. With this, I can carry around a much smaller bag, while still protecting the fightstick itself. The best part of the bag is that it features a joystick protector that slips over the joystick so that it doesn’t break while you’re on-the-go. They sold out of these pretty quickly at the event, though I’m sure you can buy this or similar bags elsewhere.
This event featured tournaments for Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat, Blazblue: Continuum Shift, Tekken 6 and SoulCalibur. It was interesting to measure the popularity of each game based on their turnout. It was announced that AE had over 160 competitors, while Marvel vs. Capcom 3 had 85, both of which are very good numbers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I sneaked a peek at the Tekken 6 brackets, and I don’t think there were any more than 16 people entered for that one. It’ll be interesting to see if Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will revitalize the Tekken scene, as their miniscule presence was the butt-end of many of Steff and I’s jokes that day.
It didn’t take long during my casual play to realize that the level of competition at this event was fierce. It was easily the largest group of fighting game experts I’ve been a part of. I can’t speak for any games outside of AE and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but it was insane how skilled most people in this tournament were. Though I’m sure the odds of this next statement are mathematically unlikely (especially since I did win some matches), I felt like everyone in the room that day was better than me. I’ll save this for a separate post.
Speaking of casual play, I did not get much time to partake in casuals/warm-up matches. The big problem was the number of gaming setups they had running. For a tournament that needs to support hundreds of Street Fighter players and close to 100 Marvel players, having five gaming stations of each wasn’t adequate to meet the demand. It also didn’t help that most of the players were greedy with their time on the stations. I only got in three warm-up matches for AE and 0 warm-up matches for Marvel, which is not the condition I wanted to be in going into this tournament. The number of set-ups would become a much bigger problem when the tournament actually kicked off.
I participated in three events: Street Fighter singles, Street Fighter teams and Marvel vs. Capcom singles. First on deck was the team tournament. I had high hopes to partake in teams with my coworkers who were planning on attending, but one of them couldn’t make it due to a family emergency, and the other wasn’t able to make it in time. I instead joined a random team of players who also didn’t have teammates. One of them was a Balrog player, and the other was a Zangief player who made it out of pools at EVO this year.
The team tournament was tough, and it had a different set of challenges from the singles competitions. Due to the Pokemon-style format, you only get one match to work your magic. Despite not being warmed-up, the stiff competition I faced and the nerves I felt in all of my matches, I felt like I played very well. I wish my outcomes during these matches went a bit better, but as a team, I think we had a respectable showing. We went 3-2 in the end, which was a good run against some tough teams. My teammates were very talented Street Fighter players and genuinely nice guys, who I would chat with throughout the day.
Down-time was a big problem for anyone playing Street Fighter or Marvel. Due to the large number of participants, limited number of console setups and the event running behind schedule, players would go long stretches of time (over an hour) without playing. There was one stretch of time where I didn’t play for three hours, even though I was participating in two different events at the same time. It’s really hard to stay sharp when you go through long stretches of time without playing. I felt especially bad for my girlfriend Steff, who was such a sweetheart in coming down to support me. There were only like 10 girlfriends in the building who came out to support their men, so it meant a lot to have Steff in my corner the whole way through. Unfortunately for us, much of our day was spent standing or sitting around waiting for my next match in a very hot room with not much to do. Because I was essentially on-call the entire day, there wasn’t really much time for us to run out and get food, either.
I got off to hot starts in both Street Fighter and Marvel singles competitions. I won both of my matches in dominant fashion and I was pumped going into my next ones. Then I found out that as a direct consequence to doing well at the start, I’d be playing on the stream against some of the top Marvel and Street Fighter players.
For Marvel, I ended up facing MarlinPie on the Team Spooky stream, which had thousands of viewers watching the event online. Just to give you some context, MarlinPie is considered one of the best Marvel vs. Capcom 3 players in the world. He also happens to be one of my biggest Marvel idols. I was too chicken to say that to him at the time, and it’s probably for the best that I didn’t. It’s always been a dream of mine to play on a Team Spooky stream against someone as good as him, but not like this.
To say that I was out-classed would be a gross understatement. He was doing combo-video quality stuff on me the entire match, and in my handful of opportunities to retaliate, I dropped the ball on every single one due to nerves. By the end of it, he was just messing with me for fun, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I can’t say I was expecting to fare much better than I did against him, but man, was that ever embarrassing. At least I redeemed myself in my next Marvel vs. Capcom 3 match, where I gave an impressive beat-down to my next opponent.
As if getting blown up on the stream once wasn’t bad enough, I got to play on the stream again, this time for AE against Chi Rithy, who is one of the top Canadian Street Fighter players. I told my girlfriend that this wouldn’t be as bad of a beat-down as the last time, but it was arguably worse. I was totally unprepared for a match against Yang, as I’ve never fought an even decent Yang before. It also didn’t help that he played our entire match about as perfectly as humanly possible. I landed in a few odd hits here and there to prevent any perfect rounds, but I was done for before that match even begun. Both guys were orders of magnitude better than me in each game, so expecting anything better is definitely a reach. It just sucks I had to go out on record like that. People in the building were very understanding of my situation, though my brother tells me the chatter on message boards and the live stream chat about my lackluster performance was not a pretty sight.
Though neither performance was indicative of how I actually did as a whole, these were the only two performances that everyone outside of the building saw, both of which were horrendous. Until I’m back on the stream again and I win, my ‘legacy’ as a tournament player will be that guy who got slaughtered twice on the stream. At this point, I can’t bear to look at all of the comments on the stream chat and message boards that threw me under the bus, or re-watch those match videos, which are already available on the internet. I don’t even have it in me right now to post those videos for you to see. It’s probably for the best that I celebrate my accomplishments, put all of the learning I did to good use, and let the negativity go.
All in all, I did very well for myself at the Toronto Fighting Game Championships. I played about as well as I could have that day, earned my way to winner’s bracket in every event I competed in, earned the respect of those I played around and got two chances to shine on the big stage with thousands of people watching. As far as wins and losses, I went 6-6 across all the competitions, and wasn’t eliminated from my final event until the very end of the day. Ultimately, I’m proud of how I did and it was a big jump from my tournament performance last year.