The changing of the guard

Patrick Miller
13 min readDec 23, 2023

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[This essay was funded by my generous Patreon supporters. If you liked this and want to see more, please consider joining the crew!]

The end of another year is upon us, and with it another opportunity to reflect. I don’t write about myself a whole lot these days, but this one is going to be mostly about my FGC work, where I’ve seen it changing over the last year, and where I see it going into the next year.

My year in competition

Gonna find every excuse I can to use this picture for the rest of my life.

I’ve been consistent with my competitive fighting game priorities over the last couple years, and it’s been nice to know what I want to do and do it instead of waffling between “should I play X or Y”, which is where a lot of fighting game players find themselves meandering. In my case, I didn’t like any of the newer games that came out this year enough to play them for more than a couple weeks, so it was easy to stick to the games that matter the most for me.

I am an Xrd player first, a CvS2 player second, and a +R player third. In practice, this means I play Xrd just about every day, and play +R and CvS2 once or twice a week unless I’m preparing for a specific event.

Xrd continues to be the game that feels the most rewarding to study and practice, and this year I spent a lot more time cultivating my practice routine and methods so I could make the most out of the time I spend playing the game. In practice, this has meant less time mashing in random lobbies or entering netplay tournaments — I mostly enter REV2SDAYs and that’s about it — and more time spent drilling my execution or preparing for specific matchups.

I also stepped up my note-taking practices, experimenting with lightweight player- and character-specific notes meant to focus my practice time and quickly refresh my memory before playing against certain characters and players. Not only has this helped with my tournament consistency, it also makes it easier to feel like I’m making more concrete progress as I continue to play. Every time a set leads to some new notes, I feel a little stronger.

I’m particularly bad at celebrating my high points, so I also made it a habit to document my notable competition performances this year, and it definitely felt nice to see the list grow over time. Behold, my year in competition:

💪😎👍

Overall, I’m very pleased with my competitive results over the last year. I hit a high point in Rev2 by making it to Evo top 8 for the first time (and beating Kedako to get there!), I won several locals, netplay tournaments, and a showmatch, and performed well at majors. I even got to go to a Tokyo Rev2 local and win it! But, there is still a layer of competitive strength that I have not been able to break into, and I look forward to continuing to chip away at that next year. I also found myself occasionally dropping sets to players who have been growing in our local community, which is nice to see (Aaron calls this “pattheflip’s vision”) and brings me hope that our scene will push me to grow as a player even more next year.

My love for CvS2 was definitely reignited during Evo Japan, and it has been a joy to continue to slowly break down some of the things that have kept me from growing as a CvS2 player. I got carried to second place at Evo Japan because BAS was my teammate, but I did manage to get 2nd at Frostys and 9th at Evo, so I’ll take those. Perhaps more importantly, I landed a combo into Deadly Rave in one of my Evo matches, which is something I had been practicing for a while. I’m mostly going to continue focusing on executing my basic combos because that’s where I am lacking the most, and I’ve actually been practicing C-groove a bit because it gives me more opportunity to practice combos and play cleaner footsies, which I think will be useful even when I switch back to K for tournament.

Thank you for the carry, BAS-sensei.

+R continues to be a game that I play and have fun with, and I think it’s best if I keep it there. I’ve got it in a good place now where I will slowly practice my Chipp execution and netplay a little bit, and I think that taking it more seriously probably wouldn’t make it more fun, so I’ll keep at it.

I also got a chance to demo Project L at Evo for the day job. I don’t talk about work much, but these days I’ve got more hours in Project L than I do in the rest of the games I play combined, and it was fun to show that off in a showmatch. I am lucky to have the chance to do what I do for a living, and luckier still that it’s on a game that I deeply enjoy.

This was a lot of fun, and probably the only time I’ll ever beat both Clockw0rk and MarlinPie on stream. Ty Unconkable for the carry.

Next year, I don’t anticipate changing my competitive game priorities unless some new releases surprise me. However, the main thing keeping me from playing UNI more seriously was its netcode, and the UNI 2 beta was a lot of fun, so I’ll probably play that more next year and see if I like it enough to add it as a secondary competition game. My tournament runs are already pretty grueling these days, though, so even if I end up just playing it at locals I think I’ll have a good time.

My year in community organization

RESSHOUMANIA 2023 was a blast. Check out 4est’s photo album here!

Building our little corner of the fighting game community continues to be the most rewarding work I do, and I love that I can continue to do it. This year was our first year with rollback netcode for Xrd, and we were well positioned to welcome new players to the scene without having to deal with any notable disruption to how we do stuff. Overall, I’ve seen lots of fantastic new players try Xrd out, engage with various community spaces, and find a home far more welcoming than they’ve found any other fighting game community, which I consider a tremendous success. It has been a joy to see new players show up and stick around, and I hope to see more of that next year.

Perhaps the most liberating aspect of getting rollback is that Xrd players are no longer dependent on relatively narrow geographical communities to find high-quality matches; we can just get games by logging on and checking the lobby list to find them. In other games, the introduction of rollback has actually eroded in-person community play somewhat, since it’s not required to play the game anymore; with our local Xrd scene, we have been careful to treat our in-person events as things worth attending because the vibes are good, not because you have to show up to get good games and grow.

For myself and the Play Guilty Gear crew, this has meant that a tremendous weight has been lifted from our backs. We get to keep doing what we do because we want to share the love, not because our existence is necessary for people to continue playing the game like it was before. REV2SDAY and Caliburst continue on primarily as an excuse to hang out with people we love and play games we love, and they’re far more joyful (and less stressful) as a result. It has gone from something that felt like we had to do to keep the game alive, to a thing we feel like we have to do because once you’ve discovered you have the power to create something this beautiful, it becomes a duty to keep doing it and continue to bring good vibes into the world.

With both events, we’ve continued to iterate on the formula to make the events stand out as uniquely capable of serving their audience; with REV2SDAY, the transition from bracket to ladder play did a lot to make the weekly more engaging and entertaining for players across the skill spectrum and make the work of running it much easier on the event staff; with Caliburst, we rearranged our schedule to lead with Xrd and finish with side tournaments run by the community, to encourage more people to pick up, play, and host other games they care about, and we developed our monthly food offerings into a legit potluck with some of the best onsite cooking any local has ever had.

Pedro, Bancho, and Gnoz handling onsite ramen for 50 people was definitely the culinary highlight of our year.

As part of growing our events, we’ve also been more proactive about spreading responsibilities to more and more of our community members, enlisting them in event organizing and stream production assistance to take some of the load off of the core members and ensure a certain degree of redundancy. This year, Irene and I were able to hand off a Caliburst and a couple REV2SDAYs to the PGG B-Team, and they went off just fine, which was a huge relief. Even the Xrd bracket for Vortex Gallery at Evo went without me, since I had to juggle work stuff alongside tournament competition this year. Not only has this led to increased resilience and reliability for our PGG events, it has also led to some of the crew building their own events, which is super cool and something I hope to continue to inspire people to do. Be the fighting game community you want to see in the world.

All of this paid off in tremendous fashion for RESSHOUMANIA, our end-of-year Xrd showmatch event. Every year gets better and better, and this year was clearly our best. Perhaps the most significant part of this year’s RESSHOUMANIA for me personally, though, was that I had a COVID scare crop up early on the week leading up to the event, and I talked to my team about the possibility that Irene and I might not be able to participate onsite. Even in this worst-case scenario, when I mentally stepped through everything required to put on a successful event, I realized that I was confident the crew could pull it off just fine without me (albeit without the panache and showmanship I bring to the mic — that cannot be duplicated). Fortunately, we were able to do it all together and everything worked out, but I’ve never felt so thoroughly supported before in anything I’ve ever done as I am with our PGG team. The world could end tomorrow and there would still be Xrd running every first Saturday of the month at Gamecenter.

Shoutouts to NTR and the Manila GG crew.
Much love to Tsuki and everyone at Shinjuku Sportsland!

Irene and I were also able to travel a bit this year to places outside the regular tournament rotation; two weeks in Tokyo for Evo Japan, and two weeks in Manila for family as well as Rev Major. It was great to connect with the local GG communities there and rebuild the international network with a new generation of players. Now I need to hop up to Seattle to finally play with the PNW folks!

I don’t know what next year will bring the Play Guilty Gear team, but I’m looking forward to it. I think we’re in a good stable pattern with our weeklies, monthlies, and yearly event, so rather than try to grow or expand our work further I think the smart move is to focus on making it more sustainable, training up more folks to help out, and encouraging people to build their own events (GG or otherwise) to grow the community further without creating more stress or centralization on our team.

My year in writing, teaching, and content creation

Irene really killed it on this year’s RESSHOUMANIA promo art.

One of the novel parts of seeing new players come to Xrd is seeing people not realize that for a couple years I was one of the only people visibly sustaining the Xrd community, first through regular streaming and then eventually through running events. Once rollback hit and the community became more self-sustaining, I took a step back from regular streaming so that newer creators could build their own presence, intending to put that time into writing and other projects.

Unfortunately, Elon Musk has been taking a shit on Twitter for the last year and change, and that has seriously degraded the content ecosystem that I participated in to get eyeballs on my stuff. My work is fairly niche among fighting game content creators because I don’t really make stuff for games I don’t like, and since I don’t like any of the newer games, I tend to focus on doing work that isn’t really that game-specific. People who read fighting game stuff compared to watching videos are pretty scarce already, and Twitter’s changes basically kneecapped my ability to get my stuff out there.

This isn’t really a bad thing in itself; I don’t rely on traffic numbers to pay bills or anything. But it does hurt my motivation somewhat to write stuff when I see fewer and fewer people engaging with it. However, I’ve been writing on the Internet in some form for over twenty years, and while I still do love writing my advice columns to anyone who writes in with a question, I have felt for a while like I’m ready to grow my writing and creative skills to work on bigger projects than the articles I write over a weekend. I’m less and less satisfied with seeing my list of essays get longer, and I want to spend my time on bigger projects that push me out of my creative comfort zone.

Perhaps the biggest surprise here was that I wrote a book in a month and a half on basically a whim. I didn’t plan on writing one this year, much less in the months I usually spend my project time on planning RESSHOUMANIA, but I ended up just going and getting it done. I think this book will be a nice thing to cap off this era of my work; I’ll continue to update the advice column whenever I get people with questions or have something I need to get off my chest, but the fact is that the fighting game advice space is a lot richer than it was when I first wrote From Masher to Master or started my Patreon. I don’t know how much of this I’m personally responsible for, but a lot of the advice I see regurgitated in Discords and subreddits for new players these days is exactly the stuff I was writing about years ago, and I think that’s a good cue for me to move on and find more things that only I can make.

(The funniest thing, by the way, is seeing the backlash to the “zen monk mindset” meta in these discursive spaces. Advice like “learn to not care about winning and losing”, “focus on making improvement towards certain goals”, and “treat fighting games as complicated skills to be mastered through years of diligent practice” are essentially the layer 1 for advising new players in fighting games now, and I do think this is in part due to my work over the last few years. To see people get frustrated with fighting game players for being too chill about learning to play the game is hilarious, and I will choose to include this in my legacy.)

I will say that of the stuff I did publish this year, I had some real bangers in there. My favorites were How to play neutral for new fighting game players, Understanding your motivations and finding clean fuel, and How to play Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2 for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows Personal Computer. Each of these are the result of years of careful observation, study, and personal practice. This is not the kind of work that most fighting game content creators are doing, and it’s representative of the direction I want to go harder in next year.

I hope to show some of this stuff soon, but expect to see me publish somewhat less frequently as I save my efforts for bigger projects that hopefully will be more impactful in building the kind of fighting game community I want to see in the world. I think I’ve done what I set out to do with my short-form writing, and while I’ll still keep it up from here on out, it won’t be my focus the way it used to be. There is enough discourse happening on the daily that I don’t need to contribute to it, and I’d rather save my energy working on bigger stuff instead of struggling against the race-to-the-bottom of daily disposable content.

Thank you for a wonderful year

I live a blessed life in all kinds of ways, but I would not get to do what I do without the support and trust of countless people who believe in me and share in this vision for all the amazing things that fighting games can do for the people who play them. I treat my fighting game work as my life’s work, and I would not be able to do this work in accordance with my personal values if I was not supported by everyone around me.

To everyone who reads my stuff and shares it and asks questions and donates to the Patreon, thank you for materially supporting the work. None of this stuff would have happened without you. Being able to build community without worrying about being beholden to sponsorships or marketability frees us up to build a truly grassroots community that is reflective of the hopes, dreams, and values of its people.

To everyone who watches, enters, or helps run my events, thank you for your time and energy. You are the reason we continue to do what we do, and we love doing it.

2023 was dope.

Let’s welcome 2024 with open arms and closed fists!

Cohost, Twitter, FGC.Network Mastodon| read my words

Twitch | watch me play

Patreon | support my work

💪😎👍❤

-patrick miller

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Patrick Miller

a little bit miyamoto musashi, a little bit yoga with adriene.