The FGC’s Identity Crisis
Date Published: 19 February, 2019
Never short of interesting storylines, the fighting game community (FGC) is yet again a part of another tug of war situation, this time on one side the grassroots of the FGC, and on the other, the esports side of the FGC.
The differences between the two sides have shown themselves in multiple facets within fighting games, and as the old guard attempts to maintain tradition, while the new guard is set on embracing change, it begs the question; What is the FGC’s identity?
It is important to understand that change in fighting games is nothing new, as there are many points in the FGC’s timeline that signify some sort of an era. On a spectrum, the few eras that come to mind are stacked up as such:
The O.G. Grassroots – The players and eventual pioneers of what we now call the FGC. An era that was simply comprised of a community who enjoyed fighting games with no real caveats. Driven by an arcade culture, and monumental fighting games going from Street Fighter II, all the way to the late 1990’s with titles such as the original Guilty Gear, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.
Console Ascension – An era that began to more so embrace home console for fighting game destinations along with arcades. Driven by the slow yet building incorporation of online functionality, and fighting games such as Soulcalibur II, Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection all the way to the late 2000’s.
New Age – An era that fully embraced home console, online functionality as a base for competition, the inception of high-profile marketing, and event exposure. Driven by documentation of fighting games, it’s community, and its modern culture, with the aid of video streaming platforms along with titles such as Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom III all the way to the mid 2010’s.
Esports Wave – An era heavily influenced by professional circuits, team and brand sponsorships, and all-around marketability and exposure of fighting games. Driven by fighting games predominately being built with only home console as a focused target, and fighting games such Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 all the way to present day as of the year 2019.
Therefore, with only few eras mentioned, it is understandable that the entirety of FGC is not going to see eye to eye with regards to the current direction the community is going towards, considering the diversity of eras the FGC is comprised of.
However, as someone who entered the FGC in between the Console Ascension and New Age eras, I can give one vantage point, and that is simply the current direction of the FGC is less than ideal, but still very much salvageable.
The Esports Wave era the FGC is currently partaking in comes with many benefits than no other era in the FGC has had. The exposure of fighting games and its community is at an all time high, the prize pots for tournaments, and monetary gains for players are as profitable they have ever been, and lastly the variety of different property fighting games lends for a significantly larger pool compared to years past.
Though, with great opportunities, also come great sacrifices, and despite only being in the infancy stages of the Esports Wave era, these sacrifices have already translated themselves into things such as fighting game development with a focus on accessibility for a wider mainstream appeal, adjusting to more of a professional setting with regards to commentary, and dealing with the great public relations machine that is esports.
A recent example of this tug of war actually happened during the same event which was EVO Japan 2019. During a bit of a risqué’ exhibition for the upcoming fighting game Dead or Alive 6, which did not shy away from its sexual themes, the esports side of the FGC showed its powerful influence when the feed for the stream was cut short, followed by a PR apology made to sponsors and anyone who may have found the exhibition offensive in any way.
Though ironically enough, on the final day of EVO Japan 2019, commentary during top 8 of Guilty Gear XRD Revelator 2 given by Tasty Steve and Majin Obama felt authentic and void of any unnecessary filter, showcasing a passion for fighting games.
In addition, following the Guilty Gear top 8, the trailer revealed by Bandai Namco for Tekken 7 featuring The Walking Dead’s Negan was kept unfiltered despite the less than esports friendly language used by the upcoming guest character.
Therefore, the FGC is currently in a place of figuring out it’s true identity. The implementation of mainstream appealing events such as the Mortal Kombat 11 reveal, featuring less of a core fighting game presence in an exchange for celebrity endorsements, and invitational tournaments such as Eleague, and Redbull Kumite are tugging the rope on one side.
However, the grassroots of the FGC are still very much present, showcased by local tournaments structured by the community for the community such as Fighting Tuesday in Japan, and Super Arcade in the United States. As well as community driven events such as StrongStyle, and even the archiving of a smaller arcade presence for either legacy or lesser known fighting game titles.
The tug of war between the traditional FGC vs the postmodern FGC is ongoing, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a compromise cannot be reached. The FGC values its grassroots upbringing and will not simply give in to having its image and personality erased for the sake of false appearances.
However, the FGC also appreciates the opportunity that esports provides both for its top competitors and fighting games as a whole, but it is understandable that those same opportunities might come with certain caveats.
The marriage between Esports and the FGC has not gone as smoothly as some might have wanted it to, however, the idea that both sides can reach a compromise in the future is not that far-fetched. It may take time, and perhaps even more work, but needless to say, when that day comes, the FGC may very well be introduced to a new era, and perhaps one which embraces them all.