Here we go! I’m starting a journal to track the next 3 months leading up to Evo.

I don’t really like Street Fighter V; this is partially because the Season 2 patch took my baby boy Ryu and broke his kneecaps, and partially because I don’t like the way the game is hyper-focused on winning an engagement in a certain range, getting the knockdown, and subjecting your opponent to endless setplay (even more than SF4 did (which I also didn’t like)).

So, for 9 months out of the year, I mostly play Guilty Gear online and complain loudly about how no one near me plays Guilty Gear. And by no one, I mean no one in my office. I haven’t actually looked nearby for Guilty Gear sessions, though I hear they’ve got a console scene up in San Mateo or thereabouts. But for the next three months, I’m going to try getting back into competitive Street Fighter. And that starts with hitting up my locals!

The wonderful Carolyn “MamaDao” Dao tipped me off to two regular weekly tournaments in my neighborhood; NorCal Gamer’s Den, in Campbell, has a weekly every Monday, and the Sharkade in downtown San Jose has a weekly every Thursday. (If you’re trying to find out about NorCal FG events, the SRK EX-Factor Facebook group is the spot!)

I’ve never heard of the NorCal Gamer’s Den, but I’ve been out of the scene for a minute, so I wasn’t sure if it was just me. Turns out it’s a nice little setup spot running out of a quiet warehouse/auto shop office park near absolutely nothing except Highway 17.

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Behold: the Gamer’s Den.

I got there a little early, played a few games of Ryu vs. Cammy, lost most of them upon finding out there’s almost nothing I can do at her s.MK range, and decided to switch to Guile, who I hadn’t touched in a month or two.

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Not pictured: The snack bar, where they sell fudgesicles for $1.25. Pretty sure that’s the best deal in the Bay Area. The guys in the corner are playing that Call of Duty with Zombies game.

Guile had it so much easier. It wasn’t even funny. I’m so sad. I tried to run Ryu for the first tournament match against a Chun-Li player, lost and switched to Guile, beat the Chun-Li, then lost to his Cammy. I asked him if he was a Chun main in season one. He nodded sadly. I felt his pain.

After that, I managed to pick up a loser’s bracket win (some guy playing Laura + Sim) then lost to a Balrog player who was okay but had problems anti-airing and blocking crossups. Must remember that for next time. Also, Echo Fox’s Julio Fuentes showed up and played his matches about an hour after the tournament started. Top player privilege FTW!

Anyway, it’s nice to get back into the tournament swing of things; there’s nothing like playing against strangers in person, and online matches are no substitute for grinding out matches in a random office park. It’s also really nice to feel like a random scrub again; I know no one really ever expects me to do well in tournaments (because, well, I don’t do well in tournaments) but it always feels super shitty to be just notorious enough to get recognized right before drowning in pools.

One observation — it seems like everyone who’s still playing SFV has at least two characters that they feel comfortable playing in competitive matches. In SF4 it took a while for people to run multiple characters in a tournament (and those were mostly higher-level players), but I predicted at release that the easier inputs and homogenized gameplay would lead to people picking up multiple characters more quickly. I hadn’t thought about the seasonal balance patches affecting this as well, but I suspect that’s another thing going on — people alternating between their S1 and S2 mains.

Shoutouts to the Gamer’s Den, it’s a nice little spot and the folks there seemed plenty friendly. Low traffic and easy parking means I’ll probably be back soon.

Notes to self:

  • Play Guile until Ryu gets better.

patrick miller

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