The recent editorials of both UltraDavid and Trouble Brewing has made me want to write this. First let me say that I find both to be very intelligent and very correct in most aspects. However, I find that they are a little too defensive in terms of explaining the roots of the fighting community and why it’s different from other larger Esports. In the end, I believe the focus of this is to try to encourage ways for the fighting community to move past the barrier of entry it’s own sub-culture has developed and move it into a more mainstream light.
The BIGGEST issue that fighters have that stop it from going mainstream is it’s accessibility. n order to truly appreciate a fighting game, you have to know exactly what is going on. I watch fighting games that I’m not familiar with and hear entire crowds go ‘oooohhh’ on a moment that I saw and thought ‘what just happened? That was special?’ And that’s from someone who, while not as heavy as a fighting enthusiast as most on these boards, is more knowledgeable than most laymen. The only way to change that is to understand that announcers and commentary aren’t just filler, but vitally needed. In an ultimate ideal scenario, pre-recorded options will be available on command to show what happens in mixups and how certain scenarios are unblockable, etc. But let’s worry about that later
I know many of you will disagree. So let us take real sports for example. Football enthusiasts love football and know pretty much all the rules as FGC enthusiasts know about the various intricacies of a game’s system mechanics. However, they still use commentary to aid non-hardcore fans understand the game more. They even spend lots of money (about $20,000 per game) to add the fancy first down line on TV. Does it help? You bet. Here’s a linkto an article about it. The same tech has been added to other sports including nascar to great effect in breaking the boundary of understanding the rules of sports. And really, those rules are so much easier to understand than the mechanics of a fighting game. Active frames, various character states, tech options, etc. That’s stuff that just don’t make sense in a normal every day world. Telling a layman that player a fouled player b is understandable even if you don’t know the actual rules of the foul or even any of the rules of that particular sport. Telling a layman that player a cannot block because of recovery frames won’t work as easily.
The biggest issue for Fighting games for commenting is the pace. The games just happen too fast that by the time one can explain the genius of a particular mixup, the game might be over. The answer to that comes again from sports itself (and my brother for suggesting this idea). Instead of having matches just play one after another, force a 30 second to 2 minute break between matches to allow commentors to replay the key moments and decisions in the match in the same way it happens in Boxing (and every other sport for that matter). A system would have to be in place to be able to record, mark and replay the games, and I know that’s asking a lot, but that’s really what’s needed.
Is this all worth it? I strongly believe so. We hear a lot about how Starcraft has blown up and is huge for esports. And really, it has a lot to do with all the youtube commentors out there that take the time to watch replays and help the lay-player understand the tactics of the higher level players. believe strongly that if it weren’t for these early adopters, the SC scene would be smaller. While the money-minting funding of Blizzard has adds a lot to the attraction of more gamers due to increased cash prizes, in the end you still need a fan base large enough to support the life of the game. Without it, third party sponsors will not be interested. Sponsors are interested in getting their name out there, and the first step has to be made by the FGC to show that we are worth sponsoring and can reach larger crowds.
That said, all of this has to be timed properly. This kind of new technology and approach has to come with a big game release because it will show new players that normally don’t follow fighters that there is a community worth following. Again, going back to the SC2 scene, beta players commenting on beta games and tournaments gave them the experience to do this on a larger scale. That way, when the game opened publicly, the whole system was ready and there was already a backlog of things for them to keep them entertained and hyped about the game.
Finally, let me just state that I don’t want to join with current esports. I love the fighting community and it’s personalities. I don’t want to share bandwith and fight about which game to see. I want FGC to stand on it’s own legs and one day show esports how it’s done. I believe we’ve pretty much reached the limit of what pure hype can bring in terms of popularity of Fighting Games, it’s time to embrace already developed standards to attract a wider community.