For FGC stuff, this year was probably my busiest year ever, so I thought I’d do a recap post. It didn’t feel so busy while I was doing stuff, but as I looked through the archives of Stuff I Did This Year I realized that I did a lot of it.
In the world of IRL fighting games (AKA martial arts), most people only know of the top competitors, who make their money from winning competitions and getting sponsors — you typically see those folks in the UFC, or in high-level tournaments for specific styles. But when you dig into martial arts as a practitioner and competitor, you get to see that there are all kinds of people who make their living building and sustaining martial arts communities, by teaching classes and seminars, producing entertaining and engaging content, running events, and generally nurturing newcomers. These folks usually still compete, as competition is an important part of their own development, but it’s their work outside of competing that brings profound change in the people they nurture.
My goal for 2019 was to do this for the fighting game community, and I’m happy with how it’s been working out.
2019 in tournaments
I had a good year for tournaments. I won a couple WNFs and Tag-In Battles, I got a Top 8 medal from Combo Breaker for CvS2, made it out of pools in Mystery Tournament, made it out of pools at Evo for the first time (in UNI), took 3rd at the last Norcal Dogfight of the year, and got 4th in the NCD 2v2 with my wife, who almost beat Bears. In terms of results, I think this is probably the best year ever for me.
More importantly: I entered 40 tournaments this year. That’s a lot.
This is the most active I’ve ever been in competitive fighting games, and it feels real good. Being able to compete consistently has given me a lot of time to figure out a warmup routine, quiet my nerves, and generally feel confident about my preparation, and through reflecting on my results I’ve been able to detect notable gaps in my tournament play, like autopiloting aggression and weak execution in specific areas.
I also played in Tension Pulse, which was a fantastic experience. I had never had the experience of prepping for a long set, and it did a lot to help me understand the different kinds of ways fighting game players can grow themselves.
And my friend Rachel got a great picture of me on the Combo Breaker stage.
2019 as an FGC content creator
I started the Patreon as a way to help me maintain my motivation to create content for the FGC.
It worked. I wrote 38 essays this year.
This is the most consistent I’ve ever been with my writing, and I’m extremely proud of how I’ve grown as a writer this year. It’s also my first time really working with collaborators on some of these pieces — like NEUTRAL, the FGC comic that Irene and I started, the song I wrote for Irene about Rollback Netcode, or the Core-A Gaming video essay on making time for fighting games.
Some of my personal favorites from this year’s work:
- Tips for troubleshooting your combo execution
- Relax, you’re doing fine
- How to learn from getting bodied
- Teaching yourself to fish
- What makes a matchup bad?
- Finding your main
- Criticism is easy, teaching is hard
- Playing weaker players is good for you
- 8 skills I learned from fighting games
I also streamed a lot — estimating about 400–500 hours this year. Got over 62k live views, 1.1k new followers, an average of 43 viewers, and some sick emotes (thanks Irene ❤). It has always been my dream to open up my own school for fighting games (both the IRL kind and the video game kind), and this year my stream became exactly that. We’ve built a wonderful community there, and I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings us.
2019 as a local tournament organizer
I didn’t ever plan on picking up another hobby this year, especially not anything related to event planning, which is a rather messy and stressful business. But when I found out that WNFOakland had some table space I could use for Guilty Gear, I realized I couldn’t miss the chance to try out TOing for myself. So far we’ve run 15 GG tournaments for WNFOakland.
Of course, it hasn’t been all me. Starsky and AALanline have been particularly amazing people to work with, and their efforts on bracket-running, stream production, and commentary, supported by local regulars like Takeahnase, Adapt, Zwei, Pepsi, Babbaloo, and many others, has made our local scene the best I’ve ever been a part of. (Read my essay on starting your own locals for more about how we run things!!)
After WNFOakland got up and running, the next step was to revive GG @ Caliburst — a long-standing Norcal monthly that hadn’t been getting enough GG attendees to justify keeping it in the lineup. So Aaron and I stepped in and started the Caliburst GG Beginner Bracket in September. We’ve run four beginner tournaments (read about it here) and not only has it been a blast, it’s been a good way to introduce new GG players to the local community. And I’ve been extraordinarily proud to see my “students” from this year do well in the GG beginner bracket, with Alex hitting 7th, Starsky, Irene, and Grace placing 5th, and Micah and Eugene graduating with second-place finishes.
Becoming a TO has helped me learn a lot about how the meta-game play rules and format shape the experience of actually playing the game itself — which has led to a lot of fun stuff outside of the standard local tournaments. In particular, I had entirely too much fun running the Christine Love vs. Aevee Bee FT10, where I got to pit my two favorite indie visual novelists against each other. As a longtime fan of professional mixed martial arts, I jumped at the chance to do my best Bruce Buffer intro, and channeled some Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview.
We also had a great time running post-tournament events at WNF, like the Thanksgiving special teamfight between Team Hot Chipp vs. Team Chipp Was Always Hot.
And even in casual get-togethers with my old Bearcade friends, I found plenty of opportunities to run small events, like blind brackets for Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 and Sailor Moon SNES, a UNI FT10 3-way race, and a multi-game Ryu mirror tournament called the Ryulimpics. (I got 3rd.)
What I’ve learned from all this is that a bracket is just a format for play, but an event is a way to build and serve your community, and the way you run an event shapes the kind of community you get. I’m excited to keep doing small local events and help the NorCal scene grow even more chill, nurturing, and welcoming.
About halfway through 2019, I made it out to Tokyo for a week and spent a lot of it getting bodied at Mikado. When I came back, I thought to myself that I wanted to be part of a local scene that was so strong that I wouldn’t need to cram my 6'4" ass and fly across the Pacific to get some top-notch training. Instead, I wanted our scene to be so good that people would be flying their asses to us. We’re not there yet, and we won’t be for some time, but I think we can get there.
2019 in FGC funding
Not being able to do a thing you want to do because you can’t afford to do it fucking sucks. I think one of the reasons why I fell for fighting games and never got deep into collectible card games is that I was a pretty broke kid and could never afford to spend what the other kids spent playing schoolyard MtG, but in fighting games I could make my quarters last longer by getting better at the game.
Between my work as an editor, a game dev on skill-based competitive free-to-play games, and even when I worked as an assistant boxing coach for a youth non-profit, I’ve always only worked on stuff that could be accessed and consumed for free. Even the book I wrote is free.
(You could say it’s really important to me that I stay free.)
This year was the first year that I gave people the option of giving me money to support my work — not because they wanted access to exclusive content, but because they thought the work was worth paying for.
Between the Patreon, Twitch revenue, and a couple folks just giving me cash and telling me they liked my stuff, people donated about $3.8k, and tournament winnings brought in another $135. We’ll round up to $4k total for the year.
This means a lot to me for a couple reasons. First, I’m used to people on the Internet generally not paying for writing at all, so the fact that people are willing to send me money for my writing or any of my other work when they don’t have to is genuinely heartwarming. Second, it feels pretty great to get any kind of money from all the time I spend playing and thinking about fighting games. It’s like going to the arcade and only spending a buck or two for a whole session.
Whenever possible, I use that money to grow the FGC. Some of that is just paying for gas for locals, which range from 20 miles round trip to 200, or covering tournament trips. But I’ve also used that money to buy gear for TOs, pizza for new GG players at Caliburst, a $20 prize for GG @ WNF, other people’s entry fees for GG tournaments, a bunch of FGC Patreons/GoFundMes/Matcherinos, and a Ky/Dizzy R18+ doujin (made by an FGC artist, of course).
Building fighting game community is fun, but it’s also work, and it feels good to see people recognize it as work worth pursuing. So, to everyone out there who has shared my stuff or sent me a couple bucks this year, thank you. It means a lot to me.
Looking to 2020
I love the ritual of New Year’s Resolutions because it’s a moment to take your end-of-the-year reflections and turn them into thoughts on how you could be a better you in the next year. Rather than set them as abstract or unrealistic goals, though, I prefer to think of habits I could develop that would make me the better person I want to be. (I wrote about this and how I got myself to start flossing a couple of years ago, if you want to check it out.)
My FGC New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are:
- Talk to good players more. Do more interviews, stream more sessions, that kind of thing. Historically, interviewing is one of my strengths as a content creator, but I didn’t do much of it this year, and watching the clips on FGC Translated has reminded me that we need more of this stuff.
- Meditate. Fighting games are very intensely taxing on the brain, and meditating is like the brain-equivalent of stretching and foam rolling to enhance recovery. I used to be in the habit of meditating, but stopped keeping track and fell off about two years ago. We back in 2020 though.
- Get good at drilling. Developing and testing different concepts for Guilty Gear drills is something I have only barely started to explore in 2019, but it’s been surprisingly helpful, and it’s also one of the things that I have historically been weak at in martial arts. In 2019 I will be more intentional and efficient with my practice time, and I’ll do that by leveling up my drilling game.
- Continue practicing secondary characters. After Evo, I started digging into a couple different characters (Jam, Millia, Elphelt, Johnny) and I realized it did a lot to help me learn how to play the game from different angles and perspectives in ways that change how I play with Chipp. I’m excited to keep this up in 2020 and see how much deeper into the game I can go.
- Get in that ass. We in there.
It’s been a long decade. Besides the fighting game stuff, my life has been good: got a bunch of good jobs, got two cats, got my BJJ purple belt, got married, got divorced, lost two cats, got married again, got a dog and a cat, got a condo, and got a CvS2 setup that fits inside a medium-sized tote bag. I think this next decade is gonna be pretty fucking dope if we can just stop the world from constantly burning down.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in 2020.