On the long drive back home from Las Vegas and the EVO 2018 Fighting Game Championships, I wrestled with how to best describe, to others of my generation, the awesomeness that I just experienced. I didn’t fully understand and realize the challenge and difficulty that this would be, until I tried to describe my experience with friends and family.
What is EVO
Before I touch on my own experiences at the world’s LARGEST fighting video game championship event, I want to first tell you what EVO is (Taken from the Official EVO website)?
The Evolution Championship Series (EVO for short) represents the largest and longest-running fighting game tournaments in the world. EVO brings together the best of the best from around the world in a dazzling exhibition of skill and fun, as players and fans gather to honor the competitive spirit in an open format to determine champion gamers within various popular, fighting video game titles.
And now a description of the event from my own perspective…
Let me paint a picture for you? A humongous hall, with large displays lining the outer walls, depicting various fighting matches going on at any given moment. Throngs of spectators stumbling about, from the very young and up through the elderly (yes, you heard that right). Virtually every race, color and nationality of individuals nobly represented. PS4s (Playstation gaming consoles), tables and monitors, from one end to the next, with gamers competing and duking it out. And, depending on who was fighting at the moment, some tables were encircled by rows and rows of fans, hypnotically focused and engaged on the ensuing match.
A third of the hall was taken up by vendors and craftsmen. Manufacturers of fighting game sticks, video console controllers, and a host of other video game-related accessories were all on display and available for sale. There were also a number of artists selling video game and anime focused art pieces.
Lastly, and something I found very cool, were the opportunities for fans to see and try-out new video game titles by major companies like Nintendo and others. No cameras or phones were allowed near some of these, so didn’t get much in the way of video/images but take my word for it, this was pretty neat to be one of the first groupings of fans to see the new stuff coming out down the road.
And this was just Saturday! On Sunday, the final 8 competitors in each of the following fighting game titles – Guilty Gear, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Tekken 7, DragonBall FighterZ, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition would meet-up, on the main stage in the stadium for a chance at becoming the Evolution 2018 Champion for that title and winning a respectable size purse (case in point – The winner of Street Fighter walked with a $40K check!)
See Saturday’s photos below:
The Idiosyncrasies of EVO 2018
Now a little more of the ‘specifics’ that made Evolution 2018 a unique and memorable experience for this old School Geek!
Leading up to EVO 2018, I had made a noble attempt at getting familiar with as many of the high-profile, fighting game professionals on twitch, that I could – and I’m glad I did. During the EVO event, I had the opportunity to see and rub shoulders with some of these personalities, watch them compete, conduct interviews and interact with the crowds and fans. It added another level of respect and awesomeness to the event, being that mere ‘mortals’ like myself could converse with some of these ‘giants’ in the fighting game community.
Seems like colorful and blow-by-blow commentary isn’t just something that you see on ESPN but within the professional fighting game community as well.
There were commentators on stage with the competing gamers, interacting with and keeping the fans engaged and commentators sitting and reporting in a more formal setting and backdrop, most likely streaming through Twitch or some other medium. Although they seemed to keep the theatrics of constantly trying to keep the audience entertained, they looked every bit as professional as Al Michaels or Chris Berman in NFL broadcast.
Game streamers were out in force throughout the EVO 2018 event, with droves of people walking around the competition with selfie sticks or associates carrying video equipment. Being in the stadium at Sundays final championship matches was no exception. We sat next to a Japanese streamer in the stands, with his entourage of video professionals focusing their equipment on a variety of happenings in the stadium and on the stage.
Refreshing to see the Patriotism and pride for one’s country come out in cheers and chants of support for competitors, no matter the race or creed. The divisiveness we see across the rest of the country was not evident here. Oh sure, it probably still existed on some level, but at least it was put to rest during the competition.
The Event & Spectacle
The space in which ‘group play’ was being conducted was enormous – large enough that it had us questioning where in the Hell we were, within the bowels of the Mandalay Bay resort? This was accentuated further on Sunday, when we shuffled our away into the stadium, where the finals would be held for the various fighting game titles. A 12,000 seat stadium, that is!
I Have Seen Future of Professional Gaming
What My Generation Doesn’t Get
My generation. The generation of 40-somethings and above. We don’t get it, and I’m not sure many of us ever will. I know this, because of the reactions I received from family and friends, when I explained to them where I had went and what I just experienced. Responses like “You went to watch kids play video games?!” or “you watched a video game tournament?!” or “They won HOW MUCH playing a video game?!” or even the simple “I gotta admit, I just don’t get it, man?!” all helped re-affirm that many in my generation are either just out of touch or just can’t fathom the idea that video games have become much, much more than what they were when we were growing up.
If many of these naysayers were to take a moment, and open their eyes, they would have seen this new and exciting era in entertainment and sports coming a mile away.
They would have seen the beginnings and inextricable rise of eSports (professional video gaming) and the adoption of eSports as an official collegiate sport, complete with scholarship.
Video games are no longer what you thought them to be, as you watched your kids game with friends throughout the night. They have become more and they WILL be so much more in the years ahead.
So the fuck buckle up! If you think my trip to EVO 2018 was strange, you ain’t seen nothing yet!