Starting your own FGC local event

It’s just like a GG netplay lobby, except IRL.
This Norcal Dogfight trailer captures the essence of local FGC hype.

What do you have and what do you want in your local?

“I don’t have any locals” can mean a lot of different things, and figuring out what you do or don’t have in your area is important because that determines what you have to build yourself. For example, Person A says “I don’t have any locals” because “There are no tournaments for the game I want to play within 30 minutes from me”, which is very different from Person B, who says the same thing because literally no one within an hour’s drive from her knows what a fighting game is.

Logistics and planning

If you’re set on running a tournament, consider this: You’re going to be taking on a whole lot of work which will make it harder for you to focus on playing the game.

Where are you going to have this tournament?

I’ve been to tournaments at a bunch of different venues: arcades, garages, living rooms, PC cafes, bars, restaurants, comic shops, card shops, college classrooms, student unions, co-working spaces…the list goes on. Fighting game tournaments don’t need a whole lot of specific perks in a space to get started; as long as you have electricity, you can probably make something work. And hey, if you can offer the venue a reason to let you host an event — a cut of venue fees, people to sell food/drink to during off hours, that kind of thing — they should be excited to have you.

What do you need to run a tournament?

Do not underestimate the sheer amount of stuff you need to get a tournament going. A non-exhaustive list:

  • Power strips and extension cords (make note of outlet placement when sizing up a venue, for that might determine how you have to lay stuff out!)
  • At least two setups per eight people per tournament (this will get you through a 16-player double elim bracket in roughly two hours or less)
  • Oh shit, you didn’t buy Alex? Gotta load up on complete character DLC sets for every game you want to run (good luck with that, Gundam Vs fans)
  • Displays for each setup, preferably low-lag
  • Don’t forget the HDMI cords for those displays btw
  • Whoops, your displays don’t have built-in speakers? Going to have to bring your own (or headphone splitters, or something)
  • We should totally stream this! Uh, you have a streaming PC, right? Just bring that. And the capture card. And the mic. And the extra camera.
  • Hey, can I borrow a stick? I forgot to bring mine.

When is this tournament going to be?

Next weekend! You’re free, right? Ha, if only it were so easy. First you’ll have to see when your venue is available, and then ideally find a day and time which isn’t too close to any other nearby events that might conflict with your potential players, like other tournaments or cons. You’ll also need to give yourself time to plan and advertise your event, and your attendees will appreciate the advance notice to help them fit it into their schedule. South Dakota TO lame-o stresses the importance of plugging into adjacent surrounding scenes to coordinate dates and build awareness of each others’ events.

When’s the next one going to be?

If everything goes well, people are going to ask you when the next once is. You’ll need to do this over and over if you want to build up your local scene, so it’s important to find a schedule that works for you, your venue, and your community. In my experience, the best tournaments are the ones that attract a consistent dedicated playerbase, because you get to see folks get to know each other and build up friendships (and rivalries) over time.

Event format and rules

While the NA FGC’s standard ruleset (double elimination brackets, first to two wins, first to three for Winners/Losers/Grand Finals) strikes a nice balance between giving people a second chance and keeping the event within a reasonable time, you may find that your event would benefit from tweaking or replacing good old double-elim. For example, if you have fewer than eight people, round robin formats are great for letting everyone play each other, though you often won’t end up with a stream-friendly climactic tournament finals. And if you’re a little tight on time or setups, single elimination generally halves the amount of time needed to run the tournament, so you can make sure you save time for casuals.

It’s the little things

Getting a local up and running is a great first step, and you’ll get better at running them as you keep at it. Over time, you’ll find your local will evolve to reflect the community, and you’ll get folks coming through not just to test themselves, but also to hang out with good friends. Good TOs find little bits of the local experience that they can polish to make things a little bit smoother and more friendly, and often that’s what keeps people coming back.

(Speaking of calling matches, here’s a protip: If your venue is loud and busy, be ready to yell a lot. A bullhorn will save your throat. Trust me on this.)
Slayer.

How we Play Guilty Gear @ WNFOakland

I’ll wrap this one up by walking through some of the things I’ve learned from doing our Guilty Gear local over the last four months.

How we got started

Guilty Gear had fallen out of the WNFOakland rotation due to lackluster attendance shortly after Evo announced that GG was being dropped. The local community still turned out for GG at Norcal Dogfight and Caliburst, though, and when the WNFOakland crew ran GG for a pre-NorCal Regionals prep session we got 12 people, so I figured there might be an opportunity to bring it back on a more regular basis. WNFOakland’s UNI TO Hagure gave me some tips on setting up at the venue and pointed me to Rose, who gave me the thumbs up to start running GG. And so we got started with a biweekly tournament — frequent enough that people wouldn’t forget about it, but not so often that it would be easy to decide to no-show.

The logistics of free tournaments

Right off the bat, we decided to keep the tournament free to enter. Many of the Norcal monthlies don’t charge a per-tournament entry fee, and I personally liked how the free tournaments make it easier for people who aren’t already active Guilty Gear players to try it out.

  • We got a lot more players! Which is great, but they’re often entered in other games that are physically far away from our table space in Esports Arena Oakland, so it was harder to find them and they would often hold up our brackets.
  • Since the tournament took longer to run, we often wouldn’t be able to finish the double elim bracket until 11PM, meaning that folks couldn’t get much time in for casuals. And because Guilty Gear’s netcode is trash ass booty garbage, casuals time is the most valuable part of coming to our local for serious GG players.
  • We tried adding more casuals setups, but players who were still in the bracket often didn’t want to play casuals because they didn’t want to have to interrupt a set to go play their tournament match.
  • No cash prize meant that the Bay Area’s stronger players, Daymendou and Bears, would come through and beat our asses to support the scene with nothing to take home for their trouble. While no one really plays GG for the money here, they would often be spending $20 for gas and venue, plus spending 2–3 hours on the roundtrip commute, just to donate a couple buttwhoopings. (We fixed this by throwing in a $20 pot bonus, and sometimes other players and nice folks on the Internet chip in on top of that. Thanks to my Patreon subs for the support!)

Stream and commentary

One thing I learned on our first run: Space matters. Some of the larger games at WNFOakland have dedicated table space for stream setups and commentary, which is important for the standard player cam/commentary desk tournament stream format. While this is cool for the higher-polish streams, it requires a dedicated stream runner and more gear and time to pull off well, and we wanted to focus our efforts on making sure the in-person experience was good.

TL,DR;

Starting your own locals is work. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and part of doing it is figuring out what you can do to make people in your community want to come. If you decide after reading this that you just want to play the dang games without having to do all this work, I totally get it.

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