That’s right! I attended the annual Evolution Championship Series this past weekend! I traveled from Indianapolis, Indiana to Las Vegas, Nevada; my adventure actually started with me sleeping at the Indianapolis International Airport in order to board my 6am flight on time and save money. It would have been a $60 Uber for me at 4:30am in the morning if my friend did not take me, so I must thank my friend and colleague for the help!
Anywho, I attended EVO 2017 not just as a fan and lover of fighting videogames, but as a researcher. I am working on a research project related to the fighting game community. I cannot divulge too many details, but it involved me attending EVO and interviewing several attendees and/or competitors. I was accompanied by two of my friends – both gamers and avid players of fighting videogames.
After my friends and I checked into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort, we grabbed something to eat at the (expensive) food court, and proceeded to the convention hall. Once we entered, almost on cue, my friend and I both uttered, “Holy shit!” Immediately we were thrust into nerd mecha with EVO-related merchandise being sold at the very front entrance. Deeper into the convention I passed the Pokken Tournament for Nintendo Switch play area. The Dragon Ball FighterZ play area was adjacent to the Capcom booth with 100 people already gathered around to play this upcoming title. Once you get through the merchandising, one may stop and gaze at all the pools that were around. For those who are unaware, ‘pools’ are matches that players need to win to be in the semi-finals. This means that some people could be playing against 10+ opponents in a single day.
As mentioned before, I was at EVO 2017 to observe and conduct interviews.
I have several pages of hand written notes ranging from topics related to the diverse population within the space to the way players hold and use their joy stick on their fighting sticks. Fighting sticks are portable arcade cabinet controllers that rest on one’s lap. Most competitors use fight sticks, but do not necessarily have to use one to compete. I spent an hour just observing how players gripped their joy stick on the fighting sticks. That in it of itself could be a study since I noted at least five different ways to handle them.
Throughout EVO, I got to see some of my favorite players, both old and new. I saw Kitana Prime walking around quite bit, as well as commentating on a few matches. I also met SonicFox thanks to my friend pointing him out to me. Unfortunately, I did not converse with him because he look exhausted from pools. I almost got a picture with competitor Hayatei, but just before I got the picture Kitana Prime told him he was up next to play. Hayatei apologized and went to play. Again, this is a tournament so anyone who is competing needs to be in the area ready to play at any moment. Some matches end earlier than others, so I understood that he had to rush and leave. Maybe next time. I also got to take a picture with the legendary Justin Wong again. The list goes on who else I saw there, but it was exciting just to be in the same room as them.
Attending the Grand Finals at the Mandalay Bay convention center on Sunday was exhilarating. Once you walk inside to take a seat, the gigantic monitors live streaming the event immediately captures your attention. The competitors also play on a LCD platform in the shape of the EVO logo that have several smaller monitors displayed on the sides for people in court side seating to watch. I enjoyed watching all the matches in each game, but seeing the top 8 competitors fight in Street Fighter V was definitely the highlight of the event for me. It was Punk and Tokido in the Street Fighter V Grand Finals and the pressure was on. Most of the crowd was rooting for Punk, with his mother cheering him on every minute. The crowd was in an uproar whenever Punk took a round, but gasped everytime Tokido took a match. Tokido won 3-0 against Punk. You know Punk was devastated, since you could see the look of disappointment consume him. However, he kept his head high and received his medal while the crowd uncontrollably praised him for his valiant fight against Tokido.
EVO and the fighting game community (FGC) is special, at least that is feeling that was communicated to me via the interviews. I left EVO with the impression that people thoroughly love being a part of this community. The FGC spans the entire globe with fighters coming from Mexico, Japan, Canada, Europe, etc.
If you can go to EVO one day, then please go! If you can go with friends, then even better. I feel even more a part of the FGC since attending EVO. Definitely an event worth seeing in person and maybe one day competing in person as well!
Also, the after-party was lit! Seeing people go from beating each other in-game to the dance floor is a worthwhile sight!