Capcom vs. SNK 2 came out twenty years ago. It’s easy to remember because the announcer says “Millionaire Fighting 2001” in the intro (well, it’s “Millennium Fighting” in the NA version). I’ve had CvS2 in my life for twenty years. It was the game that got me deep into fighting games, and it has never quite released its grip on me. I used to walk over an hour to the arcade to play CvS2 because I didn’t want to spend token money on bus fare. (I’ve written about CvS2 a few times previously, here and here, if you’re interested.)
Last night I got to play some Capcom vs. SNK 2 with my old friend Andres.
Andres lives in Florida. CvS2 has only ever been on platforms with pretty bad netplay, so we always made it a point to make sure that any time we were both at a major, at least one of us had a Dreamcast or PS2, some sticks, and a CRT for the proper CvS2 experience. Needless to say, we haven’t been able to play together for over a year because of COVID, but we were able to play with near-perfect timing thanks to the incredible efforts from flyinghead and Blueminder on the Flycast Dojo GGPO project, which adds rollback support for Naomi, Dreamcast, and Atomiswave games that have never had them before.
I first met Blueminder during a Wednesday Night Fights Oakland at the now-defunct Esports Arena Oakland. When I decided to bring back Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2 to WNF Oakland, Blueminder lent me his PS4 so we could have enough setups to finish the bracket. If that bracket hadn’t gone as smoothly, thanks to his help as well as the help from Aaron and Starsky and everyone else, I might not have done it again.
We started running Rev2 at WNF Oakland about a year or so after reconnecting with the local Bay Area FGC through Norcal Dogfight, Caliburst, and Norcal Crabattle. Seeing the work that all those TOs put in for the games they love inspired me to roll up my sleeves and pitch in to rally the Rev2 community, eventually building into REV2SDAY and the Caliburst Beginner Bracket series, which have in turn created spaces for many more people to sign up, join in, get bodied, and pitch in.
This is how the grassroots works; we don’t have funding, but we got vibes so good they’re contagious. We’re raising a new generation of players, teachers, TOs, streamers, and commentators who will go on to make our community, and other future communities, richer and stronger with their love and effort.
You may get into fighting games as a competitor, but if you stick around long enough you’ll often find that the richest parts of fighting games don’t come from your own wins and losses but from helping build the community around them.
This is especially important because while fighting game internet Discourse may declare a game as “dead” the moment a publisher stops funding further events or development, people do not stop playing those games. We do not stop loving the games we play after the big-time content creators stop talking about them. We do not stop learning new stuff in old games after the new games come out. Once a game is no longer the new hotness, it is up to the community who remains to carry it through and make sure people can still play the games they love.
Sometimes this looks like dedicated skilled work — running brackets and streams, modding Discords, updating wikis, even building stuff like rollback netcode or lobby systems if you’re capable.
But doing this work isn’t always complicated. I remember being engulfed in the roar of the crowd during the Daigo Parry at Evo 2004 and thinking that I was going to spend the rest of my life chasing this feeling. That moment couldn’t have happened without Justin or Daigo, but it also couldn’t have happened without the Evo staff. And I wouldn’t have been there at all if an old BEARCade friend hadn’t been willing to give me a ride down to SoCal in the first place. These days I still try to pay back my carpool karma whenever possible.
For most of us, sustaining grassroots communities for old games is just as simple as giving someone a ride, running a bracket, bringing a setup, and grabbing some grub. The only thing that matters is that you’re making it a little bit easier for people to show up, play the games they love, and share the experience with everyone else.
In the long run, winning doesn’t matter. Improvement doesn’t matter. Stick around long enough and you’ll find that the only thing that matters is showing up, throwing down, and eating some pizza.
So play what you love. Show up for it and you’ll inspire others to do the same.
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