EVO 2011, one of the world’s biggest fighting game tournaments, is just around the corner at Las Vegas. This weekend, two warm up tournaments held on opposite coasts in two of the US’s greatest cities: Orlando and Los Angeles. Community Effort Orlando Fighting Game Championships 2011 (CEO 2011) and ReveLAtions 2011 were both tournaments that allowed players to gather some last minute seeding points, win some prize money, and above all allow American players to practice with the new Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition.
They did . . . but not the way they intended.
Instead Japanese superstars Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, Mago “the King”, and TTC Tokido ended up walking away with the overwhelming majority of the tournament’s prize money.
While many American fans only grudgingly agree to this, the vast majority of fans consider Daigo and Mago the first and second best Street Fighter players in the world. In the past few years. However, due to competitive fighting gaming being firmly etched in Japan, the deadly duo spend the majority of their time in Japan allowing many American fans to claim their own as the best players in the world.
Daigo has recently come to the US, and has forced those fans to eat their words on multiple occasions, winning EVO 2009 and 2010 with a myriad of other North American titles. But at least the finalist was North American right?
Not this time.
At ReveLAtions 2011, Mago made a rare US appearance and ended up losing to Daigo in the finals. In the first round, King Mago was sent to the loser’s bracket by talented C. Viper player Shinji. This turned out to be a curse however; anyone who loses in the loser’s bracket gets eliminated. Thus began a pattern: Daigo would send top players to the loser’s bracket, where Mago would handily eliminate them. Thus went some of top US players such as Ricky Ortiz, Wolfkrone, and Combofiend. The two MadCatz sponsored players walked away with $13,000 out of the $20,000 prize pool.
CEO 2011 was more of the same, with TTC Tokido not only winning Street Fighter IV AE but ALSO winning Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
CEO commentators summed it up best with one sentence: “I’m so salty”.
I’m a gigantic fan of Japanese players and hate anyone who denies their skill for the sake of patriotism . . . but I understand. I really do.
The best analogy for this is Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, two great professional tennis players.
Federer is posh and measured. He does not live in the US, and advertises for such luxury wear as Rolex and high-end tennis racquets. He played with unbelievable elegance, the tennis equivalent of a sonata.
Andy Roddick was America’s golden boy; he had been ever since he won the US Open in 2003. He was good looking, brash, funny, and spoke his mind with the press. His tennis was less about style and more about brute-force, reflected in his record breaking serve speed.
As of now, Roger Federer has the most grand slam titles in history with 16. Roddick still has one.
Federer is 20-2 against the American, and has never lost a Grand Slam final to him.
I remember during the 2006 US Open Finals listening to the deafening roar of the New York crowd silenced every time Federer rifled another winner out of Roddick’s reach. It wasn’t that they didn’t like the way Federer played or the way he acted.
It was the idea that a man they had so little in common with, who was not of their own kind, could march onto their sacred turf and leave again with their most revered prize. As Federer hoisted the trophy, the applause for him was only half that as for Roddick.
That’s only a PORTION of the saltiness that American fighting fans feel.
Unlike professional sports, professional gaming doesn’t pay well unless you truly are the best of the best; many gamers hold down other jobs. So the thought of Daigo and Mago, two Japanese pretty boys who barely speak English and live in Japan, coming and cleaning up American prize money is very hard to swallow.
Also is the fact that while some fans are willing to admit that Street Fighter superiority belongs to Japan, the Marvel vs. Capcom series has remained a staple of the American diet. This weekend however, Tokido won the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament at CEO by beating out arguably the best MVC3 player in the states: Justin Wong.
Commentators begrudgingly congratulated Tokido, calling his Phoenix strategy “cheap” (cheerfully ignoring that at ReveLAtions, American player Viscant won utilizing Phoenix on his team as well) while reserving the majority of the praise for Justin Wong and his comeback from the losers bracket.
This is not healthy for the sport.
If professional gaming is to grow, American fans must embrace Japanese gamers instead of praying for their downfall. The fact is that Japan has established gaming as a legitimate form of competition; the US is still trying to get it mainstream. Don’t get mad, get even.
Hit the fight labs, learn Street Fighter AE and prepare yourselves.
Daigo, Mago and Tokido are coming to EVO 2011. And they sure as hell aren’t coming to lose.